“Don’t Crush The Molecules” : How to Test Perfume

“Don’t crush the molecules!” I turned around, a bottle of perfume in hand, to discover a sales associate approaching me with a look of mild panic. My crime was that I sprayed too much perfume on my wrist and tried to transfer the excess to another arm. “You’re about to crush molecules,” she repeated for emphasis, leaving me to imagine dramatic visions of aldehydes and ionones bursting like overripe grapes on my skin.

two magi

Out of all the nonsensical things I hear at the perfume counter, “don’t crush the molecules” (or its variant “don’t crush the scent”) tops the list of my all time favorites. I never argue with the sales associates, but I once inquired where they’re taught such a concept. What do the perfume sales associates know that still eludes modern science? One counter manager admitted that she heard more senior personnel say it and repeated it herself. Another recalled hearing this molecule business in a perfume training class (in my opinion, she deserves a refund).

One need not be a nuclear scientist to figure out that simply rubbing the wrists together can’t crush anything on the molecular level, but there is a minuscule grain of truth in the “don’t crush the molecules” myth. Perfume is a mixture of scented oils that vary in their volatility. Think of a scent as a choir with different voice ranges, from soprano to baritone. The most effervescent and fleeting notes appear first–for instance, citrus and leafy notes are the sopranos of perfume, and they make way to the heavier, less volatile notes that linger the longest. The hotter the skin, the faster the top notes will evaporate, so in theory, if you rub your wrists together vigorously, you might heat up the perfume and change the way it develops.

When testing a perfume most of us are probably not trying to make sparks ignite, but I nevertheless decided to run an informal test. I picked Guerlain Mitsouko, a perfume with distinctive top notes of cinnamon, peach and bergamot, and sprayed some on my forearm and also on my wrists. I rubbed my wrists with such force that my skin turned pink. I made sure that I still had the same amount of perfume on my wrist as on the forearm. I waited for 15 minutes and then walked around the office asking perfumers to smell the spot on the forearm and the spot on the wrist. Nobody could tell any dramatic difference between them. So much for crushing the molecules or ruining the perfume.

In the end, there is no right or wrong way to put on a perfume; you can spray, dab or rub it all over. The most important part is that you apply in a way that best suits your lifestyle–a delicate veil of scent for the office or a rich wrap for occasions when you want to make a statement. ย If you like to press your wrists together to transfer perfume, there is no harm in it.

That being said, my recommended way to test a perfume for the first time is to spray it on an unscented, lotion free spot on your arm and wait. The most essential part before you smell perfume is to let the alcohol evaporate. ย Ironically, this is hardly ever addressed by the sales associates. Smelling perfume before alcohol evaporates will not only skew what you perceive, but the alcoholic fumes will tire out your nose in a flash. So spray on your selected perfume, wait till the spot looks dry and only then take an inhale.

As for molecules, they’re much hardier creatures than the perfume sales staff lead you to believe.

Image: Two Magi,ย mosaic, 6th century, Ravenna, via wiki-images.



  • Rowanhill: We might just have been visiting the same shop. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Quite severe was the tone as well. November 11, 2013 at 7:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m taken aback whenever I hear something like this. I might need to prepare some set answer, since I hear this molecule crushing concept often enough. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 9:03am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: This is hilarious! If you could ‘crush’ the molecules by rubbing your wrists, that would be a whole new way of doing chemistry. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Because many of the perfumes these days are just about top notes (with flat, boring drydown), maybe, they’re afraid of us finding out what’ll come later? November 11, 2013 at 7:52am Reply

    • Victoria: At least, if they gave a better explanation rather than used the poor molecules as excuse, it would be more helpful.

