Practical Perfume Procurement Pointers


Earlier this week, blogging buddy Weirsdo, asked me a question about perfume, specifically, how do you clear your nose when you’re trying perfumes. Well, I sent her an answer with some other useful tidbits on purchasing perfume. I don’t usually inflict my perfume passion on the innocent readers who swing by this blog but I thought maybe these pointers will save someone some money. Goodness knows, I’ve spent enough time and money on perfume purchasing. I figure I’m a fully qualified expert!

Weirsdo asked how you clear your nose when you’re trying perfumes.

…..its common to sniff coffee beans. The best way I’ve heard to clear the nose is to sniff through a wool fabric. A lot of ladies will just sniff through their sleeve.  I’ve found that nothing really helps that much.  When my nose is fried, its fried.
Usually my nose gets desensitized after sniffing about 5 different perfumes. I can still tell the overall class and usually some top and base notes but the nose just loses sensitivity. There are receptors in the back of your nose where odour molecules are trapped. When a lot of the receptors are taken up with molecules, your ability to discern the differences goes down. So, for this reason, its best not to go cruising through a perfume department, sniffing like a maniac, then pick something to buy. Its best to check out a few scents then, if you can’t get a sample to take home, come back when you have clean skin and try it on your skin ( and leave the area ) so you can really smell it. Wait long enough for the fragrance to lose its top and mid notes and get down to the base notes. Lots of people will buy a scent based on what they smell in the first five minutes and that’s a mistake. The top notes are often quite different from what remains after half an hour to an hour.

One of the great things about perfume swapping is that you get to try lots and lots of different samples, at your leisure. Since I began swapping a few years ago I’ve tried close to a thousand different scents, many boutique or foreign scents that I’d never be able to get in a store in Edmonton. That has been a lot of fun.

At one point I had a backlog of about 200 samples in my ‘in basket’. To test those scents I used a technique I first heard about from a perfumista on the fragrance board. You cut up a bunch of pieces of paper into strips, label them, dip them in each sample, and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Sniff each one immediately and at different intervals and write down the notes you pick up or impressions you have. If you like a scent after its gone through the dry down, then try it on your clean skin, preferably when your nose its clear (definitely NOT after you’ve been sniffing at 20 or 30 strips for an evening).

If you like a sample you should try it on a couple of different days before you even think of buying a bottle.

If you do buy a bottle of perfume either for yourself or someone else, after just smelling it in the store, insist on having a sample to take home. Before opening the bottle, try the sample on clean skin when your nose is clear. You’d be amazed at how much money this can save you. If you decide you’re not crazy about the sample, then take the bottle back. Not many places will let you return an open bottle but they won’t balk at an unopened one. A lot of perfume cost at least $100-$200 per bottle…you don’t want to throw that kind of money away!

I’ve swapped for a lot of perfume decants after trying a sample of something I like. Often after going through a decant 5-10 mL, I’ve found something I don’t like about the scent. If I still love it, then I’ll buy it. This probably sounds excessively picky but the last thing I need is a bottle of perfume in my closet that I’m not going to wear.

Below is a picture of a mousepad that one of my perfumista pals had made for me last year as a gift at Halloween. It has my name on it and my favorite perfumes that I wear all the time. Yup, I’m a lucky gal 🙂

These are the faves I’m wearing these days.
This entry was posted in More about me, me, me, Perfume. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Practical Perfume Procurement Pointers

  1. Miz BoheMia says:

    OOoh! First? Funkified FO SHO!

    As a teen I used to be a fragrance model (that’s what they call those annoying people in malls who pass out perfume samples and the like) for Elizabeth Arden at one point and for Bijan as well… the Bijan job was nervewracking as I worked with his sister but I did well with the guys (a hand rubbing with their fragranced hand cream works wonders with sales I tell you! 😉 )…

    … but I never really liked anything on my skin… I find that skin composition, dryness, and even complexion all play a major role. So I never appreciated a good fragrance nor was I ever wild about a scent until one day an uncle gave me a gift of perfume. “Oh crap!” I thought… something I won’t use… but it was Zaharoff, the only thing that ever smelled amazing on me and to this day, 10 years later, that is the only thing I use, if ever I use anything…

    … and yeah, there were coffee beans aplenty around when I worked as a fragrance model!

