Perfume not lasting? Here's how to apply your fragrance the right way

All the tips you need from a perfume expert

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(Image credit: Getty / Royalty-free)

There are some things that are built into our day that we do with little though: wash our hair, pop on some lip balm, spritz our best perfume. And as a result of that, I bet you’ve never thought about how to apply perfume before. But what if I told you, you could be doing a better job at it to get the most out of your signature scent? 

Sure, perfume is made to be spritzed, but it's also not cheap, and here at Marie Claire UK, we don't want anyone wasting precious perfume. Yep, it turns out how you apply your perfume could help it last longer (opting for a long-lasting perfume will help, too). To help, I wanted to get expert knowledge on, well, how to apply perfume the right way. I called in the help of perfume stylist Isabelle Langlois who gave me some tips and tricks—and I can confidently say, after spritzing this way, my perfume has never lasted longer. 

What are the best ways to apply perfume? 

Wasting no time, let’s head straight into asking the golden question: how, exactly, should we be applying perfume? The premise is pretty simple (but makes a lot of sense!) “Apply in warm places where it keeps the smell protected from evaporation,” she explains. This includes behind the ears, the back of the neck and a classic spritz on the wrists. ”Spray very close to your skin, not in a dry place,” so that the perfume clings onto the skin. “That’s why behind the ears works so well, because it’s not sticky or greasy but a little warm,” adds Isabelle. Personally, I’ve also started applying some to my inner elbow, where my skin is naturally a little warmer. It sounds strange, but it really does last. 

The other surprisingly simple thing that most people don’t do is spritz often enough. If you’re out and about for the day and want to be enveloped in delicious notes day and night, take a travel size with you and spray throughout the day. Yes, a spritz here and there is always going to be the most effective way to make a scent last. 

Another tip? Quit walking into a mist of perfume. You’ve likely seen it in the movies and it might seem like a lovely way to put perfume on, but Isabelle says you lose most of the scent by doing this. “For me, it’s chic to do but pointless,” she says. 

The biggest perfume mistakes

Isabelle believes that there can't really be any mistakes when it comes to applying perfume since it’s such a personal act. However, there are certain things you’re doing that mean you aren’t getting the most out of your signature scent. There are two things to consider, according to Isabelle: distance and quantity used. 

The first involves perfume being spraying too far away from your body. “This just gives a bit of a mist and not the full-on spritz on the skin, which is what you want,” says Isabelle. Aside from not getting longevity out of the fragrance, this also means “you might not get all of the notes, as the molecules don’t reach your skin, meaning you might not smell everything the perfume has to offer,” she adds. 

Secondly, you’re not spritzing enough! “Something I see and hear a lot from friends and clients is that they spray just a little bit and then their perfume isn’t staying,” Isabelle says. “Most perfumes on the market are toilette or parfum and not extrait (which contains 30-35% concentration).” This means the perfume is not going to last if you’re not spraying enough of it. “You need to spray close to your skin and be generous to get the full [experience].” 

Should you spray perfume on your clothes and hair? 

Well, yes and no. Isabelle is a huge fan of spritzing on clothes, especially scarves and bed linen. “I love spraying perfume on my bed sheets and in my wardrobe,” she says/ But she warns to be cautious of the fabric you’re misting onto. “You need to be careful with fabric because fragrances are mainly composed of alcohol and chemical components other than the fragrance itself,” she warns. She notes that silk or leather could be damaged by spritzing alcohol-based perfume on it. In addition to this, some fragrances are naturally coloured—such as sandalwood which is very dark— which has the potential to damage or stain clothes.  

As for spritzing perfume onto your hair, it’s a no from Isabelle. Simply because the high alcohol content of perfume can dry out the hair. What she does love to do though is add an alcohol-free perfume roll-on to her hair. An example of this is Isabelle’s carefully curated Les Précieuses roll-ons set. “The oil carrier is safe for the hair and an amazing way to have fragrance on your hair,” she adds. A specific hair perfume is great if you're not sure which you should and shouldn't spritz on your lengths. 

How to apply perfume properly

Aside from those basics, there are a few other things you can be doing to get the most out of your favourite fragrance. 

Be generous

Don’t be shy when it comes to spritzing. “You can spray three times on each side because the fragrance will evaporate,” Isabelle says. But also warns not to intoxicate yourself or those around you with a strong scent.

Consider notes

The composition of your perfume also determines how it will wear. “If it’s woody, spicy or amber-floral, your perfume will stay longer,” she says. “Often, if it doesn’t stay, it’s because your perfume has citrusy or light floral notes, which have smaller molecules,” Isabelle adds. 

“Some will linger longer because they have more base notes, for example. What stays on the skin is base and heart notes, the top notes evaporate after 20 minutes.” 

Reapply often

The secret to smelling great all day long is spritzing multiple times. Be sure to keep a travel-size perfume with you on long days. 

Moisturise your skin

You can, of course, layer scented body lotion underneath your perfume, which adds another element of the scent. But, according to Isabelle, what matters is that your skin is hydrated with lotion, which helps keep perfume clinging to skin for longer. In the summer, she says you can use a dry oil on your skin and add the perfume over the top—an idea I love. 

Beauty Contributor

Tori is a freelance beauty journalist and contributor for Marie Claire. She has written for various titles, including Allure, Glamour, Elle, Refinery29, Brides, and more. Currently training to be a nail tech, Tori is a total nail enthusiast and always has time to talk all things nail art. When she’s not writing about beauty and testing products, Tori can be found walking her rescue dog Pip, drinking great coffee, and eating as many croissants as humanly possible.