Scent In The Sun

Scent In The Sun

For me, there are scents which are the equivalent of black opaque tights – and those which are broderie Anglaise skirts, or floaty chiffon dresses. And, just as you wouldn’t want to wear a pair of black opaques on a hot day, those darker, more mysterious, ‘cocooning’ fragrances have no place in a summer wardrobe. (I simply can’t wear Guerlain Mitsouko, for instance, between about April and October: it literally stifles me. Ditto my much-loved Bottega Veneta ‘signature’ scent, or another Guerlain – Shalimar, this time.)

For me, summer’s all about splashes like Dior Eau Fraîche, Hermès Pamplemousse Rose (a wonderfully spirit-lifting fusion of grapefruit and rose), and even good old 4711: not only one of the oldest fragrances still in production (dating back to 1796), but one of the loveliest: zingy, zesty, as refreshing as a long, cool drink of water. Now, some of you may know: exactly two years ago I set up The Perfume Society with my friend and fragrance expert, Lorna McKay. We’re all about sharing information on fragrance, and introducing you to new and existing scents – although our true aim is to help everyone to improve their sense of smell, actually. (Referred to by the deaf and blind Helen Keller as ‘the fallen angel of our senses’, because of the way that sight and hearing dominate.)

But while we’re all for splashing and spritzing with abandon, it’s important to understand that direct sunlight and fragrance don’t always mix. Some (but by no means all of us) can find that the interaction of UV light and fragrance ingredients triggers an allergy. And some ingredients – most citruses, notably bergamot – should not be worn in the sun, because they can actually lead to pigmentation problems, notably something with the official name ‘berloque dermatitis’. This absolutely doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy summer fragrances – how sad would that be? – but here are some ways to wear them, for sensitive types.

1 Mist fragrance onto your hair – from around 20-30 cm away – rather than skin. Hair is a wonderful ‘carrier’ of fragrance – in fact, the late Estée Lauder always advised perfuming the hair.

2 Spritz a cotton ball and tuck it inside your bra. The heat of your body will make the fragrance rise beautifully.

3 Fragrance your clothes – but first, do a colour-check: spritz a tissue and if there’s no staining visible, your fragrance should be fine for use on any colour of fabric. Necklines, hems and collars – and the linings of clothes – are great places to spritz.

4 Tie a scented ribbon around your wrist, friendship bracelet-style.

5 Spray the inside of your handbag – or your beach bag – with fragrance, for a gorgeous waft every time you reach for your purse or sunnies. (I’ve even done this to a sunhat – and I’m all for reviving the fan, which is a really sublime way to enjoy scent in the summer and taps into fragrance’s very heritage, as the industries of fan-making and perfumery used to have very close links.)

6 You may still want to wear fragrance on your skin in the evening – after all, what’s lovelier that little puffs of something gorgeous, as we sit staring into the sunset…? And that’s fine: you won’t get the interaction with UV after the sun goes down. But be sure to shower and soap areas that have been sprayed with scent, just to remove any traces, by the time you step into the sun next day.

7 If it’s hot weather, do think about keeping your fragrance in the fridge. A wonderfully cooling experience!

PS Looking for a new fragrance? Check out the FIND A FRAGRANCE section of, key in something you wear and love and it will come up with a list of six suggestions for fragrances you’re likely to enjoy. Honestly, almost psychic!