How to buy perfume?

If you’re asking yourself how to buy perfume perfectly suited for you or for someone special, you should have in mind that buying a perfume is a special, delicate, and mind-challenging process very much different, or at least it should be, from buying things like clothes, shoes, cosmetics, and beauty products. Contrary to, let’s say clothes where the ‘what you see is what you get’ rule applies, perfumes reveal themselves as time goes by. When you add a bunch of loud people and music around us and the salespersons in the perfume shop that are trying to sell us stuff we don’t need and suggest buying perfume editions from last Thursday instead of top quality older editions, we get a chaotic image that turns the joy of shopping and the adventure of exploring into a nightmare.

But don’t worry, if you follow these tips your every visit to the perfume shop will be meaningful, efficient and exciting.

Despite the fact that the process of buying perfumes consists of many small and large steps, I’ll present the three biggest and most important around which revolve a series of smaller ones but equally important and crucial in choosing the perfume for you or your loved one.


The first thing you have to plan is where you’ll test the perfumes. Aside from the fact that it has to have testers, make sure the ambient and the atmosphere is also right. Loud music and a crowd can distort and spoil the impression we have on perfumes and prevent us from perceiving them in all the important details perfume creators imagined.  Throw in a cacophony of scents from people who are also trying out perfumes and sooner or later you won’t be able to smell anything. You’ll be like a daltonist walking in an art gallery.

Extra tip:

I recommend you pick a part of the day when there aren’t that many people in the shop or the mall. Usually, we’re talking about morning hours, right after the opening when you can try out perfumes in a peaceful and vented room and in a pleasant atmosphere.


Bear in mind that salespeople are often instructed to offer you the perfumes that fit more with their goal to sell a certain perfume than with your goal to find an ideal one for you or as a present to someone else. Don’t hold it against them, it’s the way the trade works but be aware of that so you won’t have too big of a choice or accept wrong advice.

You should also be aware that salespersons often have a really poor training and often repeat the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious information that the perfume houses’ marketing teams push.

It is also highly likely that the salespeople know about perfumes as much as you and if you are a perfume enthusiast, there is even a higher chance that you’ll know more than them. It is rare but you can run into a salesperson who knows perfumes and is eager to help you. When that happens, be sure to get acquainted, remember his or her name and every time look for that person to help you. Now, after you’ve taken the matter into your own hands, it is time to move to step two and that is:

Girl testing a perfume


Rule number 1 on how to buy perfume: Always test first! This is the most confusing and frustrating part of the process – standing in front of rows and rows of perfume bottles of different colors, shapes, and concentrations. But with the right information and tips, you’ll get here and the confusion will turn into order and frustration in pure delight and pleasure. Let’s start with the “kit.”  We have very limited tools for trying out perfumes – a bit of skin and only one nose that gets tired easily.

In a rush with time, when we finally can’t tell apart Dior Hypnotic Poison from Chanel no 5, the best thing is to be ready and to know what lies ahead and how to use in the best possible way the time we spend in a perfume shop.


All you need is a pen and a notepad to write down impressions and small envelopes or ziplock bags to put blotters in.

Give yourself a goal, determine what you want to try that day in a perfume shop. Are those novelties? Different perfumes from the same brand like Guerlain or Annick Goutal? Or perhaps you want to look for ideal oriental or gourmand scents for fall/winter? If you have a goal, make a list of perfumes you want to try out.

Prepping your skin and nose back home is a very important step. Avoid applying perfumes or lotions when setting off for a scented adventure. Not only will your nose be saturated at the beginning and you won’t be able to wholeheartedly feel the perfume you are testing, but you will prevent the perfume from revealing its charms to you. Even the scent-free lotions have substances that block the natural scent of the lotion‘s base and if you apply it on your skin and then put the perfume on, your perception of the perfume will be diminished.


Now that we’ve taken all the necessary steps back home, it is time to head to the perfume shop. When you arrive at the mall, go directly to the perfume shop. Your nose is freshest and readiest right after you spent time on fresh air. It is crucial to do the next few steps as soon as possible because the air in the perfume shop is full of scents. Pace yourself, you’re on a mission!

I know it is difficult but focus on 2, 3, 4 perfumes at the most. If you spray every single one, your nose will get tired soon and won’t smell anything. Your sense of smell will be regained only after you relax and spend time outside. Not even the coffee they have in perfume shops will help you because it is only a myth as I have explained it HERE.


Now that you’ve chosen 3, 4 perfumes you want to try on, it is time to treat them the right way. Whether you want to try them on on a blotter or your skin (better on the skin because the perfume is made to interact with the skin), apply them from around 10 cm distance. Twice is enough. Do not smell it right away, but wait five to ten seconds before the alcohol from the perfume evaporates.

