Know-How: Making Perfumes Last Longer

Most of us own enough perfumes to last us if not for the rest of our lives but at least for a decade or so. We have supplies to make ourselves any number of decants and purses to carry those decants for perfume touch-ups during the day. But still again and again a question of how to prolong life of those fleeting substances is raised in blogs, perfume forums and magazines. Every time I hear about making anything last longer, I think of this Garfield cartoon:

Garfield June 30 1998

On a more serious note, one of the constantly repeated advices is the same one that is usually given for a general well-being and skin care, namely hydration/moisturizing.

Before you apply your perfume, make sure that your skin is super moisturized.

Fragrance lasts much longer on moisturized skin.

Applying fragrance-free moisturizer to your body is an excellent preparation for applying fragrance

If you have dry skin, moisturize it before applying your perfume (use a fragrance free moisturizer); it will help your scent last a lot longer.

Do these sound familiar? For many years for me it was a given, I never questioned the wisdom. Besides, I routinely apply body moisturizer after each shower so I never actually had a chance to check the supposition.

A couple of months ago in a post on Andrew Smells I read a passage that surprised me:

By applying moisturiser after applying your fragrance spray you significantly increase the longevity of the fragrance, in other words you smell good for longer.

I questioned the author if he just misspoke while describing an application order, but Andy replied: “No, that’s the order we were taught.” (and even gave me a link to an article with the same advice; you can look it up in his comment if you follow the link). “Maybe it doesn’t make much difference? Have you tried both orders?” he asked.

It got me curious and I conducted a series of experiments. Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal was a perfect candidate: I like it a lot but it doesn’t last on my skin for too long.

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

I tried several different combinations (all after shower): 1) just perfume on bare skin; 2) an unscented body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 3) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of an unscented body lotion; 4) a matching body lotion and then perfume on top of it; 5) perfume directly on skin and then a layer of a matching body lotion. Out of these five runs I got just two distinct results:

Perfume placed (#1) directly on bare washed skin, (#2) on top of an unscented body lotion or (#3) under an unscented body lotion stayed on my skin its usual 2 hours and then became a pleasant skin veil noticeable only if to press my nose into my wrist.

Perfume applied either (#4) on top of or (#5) under a matching body lotion, even though loosing projection within the same 2 hours (maybe 2.5), stayed as a well-recognizable skin scent probably twice longer than from perfume not layered with a matching lotion.

But the most important result was that I didn’t notice any improvement in longevity due to added moisturizer – be it on top of or under perfume. Of course, mine is just anecdotal evidence. That’s why I’m asking you:

Have you personally experienced a prolonged perfume life on your skin after applying a moisturizer?


Images: Garfield from the official site; perfume – my own.


23 thoughts on “Know-How: Making Perfumes Last Longer

  1. I love your experiments. I tend not to moisturize anything but my face, so I can’t say if moisturizing works or not. Thankfully though, my skins doesn’t seem to soak up perfume so I typically don’t have lasting power issues.


  2. Interesting, Undina. I am on the fence about moisturizers helping my perfume to stay. I sometimes have better results without using moisturizers, and the perfume seems to have more of a development when put on bare skin. (I think it mutes certain aspects of the development, in other words.) I’ll be interested to hear what others have to say, as I do tend to have scent-eating skin, moisturizer or not.


  3. I had heard about layering perfume with its corresponding body lotion but I had never heard about perfume lasting longer on moisturized skin using unscented moisturizer. I tend to avoid using the moisturizers that correspond to a perfume I own as I find the moisturizers a little too overpowering for me. I actually tend to put on moisturizer after I’ve put on my perfume. I may have to try your experiment to see if I notice any difference in the longevity of the perfume scent. I’m actually on a quest to find the perfect lotion where I like the scent, absorption rate, and longevity of the moisturizer. My lotion collection probably rivals my perfume collection (4 different ones on my desk at work, a totally different one in my purse, 1 or 2 on my kitchen counter, multiple on the nightstand and who knows how many under the bathroom sink).


