The other day in a department store, I heard it again, a sales associate praising a fragrance because it lasts all day. (Other “praise” I occasionally hear, “And it smells like this the whole time.”) As for me, mostly I don’t want a fragrance to stick around that long. Four hours or so is plenty.1
Okay, I see the merits of a long-lasting perfume, especially if the perfume is expensive and you’re looking for that one signature scent. In that case, you probably want your fragrance to last from its morning spritz through a day at the office. Why not? You’re not planning to switch fragrances later. You want the scent to linger.
For someone like me with a, um, “hearty” perfume collection, a long-lasting perfume hamstrings my choices. Last week, I sprayed myself liberally with XerJoff Richwood, a comfort scent for me. The problem is that I’d left my glasses in the other room and thought I was spraying Irisss, which is also persistent, but which calms enough to let me wear something complementary later in the day, like Chanel Cuir de Russie or even the meditative Balenciaga Le Dix.2 Richwood steamrolls anything applied within twelve hours. (I’ve also found that fragrances with a dose of incense, like many of the Amouages, for instance, tend to wear a while.)
Another benefit of a shorter-lasting fragrance is that you can switch to something completely different, if you want. Have you ever worn a bright dress or a loud piece of jewelry and loved it — but then felt done with it after a while? You can always change clothing. You’re stuck with a long-lasting perfume. This morning, I sprayed on some old Guerlain Samsara, an assertive fragrance, but one that’s over within six hours. Right now I’m wearing Frédéric Malle Angéliques Sous la Pluie, and not a trace of Samsara stuck around to interfere.
That said, the persistence of some fragrances is simply too short. Chanel 28 La Pausa, for instance, is glorious for half an hour. After that, it would take a bloodhound to pick up the scent. This is where knowledge of your own skin helps, too. Some skin seems to burn through perfume, where other people’s bodies are good at hanging on to it. There’s a magical middle ground for a fragrance’s life that for me arrives at between four and six hours. After that, a perfume feels pushy. If it wears out before then, the perfume doesn’t have enough backbone.
However, a quick snap of classic Eau de Cologne is perfect. I don’t want a citrusy cologne to do more than deliver a cooling flash of freshness and vanish, and I value it for just that. If Revlon Jean Naté lasted longer than five minutes on my skin on an August afternoon, it wouldn’t be the tonic it is.
How about you? Is persistence something you specifically look for — or think about — in a fragrance? What perfumes have you found wear forever, and which ones peter out too soon for your taste?
1. Robin says she like three hours.
2. I’ve recently rediscovered Le Dix. Wow. It's a marvel of violets, iris and sandalwood.
Note: top image is detail from Murray & Lanman's Florida water - the great perfume! via Boston Public Library at flickr; some rights reserved. (And Jessica reviewed Murray & Lanman Florida Water here.)