The fine art of fragrance layering

Layering scents, or fragrance cocktailing, is more complex than it sounds, says leading perfumer Emma Leah.

Gone are the days when finding a niche fragrance was all it took to leave a unique fragrant footprint.

Thanks to the rise of social media and online fragrance directories, if a little-known fragrance smells incredible, it won’t remain a secret for long.

It’s for this reason that the old-school practice of fragrance layering has experienced a revitalisation of sorts, popularised by a desire to achieve a truly unique scent.

What is fragrance layering?

While the exact origin of fragrance layering is sketchy, it’s believed to have emerged in the Middle East, one of the most scent-obsessed cultures in the world.

To this day men and women have a ritualistic approach to fragrance, layering multiple oils on their skin paired with incense and even infusing their hair and clothing.

But the western world’s approach to layering is far less complex, usually involving perfumes layered on top of one another.

According to Emma Leah, master perfumer and co-founder of Fleurage, fragrance layering is all about experimenting until you find a combination that works.

How to layer fragrances

Layering scents can involve blending perfumes from the same note family or very different scents of contrasting silage and note complexities.

“We could delve into scent chemistry, but ultimately I recommend playing around with complementary and contrasting scents for different effects,” says Emma.

“The only no-no when it comes to layering is don’t mix fragrance carriers, like an oil parfum with an alcohol parfum.”

But fragrance layering isn’t about simply spritzing different perfumes on to your wrist and rubbing them together – in fact, this can eradicate the delicate top notes and lower the scents’ longevity.

Instead, spritz each perfume on to your wrist and leave them to create their magic.

The only no-no when it comes to layering is don’t mix fragrance carriers, like an oil parfum with an alcohol parfum.

Triple-layering a scent

You can also layer fragrances by using multiple formulations of the same fragrance – for example, perfumed body washes and lotions often found in gift sets.

To do this:

  • First shower with the fragranced body wash.
  • Apply the corresponding lotion on to your pulse points to add a hydrating base for the fragrance to adhere to.
  • Spritz your fragrance over the top.

This triple-layering technique should help the scent wear longer, with more intensity.

Emma recommends approaching fragrance layering the same way as you would approach clothing.

“I’d begin with the heaviest fragrance first then layer with something lighter,” she says.

Where to get fragrance layering inspiration

Much of layering perfumes comes down to experimenting with fragrances until you create a good combination, but is there a fool-proof approach to save you all the trial and tribulations?

“This I cannot answer because everyone has different taste, but some inspiration might be to reflect a mood, a look, or an event,” says Emma.

“For example if you have a day fragrance you want to wear at night for a special event, you could choose a richer, more sophisticated scent and layer them together.”

Fragrance finds worth layering

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.