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Scent consistency: why what you (first) smell isn't always what you get

Perfumes are built layer by layer

You spritz on a scent at the perfume counter. You give it a few whiffs and decide you like it. You buy a bottle. But a few hours later, the smell on your skin isn’t at all like what you remembered. You might wonder if you’re hallucinating, but you’re not. Your newly purchased fragrance has just evolved over time, mingling with your skin chemistry, burning off some of those top notes that you smelled when you sprayed it in the store. But it’s not what you thought you were buying, and you don’t necessarily like it. It feels a little like a bait-and-switch, and now you either need to learn to like the scent, or try to return it. This letdown is familiar to a lot of us. But why does it happen?

You might have heard something about how perfumes are built on a pyramid system of top, middle, and base notes. That’s how a thoughtfully made fragrance is created; building according to this layered pyramid gives structure, depth, and dimension, and lets different ingredients interact with each other to give you a sophisticated, interesting scent. But, depending on what the ingredients are, they may all behave pretty differently. Put simply, ingredients with small molecules fade faster than ingredients with big molecules, and every fragrance has a combination of these smaller and bigger moleculed ingredients. So the scent you got a whiff of at the store actually is different a few hours later, because not all the ingredients are still on your skin at that point, and certainly not all in the same proportions as when you first sprayed them.

Some of us like these type of shapeshifting scents. It can make for an interesting experience, almost like wearing different scents throughout the day. Hardcore perfumer junkies love this, because a complex fragrance that unfolds into different layers over time is a sign of artistry, and showcases an expert knowledge of how different perfume ingredients work together. But for many of us, this can be really frustrating, because the whole point of trying something on in the store is to know if you’ll like it. If you can’t rely on a scent to smell the same later on, it makes picking your perfect fragrance that much harder. Imagine buying a plaid scarf, but by the time you got home, you looked in your bag and it was a pair of leather sandals?

At Jules & Vetiver, we get that although we want our scents to be complex and interesting, we also want to know what to expect from them. Some ingredients tend to be more stable than others, so we formulate our perfumes to lean towards ingredients that give you a pretty consistent scent from start to finish. The intensity varies as the scent fades on your skin, but you should be able to expect that what it smells like a few minutes in is roughly what it’ll be a few hours in, too. No starts-like-orange-blossom-ends-like-sugary-cotton-candy. Your scent should be your loyal companion, from beginning to end.

This is why you’ll see a “scent consistency” percentage for each of our perfumes. The higher the percentage, the more steadfast your scent will be. Perfumes with higher doses of botanical ingredients – citruses like bergamot, florals like jasmine, spices like ginger – will be a bit more volatile (small molecules!), and so their scents tend to fade faster and vary a bit more. But we strive to keep our formulas at or above 60% scent consistency, balancing the proportions to keep the ingredient palette for your scent complex and interesting, while still avoiding unwelcome surprises.

Our mission is to hand-craft high quality, gorgeous scents that you love from start to finish. Your feedback helps us do a better job, and we are obsessed with hearing from you, so please don’t be shy about getting in touch and letting us know what you think of them, what you'd like to smell, see, and learn more about!

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