Why fragrance smells different on everyone

Why does fragrance smell different on different people? It’s (unfortunately) just a fact of life.

Have you ever fallen in love with a friend’s fragrance, bought it for yourself then found it smelled differently on you? Well, you’re not alone in your confusion or disappointment. There are very natural reasons for this strange phenomena: biology.

Yes, that’s right. It’s simply down to our individual skin and bodies that fragrances smell differently from person to person. It’s probably the reason certain people go for sweet florals while others stick to woodier scents, because scents live differently on each of us depending on other factors.

Let’s dive into the reasons why (don’t worry if you failed Biology at school, it’s pretty simple)…

There are natural and environmental factors

First of all, fragrance can smell different on you than your friend, Mum or whoever because of your skin type. Your skin type is dependent on many natural and environmental factors, meaning you can control some of them but others are unfortunately down to the way your body works.

Like skincare products, your skin will react to fragrance based on its pH balance. In other words, how acidic your skin is will change how fragrance smells.

Your skin’s pH balance determines how sensitive it is, and how dry or oily it is. While you may not immediately think this could impact how a perfume or aftershave smells on you, moisture actually plays a big part in how fragrance smells once out of the bottle and onto your skin.

We’ve already explained why fragrance lasts longer when sprayed on to hydrated skin, which is why your favourite perfumes and aftershaves are sold in gift sets with matching body lotions. Honestly, it’s not just a boujee treat! Fragrances can change scent when sprayed on a differently scented body lotion or moisturiser, so it’s best to use an unscented or matching one.

Can I change my skin’s pH balance?

Besides moisturising your skin before spraying, using fragrance-free skincare and related products (i.e. soap, shower gel) will prevent your perfume from mixing with other scents and changing.

In recent years many pH-focused beauty products have aimed to balance the acidity of your skin fats in order to improve overall skin health. As skincare has become homogenised through social media, experts have shouted even more for people to tread carefully and cross-check their skin type with influencers when buying at-home treatments because damage to your acid mantle is more or less irreversible if you go too hard.

‘What on Earth is an acid mantle?’ Good question. The answer? “Your acid mantle is made up on amino and lactic acids, plus sebum, also known as fatty free acids,” Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson explained. “The acid mantle just so happens to protect skin from environmental factors that lead to aging and all-around irritation.”

In short, your skin naturally has a thin barrier on its surface that helps maintain a slight acidity. If your skin is too acidic then your skin is more prone to inflammation and if it’s too alkaline it will dry and become flaky. Your diet plays a part in it but so do your hormones. Sometimes it’s just your luck, so it’s best to get a dermatologist’s advice if you can.

What can I do to improve the skin’s pH balance?

Without jumping straight to skin-altering solutions, a healthy and balanced diet can help. The oils, vitamins and nutrients we intake feed our skin, so taking your vitamin Cs and Ds and using the appropriate oils for your skin will (perhaps unsurprisingly) show in your skin.

Our hormones naturally impact our sense of smell, which means sometimes – regardless of eating your five a day – the way you experience fragrances will stay entirely unique to you. The changing nature of our hormones also explains why your go-to fragrance can also suddenly change how it smells to you one day. See, there really is a reason for everything!

Now, before you Google your local dermatologist, don’t let this put you off trying out new scents. You can use our Fragrance Match quiz to find fragrances that share commonalities with your current favourites… or subscribe to our scentaddict perfume subscription to try a new fragrance every month for £12 if you want to learn how scents smell on you before you properly commit.