      But the idea of crushing molecules with my wrists makes me smile. I keep getting this cartoon like image. November 11, 2013 at 9:06am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: After reading this post, I’ve been trying to think of a more scientifically plausible explanation. The closest I came up with is that you heat the perfume enough to initiate a chemical reaction. But then who would want to wear such a chemically unstable perfume? ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 11:49am Reply

        • Victoria: ๐Ÿ™‚ That might be a good answer whenever someone tries to convince you “not to crush the molecules.” November 11, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

  • maja: Crushing protons will be the next trend ๐Ÿ˜‰ November 11, 2013 at 8:09am Reply

    • Victoria: ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s not like one can crush molecules anyway (at least, my scientist husband assures me that there is no such concept!) November 11, 2013 at 9:08am Reply

      • maja: If I had a rock band I would name it The Crushing Molecules. November 11, 2013 at 10:29am Reply

        • Annikky: ๐Ÿ™‚ Can I come and play flute in it? I mean, every hard rock band needs at least one flute-player, right? November 11, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

          • maja: Absolutely! The first notes of Down Under are a great example of a flute rock ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 12:57pm Reply

            • The Blue Squid: Don’t forget “One Night in Bangkok”! It’s a stone-cold flute-rock classic. November 12, 2013 at 3:11am Reply

        • Victoria: Awesome name! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 12:01pm Reply

        • solanace: I’m already a fan of this perfumista rock band! November 11, 2013 at 2:38pm Reply

        • Rowanhill: Heheh, I just came back from my band practice where I was singing Ray Charles’s Hallelujah I love her (him, in my case) so. perhaps I could reword the lyrics in the verse: In the evening when the sun goes down, when there is nobody else around… I crush molecules in secret. Need to make it rhyme. If you come up with a solution let me know. ๐Ÿ˜€ November 12, 2013 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Annikky: I have a perfect plan prepared for this molecule-protecting-SA-situation: I’ll say that I’ve got a PhD in nuclear physics and if she/he truly has the power to crush molecules with bare hands, she/he needs to come with me RIGHT NOW to start working on our Nobel prize-winning research paper.

    Actually kind of looking forward now to encountering that particular type of SA ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 8:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I’m now curious for you to try it out on someone.
      At least in the US, the majority of perfume sales personnel at the department stores is so underpaid and poorly trained that I don’t give the SAs hard time. And given the nonsense that fills press releases they receive, who can blame them for thinking that perfume molecules can be crushed by a simple wrist action. After all, perfumes contain things like “solar flowers” and “vibration accords”. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 9:15am Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: I love all these. I was once told by a beauty assistant trying to sale me a Fancy face scrub,that I should never ever apply any lotion to my skin with coton pads as they micro scratched the surface of the skin, causing irreversible damages….( please note that she was trying to sale me a scrub…). November 11, 2013 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: For this reason, I love books by Paula Begouin called “Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter without Me.” She also has a website where she reviews products. While she now has her own line of skincare (which I also like), her reviews still are helpful. She explains the ingredients and debunks many myths. November 11, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

      • solanace: I never buy anything without checking her take at Paula’s Choice first! This is how I avoided the Lancome Bi-Facil eye make up remover (yep, cheating on my natural oils…) and learned about Quaternium 15. The work she does is very cool indeed, and I’d love to try her brand. November 11, 2013 at 2:45pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love her sunscreen, antioxidant serums, exfoliating serums and moisturizers. Also, her makeup brushes are very good, and I still have a large face brush, which is at least 7-8 years old and is in perfect form despite being used daily. I know that she gets criticized a lot for selling her products, while reviewing those of competitors, but her reviews are fair. When I was a teenager, her recommendations absolutely saved my skin, and I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. November 11, 2013 at 4:43pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Did she ever do a bbc documentary about this subject? I vaguely remember watching a documentary on this subject years ago. I cannot remember the name of the lady who did all the investigating.

        I just checked out her site, which is very informative. (understandably it features mostly American brands). November 11, 2013 at 3:10pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t remember that she did, but I wouldn’t be surprised. She has been everywhere. I even saw a standalone boutique in Seoul, of all places! The site is skewed towards the American brands, and unfortunately, they’ve changed the smartphone app to the point that it’s not usable as such. Before, I could quickly check on my phone the reviews while at the store, which was very convenient. November 11, 2013 at 4:48pm Reply

  • Marge Clark: Have this mental image of hordes of tiny molecules running for shelter… thank you!!!! lovely to start a Monday with a smile. November 11, 2013 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: This made me laugh, Marge! Poor molecules. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 11:33am Reply

  • silverdust: There is a popular soap opera that has a character who formulates perfume as well as cosmetics (wow!) and years ago when I used to watch it, she admonished someone trying her latest creation to stop “destroying the top note” by rubbing wrists!

