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Your complete guide to shopping fragrance online

Your complete guide to shopping fragrance online
Penny Lafferty
Writer and expert11 months ago
View Penny Lafferty's profile

Our LF Beauty Plus+ Big Points Event is finally here, and that means it's time to invest in a new fragrance. There are few things in life better than finding a fresh signature scent to obsess over – but when it comes to shopping fragrance online, it’s certainly not as easy browsing in-store. In person, there are samples and testers galore – but online you’re going in nose blind, relying on the note structure alone to determine whether a scent is for you.

If you’ve been stung one too many times with a perfume that sounds perfect, only to smell completely different to what you imagined – the uncertainty ends here. To celebrate our LF Beauty Plus+ Big Points Event, we’ve reached out to the experts to breakdown everything you need to know about finding the perfect fragrance online, with our handy, how-to guide…

Why is it difficult to shop fragrance online?

Shopping fragrance online can be considered difficult for a variety of reasons. Paul Benbow, national education manager at Coty Fragrances, explains: “Fragrance is something that has to be experienced in the physical form, just like taste. Online you can only really see a product, read up about it or watch something related to it.”

Stacey Baker, digital education manager at PUIG UK, adds, “You can’t fully visualise and experience the emotions the scent brings. Fragrance triggers emotions and feelings which encourages a customer to purchase a fragrance, so purchasing online can sometimes add a minor barrier.”

What’s the first thing we should look for when shopping a fragrance online?

“When selecting a fragrance, most people are either brand and image led or scent led, so depending on this, the first thing to look for is either the actual brand and fragrance name, or the type of fragrance they like.” Paul recommends going for a scent that aligns with your personality: “BOSS fragrances for example are about being bold and determined, whereas something like Marc Jacobs is more playful, youthful and cute!”

Recognising how we’re typically creatures of habit, Stacey advises sticking with what you know: “Look at the ingredients that you already know about and like, and also pair that with the concept and advertisement of the fragrance, which adds more substance to the fragrance you want to purchase online.”

What are top notes, heart notes and base notes?

We all know that most fragrances feature a top note, heart note, base note structure – but what do these tiers actually mean?

Stacey explains, “Top notes are the first instance of the fragrance – it triggers emotions and awakens the nose. The heart notes are the DNA of the fragrance, and the base note is the foundation, adding longevity to the fragrance. Together, they complement each other to create an incredible scent.”

Paul adds: “Notes are what make up the construction of a fragrance and all give a different aspect to a scent’s character or personality. Top notes are usually lighter such as watery or citrus. Heart notes are primarily (but not always) made up of floral, green or aromatic notes, and base notes tend to be deeper, such as woods, spices, resins, or gourmand.”

Which notes are most representative of the overall scent?

Determining which note will be the strongest in your fragrance, simply by glancing at the note structure, isn’t always a sure thing: “Traditionally it is the base notes which are most representative of a fragrance as this is what will stay on the skin the longest. Your top notes are an introduction to the scent and will usually disappear after a short time… then the heart notes build the character and finally the base notes leave the trail or the lasting impression,” reveals Paul.

Though this is fairly standard when it comes to fragrance potency, there can be anomalies: “Every fragrance is different and some scents have a more linear construction meaning that there are fewer “steps” for the fragrance to wear through, but in general, Top, Heart and Base notes are the fundamental building blocks.”

Usually the listed notes can give some sort of indication as to what classification it is,” shares Paul. “For example, if a fragrance is full of fruits in the top notes, but has a big floral heart and a soft, woody base then it could be categorised as a Floral Fruity as these are the main notes which make up the composition. However, if there is a deeper concentration of Woods in the base, then it could be classed as a Woody Floral…”

What are fragrance families?

There are many fragrance families out there, but Stacey divides them up into seven categories:

  1. Citrus – Tangy, fresh and bright notes, adding a sharp edge and balance to a fragrance e.g. bergamot, mandarin.”
  2. Aromatic Fougere – Clean, dry and masculine with distinctive scents like lavender and thyme. Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier is a timeless masculine  fragrance containing lavender.”
  3. Floral – the most well-known and loved olfactive family that is gloriously feminine, seductive and elegant. Rose, Jasmine, tuberose can be found in numerous Puig fragrances, especially the Carolina Herrera Good Girl range.”
  4. Chypre – The Chypre family was created to embody the effect of being in the woods, the smell of cut grass and earthiness, with added intensity. Oakmoss and patchouli are common ingredients. Scandal by Jean Paul Gaultier is a great Chypre fragrance.”
  5. Woody – Beautifully creamy, intense yet comforting. Sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver are some prominent ingredients. Invictus by Paco Rabanne is a great Woody fragrance.”
  6. Leather – Commonly found in niche and private collection fragrances, leather is very smoky, powerful and mysterious. Incense and tobacco are common ingredients, and Platinum Leather by Caroline Herrera (one of my personal favourites) embodies this family perfectly.”
  7. Amber – The amber family is sensual, gourmand, seductive and super addictive. Vanilla, tonka bean and clove are common ingredients in the Amber family. and Good Girl by Carolina Herrera is a great representation of the Amber family.”

What’s the difference between eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and cologne?

The main difference is the concentration of fragrance that has been added to each product, thus giving it a different lifespan on the skin,” explains Paul. “EDP’s can last around 6-8 hours, EDT’s (such as most of the Marc Jacobs Daisy Fragrances) tend to be 4 – 6 hours, and Colognes are the lightest, so usually around 2 hours.”

Why does a fragrance smell different on everyone?

Put simply – it’s because we’re all so unique! Paul expands, “It is usually down to people’s skin types. We are all made up of different cells and this can affect the way a fragrance reacts with our bodies.  While the quality of the fragrance remains the same, it can change depending on the person, so trialling a new scent before purchasing is usually key!”

And if you’re wondering whether that new fragrance smells good on you, there’s one sure-fire way to find out: “People always comment on a good fragrance – that’s how you’ll know if it smells good on you or not!” says Stacey.

For sensitive skin types, what kinds of fragrance should we look out for?

For sensitive skin, it is often better to use fragrance on clothing, rather than the body as this helps avoid irritation,” advises Paul. “Just make sure the garment is washed frequently to avoid scent build-up. With regards to alcohol-free fragrances – it’s still recommended that people with sensitive skin use with caution as everyone’s skin is different and they may still find that they get a reaction.”

What are the top 5 do’s and don’ts for shopping fragrance online?

Do – Look at the notes listed to get an initial idea of what’s in them.”Do – Take time to read up about the story or concept behind the product. This gives the fragrance a purpose and can be really helpful when buying for a gift.”Do – Look for matching body products if available. These will enhance the life of your fragrance and it actually means you will use less of your scent bottle!”Don’t – always go with the most popular choice. Fragrance is personal, so do a little bit of research on the products before committing to a scent.”Don’t – let all the ingredients bamboozle you. Look for what you’re familiar with in terms of smells.. and if you see something you’ve never heard of, look it up!”

Searching for your new favourite fragrance? Enjoy DOUBLE +Points across selected scents for this week only!

Penny Lafferty
Writer and expert
View Penny Lafferty's profile