How to Choose Perfume You’ll Love & Test It Before You Buy

Sponsored by All opinions are my own.

Perfumes are often a splurge in our beauty routines, though they can last you several years and provide great value even with daily application. For the budget-conscious, not only is the pressure on to avoid wasting money on an expensive scent you don’t love, but also the commitment to a fragrance that’ll be in your rotation— or sitting on your dresser— for some time. Keep scrolling for my fool-proof tips on how to choose perfume you’ll love, and test it before you buy it on a budget!

Voce Viva Eau de Parfum & Carolina Herrera Good Girl Eau de Parfum | How to Choose Perfume You’ll Love & Test Perfume Before You Buy It | Slashed Beauty
Pictured: Carolina Herrera Good Girl Eau de Parfum & Valentino Voce Viva Eau de Parfum

Take Note of Notes

Finding a fragrance you love in a store can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Instead of just going down the line, sniffing or spritzing each bottle, let’s narrow the choices down to what you’re actually likely to enjoy. For this, you’ll need to look up your current or past favorites online and find the “notes” listed in the descriptions. (Don’t have a current favorite? Skip to the last section of the post!) Perfume notes are the scents that make up the fragrance. You’ll find them broken up into top, middle, and base.

  • Top Notes are the first impression of a perfume, what you smell right away and what often fades quickly into the middle notes.
  • Middle Notes make up the main vibe of the perfume. These are longer lasting and richer scents.
  • Base Notes consist of heavier scents to round out the fragrance. They often come out after 30+ minutes of wearing, and are the lasting effect.

Jot down the common notes you see between the perfumes you already love. When I did this experiment with my own perfume collection, I noticed that nearly every single one of my favorites featured bergamot, tonka bean or vanilla, as well as tuberose and jasmine popping up repeatedly. Since I know I like these scents, I can look out for them either in online descriptions or on the box of a perfume in store. You can also do this with scents you know you don’t like, to find the common denominators.

Various bottles of perfume on a marble counter | How to Choose Perfume You’ll Love & Test Perfume Before You Buy It | Slashed Beauty

Eau de Toilette vs Eau de Parfum

Next, you should decide how strong of a scent you’re looking for. Typically, this means looking for either an Eau de Toilette or Eau de Parfum.

Eau de Toilette is less concentrated in perfume oils, typically around 5-15%, lasts 3-5 hours on the skin and gives off a lighter level of fragrance than an Eau de Parfum.

Eau de Parfum, on the other hand, contains 15-20% perfume oils, and generally lasts 5-6 hours with a stronger fragrance that’s more noticeable than an Eau de Toilette.

I personally lean toward Eau de Parfums so that I get a longer lasting scent, and just apply less spritzes if I don’t want the fragrance to come off heavy. Some notes also strike heavier than others (like patchouli), so I’ll choose my perfume of the day accordingly.

How to Test Perfume Before You Buy… the Right Way

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to how a perfume will actually perform— the weather, skin moisture, and everyone’s individual body chemistry. Perfumes are also supposed to be able to develop, which is the process of the top notes evaporating into the middle notes and so forth. Spraying onto a paper stick will mostly only give you the top notes, and doesn’t give you a fair representation of how the fragrance will wear.

The best way to test perfumes is to get a sample that you can wear on your skin, ideally over the course of a few days at least. While you may be able to secure samples of new perfumes at your local beauty retailer, here are my two favorite ways to try new perfumes before investing in a bottle.

Sponsored Perfume Samples | Review | Slashed Beauty helps you shop for a new perfume by letting you purchase samples to test thoroughly before deciding to take the plunge. Their samples are available in 0.75 ml sample vials starting at 99 cents, or a travel size that comes with 5 ml in a compact atomizer sprayer. I would estimate this to last you about 20 days of daily testing, and is the option I’d recommend most since you can decide over time if you like the fragrance with regular use. Perfume Samples | Review | Slashed Beauty

These are also great if you just want to purchase a travel version of your current favorite in carry-on friendly packaging. Microperfumes sells full size bottles at great prices with free shipping as well, all guaranteed to be 100% authentic.

A few of their offerings include the Carolina Herrera Good Girl Eau de Parfum, which I wanted to see if I actually liked after falling for the beautiful stiletto-shaped bottle, and I’m now testing the classic Chanel No. 5 which I’m not totally crazy about despite it featuring jasmine! I’m glad I tested it this way before trusting the hype and buying a bottle immediately.

3 ScentBox perfume samples on a marble countertop | Scentbox Review | Slashed Beauty

The second way I’ve loved to both discover and try new perfumes is through ScentBox, which is a subscription service that delivers a 30-day supply (8 ml) of your choice of designer fragrance every month. This is a great option if you’re just starting out with perfume and have no idea what you like and want to try a little of everything, or maybe you just get bored of your fragrances quickly.

Scentbox is $14.95 per month– though they often have a discount on your first month– which includes free shipping and free exchanges in case you don’t like a scent you chose for the month. You’ll never be stuck waiting until your next box if your pick wasn’t what you expected. They’ve helped me discover favorites I wouldn’t have picked out for myself, including Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb Dew. I originally thought from the marketing that it would be way too sickly sweet for my taste, but sure enough it had the notes I often love! Check out my full review of Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb Dew next.

What fragrances do you gravitate toward?

– Miranda

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