How to Find Your Scent No Matter How Long You Have to Explore Fragrance

When you’re learning how to find your scent, there are shortcuts you can use that don’t involve what I used to do–go to the store, spray one (okay, maybe two)–and wander around, sniffing your wrist, trying to decide whether it was worth buying or not. If I couldn’t decide, I’d have to go back another week and do it all over again. I wasted a lot of money and time that way.

Over time, you learn your preferences, the notes that work best on your skin, the ones that feel screechy to you and give you a headache, and you get better at navigating the classics, bestsellers, and new releases.

But what if you need a shortcut, something better than blind buys online or wandering around a store to find a bottle interesting enough to make you pick it up? 

Guide at a Glance: How Do I Choose a Scent for Myself?

Your scent may change over time (from day to day, occasion to occasion, or even from one decade to the next as your signature scent evolves), but learning the basics of finding your scent will help you find just the one every time.

Explore your preferences. There are different ways to do this, some speedier than others and some more independent than others. 

Option 1: Take a quiz on a fragrance site and sample the recommendations. Buy an entire bottle of what you love.

Option 2: Trial and error (this takes a long time unless you’re lucky or get your hands on a large sample kit)

Option 3: Take a deep dive into the fragrance world. This could incorporate the first two options, but there’s more to it than that:

  • Choose the mood or vibe you’re going for.
  • Determine the scent family or families you prefer based on the smells you gravitate toward the most in everyday life (not just fragrances–everything)
  • Whittle those families down to a few notes you know you love (specific flowers or fruits, for example)
  • Research fragrances with those particular notes. Skim any comments and reviews to determine whether a fragrance is the perfect scent for you or if there might be a better recommendation.
  • Sample.
  • Choose a favorite and purchase a bigger bottle.
  • Enjoy the fragrance and take some time to decipher what it is about that one that made you choose it (which other notes do you know that you love now?). This will be helpful when you start looking for your next fragrance.
  • Optional: Experiment with layering, especially if your chosen fragrance is designed to be layered or has a relatively simple note pyramid.
Find Your Signature Perfume | Noteworthy Scents

Noteworthy Scents is your premier destination for exquisite, handcrafted fragrances that leave a lasting impression. Our artisanal scents are meticulously crafted to evoke emotions and memories, making each fragrance a unique and cherished experience.

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How to Find Your Scent (Alone or with Help)

You can go it alone and forge your own path to your perfect scent or use a service that matches you with a fragrance that fits your personality and the vibe you’re going for. There are several routes to the right perfume or cologne.

The one for you will depend on how much time you want to spend on it, how involved you want the process to be, and how much you enjoy trying all types of scents vs. honing in on the “right” one immediately. 

On Your Own

Woman Buying Perfume In The Store

You can wing it and try new fragrances every time you come across a magazine insert, department store counter, Sephora, or Ulta, or you can take a more systematic approach–or something in-between.

Trial and Error

This is the old-fashioned way of finding your scent, where you allow yourself to explore without boundaries. Interesting-looking ad in a magazine that includes a fragrance strip? Try it out. Going to a store that sells fragrances?

Keep your scented products to a minimum at home, and prepare your wrists for scent sampling. See what catches your eye, spray a little on a paper strip, and spritz a little on your wrist if you like it.

Wait to make a decision. Give it time to dry down. Ideally, you’ll give it several hours on your skin to see how it performs and settles before you pull your debit card out to purchase a full-size bottle.

This can be fun, but it may take a while since you can only sample so many in a store at one time. If you’re lucky, they’ll be able to give you a small sample to take home, but that’s not always possible. 

Ask People What They’re Wearing

If you catch a whiff of a fragrance you love on someone in passing, there’s no harm in asking what they’re wearing. Remember, perfumes and colognes don’t smell the same on everyone, so it might not smell the same on you as on them.

However, it informs you of the notes you like and the general vibe of fragrances you enjoy. Plus, lots of perfumes and colognes have flankers, so if you can’t wear one, you might be able to wear one from that same family for a similar effect.

This is less wide-open than sampling whatever grabs your attention. However, if you want to get methodical about it and find your scent, there are other options.

Find a Scent Family

Fragrance Of Vintage Brewing Coffee

A scent family is a broad category of fragrances, like floral, woody, fruity, earthy, etc. Each category has subfamilies (for example, fruity-florals). Perfume Direct’s visual of the fragrance wheel demonstrates this idea well.

They don’t have a section for the gourmand group of fragrances, where you’ll find some sweeter scents reminiscent of baked goods and candy. You’ll sometimes find a coffee note blended in with these, too. 

