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How to select a signature fragrance

How to select a signature fragrance

There's no scientific research on perfumes, but studies have examined individual smells. Gilbert points to a study in which pleasant food smells seemed to make people nicer. In a mall, an actor dropped a pen or asked for change either near Cinnabon, a cinnamon roll retailer, or out of smelling range. "With the Cinnabon odors in the air, people around the area were more helpful to strangers and in a better mood. The effects are small and brief, but they're real," says Gilbert.

To narrow it down even further, consider narrowing 14 fragrance families further, to be grouped into four main categories: floral, fresh, oriental and woody. Many scents are unisex, including some citrus, oriental and woody fragrances, but make sure to check the bottle, as some are specifically designed for men or women.

Fragrance expert Michael Edwards developed a helpful wheel that classifies the more than 4,700 scents available for purchase. Here's your cheat sheet:


  • Floral family: Certainly the largest and most popular category, florals are lovely blends of -- you guessed it -- flowers. 
  • Soft floral: This is a combination of florals and aldehydes, which are a component of rose and citrus oils. 
  • Floral oriental: Also part of the oriental group, this family is spicier and fruitier than other florals. 


  • Oriental: The heaviest family in this category, oriental fragrances combine musks, resins, vanilla and florals to create a rich scent. 
  • Floral oriental: These are flower-heavy oriental scents. 
  • Soft oriental: They incorporate incense, amber and spices to create a lighter version of the traditional oriental fragrance. 
  • Woody oriental: Patchouli and sandalwood are added to the mix, giving this type of scent a more outdoorsy feel than your standard oriental. 


  • Woods: Smells that generally mix the scents of pine, cedar, sandalwood and other common woods found in nature. 
  • Mossy woods: Also known as citrus chypre, this family incorporates mossy tones. 
  • Dry woods: These smells are different from mossy-woody fragrances because they also include a hint of tobacco, cedar or burnt wood. 
  • Aromatic Fougère: Beloved by men and women, this family is a combination of the fresh, woody, floral and oriental groups. 


  • Citrus: Scents that are derived from a blend of oils found in grapefruit, oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits. 
  • Water: A newer family that evokes the scent of the sea. 
  • Green: Scents that are akin to freshly cut grass or hand-picked flowers. 
  • Fruity: Combinations of aromas found in peaches, plums, apples and tropical fruits.

Once you've selected your signature fragrance you'll probably be able to use a single bottle for quite some time. If you're concerned that the manufacturer will nix the scent, however, consider stocking up.