smart spending

A guy's guide to buying fragrance

In general, you can shave 20 to 40 percent off the price of fragrance by buying the bigger size, and some brands sell refills that cost 25 to 40 percent less than the original bottle.

What women really want

When it's time to choose a scent for your mother, think about what would please her, not you. "Certainly the people around her should like the fragrance as well, but it's most important to focus on the recipient," says Bloom. "Remember, fragrances smell differently on each individual. Men love woody, spicy, lime and leather qualities in their choices, but women generally want to wear more sensuous, feminine scents, especially the rich florals, orientals and crisp greens."

If you're uncertain about what fragrance to select, find out what your mom is currently wearing, so that you know which category she prefers. If she wouldn't leave the house without a spritz of Estee Lauder's Beautiful, for example, then she enjoys a modern floral blend -- which probably means she'd be delighted with another floral such as Vera Wang by Vera Wang or Happy to Be by Clinique. If your mom enjoys being trendy, try celebrity fragrances, such as Jessica Simpson's Taste or Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely, or spring for food-inspired scents with good-enough-to-eat ingredients, such as papaya and raspberry.

If you need help selecting a scent, ask for a certified salesperson at the fragrance counter, says Bloom. Stores such as Nordstrom and Sephora should have them.

Timing's important, too

Another consideration is whether the fragrance is meant for day or evening use. Many women prefer a fresh, natural scent for day wear, particularly if most of their time is spent on the job. Top choices range from soft florals to green vegetal scents with prominent traits of cucumber, pepper, or herbs such as mint or thyme.

For evening, scents are usually richer and warmer, with hints of spice and wood. Heavier floral blends are also important. Their impact is sophisticated, yet not overpowering; in other words, the room won't clear out when your sweetheart walks in.

According to Bloom of the Fragrance Foundation, the general trend -- for day or evening -- is toward deeper, more complex scents. Consumers are less interested in the single-note florals and more attracted to the opulent orientals, with their dramatic impact.

Change with seasons

Weather, too, plays a role in choosing the right fragrance. In winter months, women often go for sexier aromas -- typical of the orientals. A good choice might be a mix of woody and spicy touches topping a rich musk base. Full-bodied classics, such as Shalimar and Opium, are just the ticket to warm up the mood.

In summer, light, airy scents dominate. Rather than using heavy orientals, most women prefer a spray of coolness. Favorites include the green and fruity eau de toilettes, such as Go by Urban Decay, as well as sporty and nautical scents, with hints of spice and lemon.

Finally, fragrance should fit the wearer's personality; it should reflect her character and spirit as well as her femininity and sensuality. A rich, oriental perfume, for instance, suggests an intense, dramatic personality; a tangy, green-based cologne projects the qualities of an athlete or outdoors lover; and a single-note floral, such as lily of the valley or rose, may strike just the right sweet chord for the grandmother in your life.

Leslie Hunt and Sheyna Steiner contributed to this story.

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