From Someone Who Would Know: The Secrets to Smelling Really, Really Good (2024)

Spoiler alert: It’s not just about perfume.

The accuracy of TikTok’s algorithm is both deeply amusing and disturbing. A few hours on the app and it’ll analyze your likes and dislikes without you even noticing, magnifying buried, niche interests that exist solely in your subconscious. The resulting For You Page (that’s your curated TikTok feed, which is based on your behavior within the app) feels eerily intimate. TikTok revealed to me that I like to devour micro-knowledge on everything from deep sea creatures to how to properly clean your oven. This is also how I discovered I had a secret obsession with how I smell.

Three years ago I found myself deep into #PerfumeTok because the TikTok algorithm picked up on the fact that I was intensely interested in watching videos about fragrances. With over 2.9 billion videos, the hashtag flooded my FYP with digital content creators reviewing new perfume launches, comparing designer products with affordable alternatives, and detailing the rich olfactory histories. (Ancient Egyptians, I learned, bathed in scented oils.)

I wasn’t alone in my newfound obsession: During the pandemic, perfume sales jumped significantly by 45 percent in 2021 compared to the year prior. Why it took us all so long to catch on, I’m not sure. The power of perfume is strong: Scents are attached to memories and can be a form of escapism, with the power to transport you to French valleys of lilies or your mother’s laundry room.

I led most of my life rarely concerned about smelling good — as long as I didn’t smell bad. I casually flirted with my scent from time to time, graduating from Clinique Happy in the ‘90s to Le Labo’s Santal 33 while living in New York (alongside the rest of the five boroughs). A couple of spritzes and I was out the door, rarely thinking about how I was perfuming myself. But as with my multi-step skincare system, I learned how to maximize my scent routine thanks to TikTok’s approachable teachers.

The best part was that content creators’ advice leaned more on the how and less on the what, which meant I could apply what I learned to any product at any price. From how to layer perfumes to the difference between an Eau de Parfum and an Eau de Toilette, here’s everything I discovered about smelling your absolute best from TikTok.

How to smell good, according to TikTok

Shower prep is key

Not only did TikTok show me there was a name for my indulgent, hour-long showers that encompassed everything from shaving to scrubbing to disassociating mid-shampoo (they’re called “Everything Showers”), but it presented the fact that curating your body’s scent starts long before you spray a bottle. Exfoliation is key. Dry skin doesn’t hold fragrances as well as moisturized skin does, so go ahead and scrub your body in the shower to get rid of dead skin. I like to use a mesh net, which has roots in West African culture and is considered more hygienic than a typical loofah, but you can also use a dry brush or a chemical exfoliator like an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) body wash, which does the dirty work for you over time.

From Someone Who Would Know: The Secrets to Smelling Really, Really Good (1)

Ulta

Luv Scrub Exfoliating Mesh Net

$18 at Ulta

Body wash is not a priority

As someone plagued with sensitive skin, my fragrance fascination comes with obvious setbacks. If you have similar struggles, you might want to steer clear of scented body washes — and you won’t be missing out on much. Body washes’ scents don’t tend to have the lasting power to linger on your skin, so this is where you can shave off some (s)cents in your routine. But if you do want to participate, this Naturium find is a TikTok fave, with creators praising it for its $15 price tag and bright scent, and because it’s a powerhouse against dehydrated skin and keratosis pilaris.

Layer your perfume

If you take any advice from this diatribe, let it be this nugget of valuable information, courtesy of creator @marissachristineee, a Los Angeles salon owner: In her video, which now boasts 4.1 million views, she let her followers in on the secret that strippers have a sense for scent. From them, she learned to layer fragrances in this specific order: lotion, then perfume, lotion again, then spritz your perfume again.

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Amazon

Nivea Essentially Enriched Body Lotion

$6 at Amazon

Why? Applying lotion creates something for your perfume to bind to so it can last longer. You can even build and stack different aromas to create a smell that is more uniquely you than a couple of spritzes of your go-to perfume. You can also swap lotion for oil depending on your preference.

