Skin-Deep [Red] Chemistry

Skin chemistry is a debatable topic: purists will explain that there is absolutely no merit to using that term in reference to perfume-skin interaction; while numerous perfume lovers constantly refer to “my perfume-eating (or loving) skin,” complain about some notes or perfumes being nasty on their skin, or tell how great perfume in question smells on somebody else.

I might have listened to those who object to that definition had we been talking about a scientific publication or a presentation for the industry symposium. But “skin chemistry” is a good enough label to describe in layman’s terms the complex interactions perfumes have with our “soft outer tissue.” Our skin type (oily/dry), body temperature, foods we eat, products we use during and after shower, stress level, how well we slept and maybe even our clothes choice – all that can seriously affect how perfumes smell and develop on our skin, and I don’t think it really matters what is the exact nature of those differences.

Every time I read about perfume something that seriously contradicts my experience with it, I start wondering if it’s my nose or my skin to blame. I know that with different ingredients it might be either, but I had at least one experience when the “skin chemistry” explanation seems to be the most fitting.

Many years ago, in the office where I worked two other co-workers were also avid perfume devotees. All three of us, among many other scents, owned Hugo Boss Deep Red. And almost every time one of us was wearing it, the same dialog would ensue:

– You smell great! What are you wearing?
– Deep Red
– Really?!

It would happen in some variation again and again between any two of us, in any direction. We all liked Deep Red – both on ourselves and on each other, but we could never recognize it “in the wild.” From my side, I can tell that it didn’t smell even familiar – the way when you know that you smelled it before but cannot pinpoint what it was. Not only didn’t it smell on them like I it did on my skin, I couldn’t even tell that they both were wearing the same perfume. And back then neither my co-workers nor I had dozens of perfumes to wear or hundreds of samples. Eventually, I started guessing that it was that perfume just by recognizing the pattern of my reaction (“I like it very much, I do not know what it is but it smells really good on J… Oh, wait! It must be Deep Red again”).



Deep Red is one of a few mainstream perfumes that survived in my collection from the pre-rabbit-hole days. It is much simpler than most of my current favorites but I still like and wear it. Seven years after I mentioned it first in my post In Search for the Perfect Pear, I finished my third bottle of it (the red one on the picture above) and would have been thinking about getting the next one (hoping to find the older stock – just in case it has been reformulated beyond recognition in the recent years; I bet it was), but Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) had rehomed with me her partial bottle of Deep Red (limited edition, in a silver bottle). So I’m probably all set for the next seven years.


Rusty and Hugo Boss Deep Red


Has anything like that ever happened to you?


Images: my own

Just a reminder: You still have until 11:59 PM PST today, May 20, 2018, to enter hajusuuri’s giveaway for samples from the recent Sniffapalooza.


25 thoughts on “Skin-Deep [Red] Chemistry

  1. Ooh, what fun to see my silver bottle again, and Rusty posing with it! Shame about the chips – that is sadly how it was when I got it. I have not had the experience you describe, but I am truly terrible at recognising perfumes ‘in the wild’ – love that expression. Though I correctly identified Patou Vacances on my brother yesterday, out of his bottle collection that must be pushing 20 now. Still, reasonable odds, and lilac is quite distinctive. ;)


    • That silver thing was clearly meant as something temporary: they didn’t expect anyone to hold on to that LE bottle for that long. Thank you once again :)


  2. I can only recognize a couple of perfumes in the wild (Angel, anyone?) but I know that some of my perfumes smell totally different on my own skin depending on the day, so it stands to reason many would smell different on others. The aforementioned is a perfect example – on me it smells nasty but perfectly lovely (if potent) on others.


    • I recognize Angel under any circumstances :) I understand liking perfumes on others: in addition to the possibility of them smelling differently, we cannot discount the fact that when it’s not us who wears them, we do not smell those perfumes non-stop from the application to the latest drydown phase – which can make us to perceive them more favorably.


  3. I work with the public, and the perfume that surprises me the most is light blue – I smell it and love it on others, sometimes it smells like a floral bouquet, other times like a citrus cologne – I’m always surprised the hear when it is light blue!


