The Secret To Finding Your Signature Scent, According To A Master Perfumer

When you’re a teenager, Lynx Africa or Marc Jacobs Daisy is acceptable, but once you’ve become an adult you actually need to smell good.

But finding a fragrance that works well for you can be incredibly difficult. Not only do you need to navigate the differences between eau de cologne, aftershave and parfums (hint: it’s the concentration of essential oils), but finding a scent that’s not too sleazy, overpowering or pedestrian can be a real challenge.

DMARGE spoke exclusively with Emma J Leah, Master Perfumer at independent Gold Coast perfume house Fleurage, who explains that one of the reasons it’s so hard to find something unique is due to “the dilution of commercial perfumery for maximum sell.”

“Most brands are stabled to a handful of mega-companies and there’s only a handful of fragrance companies they use to produce what you see on the shelf… this is what is homogenizing the offerings.”

“These big companies are also going for a universal appeal to sell as much as they can across a large demographic… Scent analysts dictate what is popular and marketing has overtaken the art of clever and individual blends from previous positive responses.”

Just because a fragrance is mainstream doesn’t mean it’s bad by default. But the issue is that some are so prolific that they end up having the same effect as Lynx Africa: immediately identifiable, overplayed, cloying.

The point of a signature fragrance is to be distinct; provide a sense of intrigue so that people who meet you wonder ‘why do they smell so good’. But what makes a good fragrance?

“From the creation point of view, a good fragrance [has] a well-structured, balanced combination of ingredients to give life to a distinctive idea,” Leah relates.

“Think of it like music. There should be harmony and flow with a definitive beat to the way it plays out and none of that is reliant on certain instruments but instead the combination. From the wearing point of view, it is the one that radiates from your skin at one with who you project yourself to be.”

In short? Choose a fragrance that matches your personality. Bold, earthy or spicy scents like sandalwood, patchouli, and rosewood are great for extroverts who want to make a splash. Alternatively, ‘clean’ scents like light florals, citrus or bamboo are great if you want to smell fresh and refined.

The reason perfume advertising is so distinct is it’s truly difficult to relay how something smells visually. With that in mind, there’s no substitute for actually going to a shop and trying on scents for yourself.

Our other tip? Don’t just rely on a single ‘signature’ scent. Just as different smells suit different people, different fragrances suit different times of the year. For example, a fresher fragrance is better to use in summer, leaving the woodier, spicier ones for the cooler months.

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What’s most important is that you use fragrances that you yourself enjoy, not because you think they’re going to reel people in or impress them. A fragrance should not only be special, but it should also make you feel special. It should be an extension of you, not a mask. A confidence booster, but not olfactory Dutch courage.

Leah’s final words?

“Wear what suits [your] particular makeup. Men (and women) should be fitting fragrance to their skin like you would an expensive piece of clothing. They should be shopping around for something distinctive or even arranging for a custom fragrance that represents their unique style and palette preferences and wears well on the skin.”

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