How to Find Your Signature Scent

The world of perfume can be extremely overwhelming. I’ve walked into a perfume store one too many times not really knowing what I was looking for and leaving with something extremely generic that didn’t fit me at all. With so many different possibilities and combinations, it can feel near impossible to find something you like, or to even get a sense of what you like. 

A signature fragrance means something different for everyone. For some people, it’s the fragrance they can default to. They want a fragrance that they can spray on without even having to think about it. For other people, it’s a fragrance they turn to when they want to add something extra to their look or when they want to radiate confidence. Whatever the purpose, there’s a fragrance out there for everyone. Here are some tips on how to find the best one for you.


  1. 1. Know what you’re smelling

    Perfumes have different fragrances within them, called notes. There are three types of notes you will encounter in a perfume.

    - Top notes: These are what you smell when you first spray a perfume. These last anywhere from 15-20 minutes.

    - Heart notes: These are what you will smell when the top notes wear off; they make up the truest scent of the fragrance. These last around 2-4 hours.

    - Base notes: These notes are what lingers when all the other notes have worn off; they support the lighter notes above them. These last approximately 4-6 hours.


    There are also many different types of scents you’ll encounter. The world of fragrance notes is endless, but here are some of the most common notes you will find in a perfume:

    - Citrus notes: Notes like orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit add a light freshness to a fragrance. They tend to be used in unisex fragrances because of this versatile quality.

    - Floral notes: Although you might associate floral with something your grandmother might wear, when done right, it can make a fragrance feel more natural and feminine. Popular floral notes include jasmine, violet, gardenia, and peony.

    - Fruity notes: Fruity notes give of an aura of youth and playfulness, which is why they can often be found in body sprays and other fragrances marketed towards teens. However, they can also lend themselves well to a more mature, sophisticated fragrance. Examples include blackberry, raspberry, and peach.

    - Spice notes: Spice notes like cinnamon and nutmeg add warmth to a fragrance, while black pepper adds a sharper heat.

    - Sweet notes: These include notes like brown sugar, vanilla, marshmallow, and honey. Like fruity notes, they often add a youthful feel to a fragrance that would otherwise be too powdery.

    - Musk notes: Like floral notes, when overdone, these can make a fragrance smell too powdery and old-fashioned. However, when done right, they can add a richness that rounds out and supports the rest of the fragrance. There are many different types of musk, but most is synthetic musk, or white musk.

    - Woody notes: These notes add a mysterious quality to a fragrance. Depending on the note, it can smell slightly earthy (such as leather or pine) or slightly sweet (such as cedar or oud).


    There are so many different combinations of fragrance notes out there for every single type of person. When combined with different notes, the same scent can be used in a variety of fragrances. For example, floral notes are often combined with fruity or citrusy notes for a fresh daytime fragrance, but they can also be incorporated into a fragrance with musk or woody notes for a more sensual, mysterious feel that’s perfect for the evening. It all depends on the type of vibe you want.

    After reading about all of these different types of notes, you might be confused. I promise it will make a lot more sense when you smell them. Even if you don’t fully understand what you’re smelling, having a vague idea of what different notes smell like will help you better identify the types of fragrances you are drawn to.

  2. 2. Understand the different types of fragrance you can buy

    Fragrance comes in a couple of different formulations. For a lighter touch of fragrance, you can choose to get a body spray or fragrance mist. These consist mainly of alcohol and anywhere from 0.5% to 3% fragrance. Because of the lower fragrance content in comparison to perfumes, body sprays are the least expensive option. Perfumes, on the other hand, have a much higher fragrance content which can be further divided into two types. Eau de parfum contains anywhere from 15% to 20% fragrance, and while it is the most expensive of the three, it is the longest lasting. Eau de toilette has anywhere from 5% to 15% fragrance, making it the perfect middle ground between eau de parfum and a body spray.

    With so many different price points available, it can be tempting to feel like you need to buy a high end fragrance for the best quality. This is simply not true. While high end perfumes do tend to contain extremely high quality ingredients, they are still often outperformed by brands on the lower end of the price spectrum. Some of the best perfumes I have found cost less than $30, and the quality is usually just as good - many times even better than higher end fragrances. Bottom line, you don’t need to break the bank to find a quality fragrance.

  3. 3. When actually going to test a fragrance, test it out on your own skin

    When you test a fragrance, what you smell on the slip of paper is not what it will smell like on you. Everyone’s body heat and chemistry reacts differently with a perfume, so what smells good on paper or on someone else may not smell good on you and vice versa. Spray a small amount of perfume on your inner wrist. Since it is a pulse point, it is naturally slightly warm due to the blood being carried to that area. This will help to bring out the fragrance’s full potential.

  4. 4. Wear it for a couple hours without testing too many other scents at the same time

    After spraying a fragrance on your wrist, walk around and wear it for a couple of hours. This will allow you to get a sense of what it will smell like after the top notes have worn off. In addition, don’t test more than two fragrances at a time (one on each wrist). This can cause the different fragrances to start to mingle with each other and throw off each other’s scents, making it hard to identifywhat each fragrance actually smells like.


  5. 5. Don’t use the pot of coffee beans

    Most perfume shops have a pot of coffee beans meant to “reset your palette”. This actually will do the exact opposite of what it was intended to do because it is just another strong scent that will throw off your palette. Instead, walk outside the store for a couple minutes or bury your nose in your elbow (yes, it really works!).

  6. 6. When choosing a fragrance, take your personality into account

    Just like your style, the fragrance you choose to wear is an extension of your personality. For example, if you are bold and vivacious, you might choose a fragrance that packs a punch. If you are more laid-back, you may want to pick a fragrance that is milder. Whatever you choose, it should feel comfortable and natural, almost like a second skin.

  7. 7. You might also consider the time of day, season, or occasion you might wear a particular fragrance

    When picking a fragrance (or multiple fragrances), keep in mind when you’ll be wearing them. For example, a fragrance you might wear to work or school will likely be different than one you’d wear on a date or a night out with friends. If you want to stick to one scent, make sure you pick one that will be versatile during all seasons and all times of day (or whenever you plan to wear your fragrance). This can be difficult for some people, so they might opt to have multiple fragrances for different occasions, times of year, or times of day. Of course, the definition of versatility will vary from person to person, so choose what will make you feel the most comfortable in the environments you’ll be in.

  8. 8. Don’t feel restricted to one fragrance

    When going to look for a signature fragrance, many people assume that means that they have to only pick one and wear it all the time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people also make the mistake of assuming that they are restricted to the fragrance or fragrances they pick as their “signature scents”. A signature scent does not exist to restrict you. Think of it like you would your fashion style: you may have a certain style of styles of clothes that makes you feel comfortable, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t wear other clothes that don’t fit it. Wear whatever you want! There’s a reason all these different perfumes exist. Try them!

Fragrance is like the cherry on top. It can add a little something extra to your look, give you that extra boost of confidence, and have a huge impact on the type of vibe you give off. I hope these tips help you find a fragrance you absolutely love!