How To Make People Perceive And Remember You Exactly How You Want

I asked an expert about the fragrance notes that make the biggest impression on people, and how to find your own signature scent.
Publish date:
May 26, 2014
studies, fragrances, perfumes, shopping, Dior, marc jacobs, Bath & Body Works, Calvin Klein, research, Bvlgari

Sixteen years old and the scent was Acqua Di Gio.

Odors evoke a more powerful emotional response than any other sense. Seriously. Your olfactory senses are directly linked to your limbic system, better known as the portion of your brain responsible for emotions, memories and behavior. Your nose literally knows the memories of your past and how you feel about it; it's the NSA of senses.

That’s why when you smell anybody wearing Acqua Di Gio you are immediately flooded with olfactory induced flashbacks of your old high school boyfriend, who was the sweetest guy in the world. He baked you a peach pie and gave you a heating pad when you were PMS’ing--IN HIGH SCHOOL--because he grew up with all sisters and knew how to treat a woman, but it ultimately scared you, because WHAT 17-YEAR OLD BOY DOES THAT? And then, you both went your separate ways after graduation. So it goes.

Acqua Di Gio. Deep breath in through your nose. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Memories.

The average individual can detect over 10,000 odors, and each person has a varied response to each odor, depending on:

• a Pavlovian or conditioned response (loving a the perfume of your best friend because she’s funny and charming and great to be around, or hating the smell of coconut rum like Kara because, well... we’ve all had those nights, right?)


• an olfactory nostalgia response (childhood scents: Play-doh, baby powder; regional scents: woods, ocean water, farms, scents you grow up around).

But we’re talking signatures scents here. I wanted to get the insider info for you dolls, and I wanted it straight from the main researcher himself, Dr. Alan Hirsch at the Smell and Taste Research Center. So, I reached out to him, by which I mean I softly stalked him with emails and then phone tag for a week. I DO THIS FOR YOU.

3 Steps to Finding Your Signature Scent

1. Go With What You Enjoy

Always wear what you enjoy, first and foremost. If you gravitate towards certain fragrance notes, go with it. Don’t try and fight it. You are around yourself ALL the time. Enjoy yourself.

2. Consider Perfume Your Scent Wardrobe

Be open to experimenting with scents, you don’t always wear one outfit day in and day out, and you don’t always have to wear one scent day in and day out. Try out different notes that may pair well with your moods; musks and spicy oriental notes are typically associated with a deeper, heavier, winter feelings, while citrus and floral scents are typically associated with summer and lightness. But you don’t always have to match your scents with your mood, the weather, or fashion. Experiment.

3. Think About It

Don’t be a impulse signature scent buyer. This scent (or scents) will become you, so don’t be rash when choosing your style.

3 Scents and the Impressions They Give Others

Pink Grapefruit

• The perception: Fountain of Youth. In Dr. Hirsch’s studies, this scent had no effect on age perception of males, but on average women were thought to be four to six years younger than their actual age.

• When to wear: When you’re Drew Barrymore from Never Been Kissed.

• Perfumes: Dior Addict, Bath & Body Works Pink Grapefruit, Marc Jacobs Daisy

Lavender & Cinnamon

• The perception: The HBIC. This combination of scents left individuals with the impression the female wearing the scent was trustworthy, confident, successful and attractive.

• When to wear: When would you not wear this? I want everyone to think I’m a boss.

• Perfumes: Le Voyageur Indiscret, Maharadjah (may be super-hard to find; I think it’s been discontinued)

Spicy Floral

The perception: Slimming. Females were perceived by both men and women to be an average of 12 pounds lighter than their actual weight.

When To Wear: When doing a Bang-Bang with your girlfriends. Any holiday. Or that Tuesday when all you want is to food coma yourself.

Perfume: Shalimar, Calvin Klein Obsession, Bvlgari Eau de Parfum II

There was not a fragrance Dr. Hirsch studied that actively turned men off, but he did find a combination of lavender and pumpkin pie was the most arousing for men, that and cheese pizza was on the list, too. Women were actively turned off by BBQ and cherries. So, there’s that, if you want it.

What scent do you think people most associate with you?