A Master Perfumist Answers Common Questions About Wearing Fragrances

Jun 10, 2022, 20:51 IST


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We all love wearing perfumes, right? A separate fancy and instagrammable shelf is curated especially to house the magnificent-looking bottles that we own. Well, there’s no denying in the fact that perfumes are charming, very charming. An essential for some and an indulgence for one and all, perfumes can be quite the game-changers and mood-enhancers. Are you with me on this? I’m certainly sure. However, though these pretty-looking bottles have been at the forefront of our dressers (and perhaps in our handbags too), we always sense a void of adequate understanding about the world of fragrances and perfumes. So much so, that the basics continue to go unanswered, more often than not. Is wearing perfume all about spraying it on? Absolutely not! It can be a sensorial treat if you plunge into the multi-aspect intricacies of the bottle. We help you do so, by chatting with Abdulla Ajmal, Business Mentor & Perfumist, NHA division, Ajmal & Sons, who not only boasts a tight association with a legacy of scents but also humbly disperses his olfactory proficiency.




How do we select the right fragrance for ourselves?

It’s a trial-and-error process, much like learning anything for the first time. If you are buying a perfume for yourself, put yourself on the centrestage. The first tip would be to go to a fragrance store and try out a new thing instead of buying a fragrance after smelling it on someone else. Smell a few on the blotter before you try it on the skin. The good thing is you don’t have to commit to it unless you are sure about it. You can apply up to four fragrances on two different hands and elbows and let them stay on the skin. Ask the beauty advisors for fragrance families of perfumes you like on the first whiff and make notes of those. Leave it on for a couple of hours to see how the scent blooms on your skin. The first time you buy, buy a smaller size, see how it suits you and then go on for further purchases.


What’s the difference between an EDT and EDP?

The difference between EDT (Eau de Toilette) and EDP (Eau de parfum) is the concentration of perfume oil in the overall composition. The EDT typically is anything from 5%- 8% oil, and EDP is around 8%-15%, which is also why EDP generally is higher priced than EDT from the same brand. The higher the concentration of perfume oils, the longer a perfume will stay on the skin.




What are the pulse points? What role do they play in perfume application?

The pulse points in layman terms would be the points where your doctor normally checks the pulse – on the wrist, behind the ears and on the neck. As the theory goes the pulse points are areas on the body which are the warmest as here the veins flow closest to the skin. These spots help the fragrance to develop faster. The other place where other people don’t refer to but I do is inside of the elbow. Science aside, it makes sense to apply perfume to your wrists and arms, as every time you move your hands (and we do so often while talking), you get a whiff of the fragrance.


How do we make a perfume last longer?

The obvious answer is to spray generously and use a stronger concentration. If you want it to be longer-lasting, instead of EDT use EDP or concentrated perfumes. Additionally, fragrances with woody, incense and oudh notes linger on for hours. Also, it’s a fact that perfumes stay longer on hydrated, supple skin, so use a moisturiser after your bath for two-fold results – better hydration and perfume.


What’s the shelf-life of perfumes?

Typically, most brands will say anything between 3-5 years of shelf life. Having said that, if a perfume is kept in a cool place, away from the sunlight it can last over a decade in my experience.



When opting for floral scents, what are some light-hearted notes that aren’t overpowering?

If you are looking for a floral scent but not heady notes, then stay away from fragrances where jasmine or tuberose are the hero ingredients. Ask instead for light white florals, so even though the white florals will have jasmine and tuberose but the version will not be as intense. Typically, the floral composition will also have roses, peony, and ylang-ylang but it will be all mild and balanced with notes of orange blossoms and lily of the valley. You can find a rose composition that’s not overwhelming, but the lightest are the white florals.


According to you, what kind of fragrances (and notes) can be worn from AM to PM?

You can wear any fragrance you like, any time of the day. If you like a light scent and want it to be your AM and PM fragrance, you have to reuse it three or four times a day. That’s all. Stronger, intense notes are recommended for evenings as one presumes that the setting will be more intimate and friends and family will surround you. Light, fresh fragrances are better bets for the day as they are least likely to offend or irritate others around you. Stronger fragrances don’t need to be refreshed through the day, but they warrant caution. You might like it, but others may not, so it’s better to be mindful of your fragrance if the surrounding or occasion is formal.


Why do perfumes smell differently on different people? Do they?

It all depends on our skin’s pH. So while a fragrance does smell different on different people, it is not significantly different. It is not like “OMG, smells like an entirely different fragrance.” Although it is also a natural phenomenon, you may not like the scent on yourself and may appreciate it on somebody else. There is a fragrance my wife wears, which my cousins  love on her, but don’t like on themselves at all. It can get that extreme as well, but those are exceptions. They don’t smell different; the composition of the fragrances or the way it smells doesn’t change.


What’s your take on seasonal scents? Are they a thing? If yes, what do you suggest for different seasons?

Like food and clothing, you will tap on their optimal benefits if you switch your fragrances as per season. Let’s pause and think, what does summer bring up? Heat and humidity, both leading to sweat, making a fragrance fade faster. So, we do want fragrances that last longer. However, we want aromatic, soft florals as anything intense will make it smell more intense because of the heat. My rule of thumb is to pair heady, heavy notes with woollen clothes and light florals with linen and cotton. These are just guidelines; these are not rules. I live in the GCC, where men and women wear heavy fragrances throughout the year, even when it is 50 degrees. But at the same time, many times in winter, I feel like wearing something fresh in the daytime. It all depends on the mood. Fragrances are all about indulgence. Sometimes you wear perfume for the memory’s sake and the mood it evokes. It has nothing to do with the weather or the time of day. It’s the mood or attitude. But as always, I’d say, be mindful of your surroundings.



Finally, which note holds the most amount of significance in a perfume?

It is the one that you find the most significant that has the maximum importance. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In perfumes, we have ingredients that are what we perfumers call ‘active ingredients,’ that show up more in the fragrance families, but there is no such thing that is absolutely dominant. I like oudh, so I always try oudh-based perfumes and wear them often. It doesn’t mean I will appreciate all oudh-based scents, but I will be most inclined to try these. But when we talk about notes at a scientific level of perfumery, as a science, no one ingredient is at the apex of all raw materials. Yes, there are expensive raw materials; there are inexpensive raw materials. But, nothing can be touted as the pinnacle of fragrances. It’s all up to an individual's choice – both the user and the perfumer.