Think broad to find your fragrance family: What are your favorite smells in general? Flowers? Coffee? Spices? Freshly cut grass? Citrus fruits? Berries? Just soap? These hints tell you where to start and which notes to look for in a fragrance.

Recommended reading:

Subcategories: As you explore the larger families, you’ll discover which subcategories you like the most. You could stop there and browse for fragrances within those guidelines and have good luck. Or you could take it even further.

Consider why you want a new fragrance: What is your goal with this scent? To attract a romantic partner? To hint at and complement your personality? To evoke a certain feeling, emotion, or memory? All of the above?

Think effects: How do you want your fragrance to make you feel? Empowered? Cozy? Mysterious? Lighthearted?

For example, a fruity-floral makes a good daytime, warm-weather fragrance that feels uplifting or playful (sometimes warmer notes are included, giving these a more seductive, sexy twist). Some spicier fragrances with undertones of amber, vanilla, coffee, and/or sandalwood could come across as cozy or mysterious. Gourmands are almost always all about comfort. 

Continue reading: The 7 Best Personalized Perfume Services for Discovering Your Signature Scent

Narrow Down to Notes You Love

I love looking at the notes in different fragrances to get an idea of what kind of mood they might evoke. 

Sometimes, you love specific notes for no particular reason and can almost always expect to be wowed by a fragrance with one or more of those notes. That’ll make finding scents you love enough to have a full-size bottle of easy. 

Sometimes it’s deeper than that. Sometimes, you might be searching for a note that takes you back to a specific memory, a moment in time you’d love to relive over and over. Browsing is fine. Sniffing different fragrances in store to see which ones transport you somewhere else will work, too. But I know a shortcut. You can go to Fragrantica, a massive database of perfumes and colognes, and search by note

Start with One Note, Then Branch Back Out

Obviously, not all perfumes with that note (or even a handful of the same notes) will smell the same, nor will they all match the vibe you’re going for. That’s where combing the internet for reviews comes in.

Fragrantica has those, too–just click the perfume that interests you from the list that popped up when you chose a note–but there are other forums, like Basenotes, and reviews (almost anywhere that sells fragrance).

Read the reviews to see how others say the notes blend and how the fragrance makes them feel. Look for comparisons between the one you’re considering vs. other similar ones. It’ll feel like you’re going down a rabbit hole–and you are–but it’s worth it if you can find your perfect fragrance at the end of it all. 

More Trial and Error

Glass Perfume Bottles Based Oils On Bazaar Market

Once you’ve done all the research you want to find the perfumes or colognes that might be perfect, it’s time to go back to the sampling phase, armed with tons of information and just a few fragrances you know you want to try.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite sites to buy samples from below. Still, if you live close to a department store that sells one or more of the scents you’re interested in, it’ll be cheaper and faster to pop in and sample a few there. 

Explore Layers

Not all fragrances are incredibly complex. Some are even designed to be mixed and matched, like the options at Bon Parfumeur, mentioned below. Some are single-note perfumes, like these from Be Layered

Once you’re comfortable identifying the scent families, subfamilies, and/or notes you like and dislike, you might be interested in customizing your own fragrance or fragrances. You could have a few separate bottles on hand that you can mix and match to reflect the different facets of your personality or moods. 

With a Quiz and Matching Service

Suppose you prefer prompts that ask about your favorite scents, personality, and other preferences like I do. In that case, you can take a quiz and be matched up with a few fragrances to try.

Some services even send you samples to try and then let all or a portion of the price you spent on the samples apply when you purchase a full-sized bottle of your favorite.


Best Scentbox Alternatives noteworthy samples in box
The presentation of the samples felt like a gift. Image by Crystal Schwanke

Noteworthy has their own line of fragrances to match you with. Right now, there are 17 different scents. When you sign up, you take the quiz, and they match you with four samples for $24.99. Once those arrive, you can take your time to try them out and choose a favorite. From there, you use the code that came with the samples to get $25.00 off your purchase of a full-size bottle. 

Three out of four were hard for me to choose between. The fourth one was interesting, but I prefer a different style. Overall, they nailed my preferences. I could’ve used each of the three for different moods and occasions, but after trying them for a couple of weeks, one stood out the most as something I could wear anytime. That’s the one I went with (n.602, if you’re curious).

Find Your Signature Perfume | Noteworthy Scents

Noteworthy Scents is your premier destination for exquisite, handcrafted fragrances that leave a lasting impression. Our artisanal scents are meticulously crafted to evoke emotions and memories, making each fragrance a unique and cherished experience.