    So, this nonsense was spread to an audience of millions. November 11, 2013 at 9:56am Reply

    • Victoria: If you’re testing something for the first time, it’s best to experience perfume in its “natural” state, so to speak, but if you press your wrists gently to transfer perfume, it really won’t make a huge difference that most people will notice. In the lab, perfumes are occasionally tested by rubbing paper blotters onto the skin (rather than spraying). If you don’t have a spray mechanism on your vial, it’s the only way to do it. November 11, 2013 at 11:51am Reply

  • Amer: the counter is bound to offer funny tales to any devoted perfumista but I wonder how many “ordinary” people perceive such stories as a joke. My recent experience had an SA tell me that the bottle I had in hand and was about to spray was a bad choice for me as it was made with blonder people in mind…” :S November 11, 2013 at 10:06am Reply

    • Patricia: That is just wrong on so many levels! November 11, 2013 at 10:11am Reply

    • maja: I happened to walk into a small shop in Milan that made custom-made fragrances for the clients and while I was sniffing some single note bottles the SA took the bottle away from my hands and said: That’s not the way we do it around here.
      Eight years later I am still in shock ๐Ÿ™‚ Fortunately the shop has closed. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 10:28am Reply

      • Victoria: I’m sitting here and shaking my head. This reminds me that an Italian friend complained of a store in Milan that didn’t allow (the bottle was taken out of her reach) her to test Mona di Orio Cuir, because it was “meant for men.” The lady even refused to sell it to her. WTH??? November 11, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

        • maja: I guess she was frustrated that I was obviously killing (pleasantly) my time during the lunch breakโ€ฆ

          Sometimes they can be very rude in the Italy’s fashion Mecca. November 11, 2013 at 1:06pm Reply

          • Victoria: Or else she was rushing for hers! November 11, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

        • sol: I hope your friend returned to the store dressed as a suited Dietrich, blowing cigarette smoke & wearing a fake Dali moustache. “Am I manly enough, now?” November 11, 2013 at 3:03pm Reply

          • Victoria: What a vision! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 4:44pm Reply

            • sol: Seriously though, the discrimination & rudeness is sad. As with life in general it’s of greater worth to be among those people & places who appreciate the custom. November 12, 2013 at 6:43am Reply

              • Victoria: You put it perfectly. In this day and age, it’s also inexcusable. November 12, 2013 at 11:45am Reply

    • Hannah: Once I read that incense fragrances are for people with dark hair. But that was mine by me since I have almost-black-brown hair *hair flip* November 11, 2013 at 10:31am Reply

      • Victoria: Once I get a hold of my old books, I will post some excerpts on this. Some of them are hysterical, others are mind boggling. November 11, 2013 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: How shocking! I can’t believe that he/she actually said that! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I thought that “This is a masculine fragrance so you shouldn’t wear it” was bad enough. November 11, 2013 at 11:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Wow! This is ridiculous, mostly because perfumes today are mostly to designed to appeal to women/men “between 18 and 35”. In my older perfumery books and textbooks, the hair color and perfume match is repeated as an obvious fact, but then again, this is a very old-fashioned concept. November 11, 2013 at 11:56am Reply

  • Patricia: I was once chastised in Hermes for that very action, gently touching one wrist to the other to transfer product. One would have hoped that they received better training there, but alas, no. November 11, 2013 at 10:09am Reply

    • Victoria: If you can ruin perfume by doing then, you probably don’t want such a blend anyway! November 11, 2013 at 11:57am Reply

  • Douglas: Great myth-busting article V. When SA’s say this to me, it’s normally accompanied with an offering of coffee beans to “clean my nose.” On one occasion, another shopper actually pulled a jar of coffee beans out of her handbag praising their magical powers. Couldn’t help but laugh out loud. She seemed very perplexed when I said I’ll stick to my shirt sleeve. November 11, 2013 at 10:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Refusing coffee beans is even harder when the SAs practically stick the jar in your face! Trying to politely back away while explaining that it won’t help much (and even worsen the tired nose symptoms) is my usual strategy. They always look skeptical, but at least, they put the jar away. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 11:58am Reply

  • Yulya: Thank you for the article, Victoria! I always dread the moment when a consultant approaches. Without being too self confident, I probably know much more about perfumes than your average perfume counter consultant does. But I try to be polite and let them sing their song while I go about my testing business ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 10:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I was in a mood to write about something lighthearted, but this question comes up time to time via email and comments, so I thought that it might be good to talk about it.

