How long do perfumes last?

You fall in love with a fragrance, you make the commitment: it yours. You delight in applying it liberally the next day – only to discover that by mid-morning it has all but disappeared into the ether. Or, alternatively, your new perfume lingers all day, people inquire about that beguiling scent, and you occasionally receive delicious wafts of it as you move about, making you feel somehow a tiny bit more alive.

So, what makes perfume fade to a distant memory within moments or gives it the staying power we so desire? There are many, many factors at play here. Perfume is not only creative and beautiful, but highly scientific, too. It’s made up of molecules, some more complex than others. Lighter citrus and floral scents have a smaller molecular structure and tend to disperse faster than those of musk, wood, vanilla, amber or oud, which are made up of larger, more complex molecules, and therefore evaporate more slowly.

„Did you know that skin type plays a big role, too?“

The stronger the concentration of essential oils in perfume, the more intensive and longer lasting the scent. Eau de Cologne and Eau de Toilette are at the lower end of the concentration scale – they are light and fresh, and tend to stay on the skin for between about one and four hours. Eau de Parfum and Extrait de Parfum tip the scales into more intense, highly concentrated – and thus more expensive – formulas that may last up to 24 hours or even longer.

Did you know that skin type plays a big role, too? In this instance, oily skin is optimal because it works well with the essential oils in perfume, binding together and trapping fragrance notes to prolong the scent. But if your skin is naturally drier, fear not – you can prep it before spritzing with a nourishing unscented moisturizer, oil or Vaseline for the same effect. Take particular care in massaging it into the areas where you want to apply your perfume.

The neck and wrists are the classic application areas, but pulse points anywhere on the body are ideal for continuing to emit a heady scent throughout the day or night. Dab a little wherever you feel your heartbeat: the sides and back of your neck, behind your knees, in the middle of your chest, on your stomach, and, of course, wrists (just be sure not to rub wrists together, which instantly dulls the lighter top notes; instead, let it air dry). Also focus on areas of skin that are not covered by clothes. Or as Coco Chanel famously said: Wear perfume wherever you want to be kissed.
Some of the more creative ways to wear and prolong scent include spraying it on your hairbrush – as hair retains smells because its permeable properties (just don’t spray perfume directly on to your hair as it will dry it out) – spritzing it into the air and walking through it so the scent lightly clings to your clothes, and layering perfumes. Layering the same scent in different forms, such as solid, oil and spray, can deepen and enhance your fragrance experience. Or, another way to do it is to layer different fragrances with notes that work harmoniously together to create an interesting, long-lasting scent that is truly unique to you. Topping up your fragrance during the day will also refresh its staying power, and is a highly pleasurable ritual to incorporate. Consider keeping a smaller bottle of your favourite perfume in your bag at all times for this purpose.

„Spraying on a lot of perfume doesn’t necessarily mean it will last longer.“

How you store your perfume also effects its longevity. While it may be tempting to display those exquisite bottles on a bathroom shelf or by a bright window – don’t. Warm, damp conditions and direct sunlight degrade fragrance by breaking down the chemical bonds, causing its smell and appearance to change. To preserve your beloved perfume for as long as possible, find a cool, dark, dry home for it. You could even store the bottle inside the box it came in.
Lastly, spraying on a lot of perfume doesn’t necessarily mean it will last longer. In fact, it can dampen your senses and even give you, or those around you, a headache. Not quite the alluring calling card you may hope to leave in your wake! Wearing the same scent every day can actually cause your olfactory system to become accustomed to it and block it out, which often means you end up applying more and more each time just to be able to smell it. By alternating different fragrances, you can help develop your senses and heighten your overall experience.