When it comes to getting dressed, most of us would not blink an eye at mixing it up with layers, colours, textures and proportions. Together with a well-chosen accessory or two, such as a colourful scarf or a piece of statement jewellery, these unique touches help to differentiate the true style savants from the wannabes. Similarly, while there is a certain charm in owning a single signature scent, most women prefer to wear different perfumes to complement different outfits and occasions. In fact, to ensure her scent is personalised and one-of-a-kind, an increasing number of sophisticated beauty junkies are turning to fragrance layering — wearing two or more different perfumes at once — to create an exclusive scent aura that completes her outfit.
“We think the best way to use scent is to think of it like a wardrobe, which you change according to your mood, the season and the time of day, while keeping it true to your personal style,” says Debbie Wild, lifestyle director of Jo Malone London, where the perfumes are actually formulated to be layered over each other. “Fragrance combining allows you to experiment until you discover a scent that perfectly fits your style. It's about being playful, creating something that reflects who you are and the impression you want to create.”
The appeal of perfume-layering
In tandem with the growing interest in bespoke and artisanal fashion over the last few years, savvy beauty lovers have begun to experiment with perfume pairings to express their personal style leanings and creativity. In turn, the most discerning perfume brands have been leading the charge in offering fragrance pairing consultations and advice on how to mix and match, without overwhelming the olfactive senses.
Some of the earliest advocates of fragrance combination include brands such as Jo Malone London, Fresh and Penhaligon's, whose beauty advisors have been trained to share tips on picking complementary perfumes and to teach customers how to layer their scents appropriately. Wild, who has a knack for matching unlikely perfumes, says one of her favourite combinations of the moment is the gourmand-sounding pairing of Jo Malone London's Mimosa & Cardamom with Nutmeg & Ginger. She says: “The warmth of the ginger intensifies the floriental heart in Mimosa & Cardamom, which in turn complements the cooling spice of cardamom.”
So how do you do it?
While it may take an experienced nose to dream up sophisticated combinations such as this, it isn't as difficult as it seems to come up with an individual combination. Newbies who may be worried about picking clashing notes that could offend the nostrils of those around them can follow the simple guidelines at Fresh.
Start first by deciding if you prefer warmer fragrances such as woody or floral notes, or fresh and cool scents that fall in the citrus or fruity range (it helps to drop by the store to sniff out a few perfumes to find out where your preference lies). Then, layer this base scent with a perfume that belongs to a different fragrance family so as to keep the combined fragrance from being too overpoweringly in favour of one specific scent family.
Another word of advice to beginners — do schedule a consultation if you are just starting out with perfume layering and stick to the same brand so as to reduce the possibility of a potential faux pas. However, once you have figured out the basics, the experts are happy to tell you that there are no hard and fast rules to layering perfumes.
Caroline Biles, brand manager of Penhaligon's Singapore, says: “There is no right or wrong here as fragrance is personal, since something I may appreciate may not be to your exact taste. Usually, [people] go for scents that have an ingredient or two in common to help the combinations blend well.”
For example, one of the favourite pairings at Penhaligon's is the combination of Artemisia and Endymion as the caramel sweetness of the Artemisia and vanilla tones of Endymion harmonise beautifully together, Biles explains.
Another smart way to layer perfumes is to spritz different fragrances on different parts of the body, so that the scents can breathe and intermingle without interfering with each other. The beauty advisors at Fresh often get customers to spray different scents on different pulse points — areas of the body where the blood vessels are closest to the skin, including the inner wrists and elbows, behind the ears and knees, base of the throat and the décolleté. The heat from these points warm the fragrance, allowing the scent molecules to blend naturally into the space around you. You can also spray different scents on the front and back of your clothing, or mist a separate scent on your hair, so that you smell subtly different when you move.
In the words of the late Monsieur Christian Dior: “Perfume is a mark of female identity and the final touch of her style.” So go forth, dare to be different and make your scent a true hallmark of your personality.