A funny thing can happen when we hit mid-life: favourite fragrances often just don’t ‘work’ any more. I’m not talking about their power to attract the opposite sex like a lightning conductor from across a crowded bar; I’m referring to the puzzling phenomenon where they no longer smell the same on our skin.
It’s a biological fact that a favourite fragrance can gradually start to smell different on a woman’s skin. Or, also common, f-a-d-e faster.
This is less true for men. If Guerlain Habit Rouge or Davidoff Cool Water has been your scent signature since you started shaving, it’ll probably suit you long, long after you’ve embarked on a regular and necessary regime of nose-hair-tweezing.
So if a woman feels her signature scent no longer smells the same on her skin, she’s not hallucinating. There is a reason. Perfumier and fragrance historian Roja Dove (the oft-quoted professeur de parfum) says, “Because skin tends to become drier from peri-menopause onwards, it affects fragrance, which interacts with the oils in your skin. So less oil means there’s nothing for the fragrance to ‘grip’ on to.”
What happens as a result, explains Roja, is that evaporation is speeded up, which fast-forwards the process of the fragrance’s development, too. So the base notes swoop in much sooner, and you’ll get a more fleeting encounter with the top and heart notes.
There is another reason why fragrance may not smell on you as it once did: the formulation may have changed. New laws and guidelines governing fragrance ingredients have led to many of them being withdrawn – either because of potential irritancy or for environmental conservation reasons – which has forced fragrance brands to tweak some often legendary confections.
Worth trying, though, are Roja’s tips. You may find that your favourite fragrances smell ‘right’ on you again. If not, try the recommendations in my next article for scents to explore now you are un certain age. And feel a little bit smug that, on younger women, most of them smell way too grown-up and elegant to get away with…
Four fragrance fixes: how to get back the smell of your favourite perfume
Next instalment (in a fortnight): ten fabulous fragrances for older women