Like to cook? OK, like to at least mix up a cocktail? (Yep, we thought so.) Layering fragrances is the same principle—finding the perfect combination of ingredients that you love. Less expensive than a true custom-blended perfume (which can cost in the thousands of dollars), check out these tips from top scent pros and find out how to create a scent that’s completely your own (and completely gorgeous to boot).Be ready to break the (fragrance) rulesFragrance layering is all about experimentation, so get ready to play around, and don’t stress about sticking to any “this only goes with that” rules. “The first rule of fragrance layering is… there are no rules!” says Anna Young, a fragrance specialist at Twisted Lily Fragrance Boutique and Apothecary in Brooklyn. “Layering scents is rule-breaking. You’re inventing new scents by mixing products that people have worked hard to perfect. There are no fixed ideas of what does and doesn’t work together!” That said, it’s helpful to have a few guidelines, right?Start off with single-note fragrances“A single-noted fragrance has one identifiable key note as its heart,” says Agnieszka Burnett, founder and creative director of Nomaterra fragrances. Think rose, lavender, patchouli—anything you can recognize on its own. “Notes and accords are the smallest combination of ingredients that comprise a recognizable smell,” adds Mark Crames, CEO of Demeter Fragrance Library. “They’re the very same materials that a master perfumer uses to create designer scents. They express their nature immediately and don’t change over time, so they can be combined to create your own customized fragrance.”
Don’t worry about the whole “top, base and middle notes” thingAs Crames very diplomatically points out, you’re not a master perfumer—you’re here to have fun. So don’t worry about starting off with a base note and adding middle and top notes. “In today’s modern style of perfumery, the traditional top, middle and bottom note construction is not considered essential,” he says. “Try layering one or more notes from each of the top, middle and bottom, or across a row or type.”First, test your scent combo on paper“When I layer, I want to see how the fragrances are going to chemically interact with one another and how this new duologue will play out on my skin,” says Young. But before she spritzes on skin, Young always tests out her layering combo on a blotter strip first. If you don’t have blotting strips handy, don’t worry. Use a tissue or, better yet, a Post It. “That way you can mark it and combine and recombine until you find something you like,” says Crames.Created something you like? Time to test on skin!“Fragrance does change on your skin because the fragrance oils combine with the natural oils in your skin. So ultimately, once you have a combination you like, the final step is to test it on your skin,” says Crames. In general, the best place to test out a new scent combo is the inside of your wrists or elbows. “The skin is thinnest there and your blood heats up the scent, exposing the transformations in a fragrance faster,” says Young. “I always start there, then once I know I like something, I move beyond wrists and elbows and target those teasing kissing zones: neck, chest and tummy.” (Editor’s note: “Teasing, kissing zones” isn’t a technical fragrance term, but it totally should be, no?)Get a little more complexWhen you’re comfortable layering single-note scents, move on and try layering more complex fragrances. It’s easier than you think. “The old rule of ‘like with like’ applies here,” says Burnett. “Try layering fragrances with a common note in them, such as a common ‘green’ note.”You can also use a completely opposite tactic. “Another approach to layering is a balancing act—contrasting a heady, deep scent with something light and fresh, or citrus-y,” says Burnett. “Apply the heavy scent first, and the light scent afterwards. I personally find floral scents to be too floral at times, so I like to blend them with a patchouli or vetiver note. For example, a rose scent with a patchouli scent makes for a nice combination that’s not too floral and not too woody.”Keeping reading for some specific layering combos to try.
If you love… FloralsTry: Nomaterra Oahu Gardenia + Le Labo Iris 39Looking for a lush, delicious summer scent? These two minimalist scents combine beautifully for a fragrance that’s downright summertime-sexy. Think tropical islands, floaty white dresses and (ahem) let your imagination take over from there.
If you love… Fruity/citrus-y scentsTry: Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche + Nina by Nina Ricci“This combination is youthful, fresh and citrus-y,” says Burnett. “It’s a very happy scent mix. They work well together because of the common citrus note in both, with Nina Ricci imparting a fruity aspect and Chanel Chance adding a woody element, for a well rounded combo.”
If you love…Clean scentsTry: Demeter Pure Soap + Demeter Gin & Tonic“These are my favorite category of fragrances, and they work in almost any combination,” says Crames. The soap plus G&T combo is light, delicious and super relaxing (think unwinding on the couch after a long day of work).
If you love…Sweet scentsTry: Gucci Guilty + Nomaterra Malibu Honeysuckle“I’ve always loved Gucci Guilty. It’s a sensual, amber-y gourmand. Paired with the similar notes of caramel, vanilla and amber of Malibu, these scents smell like they’re supposed to be worn together. Sexy, sweet and edible!”
If you love…Musky scentsTry: Kiehl’s Original Musk + Narciso Rodriguez for Her“These two fragrances have a few notes in common: musk, white florals and hints of citrus. The different components nicely accentuate the orange blossom ingredient found in both,” says Burnett.