How to make your perfume last longer, if you’re sick of scent fading by lunchtime

You’ve likely heard all the typical advice for making perfume last longer: Spray your pulse points! Wear scented body cream! Erm, really? Is that it? I don’t think that’s good enough, frankly. When you’re paying fifty to a hundred pounds plus on a great fragrance, there is a fully-entitled expectation it will last, at least past lunchtime please, unfurling with all the beautiful complexities the perfumer intended for it. But for that lovely sillage to stay put (that’s French for a fragrance’s ‘trail-of-waftiness’) there are a surprising number of factors playing against us, from the moisture levels of our skin to what – not just where – we spritz… and a gentle reality-check on said expectation. 

Having spoken to some true experts who really understand the chemistry of fragrance vs. skin, here is your entirely new set of useful, practical and fascinating facts and tips that will help your perfume last longer. And because there’s so much new deliciousness out there, we’ve added some wintry scent suggestions that will cling onto you with fawning adulation like they’re Eau de Ben Affleck to your JLo neck. 

It all starts with healthy skin

Chasing a glowing, long-lasting makeup complexion is a waste of time if you don’t nurture your skin and commit to a good routine, and the same theory applies to perfume. ‘If your skin is dry and covered with a layer of dead cells, it will absorb perfume quickly and shed off, making your scent disappear fast,’ says aesthetician Dija Ayodele, author of Black Skin The Definitive Skincare Guide. ‘Try to maintain really well-hydrated and healthy skin so that fragrance sits better and lasts longer. And I don’t mean just slapping on an oil! You need to exfoliate regularly and hydrate with a moisturiser containing water as well as glycerin, urea, and ceramides… all the natural stuff that actually makes up the components of the skin. 

Plus, if your skin is dry it’s prone to inflammation and a weaker skin barrier, so if you spray perfume with an alcohol base you’re going to trigger even more irritation. Creating a resilient and healthy canvas will create a safe ‘sponge’ and help your perfume cling on.’ 

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Opt for an unscented body cream

Unless your favourite perfume comes with an ancillary scented body cream, choose something as neutral as possible that’s designed primarily to rehydrate dry skin. Cerave Body Cream, Neutrogena Deep Moisture Balm and Avene Body Moisturising Balm are all brilliant and effective. 

Spritz your hairbrush

Since our hair is porous, it behaves like an excellent sponge for fragrance and holds onto it longer than skin. ‘As a child I always watched my mum spray perfume into her hair brush before leaving the house,’ says Andrew Kyriakou, Fragrance Concierge at Parfum Muse, who trained with luxury fragrance house Guerlain and now specialises in matchmaking customers to perfumes. ‘I remember her hair smelling amazing and every time she would turn you could smell her scent in the room. Although I tend to recommend dedicated hair perfumes (BDK Parfums Gris Charnel Hair Mist, £55, is a favourite), this is a great little trick if your perfume doesn’t have a complimentary hair mist.’ 

Spray the tops, not the undersides, of your wrists.

As above, the hairs on your forearms will grab onto perfume molecules and keep them hooked in. Also, if you spray the underside of your wrists, you’re more likely to dilute the scent every time you wash your hands.  

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The whole “pulse point” thing is nonsense. 

Honestly I have no idea who came up with that, but it’s ridiculous. Just because an area is more likely to get sweaty and warm (for instance behind your knees or the dip of your back) it makes no impact on your fragrance’s longevity. As for it ‘amplifying’ your perfume, it’s not worth the wasted sprays. After all, when was the last time you smelt the backs of your knees?

Don’t rub your perfume after applying

Once again, another habit everyone does that makes no sense! “Rubbing your wrists together burns off the top notes of your perfume. Let your scent air dry and then enjoy,” suggests Andrew. 

Look for ‘fixative’ ingredients in your perfume

To really understand the chemistry of why some perfumes last longer than others, I spoke to British perfumer Sarah McCartney from 4160 Tuesdays – who hand-makes and bottles her own award-winning fragrances at her studio in Hammersmith, West London, and has just published her first book The Perfume Companion. “We use materials known as fixatives; they have an aroma of their own but act like scented glue to hold the other materials in place. Where citrus fruits and herbs tend to be the ping pong balls of perfumery, fixatives are the footballs,” explains Sarah. In early 19th Century perfumery most of the big, heavy fixative ingredients were animal-derived, such as ambergris, musk, and civet tinctures, but these have gradually been replaced by synthetics such as Ambrox and aromachemical versions of musk and civet. 

“The Middle Eastern balsams and resins are great fixatives too: look for labdanum, styrax, benzoin and opoponax on your perfume’s list of notes,” says Sarah. Imagine these as slightly churchy, glowing, and spiritual smells that give a scent addictive stickiness without smelling horribly sweet. “Oakmoss, tonka bean, patchouli, vanilla, orris, and vetiver last well too, and there are some great sandalwood-scented aromachemicals, such as Sandalore, Dreamwood, Sandalore and especially Iso E Super that last very well.” That’ll explain why Escentric Molecule’s Molecule 01 is still a bestseller 15 years ago, because it’s made of 100% Iso E Super and lasts absolutely AGES. “I use Cashmeran,” says Sarah, “which smells like a silky version of spun woods. 

