Why doesn’t my perfume last long enough?

It is one of – if not the – most asked question in perfumery. But, like all great questions, the answer is complicated.

Here are five reasons you may not smell a fragrance for as long as you wish.

1. Olfactory fatigue: Your brain is getting “blind” to your own scent

Our nervous system – your body’s control centre, has evolved to become less sensitive to recurring stimuli. Back in the day, this gave us a fighting chance to deal with all the dangers we encountered. It’s why a new scent, sight, texture or taste heightens our interest. Our body is saying, hang on a minute, that’s new. What is it?

When it comes to scents, it means we always lose perspective. If you wear the same fragrance daily, you’re bound to think the potency has dwindled over the years, or even throughout the day. It’s why you can’t smell the scent of your home, while other people will pick up on it immediately.

The same goes for the perfume you are wearing on your neck. Your nose and brain will naturally get used to it. You may even lose the scent completely. But it’s there, just as you remember it, and other people will smell it more than you since they have not adapted to it!

If you can’t smell your perfume anymore, try to spray your fragrance on your wrists or another part of your body. The trick is distancing the location from your nose. This small modification can alter the chemistry and reignite your detection. At the very least, the change will catch you by surprise when you move around and get a fresh waft.

2. Your perfume preferences: The style of perfume you enjoy wearing will dictate its longevity

Perfumers always talk about the olfactory pyramid, and for good reason. It provides the building blocks of any good perfume. But why? I hear you ask. The pyramid represents the stages in which fragrances evolve. Most perfume ingredients are volatile, meaning they have a shelf life.

Perfumes must be constructed with volatile compounds (better known as VOC or volatile organic compounds) to be smelled and enjoyed in the first place. If they are volatile, this means your fragrance is bound to evaporate over time. Some ingredients (or molecules) evaporate quicker than others!

The most volatile are those fresh-smelling citruses, aromatic and green notes. Each ingredient has an individual lifespan – generally speaking, top notes stay on the skin for up to 30 minutes.

Heart notes – the ingredients that provide the core of any good perfume last around one to two hours. Mellow florals, spices and some gourmand notes dominate this time frame.
Lastly, we have the base notes. These include rich scents such as woody (sandalwood, cedarwood), ambery (vanilla, labdanum, frankincense) and leather.

If you love these deeper scents, your perfume probably lasts longer than the average. Stronger scents will have a robust sillage for others to enjoy (or hate!). It is common for these notes to last all day, at the very least, a few hours.

On the contrary, if you favour fresh, citrusy and floral notes, you’ll find your fragrance lasts less, and you will need to re-spray throughout the day to continue enjoying your fragrance.
Each of these categories of notes comes with its olfactory characteristics, which is very much down to personal preferences. Your skin chemistry also plays a significant part in how each ingredient behaves and how long it lasts. Very dry or oily skin can dampen the longevity of any fragrance, no matter the notes.

3. Extract vs Eau de parfum vs Eau de toilette: Choose concentration

Buying a stronger concentration is an easy way to make your perfume last longer.
Confusing an Extract with an Eau de toilette will leave you bitterly disappointed. But what’s the difference again?

Your perfume is predominantly a mixture of two things – fragrance concentrate + alcohol.
Alcohol is unscented, while the “concentrate” is. It contains all the ingredients in their purest form. The more “concentrate” you have in a perfume, the more scented and long-lasting it will be. Most perfumes are sold as one of the following. All EPC perfumes are highly concentrated Eau de Parfum leaning towards an extract!

Eau de toilette is the least concentrated = typically around 10-12%
Eau de parfum is more concentrated and usually one of the best choice = typically 20-25%
Extract is the most concentrated = typically, over 25%

While the choice of one of the above formats will have an impact on longevity, it also has an impact on the price you pay. Concentration is the main expense. Sometimes, the price tag can be eye-watering. By contrast, an EdT is the least pricey. EdPs fall in the middle, hence why most people (and perfumers) prefer Eau de Parfums.

4. Partial Anosmia: Know your sensitivity to one or a group of ingredients

*Anosmic/anosmia – commonly known as smell blindness.

Only a few people experience anosmia permanently. For the anosmic, scent is just a concept. They are unable to detect any smell. But many of us know what it is like, especially after the last few years. One of the common symptoms of COVID-19 was a temporary lack of smell (temporary anosmia).

Some people experience partial anosmia, meaning you may not be sensitive to a scent or perfume others can smell strongly. This boils down to nasal characteristics and a lot of science. People can be anosmic to base ingredients – molecules in the musky, woody or ambery category are common.

This is why perfumers will often mix several different musks (galaxolide, muscenone, habanolide etc…) in their formula in the hope that the user will be more sensitive to one or another.

Other ingredients in the amber-wood category, such as Ambroxan and Iso E Super, can be hard to detect for some people, while others will smell them very strongly.
Being anosmic to some ingredients is neither here nor there. However, it is good to be aware of your limitations. You don’t want to be the one who overdoes it because you’re none the wiser.

5. Your skin: Your chemical makeup will make your fragrance change

Our skin is our biggest organ and one of our most complicated. It has to be with all we put it through. When it comes to perfume – and how long it lasts – we should give it a thought. Whether your skin is ‘normal’, dry, or oily, it all makes a difference. Even our environment wreaks havoc on our skin and the perfume we wear. Everything from pH levels, hormones, diet, humanity and the weather has an effect.

Oily skin tends to hold the top notes (those volatile ingredients) longer. This is because of the extra moisture on the skin.

Drier skin has the opposite effect. However, dry skin, in general, is bad news for perfume longevity. If you have dry skin, try adding some extra (unscented) moisturiser to the spots you’re going to spritz. This will help your skin hold the scent for longer.

pH levels are one of the biggest players on your skin. Most skin lies around 4.5 to 6.2 on the scale (0 being extremely acidic and 14 being extremely alkaline). If your skin is acidic, your perfume will dry and fade faster. But whether you have acidic or alkaline skin, the pH level will have an effect.

We recommend keeping tabs on what perfumes work well/last longest on your skin. Remember, you’re only as good as your nose. And more often than not, our noses are lousy. Second opinions are always a good idea.

Here’s a handy checklist for your next perfume-shopping trip:

Know your skin type: Dry skin makes fragrances smell less intense and fade faster.
Test before you buy: Always test a fragrance on your skin before purchasing. What smells amazing on a paper blotter or someone else might not work the same for you.
Consider natural perfumes: Natural perfumes often have a different, more complex interaction with skin compared to synthetic ones. Natural ingredients contain many molecules, and their scent will evolve (just like the perfume itself).

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