Unlocking the Mystery: Why Perfumes Smell Different on Each Person

At Scent Journer, we believe that each fragrance journey is unique, just like the individuals who embark on it. 

Everyone has their unique perfume preferences chosen to enhance their personal style and emotions. However, have you ever experienced smelling a friend’s perfume throughout the day and finding it so attractive, yet when you try on that same perfume, the scent falls flat of your expectations or just doesn’t have that same powerful sillage? Well, that is because the way perfumes smell and last is dependent on our unique body chemistry. This means that more often than not, it simply boils down to genetics! However, that doesn’t mean you are doomed never to find that perfect head-turning fragrance. By understanding these factors, you can better understand your skin chemistry and choose a scent that best compliments your unique essence. This phenomenon adds to the personal and mindful experience of wearing a scent. Let's explore the reasons behind this captivating science.

Skin Chemistry: The Core Reason for Scent Variations

An individual’s unique skin chemistry is the biggest deciding factor for how each perfume will smell. Skin chemistry is defined as the chemical composition of your skin and is influenced by the following factors: 

Skin type: Dry vs Oily

Whether you have oily skin or dry skin lies in how much sebum (the oil secreted by sebaceous glands in your skin) is naturally produced. Generally, oils on the skin hold onto the fragrance better, allowing the perfumes to develop and evaporate slower than on dry skin. Of course, if you have drier skin an easy solution is to moisturize your skin with an unscented lotion before spritzing on your favorite perfume to help your scent last longer!


Hormonal fluctuations whether it be during a woman’s menstrual cycle, from adolescent puberty or even stress, can affect the amount of oil your skin produces or even the scent of your sweat which when mingled with perfume may change the scent.

For example, puberty may result in a greater production of oils in the skin, intensifying the fragrance. Stress increases the levels of cortisol in the body which in turn affects the skin’s condition and the natural scent of your sebum and sweat. High stress levels can also cause increased sweating, thus influencing the overall fragrance profile.


The amount, smell, and composition of each individual’s sebum varies greatly as it is affected by several factors including stress levels, lifestyle choices, medication, and even diet. Our body does not easily metabolize certain foods such as garlic and alcohol, thus when eaten the enzymes from these foods often end up secreted in our sweat and sebum, resulting in an alcoholic or garlicky scent that could clash with our perfume fragrances. Smoking also leaves behind the smokey scent of nicotine which may not blend well with certain fragrances.

On the topic of sebum, this leads us to the next important factor, skin pH levels.

Skin pH Levels

While we aren't exactly secreting acid from our skin, everyone’s skin has a varying pH level that usually lies slightly towards the acidic side (about pH 5.4-5.9, with a neutral pH of 7). However, these values can be easily skewed by skin conditions that affect your skin’s pH such as eczema, diabetes, or even kidney disease. Applying certain soaps or more alkaline lotions onto your skin can cause your skin’s pH level to be more alkaline. In addition, anything that comes in contact with your skin from air pollution to hard water and other topical products can skew the normal pH of your skin.

When one applies perfume to their skin, the fragrances react with the natural oils and chemicals (all of which contribute to your skin’s overall pH) present in the sebum within your skin. Slightly acidic skin with a lower pH tends to absorb and hold onto fragrances longer while more alkaline skin with a higher pH finds it more challenging to retain a scent. It has also been observed that certain floral fragrances become stronger at an acidic pH while others become more subdued.

Other potential factors: 

Body temperature

Having a higher basal body temperature allows for the perfume’s fragrance notes to become more intense. In a hotter environment, exercising, or even feeling certain emotions such as anger and embarrassment could raise your body temperature, quickly releasing a more intense fragrance.

Applying perfume on pulse points, which have blood vessels closer to the skin’s surface and thus emit greater heat, is also a good way to enhance the longevity and strength of your fragrance. If you are interested to learn more about pulse points and what they are check out our article all about pulse points and how to use them here!

On the other hand, colder temperatures allow for a slower dispersion and thus a longer-lasting but overall weaker fragrance.


Scented Body Products

Often forgotten by many, the scented body soaps and lotions you use can also significantly impact how your perfume smells. When you apply perfume over a scented lotion or soap, the fragrance compounds in these products can blend with your perfume, creating a unique scent profile. This interaction can either enhance or alter the perfume's intended aroma. Opting for unscented or complementary scented body products will help ensure your perfume shines through as the star. Understanding these interactions can help you choose a fragrance or body soap/lotion that works best with your desired fragrance and thus ensure you always smell your best. 

In conclusion? Embrace your unique scent! 

When it comes down to it, most of these factors are out of our hands. However, by understanding and embracing your personal scent, you will still be able to find and make the most of your perfumes. Thus when selecting a fragrance, we recommend testing it on your skin and allowing it to develop for a few minutes (at least 15-20minutes) or throughout the day to see how the smell changes. 

Finding that perfect scent is a journey, and with these insights, you will be well-equipped to make an informed choice on which perfume best complements your individual essence. Enjoy the exploration and celebrate your unique scent story!

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