The Right Perfume for You


  • Do you have a signature perfume or a wardrobe of perfumes?
  • Do you wear it only for special occasions or every day?
  • Did you know that smell is our strongest sense, which is why a smell can take you to a situation or experience in your life so easily.
At the Perfume Masterclass at The Powder Room

Scents are broken down into 4 types at the most basic level (these can of course be subdivided into many more categories!)

  1. Floral
  2. Oriental
  3. Woody
  4. Citrus

Which you choose will depend on both your personality, age and the situation.   Light florals suit younger women, whilst as we age we will want to mature into a more complex scent.

Sam Taylor – Perfume Expert

Recently I was lucky enough to attend a Perfume Masterclass and High Tea with Sam Taylor of The Powder Room, an expert in the field of scents,  who imports and distributes some fabulous boutique fragrances such as Miller Harris and Penhalagons, who shared lots of fascinating historical information about perfume, plus tips and tricks to getting the best from perfume.  For example, did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte drank perfume?  He thought it had health benefits.

High Tea at the Perfume Masterclass


Sam shared her extensive knowledge about perfume with us, from historical facts through to choosing perfumes, which is an art that comes down to age, personality, skin type (haven’t we all had that experience smelling a perfume on someone else and thinking it divine, then trying it on ourselves and it smelling not so great?).

There are different strengths of perfume:

  • Eau de cologne (most commonly worn by men): 3 – 5%
  • Eau de toilette: 5 – 10% – this is a great option if you want to wear a different fragrance during the day and change it up for the evening without showering in between.  Better for those with drier skins.
  • Eau de parfum: 10 – 20% – a stronger perfume that has more of the essential perfume oils in it.  Longer lasting and  more intense in smell. Will last the day through. Better for those with more acidic skins.
  • Parfum: 20 – 40%
Some of us like to have a signature scent, whilst others are more keen on developing a scent wardrobe for our different moods and activities (the perfume you wear to seduce is not the one to wear to the office!).

Top Perfume Buying Tips

Never buy a perfume without trying it on for at least 30 minutes – it takes that long for the base notes to become apparent, and this is the lasting scent that you’ll be wafting, you want to ensure that it smells great and you love it!
If you’re trying scents and your nose has become fatigued, just sniff the crook of your elbow (as long as you haven’t got perfume on it) and it will reset your olfactory nerves to start sniffing again!
So now it’s time for you to tell me: 

What’s your favourite perfume?

Do you wear just one scent or a variety?




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  • I spent about a year looking for a fragrance to wear that didn’t cause me a headache and that I liked. I’ve settled on Gin and Blossom by Tokyo Milk. The scent is great, but it only lasts a couple of hours. I’m layering with lotions.

    I really enjoy citrus, but as Imogen mentioned, for someone of my age, citrus scents tend to smell a little too simple.

    Ultimately, I would really like to find a signature scent or two (one for warmer months, one for cooler).

      • no, I wish I did. But I can tell pretty much the moment I smell them. Anything that’s heavy or musky seems to be the main problem, light citrus-y and green ones don’t seem to worry me so much, but they’re just not very ‘me’. For some reason “french” style perfumes cause far more problems for me than “English” style ones.

  • Imogen, I LOVE perfume and used to wear Jessica McClintock as my signature scent. It was ME from the first day I got sprayed at the perfume counter. Now that I work in a scent free environment I find it more difficult to wear perfume as it does linger in clothing. Weekends are really special when I’m wearing Jessica McClintock . . .

  • I’d absolutely love to find a perfume for me, but that’s proved elusive so far.
    Yet to find something that I really liked, not sure where to start really, been to so many shops, then I tell them that I like the scent of coconut, vanilla, almond and honey, cinnamon, some flowers but anything too sweet or too floral is not for me. Not found anything I really liked yet.

  • With all due respect and kindness, I feel compelled to say that I can’t imagine wearing a more complex scent than the type that bring me joy like citrusy ones. Life is just too short and age appropriate can waver into pretentiousness if we aren’t careful. I don’t ever wear enough to leave a trail of scent behind me, but enjoy the things that give such personal pleasure, is my view. 🙂 Love you though, Imogen!

  • I’m over 50 and only wear citrus essential oils (grapefruit, lemon, wild orange) that I blend myself into an unscented lotion. Anything else gives me a headache. I’m very often complimented on my scent, so I’m not concerned about finding anything else!

  • Inspiring to hear about blending essential oils into unscented lotion!

