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How To Buy Perfume For Someone Else, According To An Expert

No gift receipt needed.

Save yourself the stress of finding a perfume your loved one will actually wear with these expert tips…

Perfume is renowned as being an 'easy, last-minute' present. However, if you've ever bought perfume as a gift, you'll be able to attest to the fact that it's actually more of a real-life retail nightmare. 

Scent is extremely personal that even if you get a glowing recommendation from a friend of beauty expert you trust when it gets on your skin, it may end up being the worst thing you ever smelt. But get it right and perfume is one of the most memorable presents you can give. 

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So, with Mother's Day just around the corner, we reached out to Adam Anderson, Chief Commercial Officer of The Fragrance Shop for his expert advice on how to buy perfume for someone else…

THE key three

Just like you should ask yourself 36 questions to fall in love when you're buying perfume for a friend, relative or partner, Anderson recommends asking yourself the following three questions:

“When searching for a scent for someone else, I would always encourage shoppers to think about three things:

1. What is their everyday aesthetic? Are they sophisticated, bold, modern, boho, glam?

2. What kind of smells are they drawn to in everyday life? Do they love flowers, citrus, sweets, vanilla, musk, wood?

3. What is the purpose of the fragrance, is it for them to wear every day, for evenings out, for special occasions, for work?

Take these three pieces of information to a fragrance expert on your local high street, and they will be able to give recommendations based on this individual profile.”  

do your homework

Before hitting the shops, make a note of your recipient’s likes and dislikes. Do they fill their home with lavender incense? Do they prefer spicy foods to sweet treats?  

"Take cues from the kind of smells they already surround themselves with. Candles and diffusers are a great way to spot the kind of notes they like quickly, so have a good look next time you visit," says Anderson.

"Flowers are another great way to pinpoint a scent match, as florals are the most popular notes in fragrances. Do they love roses, Iris’, Geraniums? Marry this with a scent that includes their favourite as a keynote."


Ever noticed a perfume that works wonderfully for a friend, but smells awful on you? That’s because fragrances suit certain skin types.

"Spraying onto paper testers will smell different to how it settles on your skin, as we each have a very different PH balance, which affects the overall scent. You will find that your favourite scent smells different on you, then it does on your friend," explains Anderson.

"My top tips for getting the truest impression of a scent is to spray it on all pulse points, and anywhere that emits heat, as this intensifies the scent – your wrists, your neck, ankles, behind your ear, your collarbone and the back of your knees are great starting points.

"Fragrance latches to fibres, so always make sure you spray onto your hair for long-lasting fragrance. Leave the scent for a couple of hours, to allow the notes to settle.”

Take your time

If you’re in a department store full of scents spritzed every which way, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, not to mention that pounding headache. Instead, Anderson recommends testing a maximum of two perfumes at a time to avoid overloading your nose.

"Take your time and decide over a period of time, spray no more than two fragrances per shopping trip, as the scents will merge into one.

"The top insider tip is to ensure you have a coffee with you when you shop for fragrances. Have a smell of the coffee every time you spray a new scent, as it will reset your nose.”


Popular as it is in home fragrances, lavender can be divisive for personal wear, musks can also be a tricky buy. That's why you should stick to the all-round favourites.

"Consumers most often opt for light fruits such as grapefruit, and more vibrant citrus notes such as Lemon, Lime and Orange, and Bergamot.

"Herbs are also widely used and well-received, such as clary sage and basil. When the top notes mellow, the heart note comes through, and this becomes the most dominant scent in your fragrance," advises Anderson.

"At The Fragrance Shop, we find the bestselling heart notes are typically floral or full-bodied ingredients such as black pepper, rose, ylang-ylang, cardamom, cinnamon, jasmine and neroli.

"Your base notes are the longest-lasting, and they remain once the top notes have completely dissipated. This means that they are almost always rich, deep and full-bodied – vanilla, patchouli, amber, musk and cedarwood are most often used as they last for hours after the first application."

don't write off the classics

They are that for a reason.

If you're completely baffled, ask the salesperson what the store's most popular scent is. If you don't want to choose a completely ubiquitous scent, maybe don't go to a department store.

Hit up a shop that sells smaller labels and ask what its best-sellers are.

"Never discount the classics, they have become fragrance icons for a reason. Some of our bestsellers are fragrances that have stood the test of time – Calvin Klein ‘CK One’Thierry Mugler ‘Angel’, Gucci ‘Rush’, YSL ‘Black Opium’ and Dior ‘Poison’.

"Light subtle top notes are often most popular as these are what you will smell first, and they are what you form your opinion on," says Anderson. 

Think About The Format

Fragrances come in so many forms: Sprays, roll-ons, solids, oils, lotions and even pencils. Roll-ons, which allow for greater control when you're dispensing them and are often oil-based and tend to be less of a commitment.

If you're feeling cautious, this might be a good choice.

But truthfully, it's better to just go all-out with the full potency, alcohol-based spray bottle and ditch the roll-ons, lotions and Eau de Parfums. Go big or go home is our motto. 

If in doubt, Go With Great Packaging

We shouldn’t judge a scent by its bottle, but let’s be honest – packaging matters. 

The scent is the most important aspect of the purchase, however, the bottle itself can be a lovely way to honour the aesthetic of the person you’re purchasing for.

Are they super glam? Their dresser will look great with a statement bottle such as Carolina Herrera ‘Good Girl’.

Your most elegant friend may love the simplicity of something like Lancôme ‘Idôle’, and your free-spirit might be more partial to a design like ‘Red Wood’ by DSQUARED2. What is their personality, and what will best represent them?”


Although it may seem counterintuitive to ignore your own instincts, especially when it comes to something as elemental as scent, it’s important to remember that choosing a perfume for a friend isn’t about your personal preferences.

So, take your preferences out of it, smell with an open mind, and always consider the other person. As you sniff, ask yourself: is this really them? Can you imagine them wearing it? If the answer is yes, you’re onto a winner.

Main image by @kristiedash

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