  4. I fell in love with Deep Red when I smelled it on a woman dining at an outdoor, waterside restaurant in Sweden. Had to ask the name of it, she smelled so good! On my own skin it does not have the same amazing sillage I remember from that experience of smelling it “in the wild,” and it doesn’t have great longevity either, but I still really love the scent of it. The points you bring up about the skin chemistry experience — I think they’re valid. I find it fascinating and even rather wonderful that you and your co-workers kept falling in love with each other’s perfume, not recognizing it as the one you all owned!


    • I feel strangely pleased knowing that we share this favorite. It’s funny though: on me it is very tenacious. I recently wore it to the office and in the evening, when going to the friends’ house for dinner, I had to re-apply it instead of wearing another perfume that I initially planned to because Deep Red was still too noticeable after a day in the office.


  5. Oh my! That must be quite nostalgic to be able to use such perfume again now. How thoughtful of Vanessa that she offered her bottle in limited edition to be yours now.

    I can recognize Dior Fahrenheit from quite a distance. When I was a teen I happened to buy a fake during holidays in Bulgaria and ever since then I became oversensitive to it (because I can’t stand it!) so whenever there’s a guy wearing it in the bus or tram that I’m in, I will know someone inside the vehicle wears it…


    • I remember buying Fahrenheit as a gift to my friend’s father (back then it was still alright to give perfumes as gifts). He liked it, but when he was done with his set and tried to buy another bottle several years later, we couldn’t figure out why the new bottle didn’t smell the same… Now I know why: it had been reformulated. But then it never had occurred to us that perfume with the same name, in the same bottle, from the same store (so, not a fake!) could smell different.


  6. I’m not good at recognizing specific perfumes on others, but I agree with your assessment of the skin chemistry thing. Not only do perfumes smell different on me at different times, they smell quite different on others. On two occasions I had perfumes ruined for me by smelling them on a friend, on whom they smelled nauseating to me. It took a long time before I could try wearing them again (many years).


    • I’ve never experienced anything like that but now, whenever I do not like something I smell on anybody around, I’ll make sure not to ask what it is – just in case ;)


  7. I do so remember those conversations we’d have on Deep Red at the office – I could never tell when you or our other co-worker were wearing it…I loved the way it smelled on all of us, even though it smelled so differently on you than it did on me. I ran out of it a few years ago and haven’t gotten another bottle to put in my collection. Over the years, I’ve added new fragrances to my collection to the point that some of the old standbys (Deep Red, DKNY Cashmere Mist) never got replaced with a new bottle once they ran out.


    • I really miss our perfume conversations! In my current office nobody else wears perfumes :(

      I haven’t replenished most other perfumes from the older days, but somehow Deep Red kept its place in my collection. Most likely, it is so different now that once this bottle is gone, that will be it. But meanwhile I still enjoy it.


  8. I can only recognize a perfume if it smells the same on me as with another person. That said, for the ones I’ve smelled on paper and decided not to waste any skin real estate. the most memorable one was Flowerbimb worn by a Nordstrom SA. She needs to be a walking advertisement for it!

    And Rusty looks like he didn’t know how he got to pose in front of 2 bottles of perfume without getting to play with them within 2 seconds.


    • I assume you meant Flowerbomb (but only because I didn’t hear about perfume named Flowerbimbo ;) ).
      There were at least several mainstream perfumed that I liked on somebody else but couldn’t bring myself to wearing, and Flowerbomb was one of them.

      I didn’t hope to get a picture of Rusty with these bottles, so I planned just to do the bottle alone. Once done, I put them on the table – and of course, once I didn’t expect him to be interested, he was there immediately.


  9. Hey Undina,
    Every now and then Jin wears Shalimar. It smells fabulous on him but NOTHING like it smells on or to me. I always gush when he wears it, but there are four or five of his fragrances that make my eyes roll back in ecstasy so it’s never on my mind that he WOULD be wearing my favourite.
    Scott also makes almost every scent smell totally different than it does on me. We often try things together and exclaim at the differences more than the similarities.
    Portia xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Portia! It’s great to see you!
      It is interesting that you have similar experience, especially with somebody who’s even closer than co-workers.
      A couple of weeks ago I didn’t recognize Diorissimo on my friend – and I recently wore it myself!


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