    I absolutely love the smell of Moroccanoil — such a warm, deep scent. A hairdresser used it on me and I spent the rest of the day sniffing my own hair, then went and bought some.

    Years ago my parents chose a perfume for me, that is citrus-y/floral-y, very light. I use it occasionally, mostly in the summer. Perhaps I should re-think this one.

    Overall so many people are allergic, I tend to wear perfume only on occasion.

    But yes, smells very powerful!

  • I like to wear perfume and if I do wear one to work it is a warm, but citrussy scent that is not too strong. I do wear difference scents for work (if I wear it at all) and when I go out. I like spicy/oreintal and citrussy scents. Nothing too sweet or woody for sure.

  • I tend to wear perfumes only on very special occasions, and only when I know I won’t be in close quarters with anyone. With half my family very sensitive to scents, and some sensitivity of my own, I tend to err on the side of less or no scents. I’m actually quite partial to rosemary oil as a “scent” – a little rubbed into the decolletage both gives a lovely sheen and a soft but sharp scent that hasn’t aggravated anyone yet.

    On the rare occasions that I do wear a perfume of any sort, I lean towards a complex and spicy scent, despite the fact that I’m quite young. My personal preference is Fragonard’s “Reve Indien”. That being said, my sister just got me a gift set of Elizabeth Arden’s “Green Tea” scents (including plain green tea and a green tea base mixed with cherry blossoms, camelia, or lavender) and I like them because they’re not particularly strong and so they’re a bit less offensive.

    • An intolerance to widely available commercial fragrances does not mean that one can’t use scent.

      The toxicity of many chemicals used in commercially available fragrances is why those who are using essential oils for scent are not having as much trouble as those using, say, Chanel no 5—

      I LOVE scent—but—like many of the other respondents here–I have issues with synthetic fragrance (in my case, I seem to be sensitive to petroleum byproducts—and most perfumes one can buy use these).

      My physical response is not unusual, and is less severe than what many experience. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that fragrances account for 30% of all allergic reactions, and 70% of asthmatics develop respiratory difficulties when exposed to synthetic perfumes. Other symptoms arising from exposure to fragrances include headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin irritation and discolouration, as well as coughing and vomiting. Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home, writes, “Clinical observations by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.” Unfortunately, a label containing the word “fragrance” or “parfume” is likely alluding to a concoction of as many as 100 synthetic chemicals. The specifics are protected as trade secrets, making it very hard indeed to make informed decisions when buying products

      Personally, I just feel really sick when I use or smell many perfumes—even those I like (including one that was a final gift from my grandmother, which was and is heartbreaking).

      All that being said, it bears underlining that these negative health effects have to do with SYNTHETIC fragrances, esp. those using butane and benzene as aerosolizers—basically fragrances depending on all the miraculous but ultimately destructive chemistry that makes perfume cheap enough for most of us to buy.

      So—after that preamble—I’m wondering if anyone has mixes of essential oils, or decent carriers (eg the unscented moisturizer one person mentions) for essential oils—and would like to share these. Any suggested recipes for those of us that get sick from what we’d otherwise like to be wearing? I’d LOVE to find something that I could use without making myself and others ill.

      While I am clearly not the only one who gets sick using or smelling synthetic fragrances, finding some alternatives that are more sophisticated than the patchouli oil of my arts school days would be amazing.

      By the way—I should say that I’m embarrassed and apologize for sounding like an academic—I am one (of literature, not of this stuff)—and it tends to bleed through into everything. Really all I want to say is that intolerance to artificial fragrance is not intolerance to fragrance as a whole. THEREFORE: if any of you out there have scents that you have concocted that don’t tend to make folks like me ill, please share. My reference to all the research that has been done is simply to underline that the experiences of many of us with intolerances to synthetic fragrances are validated by a growing body of solid research and should not be dismissed. If you are feeling ill from an air freshener or someone’s perfume, it is not just in your head.

      But none of this means that we should give up scent as a whole—just maybe find it in other sources. I’ve only been able to think of natural essential oils, but I am sure there are other things out there. Anyone know some?

      (PS There is, by the way, a huge body of research on the evils of commercially available synthetic fragrance available on the internet—I just mention the American research as it is the easiest to find—the European Union and nations such as Canada have also done work on the health problems associated with the chemicals in synthetic scent—the Canadian campaign based on this research has, since the late 1990s, liked the slogan “No scents is good sense”—so if you want to check out the Canadian take on all of this, try that in the google search).


