Perfume 101 How to Shop for perfume Free Perfume

Published on January 27th, 2018 | by The Perfume Expert

How to Shop for Perfume and NOT be Intimidated

Learn the best tips & tricks from a Perfume Expert on how to shop for perfume and NOT be intimidated by pushy sales associates!

This guide will show you the insider tricks that no-one tells you about when shopping for a new scent; including how to deal with intimidating sales staff, when to get the BEST DEAL and how to GET THINGS FOR FREE!

Let’s start by illustrating a familiar situation….

You stand back for a moment and hide in between the rack of Calvin Klein belts and Valentino scarves, hesitant to move forward. In your safe place, you gaze out at the rows and towers of crystal clear glass display cases topped with gleaming glass bottles.

The site almost blinds you but you catch your focus on the beautiful women floating around them like hummingbirds to the nectar.

Then with a flutter of their wings the scent wafts in your direction, a heady mixture of everything you’ve ever smelled in a single scent, from the tulips in your garden to the leather of your grandfather’s coat. The scent sends you spinning and with that, you put your head down in shame and like a horse with blinders on, you charge past the gleaming towers and head straight to the parking lot door.

You barge through the door and take a deep breath of fresh air and with a tentative sigh of relief, think, “that perfume I’ve been wearing since high school isn’t so bad, right?”


Another day at the department store, another miss in the fragrance department.

Shopping for a new fragrance can be intimidating. Especially if we don’t even know where to start. But with a few tips at hand, we can feel safe and confident to cross into that illusive territory in our favourite department store.

Step 1: Know Yourself

Spend a good while soul searching to really know yourself.  Answer some basic questions like; how would you describe your personality? What is your style? What are your favourite things to do? Where would you like to travel to next? What’s your favourite food?

Then try and recall some times in your life that you have been positively moved by scent. For example, the smell of your grandma’s garden or the sea salt smell of the ocean where you went for a family vacation. These scents may be ones you’d gravitate to in a fragrance.

Or perhaps you’d like to immortalize a particular memory with scent, like wearing a perfume that reminds you of the flowers in your wedding bouquet or the herb garden you planted in your first home.

After you have searched your soul to find out more about yourself and your positive experiences with scent, ask yourself the most basic question of what smells you already know you like and which you don’t like? Do you like the smell of roses? Do you detest the smell of rosemary? Which fragrances have you liked in the past and which have you hated?

There is an excellent article on ThePerfumeExpert.Com which goes into much more depth called Finding your Signature Scent.

Having the answers to these questions give you direction when facing the perfume counter. They give you some arsenal for your search and allow you to answer questions that the sales associates will probably ask, and this time your mind won’t go fuzzy in a perfumey haze!

Step 2: Research

Go online and browse perfume sites and read the fragrance descriptions. Visit perfume blogs and read reviews. ThePerfumeExpert.Com lists many honest and insightful reviews and also provides an extensive list of Notes used in common fragrances.

Or, you could go to the major perfume houses (Dior, Gucci, Gucci, etc,) and see what they have that’s new. Make note of fragrances you are interested in that way you can target specific perfume counters and not be so overwhelmed by an entire room of perfume.

You can also choose to focus on different counters on different days. For example, you might just want to visit the Estee Lauder counter and only smell their fragrances one day.

Step 3: Dealing with Sales Associates

This is often the most intimidating part of perfume shopping. Sales associates have a natural talent for making you feel like you are wasting their time or that you don’t know what you want. They also can be quite determined to push their latest scent or get you to purchase right away. But stay strong! I know it’s hard but this is the time to be confident and not be swayed into a guilt buy that you’ll regret.

What to say:

Straight away tell them that you are interested in a new fragrance and explain what type of fragrance you like or what kind of effect you are after. You should know these things based on your self-exploration in the first step. You might say, “I am interested in a new Floral scent. I want it to be soft and romantic. I like gardenia flowers especially.” They then can point you in the right direction.

And be honest with your response. You won’t harm anyone’s feelings here. You are the customer. If you don’t like something they’ve offered, move on quickly.

First impressions with scent are very important and so is your gut instinct!

Ask for Notes:

Always ask the sales associate what the Notes are in a particular fragrance. This goes for fragrances you really like and one’s you really dislike. Every sales associate will have a sheet with the notes listed for every fragrance. This will allow you to begin to train your nose as to which notes you like or dislike and will allow you to narrow your search. You can take this information with you to different counters asking if they have any fragrances that have vanilla in it, for example.

Trust me, knowing which notes you dislike is equally important, if not more important to finding your perfect scent. It is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate fragrances sometimes before even having to smell them. When it comes to perfume we tend to get lost in the beauty of many different scents and it can be hard to narrow it down so knowing our strong likes and dislikes is very helpful.

Step 4: Try

Always try a scent out on your skin.

Wait until you have found a fragrance you are really interested in (otherwise you’ll run out of arm space) and spray it on your wrist without rubbing it in. Smell it immediately to smell the top notes. Wait 5-10min and smell it again for the middle notes.  You’ll know by this time whether you like it or not.