    Loved the post Laura! Very informative I tell you! Fantabulous!

  2. jan says:

    Very informative.I had no idea there was so much to know about perfume. I do hope people try different scents. My pet peeve is people who use the same scent for years and soon they can’t smell it any more, but the rest of us can…from blocks away.

  3. Margaret says:

    Thanks Laura I learned alot about perfume picking from your post not that I go around trying perfumes,as Iam usually with people who avoid perfume due to allergies.

    So glad to see a post. Hope things are going better for you at work and home.

    Mom enjoyed her jaunt around the province ,we had good vists with family and friends.
    love to you and family

  4. Ariel says:

    I don’t want to be saved from your parfume passion, this post is so interesting! I don’t have your sensitive nose but my experience is too that just buying a bottle after a sniff turns out to be a bad idea more times than a good one. but it’s difficult with shop assistants here, they kill you for no reason let alone you don’t decide fast enough or try around for days or weeks… but I do agree with you that first you have to get to know that smell and buy it only after that.

    too bad blogs don’t smell, I’d love to smell your fave parfumes.

  5. Barngoddess says:

    Thanks for the info. I am a perfume hound and only have a few faves (Clean being one of them!) altho I did stumble onto a Versace Blonde fragrance I like.

    I envy your job…do you get many free samples?

    the only free samples in my area are Avon (ack!) or Mary Kay (double ack!)

    I am picky, no?

  6. Kyahgirl says:

    Miz B-I can see you now, modeling the perfumes and doing your best to funkify all passers by!!

    Jan-I hear you, I know a couple of those.The ones who over douse are usually wearing something awful.

    Margaret-its so great to see you again. thank you for taking such good care of our Mom! ♥

    Ariel-I know, they are experts at pressure. To me, scent is so personal and so important that I don’t mind telling the sales people they have to wait. If you wish, we can find a way for you to smell my faves. You have a perfume fairy you know 🙂

    Barndgoddess-its not my job but it is a hobby I really enjoy. I remember reading your list of favorite scents and thinking how I like many of the same, including Clean. We only had Avon where I grew up so I can relate to your woes. However, if you get involved in MUA you can do swapping so its not so much a problem for those of us who live in the wilds!

  7. Fred says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve had to retreat to my shack in the woods. Off I go to do some manly things like chopping wood.

  8. Tickersoid says:

    Having more ‘smellies’ than required to last me a life time. I’m just here to say, ‘I was here’.

  9. Maidink says:

    I can’t say I share the same fondness as you for perfume my dear. Partly because i am one of those who finds one or two scents and sticks with them. Annnnnd, Geo gets serious heartburn from strong smells; hence, all of my colognes (yes, colognes) have to be of the light citrusy kind.


  10. Barngoddess says:

    Im going to link this to tomorrows post..hope its okay 🙂

  11. Monika says:

    If you had to pick one…if you had to. To take on an island with you or soemthing…what scent would you pick?

    I have two bottles of perfume in my place, one given and one bought myself. I am sooo unperfumistically inventive!

    But from an ameteur eye, it seems like you have a fortune standing on your dresser 🙂

  12. Meow says:

    I’m not a real perfume conoissuer (spelling ???), but I have my faves … White Linen, Angel, and anything Lavender !!! Rather boring, really.
    Love the look of your collection, I bet there are some gorgeous smells in there.
    Take care, Meow

  13. kyahgirl says:

    Fred-come on now, don’t be a chicken. You’re surrounded by girls…you gotta know this stuff!

    Tickers- ‘Hi’ and thanks for stopping by.

    Maidink-I understand that. One of my sisters is at the opposite end of the spectrum from me on scents. Its hard but I really do understand how difficult it is for some people.

