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The sweet smell of success: Finding a scent that stays with you all day


Q: I'm hoping I can convince you to uncover another scam in the cosmetics industry, and that is the fragrance industry. Why is it that some fragrances hold and others do not? When I ask the counter people they tell me that I need to layer my fragrance. First I should use a shower gel, then a body cream, then powder, and finally cologne or eau de toilette, but preferably perfume. Of course, I'm only supposed to buy Paris fragrances and never synthetics.

I spent a fortune on Lancome's Magic Noir products, including perfume, and it lasted one hour on me. The same thing happened with Givenchy's Ysatis and a host of others. Are you ready for this? The only ones that last on me are Estee Lauder fragrances, which are synthetic. Unfortunately, I do not like Lauder fragrances. Why can't other companies add synthetic fragrances if that's what makes them last? If you did the research I know you could uncover the real story.

A: What determines how long a fragrance lasts has nothing to do with natural vs. synthetic ingredients or how many products you apply.

In terms of how long a fragrance lasts, you can count on cologne (which contains about 1 percent to 3 percent actual fragrance) and eau de cologne (which contains about 3 percent to 5 percent actual fragrance) lasting two to three hours; eau de toilette (which contains about 5 percent to 7 percent actual fragrance) lasting two to four hours; eau de parfum (which contains about 12 percent to 18 percent actual fragrance) lasting four to six hours; and perfume (which contains about 15 percent to 30 percent fragrance) six to eight hours or more.

No matter how much fragrance you apply, you won't change the duration. However, the more fragrance you apply the more likely you are to bowl people over when they get near you, and the scent will still dissipate in a few hours.

You do not need a bath product, powder, body cream, and cologne and eau de toilette to make a fragrance stick around longer than an hour or even a whole day. What a waste of money and time, not to mention the likelihood that people will smell you coming a mile away (at least for an hour or two).

One more point of interest: the most expensive part of any fragrance for a cosmetics company is the bottle (about 40 percent of the cost); the advertising (another 30 percent of the cost); and the celebrity endorsement or insignia (another 10 percent to 15 percent of the cost). That leaves about 15 percent to 20 per cent actual fragrance cost.

You should return the entire range of products from any line if they didn't end up doing for you what the salesperson promised. However, even though I think you have been given poor information, one of the other major elements besides product choice that makes fragrance last more than anything else is body chemistry, and that is different from person to person. Perhaps rather than buying entire lines of products you need to experiment more with samples of fragrances (they hand them out like water at the cosmetics counters). Find one you like, ask the salesperson if you can return it if it doesn't last, and then see how it works for you. You may need to consider purchasing a perfume (oil-based) fragrance instead of cologne or eau de toilette (water and alcohol-based). Perfume is more expensive but it does have a better potential of lasting the whole day than does cologne or eau de toilette because the oil and fragrance concentration does not wear off as easily as alcohol- and water-based fragrances. Experimenting is your only option, because this isn't one problem that can be blamed on the cosmetics industry.

Paula Begoun publishes the Cosmetics Counter Update. For an introductory copy of the subscription newsletter, send $1 for shipping and handling to: The Beginning Press, 5418 South Brandon, Seattle, Wash. 98118.

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