How to Smell Irresistible 101: Easy Foolproof Tips for Layering Perfume & Fragrances

Did you know that the nose is able to detect over 10,000 scents? And not only is fragrance closely intertwined with memory, but one perfume can smell completely different from one person to another, thanks to our special body chemistry.

Which is why, for a sentimental fool like me, I’ve always found fragrance shopping to be quite an intimate task, even if going through the motions of finding something that really speaks to me can sometimes feel more like homework than money-splurging (fragrances can get expensive) fun.

I also think that I am speaking for most of us when I say that we are in the purse-pinching mode at this moment. So instead of going trigger happy at your favourite beauty online site (looking at all you fragrance fanatics), use that time and energy to layer fragrances you still have lying around your grooming station, to make a scent that only belongs to you.

We know, layering fragrances can feel mind-bogglingly complicated, but with our foolproof tips below, you should be able to find this practice quite entertaining. Do note, that there really isn’t a right or wrong when it comes to fragrance layering (whatever works for you, works for you!) but taking down some rules of thumb will just help you along the way.


Tip 1: Understanding The Basics

For the best results when it comes to understanding how fragrances truly unfold on your skin, layer two or three scents on your wrist (at the same area) before any of the scents dry.

The wrist is a notable pulse point which generates more body heat. This, therefore, helps to intensify the scent of fragrances while also diffusing its scent without compromising on its longevity in performance. It’s also a given that fragrances mingle better when they are still moist, so you get a better sense of how your layered fragrance will smell throughout the day.


Tip 2: Focus on Using Straightforward Fragrances

From left to right: CHLOÉ Roses De Chloé Eau De Toilette 50ml ($165), TOM FORD BEAUTY Rose Prick Eau De Parfum 50ml ($473), FRESH Rose Morning Eau De Parfum 100ml ($148).

Basically, this is how it goes, the less complicated the perfume, the easier it is to mix them. Pull out your more subtle fragrances that feature one or two notes in their titles. Something universally appealing like rose or vanilla would be a great starting point, as these will often accent more complicated scents seamlessly.


Tip 3: Some Fragrance Notes Simply Don’t Mix

The main fragrance family groups wheel.


Fragrance notes are often categorised into four main family groups — Floral, Oriental, Woody, Fresh, along with two new family additions — Gourmand and Oceanic. A combination that is likely to backfire are pairings that include Woody and/or Oriental scents with those in the Oceanic family. So be mindful when you get to spraying. But you can still have a go at it if you want to, who knows, you might just stumble into something amazing in your exploration.


Tip 4: Best Kept in The Family

Simple fragrance pairings that work.

Amongst the six aforementioned categories, scents in the floral family are often the most foolproof when it comes to layering, as well as the best base fragrance (the strongest, most discernible scent) note to start from. If fragrance layering is intimidating to you (or you just don’t wanna waste your expensive juices), just stick to layering scents within the same family to keep it safe.

Those who are more adventurous can try three or more fragrance pairings.

If your intention is to highlight a particular fragrance note, sandalwood for example, then just have that in mind in your layering composition (e.g. spray that single scent twice or more at the start, then use other scents in the same family — by spraying these only once — to highlight it).


Tip 5: How to Make Different Families Mingle

From left to right: BVLGARI Splendida Jasmin Noir Eau de Parfum 50ml ($169), FRESH Citron De Vigne Eau De Parfum 100ml ($148), TOM FORD BEAUTY Noir Pour Femme Eau De Parfum 50ml ($214).

The warm and spicy scents in the Oriental family are usually the trickiest to mix (this heavier scent is often advertised as alluring and often has the word ‘noir’ in its name), so leave these alone for now since we are beginners here.

For the other five fragrance families, it helps to round them up into two groups — for example, Group A with Floral and Woody scents (these make the easiest base to begin with) and Group B with Fresh, Gourmand, and Oceanic scents as an accent to your base. Play with layering by mixing one from A and another from B as you go along, before adding more, to get to your desired personalised fragrance.


Tip 6: Let Scented Body Oils & Creams Have Some Fun Too

Clockwise from top left: OUAI Rose Hair & Body Oil 100ml ($50), JO MALONE LONDON Peony & Blush Suede Body & Hand Lotion 250ml ($110), AERIN Amber Musk Body Cream 150ml ($96), KENZO Flower By Kenzo Perfuming Body Milk 200ml ($74).

All the above tips are applicable for any scented grooming product, so don’t turn your nose up at scented body oils, lotions and creams! If you’re planning on going about layering fragrances with these other products, it’ll help if you follow this application order: creams or lotions first, oils second, and alcohol-based vaporiser fragrances last. Stay moisturised while also smelling irresistible? We don’t see why not.


Tip 7: Buy to Add To Your Layering Stash

Clockwise from top left: JO MALONE LONDON Nectarine Blossom & Honey Cologne 100ml ($215), TOP/MIDDLE/BASE SHE KILLS 30ml FRAGRANCE ($28), JO MALONE LONDON English Oak & Hazelnut Cologne 100ml ($215), TOP/MIDDLE/BASE COMMENTARY 30ml FRAGRANCE ($28).

Yes, we know you probably aren’t going to stop stocking up on new fragrances any time soon (there are so many cool stuff out there!), but consider your purchases with layering in mind. Maybe you can go for a fragrance that celebrates your single favourite scent that’ll elevate the others you already own, or simply purchase a layering kit from brands like Jo Malone and TOP/MIDDLE/BASE so you can get to understand layering better (whiffing is believing).


The products featured in this article are now available on Sephora and Top/middle/base.