    Barngoddess-certainly 🙂

    Monika-that’s a tough question….when are we going to the desert Island? It would be one of my top few, Flowerbomb, Clive Christian No. 1, or Susanne Lang Vanilla Coconut. I’m sure I could find a way to enjoy the scents of a desert island, even if I couldn’t bring anything though.
    As to the fortune, I guess it would be if you went and bought them all at once but to me it represents years of pleasure. The pleasure of the hunt, the pleasure of wearing them. If you break it down to the cost of joy per spritz its a good bargain :-).
    By the way, they don’t sit in the light, moisture, or heat. That was just for the picture that I took them out. They are kept in a dark closet so they will last a long time.

    Hi Meow-if you like Angel you would probably love Flowerbomb. I don’t like Angel because of a couple of notes in it that jar me. Flowerbomb is similar but not so ‘in your face’.

  14. neva says:

    i NEVER cease to be amazed and/or impressed by you… and this post is an excellent example of why!

    you are so knowledgable, and absolutely lovely to share this information. it’s overwhelming… but fascinating! i’m still trying to make my way through the FABULOUS scents you graciously sent me — which i am enjoying more than i can say — but it continues to be extrememly difficult for me to distinguish some of the scents (guess i don’t have a very refined nose?). still… the paper suggestion was very helpful… altho’ i tend to want to splash each beautiful fragrance straight on to my skin, causing more than a few odd stares (or is that sniffs?) from the folks (and dogs) around me! unfortunately, apparently i’m a wee bit allergic to a few of ’em, but hey, that’s what antihistamines are for, right?

    beautiful and truly interesting post, dear friend! and how fortunate you are to have made so many wonderful friends who share your passion! (i lovelovelove the fact that you’re doing your best to spread the joy of this intriguing hobby) xox

  15. actonbell says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this, because perfume appeals to me, and I was wondering what process people went through to decide what to spend so much money on. My only perfume was a gift–it’s from Victoria Secrets, called heavenly. Probably not a very refined pick, but it’s very pleasant. And I’ve noticed that on first sniff, a lot of perfumes are stronger than I’d like, so it’s good to know how to truly sample them:)
    See? I learned something. Thank you!

  16. Tom & Icy says:

    I noticed that the dogs act differently when the same person comes around on different days wearing different perfumes.

  17. mahgwet says:

    OMG, is that Flowerbomb on your vanity? I totally adore Flowerbomb and will be buying it at the fall Sniffa this October. yay! Wish you were coming–I’ll miss you.

  18. Monika says:

    You know so much about perfumes.
    I had no ide abaout teh dark cold place, I am such a summy when it come sto perfumes. Maybe one day we´ll sit down and chat about it and you´ll be able to impart some of that wisdom to me!
    A girl´s gotta learn at soem point 🙂
    Hope youa re having a lovely Wednesday!

  19. g says:

    Wow – those are some beautiful bottles. Okay, taking notes…top mid bottom scents…let top/mid clear. After my pregnancies, I developed some sort of scent allergy. I mean most everything would give me a headache and make me feel nauseous. So I’ve resorted to just finding various lightly scented body lotions that have worked. Although I do hold out hope for finding just that perfect light scent that makes me feel just so all day long. Quite impressive.

    Any recommendations welcome.

  20. Mike says:

    Can’t you just clear your nares by running your finger around each nostril a few times??? I see people doing that at stoplights allllll the time – some of them are very methodical. 🙂

  21. kyahgirl says:

    Neva-I’m so glad you’re enjoying the samples xoxo

    actonbell-I wondered if people would even be interested in this stuff but am now glad I did it.

    Tom & Icy – that’s an interesting observation. I haven’t noticed m y dogs reacting to perfume much but maybe they are all inured to it.

    Mahgwet-yup, that’s Flowerbomb. I wish I could go to the october sniffa too. have fun!

    Monika-I’d love to sit down with you some day and talk perfume. 🙂

    g-that’ a terrible thing. my sister Mary gets headaches from scents too. I’ll try to think of some light ones for you to try and get back to you.

