When you were little, did you used to read those articles in women’s magazines such as, “What He Really Thinks About Your Perfume,” “Why Scents Attract Men,” etc? The article would list reasons smell is such a powerful sensory experience, stimulating memories and basically acting like pheromones. At around thirteen or fourteen, I was all, “Oh my gosh, I need to find the right perfume.” (Lots of Bath & Body Works ensued. See 90’s).
But as I progressed in my dating life, I realized Juniper Breeze was not really honey to the (men) bees. No boyfriend has been like, “It is your smell that pulled me to you, Juhea.” Most men barely notice if you’re wearing a perfume or not. On the other hand, I still like perfumes, not because guys notice, but because they just make me feel good. Even if my boyfriend doesn’t comment on my perfume (unless I demand him comment, pressing my wrist to his nose), I can smell it myself, and it puts me in a certain frame of mind: whether that’s cozy and relaxed, or sexy and sophisticated.
Also, fragrances do have a way of capturing a certain time in my life. Whenever I smell someone wearing Tom Ford Black Orchid, it takes me straight back to college, and the sense of coming into my adulthood, feeling very grown up and womanly. (This is a very sultry, spicy perfume!!) And this isn’t just my imagination. According to studies, people remember 35% of what they smell, 5% of what they see, 2% of what they hear, and just 1% of what they touch. So maybe there is something to all the hullabaloo about guys remembering your perfume…
And finally, I still like the idea of being a sophisticated woman who has her perfume. The only problem is that since I’ve been transitioning into natural, non-toxic, cruelty-free beauty, I’ve been in fragrance limbo.
You see, right around the time I was transitioning, I received a lot of perfumes as Christmas gifts. I accepted them with gratitude but felt a little odd using them, especially since reading Mary’s post on conventional perfumes (including almost all designer perfumes). They contain phthalates, a known endocrine disruptor, and they’re not cruelty-free unless explicitly labeled. Being reminded of those things did take away from my perfume experience, though I did use them very occasionally. Since I had so many perfumes, I also didn’t feel ready to buy new, natural, cruelty-free perfumes.
Now that few years have passed, I finally feel ready to get my first natural perfume. Here are some things to consider when getting your perfume:
1. Know the basic categories: You probably already know a few smells you really love. Do you love the scent of vanilla latte? Or fresh ginger? How about flowers that you really love? Start from those notes to figure out whether you like spicy, floral, white floral, gourmand, green, citrus, or fruity smells.
2. Think about the image: You might love the smell of vanilla, but maybe you don’t want to come across as overly sweet (this goes for yours truly). Your perfume has to not just smell good, but match your personality.
3. Do the wrist test, more than once if necessary: I like to try a fragrance a few different times before actually buying, because you don’t know how a perfume is going to smell on you. Your body chemistry will bring out some notes and ignore others; some perfumes will smell strong on you and last forever, while others will disappear quickly. Also, try a perfume on left wrist once, and then the next time on your right. A perfume always smells stronger (and a little different) on my left wrist.
Now are you ready to find your perfume personality? Here it is, with all-natural, vegan perfume suggestions of course!
Are you…Luxurious, sophicated, sensual? Is your ideal Saturday night a lovely cultural event or intimate dinner party with candles?
Choose a White Floral perfume with notes of jasmine, tuberose, and gardenia for a heady, sensual mix. Try AS01 by LURK, a luxurious blend of tuberose, cedarwood, and rose.
I also like Isis perfume oil from The Goddess Line–this stuff lasts! It’s a classic white floral blend of jasmine and tuberose, and meant to also work as aromatherapy oil or chakra oil. Said to be an “aphrodisiac” blend, “intoxicating,” that “helps relieve disappointment.” Yes, yes yes!
Tahitian Gardenia by Pacifica is a lovely white floral that brings to mind Polynesia, wearing of long hair over one shoulder with a white blossom tucked behind an ear. Le sigh.
Are you sexy, glamorous, city-sophisticated? Do you feel alive going out at night in your best outfit?
Look for spice notes like tobacco, frankincense, amber and musk (make sure these are vegan-friendly!). TRN V4 by LURK mixes notes of tobacco, Bulgarian rose, neroli for a grown-up, slightly edgy, sexy vibe.
Are you feminine, delicate, romantic? Is your ideal Saturday night a date with your S.O.?
Look for a Floral perfume with notes of rose, lilac, orange blossom. I’m not a huge floral-floral person (more of a white floral person), but Pacifica French Lilac is so lovely I have to make an exception. You will smell like a garden in Provence.
Do you feel cozy, comforting, sweet? Do you love snuggling next to a fireplace in your favorite sweater?
You’ll like Gourmand fragrances with notes of vanilla, coconut, almond, even coffee. I like Parvati from The Goddess Line, which is a complex, not cloying, vanilla scent. Bonus: it’s said to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Are you fresh, natural, calm, lush? Would you rather be outside on a weekend night?
Green fragrances are your best bet. Try Ivy Tower perfume oil by Providence which promises you an experience like walking among the ivies dewy with rain, with notes of geranium, ivy, lily, and sandalwood.
Empower by Pour Le Monde mixes notes of lime, bergamot, and orange with spearmint, basil, and cedarwood for a unisex, clean feel.
Are you optimistic, cheerful, outgoing?
You’re a Citrus! Forget sharp, one-dimensional citrus from the 90s (looking at you, Clinique Happy). Enlightenment by Prabhuji’s Gifts mixes lime, violet, cinnamon, and fir for a spicy take on citrus.
And if you’re feeling youthful, joyful, pretty…
You’ll feel years younger when you wear a Fruity scent like Mediterranean Fig by Pacifica.
Now, the question is…which one fits you? 🙂 And I’d love to hear your favorite notes. (I die for gardenia and tuberose!)
More in natural beauty: Review of Grasse Roots Perfume Oils
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling (top); courtesy each brand (rest)