Apart from the way that they smell, one of the most notable differences between fragrances is that some simply last longer than others.
Yes, you know what we’re talking about. That feeling when you’ve finally saved up to buy a big, expensive bottle of perfume everyone you follow’s been hyping you up about… only to discover that it just won’t last on you.
What gives? Why do some perfumes last longer than others?
To a large extent, how long perfume lasts is determined by its notes, ingredients, and concentration, as well as the skin type of its wearer. Scent tends to last longer on hydrated than on dry skin.
One might think that pricier fragrances are designed to last longer, but that’s not necessarily the case. Longevity is not in any way affected by the name of the perfume house, the type of perfume in question (niche vs. designer), nor its retail price.
We’ve tested some extremely expensive perfumes where we became enamored with the scent yet came out frustrated by how short-lived that scent was.
And while it’s true that more inexpensive scents tend to have cheaper, cookie-cutter ingredients, some celebrity and designer perfumes can outlast their niche-house-concocted counterparts by hours (and we’re talking hours!).
Factor No. 1: The Notes
Every perfume consists of top notes, middle notes, and base notes. Notes at the top are gentile and tender, but they’re also more volatile. The deeper you go on the notes list, the longer-lasting the notes.
The golden rule of perfumery is that top notes unfold first and fade away the quickest, middle notes develop second and peter out somewhat slower, and base notes show up last and stay the longest.
(In a poetic, Kirsten-Dunst melancholic way, how a scent matures is reminiscent of love in our teen, young adult, and adult years, isn’t it?)
Perfumes that rely mostly on the citrusy or flowery character from their top to middle notes will generally last shorter than profound and intense scents that evolve with their middle and base notes.
Factor No. 2: The Ingredients
Your typical perfume is made up of hundreds of aromatic molecules, blended together in a fragrant oil and diluted in alcohol before being poured and sealed in the bottle.
Each note—a “descriptor” of a specific smell, like that of tangerine or vanilla, that you can recognize on its own—comes from one or multiple molecules.
These molecules, sold in plastic bottles or big, perfumer-sized barrels, can be naturally derived from plant-based or animal-based sources, or they can be artificially created inside a lab.
When it comes to a fragrance’s longevity, some ingredients are significantly less volatile when exposed to the elements, such as the air, your skin, and everything on it, and therefore tend to be longer-lasting than others.
Contrary to what some people think, there is no rule of thumb here. It doesn’t matter if a note comes from a natural or a synthetic ingredient; all that matters is its chemical formula and its ability to withstand the test of time by resisting oxidation.
Factor No. 3: Concentration
In its simplest form, a fragrance consists of an aromatic oil called “perfume essence” diluted in ethyl alcohol, the same kind that gets you tipsy when you drink.
How diluted that perfume essence is will affect the strength of the scent in every spritz, and will ultimately determine how long that scent is capable of lasting on your skin.
Luckily for consumers like you and me, there’s a standard for naming fragrances that all perfume houses have agreed to, which lets us distinguish between diluted and concentrated scents.
Here’s what that standard looks like:
- Eau Fraîche has a perfume essence concentration of 1-3% and lasts for 1-2 hours;
- Eau de Cologne (EDC) has a perfume essence concentration of 3-5% and lasts for 2-3 hours;
- Eau de Toilette (EDT) has a perfume essence concentration of 5-15% and lasts for 3-6 hours;
- Eau de Parfum (EDP) has a perfume essence concentration of 15-20% and lasts for 6-9 hours;
- Pure perfume has a perfume essence concentration of 20% or higher and lasts for 12-24 hours.
If you want to learn more about this, we’ve covered the topic exhaustively in an article titled, “How Long Does Perfume Last On Skin?”
Factor No. 4: Skin Type
For scientific reasons that we won’t bore each other with right now, perfume tends to last longer on oily skin types than it does on dry skin types.
So, if you wear Perfume A on your skin when it’s overly dry one day, then Perfume B when it’s hydrated on the other, you may trick yourself into thinking that Perfume A is shorter-lasting than Perfume B when, in reality, it isn’t.
No matter which of the two skin types you belong to, there is a way to maximize the longevity of any scent: spritz perfume on your pulse points in the morning, shortly after you’ve taken a hot shower, and you’ve applied body lotion to your skin.
Your pulse points, for Sterlish readers who may not be familiar with the term just yet, are 1) behind your ears, 2) on the base of your neck, 3) in the inner elbow, and 4) on the wrist.
Should you be wondering, this advice is intended for gents as much as it is intended for ladies.
Working Around It
Sadly, you can’t alter the formula of a scent to make it last longer—and spraying it on well-hydrated skin only improves its longevity by that much. But there are creative, subtle ways to work around a short-lasting perfume, and we’re about to share them with you below.
This includes spraying some of the juice on your hair, where it will evolve slightly differently but last for a longer time, or on a piece of clothing like your scarf. Just be careful with the latter: oily, intensely-colored juices can stain garments to an extent that makes them difficult (or impossible) to clean.