Incense sticks and scent bottles: Finding your signature scent

The Secret to Choosing a Signature Scent

Your signature scent will typically evolve over time. What you may have loved at one stage of life may feel altogether off when you’ve grown into another. But as your tastes develop, there’s a secret to finding a scent that you genuinely love—and it actually has more to do with your true disposition after all (you know, the one you’ve had since birth). Here’s how to choose a scent that will make you happy to spritz every day.

Red rose

Rose is one of the most traditionally popular floral scents.

Photo Source: Pexels/Ahmed Aqtai

Science and the History of Fragrance Families

Your sense of smell comes from your olfactory neurons, or a patch of sensory cells located in your nose and directly connected to your brain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Everything in the environment releases molecules that olfactory receptors pick up and then send to your brain to disseminate. Your brain can’t differentiate between all the molecules, so you receive a response that combines the scents. Some fragrance notes will stand out to everyone, but your sense of how fragrance notes are combined is unique to you.

At the turn of the century, scents were divided into four main categories: floral, woody, and even leathery––as well as one known as “Fougere,” (pronounced “foo-jair”) meaning “fern” in French. But technology and chemical compounding have developed, and today there are generally five fragrance families, according to The Perfume Court. Many of the scents that fall into different categories are still open to interpretation, points out the The Perfume Society.

To find a scent to make your own, first decide which fragrance family you like.


Earthy scents, like sandalwood and cedar, fall into this category.


Gardenia, jasmine, and rose are some of the most common notes in the floral family. These scents tend to be lighter, sweeter, and, in fact, are the most popular of the fragrance families ––they’re typically considered feminine fragrances.


Vanilla is a primary oriental scent. Oriental fragrances can be considered sophisticated and better for a night on the town than a day at the office. They tend to be the scents that are heavier and last longer.


Do you like the smell of citrus or lemon? These scents are considered “fresh.” They conjure the feel of the warmer months or a clean breeze.


You’ll find lavender, bergamot, and oakmoss in this fragrance family. This category includes both masculine and feminine scents.

Woody Scents Can Last Longer

Woody scents have a stronger bass note, which makes them last longer.

Photo Source: Pexels/Koko Rahmadie

Find Your Signature Scent

The secret to finding your signature scent may actually be linked directly to your sense of taste—your olfactory sense and sense of taste work together closely, as explained by the NIH. Your taste for lighter foods could indicate you prefer a fresher scent over a woody one.

Do strong scents make you feel a headache coming on? Or do they energize you? What’s your lifestyle like? Do you work in an office where a big scent could be distracting or is your personality larger than life (and you just have to have a scent to go with it)? Do you have a favorite season? Cooler seasons are often connected to a stronger fragrance while warmer seasons are connected to lighter ones.

By answering these questions and thinking back to your natural inclinations and likes from childhood, you’ll have a good sense of what scent families are your overarching favorites.

How to Make Your Fragrance Last

To keep your new favorite scent from fading, it’s helpful to know why some seemingly last longer than others. Fragrance families don’t necessarily determine why one scent lasts longer than another, though notes like vanilla do tend to stick around, while citrus notes disappear fastest, per Into The Gloss.

It’s the composition of the perfume and the concentration that creates a lasting scent, according to GQ . Perfumes last longer than Eu De Toilettes and spritzing your scent first thing out of the shower (when pores are open) will help a scent last longer

Want to Change Up Your Signature Scent?

It’s normal for your preferences to change over time. And you may even want to change it up seasonally. It’s fun and invigorating to change your scent with a change of lifestyle, a new job, or even a move. Likewise, some scents can trigger powerful emotions. If you have a major life event, whether it’s a joyful occasion or a sad one, changing your signature scent is a wonderful way to honor your new norm.

Take time to enjoy the process of determining your signature scent for this phase of your life. The fact is, your calling card scent can develop and grow as you do.

Featured photo source: Pixabay/Monicore

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