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.


scentbird microperfumes Best Scentbox Alternatives
Scentbird and MicroPerfumes travel sprays Image by Crystal Schwanke

Scentbird is a subscription service that sends you a few weeks’ worth of fragrance every month. You take their quiz, they tell you which fragrance family you’re likely to love most, and then they suggest fragrances to start with (you don’t have to stick with those if you want to venture out).

You set up your queue–don’t worry, you can reorganize it whenever you like–and try a new fragrance every month. If you find the one you want to stick with long-term, you can purchase a full-size bottle and cancel your subscription or keep trying new perfumes or colognes because you enjoy it.  

Scentbox is a very similar alternative. It works the same way as Scentbird.

Read more: Scentbird vs MicroPerfumes Compared, Best Scentbird Alternatives Guide, The Best Scentbox Alternatives You Should Try ASAP.

Bon Parfumeur

If you’re hands-on and love the idea of creating your own personalized scent from a selection of notes, Bon Parfumeur (and similar sites like Olfactory NYC) could be what you’re looking for. This is a good route if you’re a DIY type who needs clarification on the notes and scent families you love most in fragrances.

Here, you can purchase a kit with mini bottles of different scents and a roadmap to help you remember which ones you liked and disliked. You can mix them together to see which combinations you enjoy the most. 

If you want to skip the discovery phase, they also offer a quiz to help direct you to the right fragrance. Ultimately, they’ll ask you about the notes you like. Still, even if you’re unfamiliar with certain ones, their descriptions are immensely helpful. 


Sephora’s quiz isn’t as thorough as the others. Still, if you live near one and want quick results, theirs will get you headed in the right direction. You can immediately go through the aisles, sampling the recommendations and narrowing things down. It’s near-immediate gratification. However, you’ll be limited to what’s in the store and risk choosing the same scent as many others. 

Trial and Error with Samples

Suppose you’re not in a rush and like the idea of trying different fragrances to get a truer understanding of what you love in fragrances vs. what you don’t care for, how different ones behave on your skin, and which noses (basically, fragrance artists) you click with the most.

In that case, you can go through trial and error by ordering samples from companies that send small (sometimes as small as 1ml) samples of authentic designer and niche scents. 

If you go this route, keep notes on each fragrance and look for patterns over time. This is a meandering route for someone looking for a signature scent, but you might enjoy it if you’re passionate about fragrance. And you’re bound to find some gems you love along the way, even in the beginning.

I’ve saved a lot of money by stocking up on samples. Sometimes, the fragrances everyone raves about don’t perform well on my skin, and sometimes, a perfume sounds perfect on paper and then gives me a headache once it’s spritzed. 

Here are a few of my favorite spots to shop for perfume samples online:

FAQs About Finding Your Scent

Question: How do I Know What My Scent Is?

Answer: There will always be some trial and error when trying to find your scent. Start with the types of smells or notes that make you feel how you want your fragrance to feel. Do aquatic and fresh scents make you feel carefree and happy? Look for fragrances in those families. If you want to feel warm, cozy, and safe, that might come from gourmands, spicy, or woody fragrances.

Question: What is a Man’s Favorite Scent on a Woman?

Answer: Ultimately, it depends on the man. However, NINU Perfume lists vanilla, musk, rose, jasmine, and sandalwood as popular notes. I’ve always heard it’s vanilla. And pumpkin pie. Gourmands are especially popular, but you can’t go wrong with a warm floral, either. Traditionally feminine scents are a safe bet. 

Question: What Scent Attracts a Woman to a Man?

Answer: Woody scents seem to attract women to men. Think sandalwood, cedar, vetiver, patchouli. These blend beautifully with notes like lavender, musk, bergamot, jasmine, rose, pepper, vanilla, and amber for a sensual masculine fragrance with warmth and depth.

Conclusion: Take Your Time or Take a Shortcut

I’m a fan of all these methods to find your scent, but I know the long, meandering route and heavy research aren’t for everyone. If it is, enjoy yourself! If you just want a fragrance that helps you express yourself and you want to find the perfect match, like, yesterday, I’d go with Noteworthy or Scentbird.

Feel free to mix and match these methods as you continue to learn what you do and don’t like in your fragrances. Finding your signature scent–for long-term or a season of life–is not always a linear path. 

Find Your Signature Perfume | Noteworthy Scents

Noteworthy Scents is your premier destination for exquisite, handcrafted fragrances that leave a lasting impression. Our artisanal scents are meticulously crafted to evoke emotions and memories, making each fragrance a unique and cherished experience.

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Continue reading:

The 7 Best Personalized Perfume Services for Discovering Your Signature Scent

Best Perfumes at CVS Guide You Don’t Want to Miss Out On

Rihanna Perfume Guide: My Top 5 Perfumes to Add to Your Collection

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