      Yes, I usually prefer just to smell in peace. But a good SA who’s passionate about perfume can be do so much to improve your experience and make you see something new even in a perfume you already know. November 11, 2013 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Elia: A fairer test would be to have both on the forearm, and one side rubbed and the other not. Also, I think it’s Ellena who says the wrist is a poor place to spray perfume.
    SAs can say the weirdest things. I’ve actually had several suggest waiting while the alcohol evaporates. Pretty good actually.
    My most recent SA fumble was trying to explain to her that Shalimar l’eau Initial is a flanker and not Shalimar… I could have gotten through to a child better…
    Rudest I had was actually a proprietor, who seemed impatient at my random spraying. “The perfumes you are spraying have nothing in common, you’re being random, I don’t think you’re getting much out this, you’re over-taxing your senses.. blah blah blah.”
    I have wide tastes! November 11, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Gosh, that’s ridiculous! What if you’re selecting gifts for several different people? What if you’re trying to figure what you like and don’t like?

      Since most people test perfume on the wrist, it made sense to try it that way. In the lab, perfume is sprayed on all parts of the arm, sometimes as high as the upper arm, if the perfumer needs to test several mods. When Calice Becker created J’Adore, she mentioned in some interviews that she tested so many mods that she would put small amount of perfume on the digits of her fingers!

      In general, the wrist is not a good place to wear perfume, because the cuffs of your clothes, wrist watch and jewelry will rub it off, but there is nothing wrong with testing perfume there. My favorite place, though, is the back of the arm and hand. It’s easier to smell there and nothing interferes. November 11, 2013 at 12:16pm Reply

      • Elisa: I always spray perfume in the tops of my arms instead of the inside because the hair helps it last longer (and I don’t feel it’s rubbing off on my desk and keyboard). In the summer, when I’m often not wearing sleeves, I spray on my upper arms because they’re closer to my nose! November 11, 2013 at 1:52pm Reply

        • Victoria: Ah, yes! The scented computer is not something I like to have either, especially since I test so many different perfumes. Can you imagine the cacophony! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 4:36pm Reply

          • The Blue Squid: I like testing perfume on the backs of my lower arms too. ย If I’m out and about at the shops, for the trying of the perfumes, I’ll put one perfume on one arm, another perfume on another arm and shamble around contentedly, sniffing myself like some kind of pervert ๐Ÿ™‚ November 12, 2013 at 3:19am Reply

            • Victoria: I do the same thing. If I’m with one of my colleagues and we start sniffing each other’s arms, imagine what funny looks we get. November 12, 2013 at 11:39am Reply

      • Elia: >>that she would put small amount of perfume on the digits of her fingers!

        Done that :))). Of course only to get an idea of something and when you’ve run out of space.
        I stick to 4 a time max, mostly.

        >>My favorite place, though, is the back of the arm and hand. Itโ€™s easier to smell there and nothing interferes.

        Well men have body hair. And that does change the scent profile and also extends longevity to forever.
        My own favourite is the crook of the elbow. November 12, 2013 at 4:18am Reply

        • Victoria: It shouldn’t change the scent, unless the guy in question has circumspect personal hygiene issues. As for the favorite spots to perfume, I agree; everyone has their preferences. Since there is no wrong or right way to do it, it’s fun to change things up. November 12, 2013 at 11:43am Reply

          • Elia: Maybe it shouldn’t but in my experience it does. Not done extensive testing yet but I did notice that iris (or perhaps irones, specifically) is more prominent when sprayed on hair.
            I guess you could test it and let me know what you think, or rather smell ๐Ÿ™‚ November 12, 2013 at 7:24pm Reply

