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Ask the Expert: Jo Malone on Perfume

Fragrance expert Jo Malone shares her tips for buying the selecting a signature scent with Katy Young

Katy Young,

Find your personal taste
‘I think the biggest mistake we make is buying something that smells good on someone else; all of our skin chemistry is different,’ says Malone. Avoid being beguiled by a friend’s scent as it won’t emit the same notes on your skin. ‘The trick is to find things you like about your top three fragrances – there’s often a thread, a note or a feeling.’ Look at a fragrance for its characteristics and ask yourself if it’s light, fresh or warm, for example.

Colour code
Don’t just use your nose to determine your signature scent, says Malone. Thinking of a fragrance in terms of what ‘colour’ you think it ties in with is an intuitive and nuanced way to hone in on the scent you’re seeking (Malone says she picked up this trick as a result of being dyslexic). ‘In looking for a fragrance, you should almost want to think about looking for what colour you’d like to paint.

For example, towards autumn and Christmas with various black-tie events, you might be wearing something red. Reds translate into a rich, ruby and heated scent. Or a beautiful emerald green might mean coolness like fresh open gardenia; yellow translates as sunshine, light and citrus, and orange means burnt cinnamon.’ Colour-coding your wardrobe to your scent can act as an harmonious balancing act, because often the shades we wear reflect the seasons.

Understand skin tones
Take note of your skin colour before you invest in a fragrance as different skin types hold perfume on their surfaces in different ways. People with darker skin tones are more suited to heavier notes, while those with lighter skin suit light florals. ‘It’s down to body chemistry,’ says Malone. ‘It even depends on what we eat. Dark, tanned skins are used to sitting in the sun and it often has much more oil in it, which can affect fragrance hugely.’

Don’t rush
Time and space are needed when selecting a perfume. ‘Choose four or five fragrances maximum, and then take a break and breathe in coffee beans or lemon sorbet to clear your nose,’ says Malone, noting that premium fragrance labels should at least have coffee beans to hand. For the best indication of how a fragrance will smell on you, spray testers on your skin. Narrow your choice down to three, and then come back the next day to make your decision, Malone advises.

Seasonal scents
Select fragrances for different times of the year. ‘If you like chypre in the summer, stick to oaks and mosses in winter – you’ll like the woody, spicy notes in winter, and those leather notes,’ says Malone. ‘If you like something like Annick Goutal’s Passion for instance (which is known for its sweet vanilla and jasmine notes), stick to something sweet but with amber floral notes – your preference is that you need something with a honey note in it.

Similarly, if you like heady rich florals, go for night jasmine’. Malone also says that how the scent is used can be varied according to the seasons: ‘In winter, I love to spray it on my big roll-neck cashmere sweaters or onto a big cashmere scarf.'



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