We all have different skin chemistry and perfumes react differently on each of us, so always make sure you try first. This will also give you a chance to discover the fragrances sillage (do you have to put your nose right up to your wrist to smell it or does it linger around you) and its longevity (does it disappear instantly or can you smell it all day long).

This is also the moment when the sales associate will become most disappointed because you are going to tell them that you’d just like to see how the fragrance wears on your skin first before you buy.

I often tell them, “Do you mind if I try the scent on my skin? I’m just going to walk around the store for a bit and see how that wears on me and I’ll be back if I decide to purchase it.”

Don’t be timid or feel awkward about leaving the perfume counter without buying.

Sometimes I visit the counters more than five times before actually making a purchase. Fragrance shopping is like shopping for  Jewellery, it’s an investment and a personal and intimate purchase that takes time and care in order to make the right decision. And just like you wouldn’t buy a diamond ring without trying it on and looking at it from every angle, you shouldn’t buy a new perfume without doing the same!

Step 5: Get a Sample

If you have run out of arm space or don’t have time to try scents on at the store, it is always, always, a good idea to ask for a sample. This way you can try the scent out in your natural environment and within your normal daily life.

Our lives are quite busy and diverse with activities and it is important that our fragrance be appropriate in all these experiences.

Having a sample that you can try in your daily life, through  various activities, will allow you to judge whether that’s the right fragrance for you quite quickly.

Scents that smell gloriously sensual in the department store may not suit your morning board meeting.

Many times we get caught up in the endorphins of shopping or the pressure of sales associates and when we get home and smell our wrists while cleaning up baby dribble we think, “wait a minute, what was I thinking, this scent is giving me a headache!”

But getting your hands on these precious little vials of nectar is not going to be easy.

Always ask the sales associates if they have any samples because you’d like to see how the fragrance wears on you, or because you don’t have time to try right now, or because you are currently wearing another fragrance.

They will never give you a sample! You always have to ask!

And they may not have a sample of the fragrance that you want, but in that case ask for anything they have because sometimes fragrances from the same brand have similar notes. Plus it will only help you to experience new scents. In addition, they’re great for the purse, gym bag, or travelling.

Perfume counters usually have samples for newly launched fragrances, so a good time to get a sample is when they first launch a new fragrance. You’ll know it’s a new launch because you’ll usually see a large poster or display for it.

In addition, some beauty stores such as Sephora in the US and Space NK in the UK are more relaxed at handing out samples and often can make you up a sample if they don’t have one. Sephora for example can make you a sample of ANY fragrance in the store and will usually allow you to take up to three.

Also, there are some specialty sites online and even eBay, where you can purchase samples for a few dollars. This is a slight cost to you, but it’s worth it, especially if you are considering some of the more high-end fragrances that can cost well over a hundred dollars and more!

Step 6: Get a deal

When you have picked out a fragrance that you love and you have tried it on your skin and are ready to purchase from a department or beauty store, ALWAYS ask first if they have any deals, offers or promotions on. Or if they have any gifts with purchase.  Again, they will rarely tell you about it, you have to ask.

Most brands in your department store will have some kind of promotion going on and you typically find good offers around Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Mother’s Day.

But you can find good offers anytime of the year just by asking. Some brands may have a beauty/fragrance combo where you might get a gift with purchase that includes makeup when you purchase a fragrance. Or you may be able to get a perfume set where you get a free body lotion and shower gel with the fragrance.

If they don’t have any promotions going on, either wait until they do and ask if they are going to be having any promotions soon, or ask if there is anything else they can throw in for you.

Ask if they can throw in any samples of other fragrances, or samples of the makeup or skincare that is associated with the same line if there is one. Or if they have a makeup line associated with the brand ask if they wouldn’t mind giving you a complimentary touch-up or mini makeup application, which is basically a mini makeover where they might try new eye shadow shades or lipsticks on you.

Even beauty stores like Sephora or Space NK will throw in samples if you ask and will even give you complimentary makeup application or mini-facials if you enquire.

Never leave a perfume counter without something extra!

And if you are buying online make sure you compare prices on a few different sites. ThePerfumeExpert.Com has an excellent Deal Checker tool that allows you to search for the best deals on Amazon. But there are also other tricks involved with online shopping such as signing up for a mailing list or free membership to sites which will usually offer you a discount on your first purchase.

Or you can simply Google the name of the site you are wanting to purchase from plus the words “Promotional Code” or “Promo Code” or “Voucher Code” and you may be able to find a code you can enter at the Checkout page which will provide you a discount.

Furthermore, buying from most beauty sites will allow you to choose samples at the Checkout as well, so once again….

Never leave the beauty site without something extra! Even if it’s just valuable tips or information for your next purchase.

Happy Shopping! And remember, choosing a new fragrance is a special experience, so take your time to stop and smell the roses!

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About the Author

The Perfume Expert is an online Perfume Blog, Beauty Blog and Skincare Blog all rolled into one so you can stay looking good, smelling nice and feeling great all in one place! Written by an expert you can trust, I provide you with Perfume reviews, Best Perfumes, Beauty reviews and Makeup trends that are all written with passion and an eye for excellence.

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