Creed Millesime Imperial is like a workaholic girlfriend: you’ve barely spent 20 minutes together and she has to run. Millesime Imperial and I had a great time together but it never lasted more than half an hour at a time. The blog community warned me that’s how Millesime Imperial is – it smells great but it doesn’t last very long. I thought, well, that’s them, maybe with me it will be different. I fell hard for it – the fresh melon note, the salty calone, the mild iris, it was just perfect…for 20 minutes.
First, I got on this guilt trip. Maybe it’s me. I’m not good enough. Maybe if I make my skin oilier, it will stick longer. No such luck. Okay, what if I put more of it and spray it on clothes. I got a 10-minute improvement. I figured, okay, then I guess I’ll have to reapply throughout the day and load up on it. The problem with this was that Millesime Imperial wasn’t cheap: $300+ a pop could get me two or three other fragrances.
So, after thinking long and hard about it, I had to do what I had to do: I cut Millesime Imperial loose. This whole experience got me thinking how to make better perfume choices in the future. I figured there are several things to keep in mind when it comes to perfume longevity. I am going to share them with you here, so you don’t fall in love with gorgeous fragrances, which don’t plan to stick around for the long run.
1. The oiliness of your skin
Generally speaking, perfumes don’t like staying around on dry skin. Oilier skin tends to retain fragrances better. I suspect this is because the natural oils of your skin form stronger bonds with the essential oils and synthetic molecules in the fragrance.
One way to improve longevity in the case of dry skin is to make it oilier. I used to apply Vaseline to the spots where I would spray perfume. I cannot say for sure this worked but you could try it and find out for yourself. A word of caution: putting Vaseline on your neck or wrists may stain your clothes, so you have to be conscious of the extra greasy skin.
2. Nose Fatigue
We often determine the longevity of a perfume by how long we can smell it. If we can’t detect the scent in three hours after applying it, then the longevity is three hours.
This way of determining the longevity of a fragrance has little to do with its chemical properties and a lot more to do with our ability to smell. Sometime after our noses are exposed to a scent, our smell receptors stop registering it, so that they can pick up new, different smells. The real purpose of our sense of smell is warn us of potential danger. Once the nose has figured out that the violet note in your Green Irish Tweed does not pose a threat, it ignores it in order to stay alert for other potentially dangerous smells.
If the theory of nose fatigue is correct, perfumes that go through noticeably different development stages will be perceived as longer lasting than linear perfumes. The marked change in smell will keep the nose alert.
The key word here is “detect”. Just because we cannot smell a fragrance anymore, it doesn’t mean it is not there and noticeable to others. In fact, this is one of the reasons why people overapply perfume – they are so used to it that they cannot detect it on themselves and feel like they have not put on enough.
A testament to this phenomenon is when people compliment the scent I’m wearing long after I’ve stopped noticing it.
3. Molecule Sizes
In very simplified terms, the smell molecules fall into two categories: simple and complex. The structure of the simple molecules is simple and therefore, when exposed to air they break up quickly and disappear. Complex molecules, on the other hand, take longer to break down and therefore last a lot longer on the skin.
As you can see, the structure of Limonene is a lot simpler and has fewer bonds than the Muscone‘s structure. Because Limonene‘s molecule is much simpler, it breaks quicker than the Muscone‘s. Therefore, citrus notes tend to last no more than a couple of hours and musks can last several days.
Perfumers, of course, are well aware of these properties and therefore they often add fixatives to prolong the longevity of certain fragrances. These fixatives are usually musks but they could be any other more complex molecule.
4. More Does Not Mean Longer
I used to believe that if you just spray more perfume, it would last longer. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. What happens if you apply more perfume, you just smell stronger for the same period of time. I tried this trick with Creed Himalaya – I reeked in the first two hours and couldn’t detect any scent after. If you consider the theory about scent longevity and complexity of molecules, the idea of spraying more to ensure longevity, doesn’t make sense. Whether you spray two pumps or twenty, you are spraying the same molecules that break down at the same speed. There is no reason to believe that more of a citrus molecules will break down any slower.
5. Spray on Your Clothes
I’ve heard this advice even from heavy-weight fragrance experts like Luca Turin. Technically, Luca is right – spraying perfume on your clothes makes the scent last longer. If you take this approach, beware of two downsides:
1. Perfume can stain clothes;
2. Some perfumes smell differently on clothes than on skin.
I tried this theory with Eau D’Orange Verte. The result was a prolonged pungent oakmoss and sharp citrus. The scent wasn’t very smooth at all. Millesime Imperial, on the other hand, worked just fine when sprayed on clothes. I guess the only way to know if to try and find out.
This list of things that impact longevity is not exhaustive. I do hope, however, it would take away some of your frustration with gorgeous scents that don’t last very long. If you have any tips how to make your fragrance last longer, please share in the comments section.