Perfume’s persistence can be a blessing or a curse. It’s Murphy’s Law among perfume enthusiasts that the fragrance we loathe the most will be the one that wears through a night’s sleep and a shower, and clings to our coats through two thunderstorms and a dry cleaning. Conversely, the fragrances we love never seem to last long enough. Sure, I like to wear more than one perfume a day, but it would be nice if a perfume could soldier through a full workday without my having to rummage for a decant for a midday boost.
So, I loaded an atomizer with Guerlain Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette and experimented:
One spray of Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette alone lasts about four hours before I really have to press my nose to flesh to smell it. It’s lovely enough to be worth it, but no one except me, with effort, can detect it after lunch.
Surprisingly, Eau de Toilette sprayed over shea butter gives a maximum two hours of fragrance. After breakfast, I thinly spread pure shea butter, which doesn’t have a lot of odor on its own, over my forearm and misted it with Vol de Nuit. By the time I got to work, the shea butter had eaten the fragrance, and the faint “nutty-stick” odor of shea butter was a little more robust, like it had just had a good meal. Meanwhile, the arm with Eau de Toilette alone was still going strong.
Eau de Toilette on clothing lasts all day, but with drawbacks. Fragrance on cloth doesn’t wear as warm nor personal as it does on skin. Something about the effect of a person’s body chemistry, the blood coursing through her skin, brings a perfume to bloom better than the cold but efficient fibers of a sweater. Plus, if you spray your sweater or the inside of your coat with fragrance, it will stay smelling that way for days, even when you might want to switch perfume. Unless you have a signature scent or enough coats to dedicate one to each fragrance, think twice about spraying your clothing.
The one exception is if you spray fragrance on a scarf. I’ve heard that at Caron in Paris, the SAs will spray your scarf with perfume so you can try it for a day. A scarf is an exception because (1) it wears close to your skin so it can warm and diffuse something — although not exactly — like skin can; and (2) unlike with a coat or sweater, on day two you can trade in a scarf for a fresh one and scent it with another fragrance. But how many of you wear scarves? I do, but looking around I know I’m in the minority.
Here's another questionable way to wear fragrance: spray Eau de Toilette on a cotton ball and tuck it in your bra. Robin told me about this trick. I tried it, but I only lasted a few hours before I yanked it out (although I admit it was an awfully nice-smelling cotton ball to toss in the trash). A bra that fits well tacks to the rib cage. It shouldn’t hold anything except a tampon on a quick trip to the lavatory when you don’t want to be obvious by carrying your purse. Stick a cotton ball in there for long and it’s an itchy distraction.
Eau de Toilette over fragrance-free moisturizer adds a third more life to the fragrance. I used First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream, which on its own smells faintly medicinal but goes on like whipped cream and absorbs quickly. Over the cream, Vol de Nuit continued its vol straight and true for about six hours. Not bad.
Parfum over Eau de Toilette is marvelous and burns quietly from breakfast until dinner — a good nine hours. This isn’t the budget-friendly way to wear fragrance, but with Vol de Nuit it’s a magical combination. The Eau de Toilette is crisp and diffusive, but a drop of Parfum over it adds warm, sweet, sandalwood-rich depth. It wears off just in time to top it off with more Vol de Nuit parfum for the evening, or switch to something complimentary with wood or patchouli, like Chanel Bois des Iles, Caron Nuit de Noel, Chanel Coromandel, or Christian Dior Dioressence.
Parfum over Eau de Toilette over fragrance-free body cream. With this combination I won the double prize of endurance plus depth of fragrance.
Since I don’t have Vol de Nuit lotion, I didn’t try Eau de Toilette over same-scented lotion or cream, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were effective, too, at making perfume last. To some extent that defeats the purpose — body cream is usually expensive enough that why not just buy another bottle of perfume? — but I could see where it would work well. Please comment if you've tried it.
Do any of you have your own tips on how to make fragrance last? I’m listening…
Update: also see Angie's review of the Canvas & Concrete fragrance primer.