            • Victoria: I’ll pay more attention! In the lab perfumes get tested on men’s arms, and including some hairy ones! ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, individual chemistry makes a difference, which is why it’s normal to test the same perfume on several different men/women. November 13, 2013 at 12:19pm Reply

  • Elisa: I recently stopped at the Diptyque counter at my local Nordstroms and an SA caught me sniffing the nozzles on the bottles and said “NEVER sniff the perfume that way!!” She seemed genuinely offended. I couldn’t help but ask “Why?!” Of course her answer made no sense. If a perfume smells terrible at the nozzle I don’t think spraying it on skin is going to save it… November 11, 2013 at 11:41am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t mind hearing the explanation, but it rarely makes sense. If I asked “how can rubbing wrists together will crush molecules,” I would get a variant on any one of these: 1) they told me so at the training; 2) our perfumes are composed to be worn without rubbing; 3) it ruins perfume and that’s all you need to know. November 11, 2013 at 12:19pm Reply

  • The Smelly Vagabond: I had a laugh at “dramatic visions of aldehydes and ionones bursting like overripe grapes on my skin”. Next time someone tells me that I’m about to crush some molecules, I’ll look at them with a mock-genuine expression and ask them if they are going to erupt on my skin and hurt me! ๐Ÿ˜€ November 11, 2013 at 11:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy to make you laugh! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I really wonder how the terminology of crushing the molecules came about. November 11, 2013 at 12:26pm Reply

      • The Smelly Vagabond: It’s probably some silly PR executive who imagined poor molecules being hurt. November 13, 2013 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Trellowyn: It’s usually at this point where I give the SA the hairy eyeball and tell them that if I require assistance, I’ll be sure to let them know. That usually will make them walk away pretty fast. What drives me crazy are the ones who insist that I make a purchase IMMEDIATELY after sampling perfume. And they have difficulty with the concept that most perfumes will turn on me after the first 30 minutes or so. I sample, wait an hour or so and come back if I like something. (Rather, I come back, provided they don’t act like pushy jerks.) November 11, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Rushing a customer into an immediate purchase irritates me too. One needs time and more than one trial to figure out if the perfume is a winner or not. I don’t like pushy SAs in any circumstances. November 11, 2013 at 12:28pm Reply

      • Melissa: Hello, lurker un-lurking to tell you I had the LOVELIEST experience at, of all places, Sephora the other day. I was gazing at / sniffing the Atelier Colognes and chatting with one SA, and when she left and another came over to try to bedevil me, the first one came back and said, “Leave her alone, she’s thinking!”

        And then she totally happily made me samples instead of pressuring me to purchase. November 11, 2013 at 7:07pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love hearing about good SA experiences as much as I love having them myself. Sephora’s training program is generally quite good. I usually have nice service there. Nordstrom is another place with good SAs. November 12, 2013 at 11:36am Reply

  • Ann: I too have to chime in in defense of SA’s who are not paid very much to sell a totally extravagant and useless product that their budgets often won’t permit the same indulgence for themselves. Who cares what they say as long as they are polite and enthusiastic (rudeness of course is not excusable in anyone–not in nuclear physicists or perfume counter reps!).

    But I have an application question. I realize that in the end the answer is “whatever I prefer….” But I really really prefer spray flasks over dabbing flasks ( goodness, I am getting technical!). My mother in law came from “old Europe” as Rumsfeld awkwardly coined. And she absolutely looked down on any perfume sold in spray form as a cheaper product. I love sprays because even though I don’t always want to asphyxiate my friends and colleagues, I enjoy that initial fragrant mist of loveliness….and I know that much of the actual perfume isn’t going to make it to work or out for dinner. Also, applying perfume by dabbing is alway tricky for me unless it is a small sample bottle where the perfume drops out slowly. I have a wonderful bottle of Mitsouko pure parfum, but I am always terrified I am going to spill hundreds of dollars of fragrance every time I use it, because I don’t like pressing my skin to the top when I apply it.