OSEA Undaria Algae Body Oil

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Nordstrom

OSEA Undaria Algae Body Oil

$16+ at Nordstrom

Spritz strategically

The entire effect of applying fragrances and oils is called your “scent cloud” or “scent bubble.” Now, where you spritz can be a personal choice, but fragrance enthusiast and content creator @melissanacional (who has more than 350,000 TikTok followers) suggests behind your ears (because the pulse points help radiate the scent outward), or behind your neck and your shoulders, so your scent trails behind you. Surprisingly, she doesn’t recommend your decolletage, since you can go “nose blind” and lose your scent from it being so close to you, and because the alcohol in perfume can potentially age your skin.

I like to add fragrances to my hair, which creates another trailing effect. This isn’t a technique I learned on TikTok, but something I made up based on the aforementioned perfume layering technique: After your shower, wait until your hair is about 90 percent dry, then add in a leave-in conditioner. That will act as a sticky adherent for the next step, your hair fragrance. (Dry hair is more slippery than wet hair and won’t bind to fragrances as well.) I learned the hard way to avoid applying regular perfume to hair because most fragrances contain alcohol, which can be damaging and drying when applied directly to your locks. Try a specially made hair perfume, like the one below.

From Someone Who Would Know: The Secrets to Smelling Really, Really Good (5)

Gisou

Gisou Hair Perfume

$44 at Gisou

Choosing your fragrance isn’t that deep

We’re not sure where the pressure to find a “signature scent” started, but it’s unrealistic. Some days you might want to smell like tuberose, and other times you’ll find yourself gravitating toward deeper, woodsy scents. Make it your own, whatever that looks like. But we get it — fragrances can be a steep investment, both emotionally and financially. Take @professorperfume’s advice: Buy a sample first. Or if you’re frugal like me, visit a fancy perfume store and ask for freebies.

Oh, and the difference between an Eau de Toilette and an Eau de Parfum? According to TikTok’s “fragrance dad” @johngnzz, the former contains less alcohol, and the latter typically lasts longer. But that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Because everyone’s skin reacts to perfume differently, try testing it for a day to see whether it works for you. If you want a universally loved scent, grab this $21 fragrance oil that TikTok is currently obsessed with.

My Favorite Fragrances

I’ve since amassed quite a collection of fragrances, ranging in notes and undertones. But my best advice? Wear what you want, and specifically, what makes you feelgood.As I said, scents have transitive properties, so choose where you want to go.

Everyday Perfume: Glossier You

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Glossier

Glossier’s You perfume is popular across generations, thanks to its universally appealing, lightweight smell. It doesn’t compete with your natural body odor, because the brand aimed to create something “soft, warm, and familiar.” It basically sticks to your skin all day and makes you smell like, well, you…only better.

$28 at Glossier

Fancy Day Perfume: Tom Ford Eau de Soleil Blanc

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Nordstrom

This is the scent I wear when I’m heading somewhere important during the day, not for a quick lunch with friends. Think of it as an elevated floral dress, but not your nighttime LBD. It’s a scent I’d wear while touring a private island (if I ever get the chance). It first hits your nose with notes of crisp florals (jasmine, tuberose, and ylang ylang to be exact) mixed with fresh citrus, but its lingering feel is warmer and creamy. Trust me when I say you’ll turn heads with this one.

$155 at Nordstrom

The Viral Perfume: D.S. & Durga Pistachio

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D.S. & Durga

Pistachio isn’t the first ingredient you think of in regards to personal scent, but this bottle is going viral for a reason. This is one I don’t yet own, but it’s at the top of my list thanks to its notes of pistachio, cardamom, “more pistachio”, vanilla crème, and you guessed it, “even more pistachio.”

$210 at D.S. & Durga

Special Occassion Perfume: Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Extreme Eau de Parfum

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Saks Fifth Avenue

If you planning a girl’s night out for the first time in forever, reach for this bottle. It smells like sin and vanilla orange blossoms, and really, reallyexpensive. So the steep price fits the bill. (But TikTok users claim this $22 bottle has a similar style.) If you’re looking to splurge on more luxury fragrances owners rarely regret, Baccarat Rouge540 (loved by Rihanna) and Delina La Roseé both deserve mentions.

$360 at Saks

From Someone Who Would Know: The Secrets to Smelling Really, Really Good (2024)
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