The oddity of body chemistry is one of those imponderables that never cease to amaze me. We all know the scenario by now, how two people can try on the same perfume and it will coalesce into a beautiful flower arrangement on one wearer’s skin, and devolve on the other’s, into a rotten soggy mess. Hard to believe, but it does happen.
Sometimes the quality of the perfume is at fault. If a formula is harsh or thin, then skin will not save it. Conversely, even well made scents can fall apart on an epidermis like an under rehearsed ballet on stage. Chandler Burr in The Perfect Scent laments the formulation of fragrances to perform best on paper, which isn’t very useful, he remarks – unless you are made of paper. This I find true especially of the simple accord perfumes. Jo Malone’s Black Vetyver Cafe, for instance, when I sprayed it two days ago, lasted a ½ hour on the wrist, although a respectable two hours on the strip. It might have been my skin, but this seems unlikely.
Other personal disasters, in order of their severity, have included Angel, which is all caramel, all the time on me and no patchouli; L’Heure Bleue which is all plastic and no flowers; and various Amouages, many of which are just all of everything you can imagine at once. Annick Goutal’s Vanille Exquise smells like Kleenex, Robert Piguet’s Douglas Hannant smells like a fart, and Chanel Beige is unspeakable, a dead mouse under the floor boards, even the sales associates recoil.
You get to know your own skin after a while, know what works on it and what does not. Here is the funniest part – you really do have to venture outside of your comfort zone from time to time. You never can tell what really will bloom on you. Various masculines have been revelations to me: Terre d’Hermes, A* Men, Dior Homme, and Vetiver, just about anything containing patchouli, even the cheap patchoulis one can buy in soap at Whole Foods. Would I have picked all these myself? Not necessarily, but they smell better on me than on many men.
The best that I can say about skin chemistry is that it is definitely there and that you have to be realistic in selecting your perfume. You may love the scent of roses, but if they are nothing but soap on you all the time, then you need to look elsewhere among the florals. The same goes for tuberose, which may smell fine on your mother but will forever go off like milk in an unsupervised carton when you wear it. The whole thing is rather like color in clothing; just because you like a color doesn’t mean it looks good on you. White may look great on you while pink stinks, and if so, welcome to my world. You like it, it doesn’t like you, love at cross purposes – wait, isn’t there a Shakespeare play about this?
Oh yeah. A Midsummer Night’s Perfume.
What would you have loved to wear that didn’t love you?