Forget what you've heard about pulse points.
woman applying perfume
Credit: Getty / Moyo Studio

Everyone has a personal anecdote to back up the fact that our sense of smell triggers memories. Signature scents are a form of self-expression, just like fashion or art, and they can contribute to making someone truly unforgettable. Of course, not everyone is a fan of fragrance—so it's important to be sensitive to those who may have allergies or simply not want a whiff. But how do you strike the balance between understated and overwhelming? We reached out to Robert Piguet Parfums, the company behind Fracas ($110,, Martha Stewart's go-to fragrance since she was 18 years old, for several dos and don'ts when applying your own.

Think chemistry, not geography. 

"There is always talk about applying a scent to your 'pulse points,'" says Bayly Ledes, the company's president and CEO—and a previous beauty editor (in other words, she knows her stuff). By this she means the neck, wrists, elbows, and behind the knees. "I honestly think this is more about geography than it is about chemistry," Ledes explains. "A scent will be beautiful anywhere on the skin, so I do subscribe to spraying over your head before you get dressed and letting the notes fall where they will."

Spray skin, not fabric. 

There's really no wrong way to apply aromatics—with one exception. "It's not a good idea to 'squirt' directly on clothes," Ledes says. "Fragrances contain oils and ingredients that will stain or yellow clothing over time."

Consider the notes. 

How much to apply is another common concern—and Ledes tells us that's a personal choice. However, she notes, "there are fragrances that are much 'bigger' than others that may beg a lighter hand." For example, most floral notes aren't as deep as woody or resin ones; but there are some, such as the tuberose in Fracas, that are quite powerful. "If you get a sense that people are moving away from you or commenting about how strong your fragrance is, it's up to you to decide how you want to handle it," she advises. "Some people react badly to fragrance, but I don't think that is the only thing in the world that is bothering them. There are just too many ways fragrance can impact our everyday lives. We would have to live in bubbles if we didn't want to smell anything."

Packaging is important. 

The packaging plays an important part in application as well. "Some companies use a pump that spurts out a little poof. Ours use a continuous spray—a far more expensive component—that not only allows control of how much fragrance is applied but also delivers the scent in an extremely fine mist rather than a cloud burst."

At the end of the day, Ledes adds, "there isn't a wrong way to apply a fragrance. Just wearing one makes you extraordinary."


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