Sexy Scents to Spice Up Your Scent Life

"A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future." If this quote had come from a fortune cookie rather than from Coco Chanel, we'd be tempted to tack on the words "in bed" to prove a point: The right fragrance can be a silent seductress.

Excerpts from a fragrance editorial by Jolene Edgar, Sexy Scents.

Looking to spice up your scent life? The right sultry fragrance can do wonders.

Sexy Scents to Spice up your Scent Life

But what, precisely, makes a fragrance sexy? For perfumer, Frederic Malle, it's "notes that smell like warm skin and become a part of you -- amber, patchouli, musk." Perfumer Maurice Roucel says, "Some sexy scents are edible, like certain fruits, spices, vanilla - they make you want to take a bite." More surprisingly, perfumers often pick white flowers for their sultriest blends, because they contain "a sexy animalic note," says Roucel, that's chemically similar to civet, a type of musk. Most sexy fragrances are inherently bold, so an eau de toilette form is usually plenty strong. "To amplify the sexiness and power of a scent, go for an eau de parfum, which contains a greater concentration of fragrance oil," says Roucel. What's most important is to discover what's sexy on you, and how to wear it well -- in bed or out.

How to Pull Off a Sensual Fragrance

  1. Sample
    Use your current fragrance as a starting point, then move up a notch on the sexy scale. If you've only ever worn airy florals, experiment with creamier white-floral blends. If you like light, clean scents, try one that has both crisp top notes and a warm, musky base. And if you have a taste for sweet scents, graduate to one with darker notes, such as plum or vanilla.

  2. Test
    After sniffing four fragrances on paper blotters, try your top two -- one on the inside of each forearm -- and give them enough time to fully develop. The true character of a deep, sexy fragrance sometimes lies in the heart notes (which become evident after about 30 minutes), but most often it's in the base and dry-down, which emerges over several hours.

  3. Apply
    Don't douse yourself. With a sultry fragrance, less is more (two spritzes are plenty for an eau de parfum, and no more than four are needed for an eau de toilette). Spray it on your wrists and neck; this will allow the scent to waft up into your hair. Let the scent settle in naturally, says Malle, and resist the urge to rub it in -- oils and perspiration from your skin may taint the scent.

Fragrance Buying Cheat Sheet

  1. At a store that carries classics and niche fragrances, explain to the salewoman what you like about your favorite scent -- the powdery feel of the flowers, the sweetness of the vanilla, or simply the smell of jasmine. Say that you're looking for something sexy, and be as specific as possible. ("Spicy," for example, could mean something different to you than it does to her.)

  2. Test up to four fragrances on paper. (Trying more can be overwhelming.) Spray your two favorites on the insides of your forearms.

  3. A fragrance's top notes (the ones you smell right away) are often bright and fresh. You may have to wear a fragrance for two to three hours before the sexy notes develop, so don't make snap decisions. "The real identity of a complex scent is the smell you find on your clothes the day after you wear a fragrance," says perfumer Olivier Polge. If you truly want to get to know a scent, ask for a sample, and wear it for a couple days.

  4. Three of four blasts of an eau de toilette -- or just two of an eau de parfum -- "will get you noticed without bothering those around you," says Malle. Spray or dab fragrance on your wrists and each side of your neck, but don't rub it in.

White Floral Fragrance Perfumes

White Flowers
"Jasmine, tuberose, and gardenia are inherently sexy because they contain indole, which has an animalic odor for attracting pollinators," says perfumer Stephen J. Nilsen. When combined with other notes, their dirty-sweet tones turn deeply sensuous.

  • "Tuberose is a real showstopper because of its heady, diffusive quality," Nilsen says. By Kilian Beyond Love Prohibited contains three types of tuberose, plus jasmine and coconut, for a slightly sweet, sultry effect (

  • "Gardenia goes from green and spicy to creamy and animalic," says Malle. Vera Wang Anniversary is sharp with citrus and rich gardenia, but quickly mellows (

  • Hermes Kelly Caleche blends jasmine (which "lends incredible femininity to any fragrance," says Nilsen) with delicate iris and mimosa, plus a touch of leather (

  • Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss has a green, earthy bent (

  • Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia, which also has tuberose and cardamom, is spicy but surprisingly light (

Warm Notes in Fragrance Perfumes

Warm Notes
Rich, enveloping, and unfresh notes, including musk, vanilla, cinnamon, patchouli, and woods, "deliver heat in one way or another," says Nilsen. Cozy up with one of these scents.

  • Musk - "Today's synthetic musks are clean, not overpowering," Polge says. In Narciso Rodriguez for Her, Egyptian musk mingles with amber and osmanthus (

  • Vanilla - "Its creamy, feel-good quality is addictive," says Nilsen. PureDKNY starts and ends with vanilla, but florals and woods keep it from being too saccharine (

  • Amber - "It's quite bold, darkly sensual, and exotic," says Nilsen. The cinnamon and clove in Armani Prive Ambre Soie give the amber a spicy kick (

  • Patchouli - Woody and mossy, "patchouli adds raw passion to any fragrance," says Nilsen. The generous dose in Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady is feminized by Turkish rose and raspberry (

Sexy Classic Fragrance Perfumes

Sexy Classics
"Classic fragrances are powerful because they're made to be recognized and to last all day," says Malle. These four were each the first of a kind, and they all exude warmth and sensuality -- but it very different ways. Malle explains:

  • Chanel No. 5 (1921)
    "This was the first floral fragrance to use a huge dosage of aldehydes -- molecules found in citrus notes that provide long-lasting freshness. It has thickness and sexiness in its base, from musk, vanilla, and coumarin, but the light flowers and aldehydes on top dilute the scent's oriental nature. It creates sex appeal without shouting" (

  • Fracas (1948)
    "Everything revolves around dark and mysterious tuberose. All the other facets amplify tuberose's effect. It has a milky smell, as do certain fruits, so bergamot and mandarin were added to exaggerate and sweeten the milkiness" (

  • Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps (1948)
    "This was probably the first floral scent with an overdose of musk. What I love is how the musk is mixed with carnation to create a very clean sexiness" (

  • Estee Lauder Youth Dew (1953)
    "Truly exotic. It's a sort of hybrid of earthy and oriental. It has a lot of patchouli, but it's spicy, with rose and an amber smell, too. This mixture is what makes it so sexy -- it's never just one thing" (

(Edgar, Jolene. "Sexy Scents." Allure Dec. 2010.)

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