The closest I’ve ever come to having a signature scent was when I rocked Christian Dior’s Midnight Poison. Just one spritz, and I was enveloped in a haze of bright citrus and bergamot notes, the light scent of sweet rose, and an earthy patchouli and amber base. Sadly, Dior discontinued the perfume a few years ago, and since then I haven’t come across a bottle that I’ve loved enough to fully commit to.
Luckily, there‘s another way that perfume commitment-phobes like myself can find their signature scent. It’s called perfume layering — otherwise known as fragrance cocktailing or scent mixing. Essentially, it involves playing scientist by mixing and matching a few different fragrances to create a bespoke scent that is 100% unique. Can you imagine never having that “Oh, we’re wearing the same perfume!” moment with a friend again? While this technique has flown under-the-radar until recently, savvy perfume connoisseurs have been doing it for years. In fact, perfume maven Jo Malone has sold fragrance combining kits since 2013!
As you might imagine, fragrance layering isn’t quite as simple as just chucking a bunch of different perfumes on top of each other. Certain scents don’t mix particularly well with each other and if you overdo it, people will be asking, “What is that smell?”… and not in a good way. After all, we’re going for the good type of unique, not ‘unique’ in the way you might describe your strange cousin who’s obsessed with collecting toothpicks. But by keeping a few simple rules in mind, you can layer your way to a gorgeous bespoke signature scent. Scroll through for our step-by-step guide.
You may already be fragrance layering without even knowing it! Your body wash, moisturizer and even your shampoo and conditioner can impact your overall scent. You can get around this by either opting for fragrance-free products or choosing ones that will compliment your perfumes. But whatever you do, don’t skip a moisturizer or body oil—it helps your scent last longer.
The more moisturised you are, the longer a fragrance will last on your skin. Moisturisers use emollients that keep water molecules, as well as fragrance molecules, from evaporating.
-Franco Wright, co-owner of LA’s the Scent Bar via totalbeauty.com
When you first start perfume layering, it may be worth sticking to single note fragrances. All of the perfumes from Demeter Fragrance Library include only one note and are designed to be layered. Otherwise, another great brand for fragrance mixing is Commodity Goods, stocked at Sephora. They have plenty of fun and interesting scents like whiskey, moss, and wool that are still simplistic enough to be layered. Whatever you do, steer clear of complex perfumes like Creed or Prada, as these contain around 40-60 notes and are nearly impossible to match with anything else.
In the perfume world, there are five main families—floral, oriental, woody, fresh and citrus. To avoid creating a headache-inducing scent, it’s a good idea for beginners to keep their perfumes within the same family. You can see the fragrance wheel here. However, there are a few exceptions. Scents like vanilla and musk are versatile and tend to work well over most fragrances, so feel free to experiment with those!
Once you’ve chosen your fragrances, a good rule of thumb is to apply the heavier one first. This will ensure that the stronger smell doesn’t overpower the lighter ones! In any case, you may still find that you need a few spritzes of the lighter fragrance for the perfect combination. Just give it a few minutes to settle into the skin before you spray it the second time, to avoid overdoing it!
You don’t necessarily have to spray two (or more) fragrances on top of each other. You can spritz on one each wrist and rub them together, or even a combination of your wrist, neck, behind the ears and on your clothes. There are also a few beautiful hair perfumes around at the moment (like Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb or Byredo’s Gypsy Water Hair Perfume) that you can be integrated into the layering process.