Thursday, July 16, 2009

how to purchase perfume oil online

My dear friend charissimo asked how one chooses perfumes online.

After all, if you can't smell it, and the whole point is to smell it, how do you know you even *want* to smell it?

I have been selecting perfume oils online for 6 years now, and I am infinitely more pleased with hand-blended, alcohol-free works of olfactory art than the prepackaged bottles I used to buy at the department store. I like to smell unique, and I like having lots of different choices for different moods, seasons, and events. So I will now share with you my rules for buying perfume online.

1. Quality. Shop only with perfume artisans who know what they're doing and use top-quality oils. Perfumes have top notes, middle notes, and heart notes, and you want to make sure that the artisan knows how to blend scents that are delicious at every stage. You also want a quality base like jojoba or coconut oil. And you want to avoid anyone who offers you a "scent list", because it's probably going to smell like burning plastic ass if you're choosing things like "Drakkar Noir Type" or "green apple".

My four favorites are,,, and

2. Start with samples. All three of the links above offer 1-oz. samples for $1 to $3 dollars each. It's best to start with things that sound good, then pay attention to what works on your skin. If you've never purchased this type of perfume before, just enjoy reading and order about 10 things you think might be pleasant. When you get them, give each one a complete day's wearing so that you can see what all the notes are like and how they work with your chemistry.

You'll be tempted to open and smell them all and wash one off and try another that first day, but don't do it. Give each one time. Unless it's an immediate HELL NO, then wash it off and move on.

3. Take notes. You'll start to get confused by all the names of things you do and don't like. Keep a list or a chart, or at the very least, have one stack for GREAT, one for MEH, and one for HELL, NO. Try to look for similarities. For example, I have learned that almost all foody and green smells are nice on me, but woods and musks are horrid. Red fruits like currant and berry and pomegranate are lovely on me, but banana and apricot and melon are nasty. I cannot under any circumstances wear cedar. That sort of thing.

4. Discuss. BPAL and Possets both have forums where you can review and compare different oils. Wiggle has thousands of feedback entries on their different scents. And at, you can browse through threads that group the oils into categories and see what people think of all the different vanilla fragrances or oriental oils.

You can also use the Search function at to search for different notes. Type in "sage", "grass", "chocolate", or "oakmoss", and every oil in the catalog with that note pops up with its full description. Handy!

4. Once you have several you like, order larger bottles. I like to always have a green scent, a vanilla/almond scent, and something pink-peppery around. I like to wear pumpkin in the fall, mint in the winter, grass in the spring, and fruits in the summer. I like something sexy and spicy for dates. But I only need one of each, really. And if i'm not sure I want to take the leap yet, I just buy another sample.

5. If you have samples or bottles that don't work for you, you can give them away to friends to share the love or sell them. has a great Swaps thread where you can buy, sell, or swap any of their scents. Since the turn around time for the Alchemy Lab is a couple of weeks, you can get a quick fix by buying on the forum.

6. Mix carefully. Don't forget that the soap, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, and lotion you use will affect your scent. So if you're crazy for your new vanilla perfume, don't use a pear soap, lavender shampoo, apricot deodorant, and blackberry lotion or you'll smell like trash juice.

If you've got any questions, let me know. It can be a bit of an obsession, really.

But I smell awesome.


Emile said...

Wow, I'm totally intimidated. I don't ever wear perfume & don't know that I'd even be aware of the various notes, etc. It would be nice to smell delicious though, hmmm....

EttyOop said...

Have you tried Agatha Blois presents Candlewax (or something to that effect)? I emailed about free samples the day before they started charging. So I get no samples :-P But some of their scents look amazing...

and yeah, I didn't get the whole ordering perfume online thing until I saw the BPAL site. now? Holy cow...

charissimo said...

It's as if this post was written specifically for ME!

Thanks, lovely.

Emile said...

Ok, just ordered 6 samples from possets - very excited & may get some from wiggleperfume too!

jarvenpa said...

Emile, don't be intimidated. I've been wearing BPAL fragrances for a few years now and I really couldn't tell you what notes are in a given one without cheating and looking at the lab description. My reviews tend towards the "oh, this is wonderful and I think it has....vanilla???? in it" (and then I find out it had red musk instead, but it's okay). doesn't matter. And I smell wonderful! Plus some of the names are very nice. I mean, think of the fun to be had wearing Whore of Babylon to church or something.

And it's fun. Good for Dee for enticing everyone in.

Lindsay said...

Yeah, I'm with Emile. Still totally intimidated, though this was helpful.

The notes, tones, etc thing.. man, I don't know. Even what they mention the different scents smelling like is overwhelming -- too many choices! I'll probably give it a shot but I do feel like I'm shooting blind choosing my samples..

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

No, see, it's a *fun* process. First you pick things that sound nice-- like if you like vanilla, or spice, or flowers. Then you try them, and it's obvious what does or doesn't work. You wear the perfume, and if at some point, it smells awful, you notice what the awful smells like and avoid it.

For me, the worst offender is cedar, and it makes me smell like a guinea pig cage. Anne Bonney by BPAL was one of the worst things i've ever smelled.

Emile, you're welcome to come try some of my stuff and find out what you like. I can also make some basic recommendations.

vanilla - BPAL Baibhon Shee or Wiggle DuBois or Speakeasy
red fruits - BPAL Lady MacBeth or Bordello
green - Wiggle Sicily or BPAL Rosalind
plum - BPAL Kitsune-Tsuki
pink/spicy - Wiggle Nicosia
sexy spicy - BPAL Snake Oil

Those are the ones I favor. I don't know much about flowery or woody. But when I first found BPAL, I just read through the catalog and chose things that sounded good in meaning and ingredients.

I would stick to the "general catalog", though, because it stinks when you get attached to a limited edition and can never get it again, and then you love and lust after it for years. I still miss Lughnsadh from BPAL.

Lindsay said...

Ok, my wiggle samples came. All 12 and a free 13th sample. Wow, I LOVE dubois. So much for you smelling unique -- but hey, I'm far away. Can't wait to try the others, thanks for this!

(I so did not have the patience to wait for BPAL, but maybe soon!)

Lindsay said...

ok, one more question..

You caution against mixing scents accidentally via shampoo, body wash, etc..

How on earth do you avoid this? Everything is scented! Or just try to use a vanillaish body wash if you're going to wear vanilla? Or just use something that isn't super super strong?

I kneel before the knowledge of the queen of scent..

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

Oh, you definitely can't avoid it, but if you're prone to purchasing heavily scented products, like Lush or B&BW, then you need to be careful. I mostly use handmade soap, and it doesn't throw scent as strongly.

Or just avoid things that you think would smell nasty together-- grape, lemon, and cinnamon or such. Or Sweet Pea and Orange-Chocolate.