• UO Obsessions: Picking the Perfect Perfume


    There are few beauty preferences as personal as fragrance. Memory-driven, specific, and highly nostalgic (nothing like a quick whiff of Lucky Girl to take you back to all your junior high angst!), one of the highest on the high of "Holy Grail" beauty product searches is the quest for your signature scent. 

    One method of organizing scent is by what's called the Fragrance Wheel, which categorizes them into four "families." Similar to with color, the fragrance wheel organizes scents so that they overlap and bleed together when combined. First developed by a perfumer and fragrance expert named Michael Edwards in 1983, the fragrance wheel breaks scents down into four major families: Floral, Woody, Fresh, and Spicy, which are further subdivided to span the range of options within each one (Click here to see an illustration of the original wheel). The idea behind all of it is that if you develop an understanding of which fragrance families and subfamilies you are most drawn to, you will be able to more easily discover additional scents that you like. All that said, here's our disclaimer: every fragrance is unique, often able to fit into multiple categories and even wear differently from person to person. Nevertheless, by learning more about the components that make up your favorite perfume, you'll be better equipped to define and draw distinctions around what you like (rather than just saying something smells "good" or "bad"). Read on for our closer inspection into the four main perfume families and their subcategories, as well as our picks for UO fragrances to fit into each one.
    Photos by Michael Persico


    FLORAL
    By far the most popular of all the fragrance family categories, floral scents are feminine and on the sweeter side, either built from a bouquet of different flowers or a singe variety paired with other notes. The floral category is incredibly diverse, able to be paired widely and be highly adaptable. 
    Try: Petal Perfume Oil 

    Floral Subgroups:
    Soft-Floral: The combination of flowers with a chemical component called aldehyde to create fragrances that are soft and often described as "powdery." Abstractly floral, they are scents found naturally in rose and citrus oils and are subtle, often paired with something like vanilla to mute the powdery element and make it beautifully feminine. 
    Try: Pinrose Perfume in Pillowtalk Poet

    Floral-Spicy: A combo of a bright floral note (like orange blossom) with spices that are on the sweeter side. A versatile one, it can be lively and floral-heavy or subtle and muted depending on how its mixed. 
    Try: A Beautiful Life Smitten Pink Perfume


    SPICY
    The most "exotic" of all the fragrance families, spicy fragrances are often heavy, dominant unisex scents like musk, sandalwood, and spicy-sweet vanilla. They are wintery and robust — a little of these notes go a long way! 
    Try: Apothia Velvet Rope Eau De Parfum, Pinrose Perfume in Moonlight Gypsy

    Spicy Subgroups:
    Soft-Spicy: A more delicate side of the spicy fragrances, these scents are less heavy and more accessible but still have the depth and warmth that comes with the spicy notes — featuring a range of flowers and spices, from musky florals to layered amber and rose. Is it cheesy to say something smells "sensual"? Soft spicy is sensual.
    Try: NUXE Prodigieux, Speakeasy Perfume, A Beautiful Life perfume 

    Woody-Spicy: Spice-heavy again, but this time making things more masculine (and balanced) with woody accents, anything from patchouli to sandalwood. This is a really great combination for wintery, warm unisex scents.
    Try: Pinrose Perfume Campfire Rebel, Province Apothecary Parfum No. 19


    WOODY
    Head to the forest for scents rooted in the woods — cedar, moss, sandalwood, pine, cypress, vetiver, or oak. Ranging from smelling like the outdoors to smelling like antique wooden furniture, woody scents range in crispness, complexity, and weight, though they are often associated with more cold-weather scents. 
    Try: Moonshine cologne, Wild Man All Natural Cologne

    Woody Subgroups:
    Mossy Woods: These notes of oakmoss, woods, and citrus are referred to as "Chypre" fragrances by perfumers, based on the French name for the island of Cyprus, where oakmoss—the lynchpin of this category's fragrance—originates. All Chypre scents play on the combination of bright citrus and floral notes with richer, more dense moss and amber. 
    Try: Fig + Yarrow Bath Oil in Meadow, Poppy and Someday Marfa Moon Mist, Ursa Major Willoughby Cologne

    Dry Woods: The addition of cedar, tobacco, and burnt wood notes create a "dry" woody scent — this subgroup is also often referred to as "leather." Dry Wood-heavy fragrances are often paired with citrus or florals to lighten it up. 
    Try: Province Apothecary Parfum No. 30 or No. 23


    FRESH
    Refreshing, light, and cooling scents often associated with spring and summer fragrances. Clean and sporty, with the ability to skew either feminine or masculine depending on the combination. 
    Try: Apothia IF Eau De Parfum, Ex Animo O'Me, Mermaid Perfume 

    Fresh Subgroups: 
    Citrus: Pretty self-explanatory: fruits like lemon zest, mandarins, oranges, and grapefruit, bergamot. Light and summery, easily adaptable and able to be combined. 
    Try: Pinrose Perfume in Rooftop Socialite, Melissa Flagg Hawaiian Botanicals Perfume in Alani

    Green: Fresh-cut grass, fresh herbs, leaves, and tea — clean and sporty.
    Try: A Beautiful Life Vrai Vert Perfume

    Water: Cooling, aquatic-inspired scentsthat are refreshing
    Try: Apothia Pearl Eau de Parfum

    Top, middle, and base notes.
    Don't judge a scent based on how it smells in the bottle, and here's why: perfumes smell differently on your skin and disperse their smell in different stages. 
    Top notes: The first thing you smell in a perfume, top notes provide the initial impression the moment it is spritzed on your skin. They are the lightest of the notes and evaporate quickly, within 5-30 minutes. 
    Middle notes: Also called "heart notes," the middle notes make up the perfume's body and are what classify them to each of the four main family categories. They are not immediately evident, taking about 10-30 minutes to develop on the skin.  
    Base notes: The notes with the highest molecular weight, base notes last the longest and give the scent staying power and depth. Common base notes include vanilla, musk, woods, oakmoss, or patchouli. 


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