Choosing a New Summer Fragrance

As you tweak your wardrobe for summer, think about updating your fragrance too. Just as linen feels cool against your skin on a steamy day, so does a spritz of a fresh light scent. “We are creatures of nature,” says Mandy Aftel, a perfumer and author of Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume. “We crave different tastes, textures and smell when it’s hot and humid than we do when it’s cool and dry.”

Summerize a Signature Scent
Summer’s heat and humidity intensifies any fragrance. If you have a signature scent that you stick with year-round, wear a little less of it, or switch from a perfume to a less concentrated eau de toilette formula. “You want something that has a radius of only 1 or 2 feet,” says Adam Eastwood, co-founder of, an online fragrance boutique, “rather than a long reach that will diffuse throughout your office.”

Robin Coe-Hutshing -- a veteran Los Angeles fragrance consultant who founded the famed cosmetics emporium Studio BeautyMix at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, Calif. -- says that layering a summer fragrance or body lotion under your heavier gardenia-tuberose or patchouli scent will also make it less overpowering on a sultry day. “It’s like changing the slipcovers with the seasons,” she says, “and a way to hang on to something that pleases you.”

Scent Selection
Choosing a new summer fragrance can be overwhelming. So many gorgeous bottles, so many alluring names! Even before your start sniffing, edit your selections by thinking about where you like to vacation during the summer and what you enjoying eating or drinking. Then, look for scents that contain those notes.

Fresh Squeezed
Citrus notes -- lemon, lime, grapefruit and mandarin -- are refreshing and stimulating … just the thing to keep your energy up on an oppressively hot day. For a touch of summer romance, look for citruses combined with florals, such as lily of the valley, ylang-ylang and hibiscus.

Pineapple, coconut, sea spray, gardenia, white musk, jasmine and ginger lilies: These aromatic elements evoke a day at the beach or a walk through a rain forest.

Like biting into ripe fruit, fragrances with notes of peach, apricot, melon, honeysuckle and pomegranate serve up the carefree feeling of summer concerts and backyard picnics.

Freshly cut grass, peppermint, green tea, a touch of herbs, verbena, morning dew. Like a perfectly chilled glass of chardonnay at sunset, these notes have a sporty, but refined, appeal.

Shopping Tips
Now that you’ve narrowed down your fragrance choices, here’s how to approach the perfume counter:

1. Arrive Naked.
Don’t wear fragrance -- including scented body cream. Any scent that’s clinging to your skin will mingle with the new ones you’re testing.

2. Practice Restraint.
Resist the temptation to grab every bottle and start spraying -- it’s a sure path to olfactory overload. Instead, sniff the atomizer. If you like what you smell, spray a scent strip. Wait 30 to 60 seconds before sniffing to allow the alcohol to dissipate.

3. Take a Break.

After four to six different scents, clear your nose by sniffing a few coffee beans, the olfactory equivalent of eating sorbet between courses. Fragrance boutiques often provide small dishes of beans on their counter. Or, tote a sweater or scarf; sniffing something made of wool will also clear your nasal palette.

4. Test Drive.
Once you’ve identified a few favorite fragrances, apply them to the pulse points on your wrist or inner elbow. “Skin is where a scent comes alive,” says Coe-Hutshing. “You have to experience how it interacts with the warmth of your skin and your unique body chemistry to tell if it’s a fit.”

Before you purchase the scent, go for a stroll or do some shopping. A fragrance may be released from an atomizer in a single spray, but the molecules unfold over time. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the various notes in fragrances to settle down and rearrange themselves into the perfect composition, says Coe-Hutshing.