A Guide to Blind-Buying Perfume

There's a joy that comes with opening a perfume bottle you haven't tried or tested at all, like in a blind-buy. But there are certainly risks, too. Here's how you can avoid a bad one.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Many of us picked up a new favorite hobby (or shall we say, a new passion) in the middle of the pandemic: discovering fragrances. In a time of immobility, it was only natural to cling to small luxuries that might serve as quick reminders of normalcy and instant getaways to the ‘outdoors.’ A spritz or two can serve as a means to reminisce on simpler days, and other times, as a plane ticket to destinations we couldn’t fly to back then, but can conjure through sweet smell.

In effect of this global trend, perfume sales have soared like never before, and are showing no signs of stopping. This little luxury meant big profits for the fragrance industry, as an upward sales trend of 45 percent was recorded in the first quarter of 2021, back when the world was slowly opening up. 

We were always taught to try perfume on the skin and to let it linger before making that purchase, but in confinement, we’ve rediscovered the thrill of blind buying. Blind buying, or buying an item without ever having tested it in person, may be extremely rewarding if done right. In our quest to know the secrets to blind buying, we’ve learned that there is an art—if not a process—to it, which can lead shoppers to grin from ear to ear once their package arrives and they take that initial inhale of their latest buy.

Please subscribe
Show Notice


Unlock beauty stories you won't find anywhere else. Read quality and relevant features, get exclusive invites to our beauty events, access The Editor’s Room, receive complimentary gifts*, get free shipping for The Beauty Edit Box, and more when you become a member. Subscribe to The Beauty Edit now.


Already have an account? Sign in

Know your objective. 

Much like a scientific experiment, you need to ‘state the problem’ before you can begin looking for answers. In this case, you need to know why you’re looking for a new fragrance in the first place. Is it because you want something new but similar to your current scent? Or are you looking for a different scent altogether to shake things up a little? Or perhaps you’re in need of a mood-booster (don’t we all, at this point)? Whatever the reason, keep that in mind throughout your search so you can stay on one path. 

Have a scent profile in mind. 

Once you know your why, it’s time to establish your what. You might already have a scent profile in mind. For example, if you want something similar to your go-to scent, then it’s best to stick to similar ingredients within the same fragrance family (more on this later). If you’re willing to experiment, be wary of the ingredients you know you’re averse to. Lastly, if you’re on the hunt for a mood-changer, it helps to know the typical scent profiles associated with various emotions, e.g. citrus scents make you feel energized, and resinous scents (these are notes that come from trees) make you feel grounded.   

Start with brands you admire.

Once you know the scent profile you’re looking for, the next step might overwhelm you when facing hundreds of options. To quickly filter, start by looking through the brands you trust to see if they have the scent you had in mind. Of course, it’s easier to buy into brands whose values you already identify with. However, it doesn’t hurt to try out other brands, especially if you’re looking to go out of your comfort zone. A tip for this is to read up on brands to understand their persona. For example, Chloe leans toward femininity, Gucci tends to be quirky, while Dior is romantic. Selecting a brand or perfume house you believe in makes wearing the fragrance all the more meaningful in the end.   

It’s okay to be drawn by the visuals. 

The first thing that probably attracts you to a fragrance are its visuals and its look. The images. The ads. This is never a crime. The look is attractive for a reason. Brands typically choose visuals that best represent the fragrance and the emotions it subsequently elicits. And that’s something helpful when you’re looking for a product to change your mood. Tin Conde, a fragrance specialist at Luxasia, says that the first thing she recommends when buying online is to learn the scent’s story and the inspiration behind it. “Perfume is more emotional than, say, skincare, which can be very technical because you need to know how specific products can affect your skin,” she says. So, it pays to read those long descriptions or to watch campaign videos because this paints a better picture of what (or how) the fragrance will make you feel. Plus, it makes sense to buy a fragrance whose descriptors are words you’d want to be associated with. 

Know your fragrance family.

