Perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three notes, making the harmonious chord of the scent. The notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage. These notes are created carefully with knowledge of the evaporation process of the perfume.
Top notes: The scents that are perceived immediately on application of a perfume. Top notes consist of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. They form a person's initial impression of a perfume and thus are very important in the selling of a perfume. The compounds that contribute to top notes are strong in scent, very volatile, and evaporate quickly. Citrus and ginger scents are common top notes. They are also called the head notes and usually last about five minutes.
Middle notes: The scent of a perfume that emerges after the top notes dissipate. The middle note compounds form the heart or main body of a perfume and are usually more mellow and rounded. Lavender and rose scents are typical middle notes. They are also called the heart notes and typically last about 10 to 60 minutes.
Base notes: The scent of a perfume that appears after the departure of the middle notes. The base and middle notes together are the main theme of a perfume. Base notes bring depth and solidity to a perfume and consist of large, heavy molecules that evaporate slowly. Compounds of this class of scents are typically rich and deep and are usually not perceived until 30 minutes after the application of the perfume or during the period of perfume drydown.
Drydown: As a fragrance’s more volatile components – the topnotes and midnotes – evaporate, the endnotes linger and carry the body of the fragrance. All fragrances change as they dry down, and all fragrances are affected by each person's unique skin chemistry, but the fragrance should remain true in character. Perfumers use fixatives (aromatic ingredients that fix or prolong scent) in the drydown to ensure a scent's longevity.
The most popular of all fragrance families, Floral fragrances range in single flower notes such as rose, jasmine, or gardenia, to a variety of mixed bouquets.
The Fresh fragrance family captures the scents of fresh-cut grass to violet leaves or the aromas of water notes such as the wet air after a thunderstorm or the sea breeze of summer.
This category has distinctive, vibrant aromas from the zests of lemons, oranges, and bergamot to name a few.
Taking cues from the world of gourmand, sweet vanilla, rich chocolate, and hints of honey are some of the scents that create this playful, yet captivating category.
Inspired by the traditional Oriental fragrance family. Spices, incense, and patchouli are some of the blends that come together to create sensual and sophisticated scents.
Often using technology to clone the woody scents of cedar and pine, or the earthy tones of tobacco and burnt wood, perfumers are rediscovering all the possibilities that comprise the Woody category.
Where and How to Apply Perfume
Scent clings best to moist/humid skin, so apply perfume to your pulse points which are the areas on your skin where blood flow is the strongest and the skin is the warmest: to the inside of your wrists, back of your knees, around your ankles, neck, behind your ears, between your breasts, and inside your elbows. You can also spray and walk into your fragrance.
Never rub perfume because that crushes the molecules of the fragrance and ruins the scent. For a lighter scent, spray the outside of your hand instead of the inside if your wrist. For a subtle perfuming of your hair and clothing, spray your perfume in the air and then walk through it. If you prefer a lighter overall smell and not concentrated on one part of your body, this may be the method for you (especially wonderful for a social event where there will be lots of people).
How to Make the Scent Last Longer
If you have dry skin, apply perfume more often. Applying petroleum jelly to areas where you will be applying perfume will give the scent something to cling to. Apply your fragrance low on the body so that the scent rises and it won’t be lost as quickly. Apply perfume immediately after your shower, as open pores and warm skin will soak up the scent, as long you haven’t used deodorant soap.
If your scent has faded after a few hours, rub the once scented area to reactive the scent. Layering your fragrance will help make your scent last longer. If the scent you use has a matching bath gel, moisturizer or powder, those can be used before you apply the actual fragrance.
How to Store Perfume
Perfume does deteriorate, and the time period depends on the temperature, light and length of storage.
Extreme heat and direct sunlight can break down the components of most fragrances so keep all fragrances in a cool dry area and away from windows. Do not store fragrances in the car, the scent will change entirely. Perfume should be stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight and away from extreme heat sources. On average, the shelf life for a fragrance is 3 to 5 years; for pure perfumes it is much less.
Parfum, also known as pure perfume, has the highest fragrance concentration. Parfum will contain anywhere from 15% to 40% fragrance however concentration is generally between 20% to 30% for most parfums. Of all scents, parfums last the longest; usually six to eight hours. Parfum generally also commands the highest price of all the fragrance types due to the high concentration of fragrance. People with sensitive skin may do better with parfums as they have far less alcohol than other fragrance types and therefore are not as likely to dry out the skin.
Eau de Parfum
After parfum, eau de parfum (EDP) has the next highest concentration of fragrance. Eau de parfum generally has a fragrance concentration of between 15% and 20%. On average, eau de parfum will last for four to five hours. It is also generally less expensive that parfum and while it does have a higher concentration of alcohol than parfum, it is better for sensitive skin than other fragrance types. Eau de parfum is one of the most common fragrance types and is suitable for everyday wear.
Eau de Toilette
Eau de toilette (EDT) has a fragrance concentration of between 5% and 15%. It is less expensive than eau de parfum and is one of the most popular types of fragrance available. EDT fragrance will normally last for two to three hours. Eau de toilette is considered by some to be for daywear while eau de parfum is considered nightwear.
Eau de Cologne
Eau de cologne, or EDC, has a much lower concentration of fragrance than the above types of perfume. EDC generally has a 2% to 4% percent concentration of fragrance and a high concentration of alcohol. It is less expensive than other types of fragrance however the scent generally only lasts for up to two hours. EDC generally comes in bigger bottles and more of the fragrance needs to be used.
Eau fraiche is similar to eau de cologne in that the scent will generally last for up to two hours. Eau fraiche has an even lower concentration of fragrance than eau de cologne, normally only 1% to 3%. While eau fraiche has a low fragrance concentration, it does not contain a high amount of alcohol.