After many years of continual experimenting, I’ve developed my secret superblend of natural and synthetic fixatives. I suspect that most perfumers have something similar, which gives fragrances their “signature”, what the French call a patte. I love the idea of a subtle pawprint!” Of all the 4160 Tuesdays’ fragrances, which has the most staying power? “Surprisingly it’s one called Fluffy Lemon Top!” says Sarah (from £32 for 15ml). 

“It is more serious than it sounds, and made with cedrat (posh lemon), bergamot, orange, and mandarin, with narcissus, orris, patchouli, and chocolate, then a layer of labdanum, many musks and vanilla, oakmoss and tonka absolutes, with vanillin and coumarin to back it up. It’s intended to evoke the sun coming out from behind the clouds, and is named after an ice-cream invented by Pacito’s in Redcar, North Yorkshire. I was actually surprised by its commitment to the skin, but the combination of Ambrox Super, coumarin, and vanillin with the musks gently holds the hands of the more flighty citrusses and stops them flying away. I use Hedione to help citrus essential oils smell bright while keeping them in place.” 

Embrace the new fragrance tech

More and more companies are investing in ‘perfume extension’ science; think of this like the fragrance equivalent of all-day SPF creams, hair-styling sprays and longwear makeup, where lamellar and encapsulating technology help to stretch out the efficiency of a product. Estee Lauder are the first to introduce this inside the eight perfumes from their new Luxury Fragrance Collection, which landed in October. Their ScentCapture Fragrance Extender™Technology controls the release of the fragrance molecules to promote longevity and preserve the authenticity of each scent for up to 12 hours. 

Spray your clothes

Simple but so effective, since woven fabrics act like a mesh trap for fragrance. “Perfume lasts longer on clothes,” says Sarah. “Avoid dark-coloured scents on white shirts in case of staining. Autumn and winter give us a wonderful opportunity for spritzing all over our woollies too!”

Take care of your perfume

“You will notice when you open a perfume it takes about 3 pumps before the spray works,” says Andrew. “It’s because perfumes are air-locked: once you let oxygen in, the fragrance begins to slowly age.” In the same way that UV speeds up the skin’s ageing process, the same applies to perfume. “Store your bottles in a cool, dry place out of sunlight, as sunlight and heat make your perfume mature.”

Be realistic about colognes 

“If you love splashy citrus fragrances, such as 4711 Eau de Cologne, accept them for the uplifting, fleeting delights that they are,” says Sarah. “Think of them as olfactory butterflies: lovely and short-lived. Carry a bottle around with you and top it up as necessary.” 

Opt for an Eau de Parfum

The difference between an Eau de Toilette and an Eau de Parfum is the concentration of fragrance oils: it’s higher in Eau de Parfums (and even higher in Parfums) giving the total amount of fragrance oils a heftier weight, meaning they’ll take longer to wear off from your skin. 

Your brain plays tricks on you!

How often have you been out with a friend who says “you smell great”, and you genuinely thought your fragrance had worn off? “Our own brains stop telling us that our perfume is there,” says Sarah. “Our sense of smell is there to tell us about safety and danger, and the presence of food. So anything outside of those smells (such as floral and amber fragrances) may trick your brain into forgetting about them. 

However if you wear a smoky scent your brain will constantly say “fire, fire!” so you may only detect the more smouldering notes, such as vetiver or white birch. If you’re wearing a gourmand fragrance, your brain will mostly notice foodie notes such as chocolate and marshmallow instead of the full effect of the perfume.” 

That explains why some of the most successful biggest-selling fragrances have dessert trolley ingredients in them, because they subconsciously tell its wearer they’re long-lasting. Thierry Mugler Angel and Lancome La Vie est Belle are two of the highest selling perfumes in the world and both have a prominent praline molecule. Meanwhile Maison Francis Kurkdijan’s Baccarat Rouge 540, with its addictive burnt-strawberry-jam deliciousness is continuously one of the most popular fragrances in Harrods. “I can put a bottle of Baccarat Rouge anywhere, on any floor, and it will fly,” says Annalise Fard, Director of Beauty, Accessories, Fine Jewellery and Watches at Harrods. 

If in doubt, spray more!

Two quick spritzes aren’t going to give you that all-day oomph and joy. Enjoy your perfume and spray with abandon! I do at least three sprays on each side of my neck, three on each forearm, four through my hair and all over my clothes, coat and scarf. And that’s after I’ve done four or five spritzes over my body once I’ve moisturised post-shower. Like your very best crystal wine glasses: don’t save just for best! You only live once, so make every day flipping fabulous.


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