Fragrance Friday: How To Layer Fragrances – The Basics
— Updated on 30 January 2023

Fragrance Friday: How To Layer Fragrances – The Basics

— Updated on 30 January 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Welcome to Fragrance Friday, where each week we’ll be keeping you abreast of the newest and most iconic releases in the dynamic world of men’s fragrances. Born out of the desire to showcase one of the most overlooked, yet versatile, elements of any discerning man’s style this weekly column will help you finesse your own signature scent. This week, we’re looking at how to layer fragrances. Just a simple, straightforward 101 guide on the art of layering, because after all, this entire column is based on helping you find your signature scent and you can’t do that without knowing a few basics on fragrance layering.

What is layering? It’s simple, really. It’s a mix-and-match approach to your fragrance collection, helping you come up with a bespoke scent that uses complimentary or contrasting notes to create something new. Done right, it can take your fragrance game to a completely new level.

And while it might seem intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing, layering perfume is actually quite easy for both men and women.

While I’ll be talking about layering a lot more throughout this year, I wanted to start with a few basic tips to express how easy it is to get started on this essential element of personal style.

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Tips On How To Layer Fragrances

1. Keep It Simple

Many of the niche perfumes I write about in this Fragrance Friday column are far too complex for layering. Something like Roja Parfums Apex, for example, uses an abundance of high-quality notes that make it much trickier to use as a base for layering. You’ll get too many contrasting and complimentary notes out of this one, and it’s hard to dial in any amount of control over your signature scent. Something like Apex is best used on its own.

If you’re starting off by layering just two fragrances, start with the heavier one first. This is typically going to be the woody, leathery number sitting on the shelf. These are notes that last longer on the skin and hence provide a good base for those lighter, brighter fragrances that can be sprayed over the top.

Women should generally want a floral anchor, while men would want those woody, leathery notes mentioned above.

For example, one of my favourite combinations uses Tom Ford Black Orchid as the base and either Tom Ford Lost Cherry or Tom Ford Bitter Peach on top. This is a good example of using contrasting notes to help lift them all at once and build depth around the base.

Given you’re keeping it simple, it’s best to look for fragrances that actually call out a note in the name. One-note fragrances are often just as common as those complex ones so something like Matiere Premiere Crystal Saffron would be perfect if you plan on using additional fragrances with saffron as the primary note to help make it all brighter and more nuanced.

2. Keep It In The Family

Some olfactive families are always going to be easier to mix than others, and you should always look for fragrances from the same family or adjacent ones. Woody fragrances aren’t very good with aquatic fragrances, for example. And that’s where experimenting is going to come into play.

Consider that one fragrance could smell completely different on you than it does on someone else. This is because your skin is a huge factor in how your fragrance projects. Needless to say, cleaner skin will always mean better projection. If you find a well-reviewed fragrance is a bit weak on you, then you probably need to shower more. A fragrance’s performance depends on your skin’s oils, pores and body temperature.

And just like you should always keep it in the family wherever possible, you should always consider using complimentary products as well. This is one of the hacks to make your fragrance last longer that many people, especially men, seem to neglect.

I’m talking body oils, lotions and creams if you’re really taking this seriously. Coming straight of the shower, you’d want to use creams or lotions first, followed by oils and then alcohol-based fragrances.

Dior Sauvage, for example, also has shower gel that is complimentary to the best-selling perfume. Use this to your advantage.

If you want to know more about fragrance families then I’ve found that Fragrances of the World is a good resource, drawing on the well-regarded Michael Edwards fragrance wheel. It’s an essential look if you want to know how to layer fragrances.

3. Don’t Overdo It

You might already think that layering perfume is a bit of an overkill, and it can be. But that’s if you make the mistake of over-applying, especially on different pulse points.

Each layer should be applied over each other on the same pulse points, the primary ones being the inside of your wrists and your neck.

Apply each layer sparingly and you’re on the right track. Problem is, most people tend to spray on a bit too much and given you’re wearing 2-3 fragrances this can subject those around you to a bit of a headache. Everyone wants someone who smells good; no one wants someone who smells obnoxious.

A good way to avoid this is to remember the above; heavy first, light second. Combining two heavy fragrances is a recipe for chemical warfare.

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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