Finding a signature scent used to involve roaming from one perfume counter to the next and collecting tiny strips of paper doused with the latest fragrances. But with some perfumes reaching a viral status that has everyone smelling the same, combining them to create a scent that reflects your personal style is on the rise. However, not all notes complement one another so it’s important to learn how to layer fragrances, an art form in itself.
“Cocktailing” products, like mascara, to create a customized look might be a recent beauty trend, but fragrance layering doesn’t work the same way. Instead of mixing one or two together to boost performance, the idea is more about creating a scent foundation and building upon it. And the technique is becoming more popular among brands. “Scent is dynamic, and can change based on your mood and how you feel,” says Carina Chaz, founder of DedCool, a clean fragrance brand that encourages fragrance layering.
So just how do you go about creating your own signature scent? Can it really be as simple as one spritz, two spritz? Ahead, TZR spoke with three experts to get the answers
What Is Fragrance Layering?
At its core, fragrance layering is exactly what it sounds like — scents are applied on top of each other. “The purpose is to create a smell that is distinctly customized to you,” says Tynan Sinks, beauty writer and co-host of the Smell Ya Later fragrance podcast. This, as he notes, can be achieved with two or more scents and isn’t necessarily relegated to just perfumes or sprays. In fact, any product formulated with a fragrance can be used in this equation. “Layering can be done with a range of products including a body wash, lotion, oil, perfume, or spray,” Sinks adds.
Perhaps the best word to describe the method is experimental. As Bee Shapiro, founder of Ellis Brooklyn, tells TZR, “fragrance layering is an art and form of expression that’s linked to your unique mood.” Not every combo is going to work together, but that’s part of the journey.
The Benefits Of Fragrance Layering
While layering holds a few advantages, the first and most obvious benefit is that it allows you to produce a one-of-a-kind scent — something that was not always easy with the traditional application method. Historically, the fragrance industry has generated the idea that with a few spritzes you can smell just like the dreamy celebrity in the commercial. But the new wave of layering fragrances has changed the way people think of a signature smell. “The previous mold almost forced you to smell like everyone else but with layering scents like DedCool the scent is customized and deeply tied to your identity,” says Chaz.
Much like expressing your personality and creativity in the other realms of beauty, layering a multitude of scents also gives the wearer the opportunity to experiment. Maybe you’d like your bouquet to be a little more vanilla than the fragrance offers or maybe you want to tone down the sugary smell with something that’s earthy and rich. “By layering a few of your favorite scents on top of each other, you can bring out notes you already love and re-experience them in a new way,” says Sinks. This also makes the fragrance last longer, which is a positive element in its own right.
The Right Way To Layer Fragrances
While there is a science behind creating fragrances, there are (thankfully) no real rules to layering them. Today, brands are developing perfumes with mixing them in mind. This means making an intoxicating smell at home is simply doing what makes you feel good. “I like to approach fragrance layering by finding similar elements, such as warm or cool accords and familiar notes,” says Shapiro. As she tells TZR, “by doing this you’re able to create the fragrance combination that best fits your desires.”
According to a study focused on the neurobiology of scents, the top notes of a fragrance have a high volatility and evaporate quickly making the middle notes more prominent shortly after applying. While the base notes, composed of heavier molecules evaporate slowly and can even stick around for 24 hours depending on intensity. Though layering allows you to experiment, basic knowledge of how the notes work together will be beneficial when selecting the order of application.
After deciding on a your scents, putting them on is pretty straightforward. To begin, Chaz recommends spraying the first scent on either your neck, wrists, or elbows and letting that sink in for about 20 to 30 seconds. This will be your baseline. “Once it’s settled you can move on to the next, applying it in the same areas to ensure everything melds together,” she says. Beyond that, Chaz notes that the most important thing you can do is get creative. Start with two then add a third and even repeat a few sprays of the fragrance you’re loving the most at the moment. “It’s really about expressing yourself through scent and owning your individuality,” says Chaz.
Even singular fragrances that are not necessarily marketed as “layering” can be stacked together to create something more personable. However, as Sinks notes, there are a few things to keep in mind when using fragrances that aren’t necessarily meant to be used together. “Something that has an intense formula with a lot of notes might not lend itself well to being mixed with other scents,” he says. Perhaps the best way to think about it is in terms of music. “It would be like playing two songs at once, sure it’s more, but it’s not really enjoyable,” he says.
How Body Chemistry Affects Fragrance Layering
Traditionally, body chemistry, more specifically your body’s natural scent or odor, has been the one element that allowed fragrances to be unique to the wearer. It’s also played a major role in how many people choose which scent to wear. According to a study conducted on psychology and fragrance use, just wanting to cover an unpleasant bodily odor isn’t enough to make you like a scent. By nature, it will get the job done. But, as determined by the trials and experiments, people gravitate towards and prefer a fragrance that blends well with their own body chemistry.
However, when it comes to layering, it’s more or less a secondary component. “Knowing your natural scent undertone is important so it’s worth investing the time to learn what scents work with you,” says Shapiro. After all, you want your final aroma to be balanced, and just as in the case of makeup, undertones provide the foundation for any great base. For example, if your natural body scent runs more musky than sweet, finding a fragrance to offset it will be your best bet. “Fresh, floral, and feminine notes are a good place to begin as they’re not too heavy and tend to mix organically with your body,” says Shapiro
Once determined, you can begin to build your signature scent. “In terms of layering, the way a fragrance wears on your body will be largely similar to the way the formulas blend,” says Sinks. He explains that if you’re someone who finds that fragrances don’t often last long on your skin, starting with a scented body lotion before applying perfumes or sprays can be beneficial. “Moisturized skin holds fragrance better, and starting off with a base scent is a great way to keep a fragrance on longer,” he adds.