Long lasting perfumes - Why don't all perfumes stay on me?

Long lasting perfumes - Why don't all perfumes stay on me?


“How is the performance on this fragrance?”

If you have spent any time in the ever-growing world of online fragrance discussion you will surely have encountered the question of “performance” in fragrances. Simply put, performance refers to the lasting power and diffusion through the air of a scent. Fragrances with great tenacity and/or those which create a large scent cloud around the wearer are generally regarded as having good performance. Those which appear to disappear quickly or which cannot be detected unless one gets very close are often derided as lacking in performance. Furthermore, there are many who believe that a high-quality perfume will always outlast and out-perform those of lesser quality. This is not strictly true. Today we will look at this in more detail.

Molecular Structure
Perfume Molecular StructureThere are many factors that can affect how long a scent appears to last on a person and how easily it can be detected by those around them. Certain fragrance ingredients last longer than others as they have less volatile molecules. Fragrance notes such as vanilla, oud, sandalwood, patchouli and amber tend to breakdown relatively slowly and therefore last a long time after they are applied. In contrast, citruses are inherently volatile in their chemical makeup meaning that they dissipate relatively quickly. Therefore, even a citrus scent made with the highest quality natural citrus oils available may not allow those beautiful zesty and invigorating opening notes to last as long as we might like. It is for this reason that some of the finest fresh Eau de Cologne style fragrances which have achieved lasting fame over the years are also famously short lived.

We often hear about the benefits of natural fragrance ingredients over synthetics. Indeed, the use of high-quality natural fragrance oils often adds vibrancy and beauty to our most beloved scents. However, the vast majority of high-end perfumes also contain synthetic ingredients which play a crucial role in holding the composition together and allowing a scent to last and project well. Most of the most heralded fragrances in history have utilised a judicious combination of naturals and synthetics to achieve their mesmerising effect.

An often overlooked factor which can affect the perceived performance of a fragrance is the skin chemistry of the wearer. Dehydrated skin does not hold on to fragrance well. If your skin is well moisturised then it will hold on to your favourite scent for longer. A person’s natural body chemistry also plays a role. The foods you eat and even any medications you take can affect your natural body aroma. These will naturally interact with any perfume you apply and may compete with or mask the scent of the fragrance you have chosen to wear. Drinking plenty of water so that you are well hydrated will help to neutralise the subtle scent of your own body and allow your favourite fragrance to shine.

 It is very common to hear people lament the fact that they love a fragrance but it seems to disappear minutes after they apply it. It is important to remember that there is a natural tendency to become “nose blind” to our own fragrance after a short period of time wearing it. The brain tends to filter out smells lingering in the air around us in order to be able to detect new scents which we may need to be alerted to. Have you ever cooked a spicy meal which created a strong smell in your home? Perhaps you sat down to eat and enjoy the meal, watched a movie and went to bed. By the time the movie was half over you probably couldn’t really notice the smells of garlic, chilli, onions etc in the air anymore. However, when you came down for breakfast the next morning you were surprised by the lingering scent of last night’s meal! Sure enough the smell was there all along but you had simply stopped noticing it the previous night as your brain became used to it. Any impromptu late-night visitor to your home would surely have noticed the smell you had all but ceased to discern.

Often this same thing is happening with our favourite perfume or fragrance. We apply it and feel that it has all but disappeared but the people we meet and interact with can certainly detect it as it is new to them. Have you ever been surprised to receive a compliment on how great you smell even though you though your scent had vanished? It often happens to this author!

Another significant factor in the longevity of a scent is the concentration of perfume oil versus alcohol in the product. A higher concentration of perfume will generally cause a fragrance to last longer whilst a low concentration will usually mean the aroma is more short-lived. “Eau de Cologne” is generally the weakest concentration category (men’s "aftershaves" are even lower). “Eau de Toilette” is the next weakest and a very common concentration. “Eau de Parfum” is typically a little stronger with “Parfum” being even more potent. However, there a no strict parameters for these designations and they should act only as an approximate indication of longevity. You may have an Eau de Toilette which seems to last for ever and some Eau de Parfums may not last as long as you hoped. It is not an exact science.

It is generally a good thing if a scent lasts a long time.  If you can find a beautifully fresh citrus scent that lingers for a surprisingly long time then that is a great thing. Some certainly last longer than others. Furthermore, you may find a very cheaply made scent with many heavy “base” notes such as vanilla or patchouli lasts very well. Reapplying a scent every few hours is one way to make sure your scent cloud lasts as long as possible. Spraying on clothing may also give greater longevity as clothing materials do not burn off fragrance as fast as warm skin, but be careful to make sure there are no colourants in the perfume or you may stain your clothing.

One last thing, be careful as others may be more aware than you are of how good you smell!

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