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One of the greatest pleasures of wearing perfume is catching a surprise waft of your fragrance throughout the day. It sparks immediate joy and if you’re lucky, triggers a happy memory. Even the very best perfumes for women need to be applied every so often, but having to reapply your favorite perfume every other hour is less than ideal, even for the most ardent fragrance lovers.
Turns out, most of us are likely applying our perfume incorrectly, according to expert perfumers, who say that it is both a science and an art. And how, exactly, you spritz will dictate how long the scent stays put on your skin, although some fragrant notes, like vanilla, rose and other florals, are stronger and longer lasting than others. And what type of perfume you reach for plays a huge role, too. For instance, the aroma from one of the best perfume oils will outlast even the best body sprays for women, due to significant differences in their chemical makeup, while an eau de parfum offers a longer lifespan than both.
Thankfully, there are a few key application techniques and tricks to ensure your scent lasts all day long, and we turned to a handful of professional noses for their expert insight for a step-by-step guide on how to properly spray on your go-to perfume, so you’ll only have to do it once.
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Step 1: Moisturize your skin before applying perfume
“There is absolutely a correct way to apply fragrance,” affirms Gerard Camme, president of Atelier Cologne. “How long the scent lasts on your skin is dependent on the concentration of the perfume and how dry your skin is.”
His tip? Moisturize first. “If your skin is dry, the scent will fade more quickly,” he says. “So if you want it to last longer, moisturize prior to application.”
Step 2: Spray the fragrance directly to your skin
There are many — mostly incorrect — techniques, but the tried-and-true method is to spray fragrance directly onto your body (not your hair or clothes). “Perfume is designed to interact with your own body’s chemistry and the warmth from your body,” says Ixchel Leigh, a master perfumer with more than 40 years experience, and author of the fragrance anthology, Aromatic Alchemy.
Step 3: Focus on pulse points
“The best chance you have for your perfume to last and linger is to apply directly to the warmest parts of your body, generally your pulse points,” explains Camme, while Leigh adds that our pulse points tend to be warm because it’s where our main arteries are located.
Where, exactly, are our pulse points? Camme says the most common spots are the “wrists, behind your ears, your neck and even behind your knees,” although he prefers the lesser-known elbow crease area as well, but regardless of which pulse point you choose, you can rest assured that the fragrance will emit. In fact, it’s simply science, according to Camme, who says that “the warmth of your skin will help to project the scent.”
Step 4: Retire the mist-and-walk perfume method
We’ve all done it. Maybe some of us even thought it was truly the best technique (guilty), but not only is this a waste, but a spritz into the air in front of you means it will land on more than just your body.
“I’m not a fan of spritzing perfumes into the air because it can drop onto your clothes and the floor or furniture, and can stain from the residue,” says Leigh. “It seems like a waste of an expensive product.”
Step 5: Avoid ‘crushing’ the notes
One of the most widely accepted ways to apply perfume is to spray onto wrists, then rub them together. Yet, Camme believes very strongly that this mistake will shortchange a perfume’s lifespan. “We suggest never to do this,” he warns. “Rather, allow the fragrance to dry down naturally. You won’t crush the top notes this way and you will allow the layers of fragrance to properly play their role.” It may take a minute to dry, but a little patience will go a long way with fragrance.
Step 6: Stick with one spritz
It’s very easy to overdo it with perfume, especially if you aren’t familiar with the different types. An eau de parfum has the strongest concentration of notes, so just one spritz is powerful enough for all-day wear, while an eau de toilette is a lighter option that will require two or three sprays and likely a second application altogether later on in the day to maintain the same aroma.
And just because you can’t smell it on yourself anymore doesn’t necessarily mean that others can’t. “Our own nose usually gets used to the fragrances we wear, and then we cannot smell it very much, often thinking it has disappeared,” explains Leigh. “But it hasn’t. Don’t apply so much that you are like PigPen from the Peanuts cartoons, with your heavy perfume wafting behind you in a cloud.” She describes such an application as “invasive perfumery,” which could be a “horrendous” experience for everyone you interact with throughout the day.
Now that you know how to wear perfume, here are some of our favorite fragrances to apply.
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum
Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée
Oscar de la Renta Alibi Eau de Parfum
Calvin Klein Ck One Eau de Toilette
Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum
Dior Miss Dior Eau de Parfum
Related: The 20 Best Colognes for Men, Tested & Reviewed by Editors
Meet the Experts
Gerard Camme is the president of the renowned fragrance house, Atelier Cologne. His opinions are strong, just like the notes you’ll find in his fragrances.
Ixchel Leigh is one of the most glamorous multi-hypenates in the beauty world. She’s a former Parisian model as well as a master perfumer with more than 40 years experience creating fragrances and curating her own line, Artisan Parums, based on ancient perfumery traditions, and author of the fragrance anthology, Aromatic Alchemy.
Meet the Author
Kaitlin Clark is the Beauty + Style Commerce Editor at WWD. She’s been a fragrance fanatic since she walked into Bath & Body Works for the first time in middle school. Kaitlin has spritzed hundreds of classic and new perfumes, cultivating a sophisticated nose, and prides herself on testing every new perfume that lands on her desk. She believes there’s a time and a place for every kind of scent and she personally tends to lean toward rich ouds and deep woody notes.