My Experience Finding My Custom Perfume (Here's How to Find Yours)

And why my scent's the one thing I won't share...
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I share so much of my life. Everyone knows what I put in my coffee, the pillow I sleep on every night, and what I make for dinner every Monday. There almost isn't a single thing I can think of that I don't share—the exception being my new signature scent (which is actually a layered combination of two perfumes!). Scent is so strongly tied to memory and emotions that I love the idea of having a signature scent that's uniquely mine. 

Over the past few months, I've returned to my favorite perfume store in Los Angeles, Scent Bar, to test and finally find a new scent combination that, based on my love of it and the compliments I've received, is here to stay. I didn't bring it to Italy with me (for fear both bottles would break in my checked luggage) and actually felt excited to spritz it on my first morning back. It's been a while since I've shared anything about my perfume philosophy, so I had Leslie gather your most-asked perfume questions from DMs and comments. Read on for my thoughts on refreshing your signature scent, layering, and applying: 

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I know women who have worn the same scent their entire lives, but I prefer to refresh my scent every few years. You can reevaluate it at two points: When you finish a bottle (does buying a new bottle spark the same joy for you?) and when you feel you may have outgrown a perfume. A few years ago, my mom, who knows an enormous amount about perfume, actually pulled me aside and told me Carnal Flower no longer works for me... I hadn't really taken the time to stop and question if I still loved it, but realized it actually did wear differently. It's possible my body chemistry changed and impacted the scent, or I just fell out of love with it. I wasn't even done with the bottle when I decided to retire it, and I haven't touched it since. 

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I have always loved a white floral. It's my go-to, but the problem is that a lot of perfumes that feature white florals, including Carnal Flower, began turning on me. They would go on nicely and smell fresh and sweet, but thirty minutes later would smell saccharine and way over the top. I've washed my wrists with coffee on more than one occasion to get rid of a bad white floral perfume I was testing... All this is to say, finding a specific scent you love involves a lot of trial and error, and patience. You have to spritz on a perfume you're interested in, and wait a few hours to see if you still like it once it's had a chance to settle. Take notes on which perfumes you love, and which you definitely don't, and you'll start to see a Venn diagram of favorite notes start to emerge. 

#3

It really comes down to doing research. Begin by searching online, then go somewhere like a perfume store or Sephora, where they have knowledgeable staff, and explain what scents or perfumes you're drawn to. Be open to talking about what you're looking for and what you've liked and haven't liked, giving examples of specific perfumes if you don't know the exact notes. It's almost as important to know what to avoid as it is to know what you're looking for. 

For example, I knew that as much as I wanted a scent that included pure white florals, I also wanted something with back-end notes that went a little more green or even musky to offset the "powdery" note florals can sometimes have. I'm not necessarily drawn to a green tea scent (a popular note for offsetting florals), but discovered I love a tuberose or orange flower. So much comes down to personal preference.  

Also, it's important to embrace samples. Fragrance shouldn't be an impulse buy—spritz on a scent, then wear it for at least 24 hours to see how it changes over time (and if you still love it). 

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Look, not all perfumes are going to go together, so you have to be careful when layering perfumes that you're using complementary rather than clashing scents (I wrote an entire article on it here). But the benefits of layering are enormous—it becomes a more complex scent, and is highly customizable and unique. A lot of people may wear a popular scent, but chances are you'll be the only one wearing your specific combination.

#5

I've always been reserved with my perfume application. I never want to overdo it, but when my friend Cristina told me she could never smell me, I started applying just a touch more. It's the last thing I put on before I leave the house so a little bit clings to my clothing. To layer, I barely spray any of my "base" perfume. It's just a light misting. Then, I apply much more of my "top scent"—I'll spritz it onto my wrists and dab my neck, but also onto my cleavage and hair.