If you smell it anxiously, not only you won’t have the proper experience of the perfume but you’re risking to tire your nose prematurely.

Then comes the active smelling. Did you know there is a whole science of how to smell properly considering what your goal is?  We’ll talk about it another time. For now, instead of breathing in deep, spread your nostrils and sniff shortly two or three times. Long inhales often have nothing to do with our perception of scents while short sniffs are directly connected with the saturation of the scent receptors in the right way so we can experience the perfume for what it is and was made to be.


After you smelled the perfume you wanted, inhale and exhale and start thinking and analyzing what you’ve felt. The difference between a professional nose that makes the perfumes and the ordinary man who loves perfumes is not in some supernatural sensitivity or that the nose is particularly gifted but in a way the perfumer thinks about the scents more than the ordinary man. There lies the secret of their incredible capacity to recognize the perfume, identify scent notes, groups and imagine and recall any scent ingredient or chord.

So think, think, think! Is what you smell pleasant or not? Is it citrus or oriental perfume? Do I like the texture of the perfume, the fullness of a scent? Would I be wearing it and when? How would this perfume make me feel? Fresh…business like…sexy? Those and other questions must be asked. But since you’re not planning to camp in the perfume shop, it is best to spray the perfume on a blotter, write down the name of the perfume and then place the blotter in an envelope or bag so you can continue testing other perfumes.

Don’t believe the first impressions!

As with people, first impressions can be faulty with perfumes as well as they are made (like Jung’s persona) to be sweet, shallow and pleasant and cover any flaws and shortcomings.  Now that we have all the necessary testers it is time for a final step and that is:


The first thing you have to be aware of if that the perfume you smelled in a perfume shop is not the perfume after some time has passed. Except for a very small percentage of perfect compositions like Dior Homme or Guerlain Shalimar that are perfect in every minute and hour you wear them, the other show their nature after twenty minutes or when old classics are concerned a few hours.

Now that we have the testers from the perfume shop, it is time for our daily activities. Go to work, lunch, walk and from time to time smell the wrist or blotter. Did the perfume disappear? Turned into something strange? Repulsive? Or has it remained attractive or even better than when you smelled it in the shop?

The thing about perfumes is that since you’ll be wearing them in natural surroundings you have to test them in one too and perfume shop is certainly not the place. But it is necessary. Never buy the perfume only based on ads you see in magazines, billboards or television. Be sure to test every perfume even if you are buying it for someone else. Time is of the essence. Give yourself enough time to think about the perfume. Most companies want you to buy the perfume impulsively, so they pay most of the attention to perfume opening which lasts some 15 minutes.

Be smarter than that! Perfume opening is not the perfume itself.


Most of the time it is completely different, mostly better than what we get after those ten minutes it takes upper notes to evaporate. When you get home or to work, place the samples in different spots in the room, and while you pass them to buy during the day, smell them.

Anyone gives you a wow-effect? If so, put it aside and pay extra attention to it, think about it. It is probably your new perfume favorite. If there is no wow effect, repeat the process until you find it.

But if you really like the perfume, buy it. Now. There is a high probability that if you fail to buy it now in a couple of years they will reformulate it or worse, stop producing it and you’ll never that perfume that amazed you so. Perfume is a luxury but most affordable one. You may not have that perfect $2000 Balenciaga bag or a Breitling watch that would dazzle everyone at a business meeting, but you can have a perfume that will smell good, express your personality on a deeply primal, scent level and seduce the senses and mind of those who smell your perfume trail.


Now that you picked a perfume, it’s time to return to the shop and buy your forever and ever companion. If a salesperson really helped you and was kind, find him and tell cashiers about him/her. Most salespersons work on percentage and while that small service won’t cost you any, it will help let the employer know who really looks after the customer’s needs and doesn’t try to sell them the newest hit. A small step that can make a huge difference in the quality of shopping on a global scale.

Now that you have your perfume, it is time to conquer the world with your scent. Not only it will make your days better but people around you will be colored by the colors of your fantastic perfume. If you liked this article and found it useful, share it with your dear friends who like perfumes. Let us make together better and smarter steps while perfume shopping and change forever the perfumes industry. We are the starting point, our thought through shopping. Do not let anyone else choose instead of us. Let us fight for better perfume tomorrow…Good luck to all perfume lovers…I will see you on the next scented adventure.

If you like my writings, you can support my blog by donating via PayPal ( or by sharing this article on Facebook/Email with your perfume-loving friends. Thank you, Igor.

If you have any advice you want to share with others and help them choose a perfume, leave it in the comments. I will be very grateful and I believe the others too.