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Smellovision: How To Buy Perfume

By Amalah

(Eye makeup demos still coming! Still in the works! Mostly because I’ve gotten a ton of volunteers and exactly zero actual submissions. So…uh…get cracking, slackers! We want your eyeballs!)
Dear Amalah,
It is seriously time for some new perfume in my household. The last time I bought perfume, KISS was on tour and Valerie Bertinelli had just married Eddie Van Halen. Ok, I’m kidding. But seriously — need some perfume. No, I am not exceptionally smelly — I just think it’s nice. In small quantities so as not to overwhelm one’s husband/colleagues/neighbors.
Which brings me to the point. How do you shop for perfume without going home smelling like Aunt Gertrude? I can’t imagine that I’d actually spritz samplers all over myself all day long in order to find “the one.” Magazines are no help — they’re mostly all descriptions about types of perfume, but you can’t smell text.

jeanpaul.jpgWell, first and firstly and foremost, DON’T spritz yourself with the samplers. Spritz the testing papers instead. I don’t know if the handy-dandy little paper strips that Sephora offers are some kind of big post-KISS development in fragrance shopping, but any store that’s worthy of your fragrance dollar should offer them.
As does, oddly enough, and if you want to be all fancy and seem like an experience perfume shopper, you can call them mouillettes (moo-yets) like the French. Breadsticks! Which is sort of what they look like. I geddit.
So basically, go to the store, spritz some perfume on the strip, let it dry and then sniff. If you like it, label the strip and set it aside. If you don’t like it, toss it.
To reset your sense of smell in between all that sniffing, look around the store for a bowl of coffee beans. Sniff them, then wait a couple minutes before trying another perfume. (Your nose will hit perfume overload after about three scents otherwise, and that includes sniffing the tester bottle pre-spritz.) I suppose, if you’re really serious about fragrance shopping, you could bring your own baggie of coffee beans.
I’ve also heard eating a cracker will help, kind of like it does at a wine tasting.
Once you’ve identified (via the strips) a couple perfumes you like, narrow them down to two. Spritz the inside of each wrist with one fragrance (don’t rub!). If you absolutely must try more than two, you can also spritz the inside of your elbows, but I think the scents can still interfere with each other. Also: Aunt Gertrude City. Now smell the coffee beans one last time and LEAVE THE STORE.
burberry.jpgYou never, ever want to buy perfume during your testing session. Not only is your sense of smell guaranteed to be at least a little whacked out by the end, you need to test how the perfumes react with your body chemistry. Is it undetectable after 20 minutes? Is it too strong? Does it smell completely different than it does on the strip? Does it give you a headache? Does it make your significant other gag or…ahem…boom chicka bow?
You should be able to answer these questions after about three hours. You should still smell the fragrance, but it shouldn’t be wafting off your body in waves. So now you can go back to the store and buy with confidence, or go back to the breadsticks and sample a few more.
One final thingie: if you have any leftover perfume from your Van Halen groupie days, I hope you…uh…have thrown that out. Perfume is not wine and does not age well. Two years is about as long as you should hang onto it, since it will start to smell all alcohol-y after awhile. You can extend the shelf life by keeping in a dark place like a drawer, or even in the original box. Light is not perfume’s friend, no matter how pretty the bottle looks sitting on your dresser.

Published August 15, 2007. Last updated August 15, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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