    • Once you find that perfect moisturizer, please share! :-)
      In general, I don’t use matching body products. But I happened to have several so once in a while I’d do that but on a regular basis I usually decide on what perfume to wear long after my after shower routine – so it’s just easier to stick to using the same not scented or neutrally scented body lotion.


  4. As ever, I admire the systematic approach you have adopted in this experiment. ;) I am afraid that I cannot comment though, as I don’t tend to apply perfume to the places I moisturise, which are mostly face and shins – maybe backs of calves as well if they are really crying out for it, hehe. I know I should be more thorough in my hydration rituals, but I tend to wait till skin ‘feels’ dry, as I hate the sticky aftermath of most creams I have tried.


  5. When I was younger, I never moisturized anything but my legs. Now, I apply lotion every day after my shower. In both circumstances, the perfume itself seems to have more to do with longevity than the moisture level of my skin.

    I do use a lighter, unscented lotion on my arms when trying perfume for the first time, but it only seems to make much difference with lighter, more fleeting perfumes: they seem to disappear slightly earlier when using my regular, lightly scented lotion, probably because the perfume becomes even lighter than the scent of the lotion.


    • It’s interesting that scented products can “cancel” each other.
      My skin isn’t dry so I also started actively using moisturizes only in the last decade but now I do it religiously.


  6. I usually don’t have any issues with perfume longevity except for one (I’m looking at you – CdG Red Carnation – < 30 minutes with 4 healthy sprays). That said, since I apply via spray and walk into the mist, a good amount sticks to hair and then fine droplets on my upper body. One permutation that may be worth trying for someone else (since just the thought of perfumed body lotion makes me itch), is to make the perfumed body lotion fresh by combining a few drops of perfume to a dollop of unscented body lotion.


    • I scent my hair (or do that trick with walking through the perfume cloud) only when I go out for some big parties. If I get a truly unscented lotion that I like I will try mixing it with a perfume – just out of curiosity.


  7. Very interesting experiment, Undina. I always moisturize myself but I’m still having problems with perfume longevity. Someone suggested to make your own talcum powder using your favourite perfume, use it, then spray the same perfume afterwards. I’ve never tried it but would you like to add this method to your experiment?


    • I’ve never heard that recommendation before. I’m wondering for which cases it might be useful. I doubt it’ll work for dry skin. Maybe the opposite? For skin that is too oily or when it’s too humid?


  8. I had the same experience as Suzanne – moisturizers (I use unscented ones) seem to mute/damp down a perfume for me, which was the complete opposite of what I’d read online.

    I don’t like reapplying after three or four hours because it disrupts the arc of the perfume; you end up with top notes that are competing with the drydown, which can be really weird. (With more linear perfumes this is less of an issue.)

    What I’ve ended up doing with low-tenacity perfumes is spraying on a good amount (three or four sprays per arm), waiting 10 or 15 minutes for it to dry thoroughly, and then spraying on the same amount again. It’s kind of like using a primer before you paint something – the final coat sticks better (on my skin, anyway).


    • I do that too–use a perfume as a base for itself. I think I first heard about the technique from Portia at APJ. Unless a perfume is quite affordable, though, it’s not worth it to me.


    • It’s an interesting idea about “priming” the skin. It reminds me of dark(er) lipstick application where you take off the top coat by pressing a tissue leaving a tint on lips and re-apply it again. I will try it with my less tenacious perfumes.


  9. Maybe what makes a difference also is what is in the moisturizer. I always use a moisturizer for babies, a ‘biodynamic’ one that hardly is scented (no baby powder scent) by a European brand called Weleda (I don’t know if it sells in the US). The second ingredient is sweet almond oil, and the third is sesame oil, but it is not sticky or fatty in my experience. When I use this before I spray, perfume just stays and stays, up to a point that I have to remove it if I want to use a different perfume in the evening. I have not done a Hermessence pressure test ;) as they are at this point in time above budget…


    • I haven’t seen this brand anywhere at a store but I see that Amazon has at least some of their products. Though I don’t think anything can help with most of Hermessence line ; -)


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