This can be a good reference point as it shows the relationships among the four main fragrance families, namely fresh, floral, oriental, and woody. Bernadette Lim, also known as The Fragrance Specialist on Instagram, is a professionally trained perfumer who refers to the fragrance wheel when designing scents. She recommends using it to make shopping easier. The sub-groups from aromatic to soft floral are the light fragrances, which encompass the fresh and floral families, two categories that people often use for casual occasions. The other half of the wheel, from floral oriental up to dry wood makes up the heavier scents. It’s good to have a scent sub-group in mind when shopping to narrow down your options.

There isn’t a need to over-analyze the top notes, heart notes, and base notes.

Unless you’re a master perfumer or a “nose” as they sometimes call it, then you don’t have to overanalyze the makeup of a specific fragrance. “Fragrance is about proportion. Even though the top notes, heart notes, and base notes are mentioned [in the product description], you can’t really picture it in your head,” Bernadette ascertains. Even though you know what the ingredients smell like individually, like say, green tea, rice, and lemon, it’s difficult to imagine how they combine. If you’re checking out a fragrance, search for scents from other brands that are similar to it. Lim recommends websites like Fragrantica, where such a feature exists, or Base Notes, where people share their honest reviews and describe what the scent was like on them. You may also consider fragrances with the notes you typically like. It also doesn’t hurt to consider bottles with notes you don’t usually gravitate to–maybe it’s patchouli, maybe it’s ylang-ylang–because it’s not an indication of its overall aroma. Again, proportions. 

Go for oil-based perfumes if you have sensitive skin. 

Most fragrances are a mixture of perfume oils infused with alcohol which helps to preserve the scent. However, some of these alcohols may cause allergic reactions, especially when applied to sensitive skin. Since you can’t sample the product as you would in-store, it’s best to research reviews to check if a scent suits sensitive skin. But to play it safe (since people can react differently to scents), you can stick to oil-based perfumes or certified clean perfumes that don’t contain potentially harmful ingredients. 

Verify product authenticity. 

Let’s face it: fragrance doesn’t come cheap. And you wouldn’t want to shell out a ton of dough only to find your product is a knockoff. First, make sure you buy either from the brand’s official website or its official distributors. If you’re shopping through other trusted sources (like sellers with discontinued or hard-to-find perfumes), you can take the extra step to research packaging features that verify a product’s authenticity. One example would be batch codes, a number typically located near the barcode which indicates the product’s manufacturing date. You should also know what the original design looks like, from the cap, and nozzle, to the bottle itself.

Ask around. 

Since you can’t smell the stuff yourself, you need to rely on feedback from people who have actually tried it. Reading the comments section and watching YouTube videos is one thing, but you can also join forums or Facebook groups created specifically for fragrance lovers. Jamie Lo, who goes by @les_senteurs.ph on Instagram, is a bonafide perfume junkie or “frag head” as she calls it. She owns over 300 bottles. She shares that aside from engaging with others online, she swaps fragrances with friends when they want to sample new things. In fact, many of her favorite perfumes were discovered through word of mouth. 

Don’t be afraid to try new brands. 

Designer brands may be the go-to for most people, but there’s a world of niche brands out there that may have the exact scent profile you’ve been looking for. Jamie is an avid collector of such brands and recommends newbies to try Frederic Malle and Penhaligon’s, which you can buy on the official websites of Harrods and Selfridges. “The retail experience is different when you shop from there because sometimes you can add gift cards, and that’s pretty special,” she shares. Since niche brands can cost from around P10,000 upwards, she suggests you set a budget for yourself to narrow down your options (unless you’re willing to splurge, of course). You can also go for discovery sets to sample scents before committing to a full bottle. Lim also recommends Initio, Roja, Parfums de Marly, and 4711.  

ILLUSTRATIONs By Alysse Asilo.

Related Articles

be a member

Unlock beauty stories you won't find anywhere else.

Read quality and relevant features, get exclusive invites to our beauty events, access The Editor’s Room, receive complimentary gifts*,  get free shipping for The Beauty Edit Box, and more when you become a member. Subscribe to The Beauty Edit now. 

Already have an account? Sign in

Cookies policy

This site uses cookies. Learn more about the purpose of their use and changing cookie settings in your browser. By using this website you agree to the use of cookies in accordance with your current browser settings.