    Mike-you are so funny! I’ve noticed that too. Why do people think no one can see them when they are in their cars?

  22. Karen says:

    Depends on what *mood* I’m in as to whether I wear a scent. Also, like to do the whole layering effect… shower gel/body wash, body souffle, sugar scrub, powder, lotion… um, let me see, did I leave anything off! 🙂

  23. cj says:

    WOW… that is a great post. I learned a lot. I don’t wear a lot of fragrence, if ever, because my husband is allergic to a lot of that stuf… as are my kiddo’s. I miss having it though. Maybe someday I’ll find something they can tolerate. 🙂 WOW… really great post.

  24. pia says:

    Love reading you on perfume. Can not walk by a perfume store, body scent store, or even home store that has home fragances without thinking of you. and they’re on every other block, so I think of you often, with pleasure and sweetly 🙂

  25. Kyahgirl says:

    Karen-if you’re enjoying it, that’s the main thing. I met lots of gel/lotion maniacs on the fragrance board. some people are wild about soaps…its all good.

    cj-thanks for the kind words. I’m sorry about your husband’s allergy. that’s a tough one.

    pia-that is so nice! I think of you often too 🙂

    actonbell-Rabbit, Rabbit-I can’t believe its that day again already!

  26. IDV says:

    What excellent timing. I’ve been meaning to buy a couple of new EDTs, and now, armed with your advice & knowledge, hopefully I won’t purchase something completely vile. I usually wear Acqua di Gio or L’eau D’Issey but, if I’m brave, I’ll go for something different.

    Thanks KG!

  27. shayna says:

    Can you believe that I can’t do perfumes… I get horrible headaches… although I have to say the only perfume I have ever been able to tolerate has been the perfume “Happy”… other than that… I have never worn perfume… sad, I know!

  28. The Phoenix says:

    When it comes to perfumes and colognes, LESS is MORE.

  29. mahgwet says:

    Come! Just get on the damn plane and come!

    hmmmmm….but how to get your purchases home with you?

  30. Jodes says:

    There are many many perfumes that give me a headache, even the ones I like. I got a really nice one from a close friend and every time I wore it I was stuck with a headache the rest of the day……I finally had to throw it out and just never told her.

  31. Semina says:

    This is such an interesting post ~~ in another life I used to teach the history of perfume.
    Do you have different ones for each season and occasion? I mark each season and some special occasions with a perfume change. Don’t forget to put a dab behind you knees, you never know when you will meet a short man :}

  32. FirstNations says:

    as someone who loses most of their sense of smell for weeks at a time, and then suffers ‘nasal hallucinations’ when it begins to return, perfume is lost on me. now raw essence carried in oil, I can usually smell. the Yummy Biker and I wear the same scent-patchouli-but i sprinkle it on my pillow and sheets too, and on the top hem of my blanket for nice dreams.
    between that and Nag Champa incense, our place smells like a turkish…place. of questionable repute.
    good to see you around, kyah!

  33. Kyahgirl says:

    IDV-I’m glad I could help. let me know what you get!

    Shayna-that’s really a sad state of affairs.

    Phoenix-I couldn’t agree more. your scent should not arrive 10 minutes ahead of you!

    Mahgwet-hold that thought….it will happen again in your lifetime 🙂

    Jodes-I’m sorry about the headache factor. That is a tough one.

    Semina-welcome!! I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. I have a few books on perfume history-its a great topic. Yes, I do tend to wear different ones in different season. Here we only have winter and summer so I really only have warm and cool scents 🙂
    Thanks for the tip about the knees. One never knows when a man might be sniffing around your knees!

  34. kyahgirl says:

    First Nations-Now how did I miss you there? Weird. Sounds like you are we in the fragrance friends world call a ‘Patch Hag’ 🙂 There are a couple of pretty nice fragrances I know that are heavy on the patchouli like Prada and LUSH Karma. Although, come to think of it, Gorgeous biker dude might not be into them!

  35. Arabella says:

    Just testing because of an e-mail address error.

  36. Pingback: Scented « Ramblings From The Reservation

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