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Why I’ve Given up on Finding My ‘Signature Scent’ (and You Might Want to Too)

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Main image – Carmenpalma/Stocksy

If you think back to your earliest childhood forays into the ‘adult’ world of beauty, the concept of a ‘signature scent’ is drilled into us at a remarkably young age. And it makes sense – how you smell is one of the most personal aspects of beauty out there.

Because scent is so sensory and evocative, choosing the fragrance you want people to associate with you is actually a way of changing how people think about you. Perfume is powerful stuff after all.

But the concept of a ‘signature scent’ is not without its flaws. We change as people all the time, and trying to find a fragrance that encapsulates all of the glorious messiness of being a human is, essentially, an impossible task. And yet often we still try. 

 


Why I’ve given up on finding my signature scent

Despite signature scents remaining one of universal ultimate beauty goals (up there with ‘perfect’ skin and finding the exact right shade of red lipstick), like the other goals I’ve come to realise that it may simply be a myth.

As an indecisive person and avid fragrance collector, over the years I’ve found that I can’t let myself be chained to just one perfume for the rest of my life and I’ve come to my own personal compromise on ‘signature scents’.

 

Image – Diptyque

 

Having said that, I do still have my fragrance workhorses that are my most reached for, and on any given day, I’ll likely be wearing one of them. Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau is a summertime staple, Lush’s Coffee Cardamom is my cold-weather special, and Byredo’s Mixed Emotions is my scent of choice for going ‘out out.’  Think of them as a signature scent wardrobe, each a beautiful note in the song that makes up me.

But while I may have given up on finding my one and only scent, I’ve spoken to scent enthusiasts and fragrance experts alike to explore exactly why, despite being almost unachievable, the concept of a ‘signature scent’ remains so alluring to many today.

 


A very personal business

The first thing I wanted to explore is whether the importance in having a signature scent is still a widespread belief – and it seems the ‘signature scent’ mythology remains a compelling one.

Laura Pucker and Lindsay Chastain, founders of blog Pucker Up Beauty, both confirm they have signature scents (Aquolina’s Pink Sugar and Black Opium by Yves Sait Laurent, respectively).

Interestingly, Aysia B, a content creator from Los Angeles, associates her signature scent (Kayali’s Vanilla 28) with her personality, affirming it’s “sweet but complex, like me!”

And when you consider how intrinsically linked scent, emotion, and memory are (as confirmed by Harvard University) it’s easy to see that choosing a signature scent is a deeply personal decision.

“I do absolutely love when people know that it’s you coming into the room before you get there,” Aysia notes. Caitlin, a 28-year-old postdoctoral research associate from Manchester, England, agrees, laughing “I love things to remind people of me (I am the main character!) and think smelling nice is such an attractive quality.”

 


The difficulty in finding your signature scent

Despite liking the fantasy of finding that one elusive scent that defines you, it seems that actually find that fragrance is eluding many of us. 

Both Suzanna, a 29-year-old quantity surveyor also from Manchester, and Caitlin say that while they’d love to have a signature scent, they does’t necessarily think they’ve ‘achieved’ this feat.

Caitlin claims, “I would like to think I have a signature scent but probably don’t, more just favourite perfumes.”

Suzanna agrees, adding, “I have tried really hard over the years to find a signature scent. I tend to always have a gifted perfume on the go that I don’t want to waste, so it can feel unnecessary to then buy specific perfumes I like for myself.”

Even the experts say the idea of a signature scent may be more of a myth – but for different reasons.  Mark Crames, the CEO and chief perfumer for Demeter Fragrance, questions the very concept of a signature scent.

“To me, a signature scent is very personal. I mean, if 100,000 use the same fragrance, can it be a signature? Consequently, I layer Demeter’s Mandarin Orange and Dragon Fruit over Patchouli for something warm, sophisticated and all mine.”

 


Further complications

And even if you do find that perfect fragrance, what happens when you fall out of love?

A person’s bond with their signature scent is deeply personal, but like any relationship, sometimes, it needs to end. Exploring why people ‘break up’ with their past signature scents illustrates the deeply personal nature of choosing how you smell. 

 

Image – Thierry Mugler

Laura shares, “It’s been almost 20 years since the last time I changed. I had Clinique Happy, and I loved it, but then too many people ended up having it at the time, so I switched.” Caitlin has a similar story, explaining, “I changed from Thierry Mugler’s Alien because think I outgrew it, but that is definitely still the scent people associate with me most.”

 


How to choose

With a whole world of stunning fragrances out there, choosing just one scent to be your signature can be tough. After all, most of us wouldn’t want to wear the same outfit every day. But if I haven’t convinced you and you still do want to find just one perfect perfume, how do you decide?

For Aysia, it was the reaction of other people that confirmed she was ready to commit. “Wearing it daily, in different situations, having people stop me, and enjoying smelling myself often let me know I found the one!” she laughs.

Lindsay also came to her decision due to external validation, but this time, from her significant other. “My husband loved the way it smelled on me, so I was sold! I’ve been wearing it ever since, and he compliments me every time I wear it.”

And if you’re still stuck, Mark believes mixing a combination of scents is the key to creating a true signature, saying, “I will layer freely for special occasions, and I am especially sensitive to seasonal changes, and try to stay within the seasonal framework or mood.”

 


The takeaway

Perfume, more so than other beauty products, has a deeply emotional aspect. Mark explains, “I believe deeply in the connection between scent and memory. Scent evokes the strongest memories of any of our senses. Scent can surely evoke past experiences, in a very visceral way.”

Since scent offers this almost magical sensory quality, it’s little wonder that the concept of a ‘signature scent’ pervades our perfume to this day.  But while the hunt for that mystical favourite my be fun, just like with the quest for perfect skin it’s important to acknowledge a signature scent really isn’t something that needs to define us. 

 

Meet the experts

Laura Pucker and Lindsay Chastain are the founders of Pucker Up Beauty.

 

Aysia B is a plus-size content creator and stylist.

 

Mark Crames is the CEO and chief perfumer for Demeter Fragrance.

 

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Freelance Beauty Writer

Annie Walton Doyle is a journalist based in Manchester, UK. For over ten years, she's worked within the beauty industry, writing for publications like Bustle and Hello Giggles about skincare, makeup, fragrance, and more. When not writing, she enjoys knitting, weird books, nature, and mysteries.

Expertise: Makeup, nails
Education: Goldsmiths, University of London
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