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The Three Fragrance Notes

The art of perfume-making is almost 4,000 years old. It was first used in Egypt before spreading to the Persian empire, gaining popularity in the Greek and Roman empires. What have those 4,000 years of experimenting and refining done? You can see--or smell--for yourself, in very good perfumes. Each quality perfume has 3 specific fragrance notes.

What are Fragrance Notes?

Pulled from musical terminology, fragrance or perfume notes refer to the three specific layers of scents in a perfume. There is the top or head note, the middle or heart note, and the base note.

The Top Note: First Impression

The top or head note is the first scent that hits your nose after spraying or anointing your skin with the perfume. You spray your wrist, breathe in the scent, and accept or reject the perfume based on this. The truth is, the top note will only stay dominant for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Between 5 to 30 minutes, the top note will fade completely away.

The head note often has the lightest and most easily detectable scent, setting the stage for the heart or middle and base notes. This is why many are citrus- or floral-based. It’s the easiest to smell from farther away, and the first attractor for anyone you meet or pass by on the street.

The Middle Note: Heart of the Perfume

The middle or heart note begins to show through as the top note stops dominating. You will literally be able to smell it, especially half an hour after spraying your skin. The first attractive, light, attention-getting top note drifts into a mellow, full-bodied scent. It can have a deeper floral or even fruit-based scent, or more spice-based notes such as cinnamon, lemongrass, or nutmeg. This scent will last up to 4 hours.

The middle note is called the heart note because it is the heart of the entire scent. It has the fullest body and the longest-lasting effect. It’s what you and others will smell in the middle of the day, and the one that will follow you around the longest. When you pick your perfumes, make sure you wait to choose until the heart note shows itself.

The Base Note: The End of the Night

The base note, simply put, is the perfume note you will still be able to smell at the end of the night. It deepens and anchors both the top and middle notes, though you won’t be able to sense it right away. After the top and middle notes have completely disappeared, the base note is what lingers.

Base notes are characterized by smooth, rich, deep scents that are not as attention-catching as top or middle notes. However, if it’s the scent you want at the end of the night, don’t refresh the perfume during the day. Let the first two notes fade away until you are left with the base note. This can last up to 24 hours.

How to Wear Perfume

Many of us never end up catching these notes because of the way perfume is applied. First, target heat points on the skin. It’s the heat of the skin that releases the scent of perfume. Popular heat points are under the jawline, on the wrists, or behind the ears. Second, don’t rub the perfume. It wipes out the top note and weakens the heart note. Just let it dry where you spray. Last, only refresh if you want to keep the middle note longer. Take your time in choosing, and enjoy!

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