  • Happy 2013!
    Life is good and it’s great to see that InsideOutStyle is flourishing, but on the subject of perfume, I’m feeling depressed.
    After searching for many years I found two scents that I adore – Jo Malone French Lime Blossom and White Jasmine and Mint – produced by a company that did not test on animals. But Jo Malone sold her company to Estee Lauder in 2006, and recently they decided to start marketing in China where animal testing is required by law to a much higher level than in Europe. So Jo Malone is now off the bunny-friendly list and I am again searching for a scent.

  • You could call me the Houdini of perfume because regardless of the expense, my skin seems to zap it away within just a few minutes and no one notices I’m wearing any. I had one scent that seemed to last by Oscar de Larente, but unfortunately, I never liked it and it gave me a headache. I’ve tried swathing my skin with Vaseline before I spritz because I was told that would help the scent last longer, but it didn’t seems to help. My favorite scent so far is Chanel No 5 but it doesn’t last long at all. Up for suggestions.

  • I am 46. I like Anais Anais (it’s the only one I can wear if I have a headache), also, I like Les Muses, White Shoulders, and Ciara. My husband loves Ciara best. I like to wear them according to my moods. Don’t you think that if my style is romantic, I would tend to always wear floral scents, even as I age?

  • I’ve tried lots of different perfumes over the years but always always come back to L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake.

    At the moment, I’m taking a rest from it with Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden, a fragrance from my teenage years! It’s perfect for summer, so light and fresh.

  • My go-to scent is Paloma by Paloma Picasso. I’ve been asked by strangers what I’m wearing because I ‘smell so good’. Perfume is a special occasion/pick me up for me.

    A lot of popular perfumes smell strangely like cat pee (to me). I’ve researched this and it seems a minority suffer too, but most of us disagree on which perfumes trigger that reaction! I also get migraine from a lot of popular perfumes (especially anything endorsed by a pop star, for some reason).

    As if that wasn’t t enough, my skin makes many otherwise lovely scents smell like citronella (aka ‘fly spray’). So disappointing. Did they explain why this happens at the Perfume Masterclass, Imogen?

    • THANK YOU! Geez, I thought it was just me! I also think 90% of perfumes smell like cat pee and everyone just thinks I’m crazy! I recently dumped all but my Chanel Mademoiselle. Which apparently is the only scent I can wear without either gagging or having an instant migraine. Funny how everyone is so different when it comes to scents.

  • Many years ago on my first trip to Paris at age 21, I was in a store looking to buy a French perfume as a remembrance of my trip. I can’t remember which fragrance I was trying, but the saleswoman said to me, “C’est pour les grandmeres!”. I was mortified. She recommended a light floral for me, and I bought it. However, it was never right for me, even at age 21. I gravitate toward the heavier, more complex fragrances. I often have a signature scent that I wear for several years and then move on to something else. Today’s fruity fragrances don’t appeal to me. 🙁 During a subsequent trip to Paris 20 yrs ago, I wore Royal Secret by Lancaster, recommended by another sales woman, and loved the deep but powdery dry-down. I wore Pomegranate from Santa Maria Novella for a number of years. Now, I’m wearing a scent by a local artisan. My second scent that I wear from time to time is Donna Karan’s Cashmere. Any recommendations are welcome!! (For Michelle above, my cousin and a friend of hers both wear Picasso, and it smells great on them. But on me, not so much!)

  • I love citrus scents. My favorite scent of all time is Jessicurl Island Fantasy which is a blend of citrus, vanilla, and coconut. I’ve switched to toxin free products though and now go with Orange Vanilla scented products from Bubble & Bee Organic and Citrus Love scented products from Healing-Scents. Looking into other toxin free perfumes but it’s low on my priority list. Right now video games, books, and kettlebells are at the top of my list since they are what keeps me from over thinking about the loss of my younger son Thomas.

  • I’ve been wearing the same fragrance since I was 14 – Jovan Musk for Women. I know it isn’t expensive, but it is sooooo me! I’ve tried many many many others (expensive and not expensive) over the years and keep coming back to the musk. I get complimented on it daily – by both men and women. Usually they just tell me I smell really good.

  • For years I have preferred the scent of Hanae Mori’s Butterfly. I don’t know if it’s floral, woodsy, or how it would be classified. Or if it’s simple or complex. I don’t have a very sophisticated pallet I’m afraid. But everyone who has ever commented on it on me has said that it just suits me perfectly – and asks me what it is. It’s funny – dozens of people have told me how perfectly the scent fits me. Guess I did well for not being very sophisticated. I’ve tried others – I sample some just for fun – but I always return to it.

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