    What is the skinny from perfumistas on spray v. dab? November 11, 2013 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Annikky: I agree with you both on SAs and and spraying/dabbing. I’ll forgive anything if the person is nice and polite, it’s the arrogance part that annoys me, not the ignorance (non-existent training) as such. Also, to be fair, I’ve had a few wonderful experiences with SAs, it’s not always doom and gloom. Ultimately, it just makes me sad that so much potential for pleasure for both sides is wasted.

      I am, however, quite militant on the spraying vs dabbing issue ๐Ÿ™‚ I hate dabbing. My reasons are more-or-less the same as yours – it’s uncomfortable and keeps the scent closer to skin. As I REALLY like to smell my own perfume and I’m not understated by nature, spray is what I do. Also, when testing, I feel that I don’t get the entire picture when I dab and avoid dabbing vials as much as I can.

      Of course, I have absolutely no problem when others have a differrent preference ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 1:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Exactly! Rudeness is a whole other thing, and in that case, I simply take my business elsewhere.

      I also prefer spraying, and I find that the main difference can be in the amount you apply when you dab vs spray. When you dab, you use much less perfume and you cover a smaller area, and this can affect how a fragrance projects. I also don’t like the idea of rubbing the stopper on my skin, sensual though such a gesture seems from all of those old movies. I usually use a little pipette and distribute tiny drops wherever I wish. Always works well and always creates a good sillage. November 11, 2013 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Austenfan: While I generally prefer spraying I do enjoy dabbing the few extraits that I have. It seems to go with the ritual more.
      ELd’O’s Rien I prefer dabbed. It is such strong stuff that I find it hard not to overdose when I spray it. November 11, 2013 at 4:32pm Reply

    • nozknoz: I’m always ambivalent about that. Some perfumes are nice to spray, others seem to heavy (but they usually do come in spray bottles, LOL).

      I love the idea of dabbing from a stoppered bottle, but in reality I’m always always afraid of breaking the stopper, not getting it back tightly enough to prevent evaporation, and contaminating the perfume with whatever might be on my skin.

      And wouldn’t being expelled through that the tiny hole the spray hurt the molecules? (Just kidding!) November 16, 2013 at 1:45am Reply

  • Nancy A.: Well, one cannot teach an old dog new tricks but one dog can certainly be reformed! Today’s review set the record straight for me, anyway. All this time I always adhered to the don’t break the molecules technique when testing fragrance. And ideally, the scent strips (usually paper) don’t do it for me when testing a fragrance but after this explanation I can now walk away guilt-free to my heart’s content. One of my better techniques is to apply a test at the recessed point of my throat (glottis — pardon the medical terminology) and as my body heat rises I can determine if a fragrance will be a thumbs up or down for me.

    V, On another note: I cannot find your article on Sicily trip and Boudoir 36. Was there a link that I missed? November 11, 2013 at 12:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also like applying perfume on my chest or back of my neck. Like you, I find that it helps me figure out how something will wear on me.

      I don’t think that the FT has published a link for the article yet. So far, it only appeared in print in their Weekend Magazine. I’ll definitely post the article or the link when it becomes available. November 11, 2013 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Bee: An SA in a major department store in Oxford Street told me that Insolence was a unique perfume because “the bottle being a spiral made the molecules come out differently every time you spray it and that makes it smell different every time you spray” I swear this is true – I have a witness, a friend who was a chemistry teacher. So much wrong with the whole idea we were speechless – just smiled and walked away, quietly horrified. November 11, 2013 at 12:51pm Reply

    • Austenfan: Could you keep your face strait after that? Very funny remark.
      If only ignorance were confined to perfume SA’s I wouldn’t mind at all. November 11, 2013 at 3:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: The worst thing is that this is exactly what they were taught by Guerlain. It must be the case, because I heard the same thing from several different Guerlain reps in both the US and Europe.

      I mean, if the vendors tell SAs such silly things, who can blame them for believing the crushing the molecules stories! November 11, 2013 at 4:32pm Reply

      • Dominic: Wow, that’s even worse. That makes Maurice Roucel some genius in science, not only in perfumery. Thank god I haven’t heard any of that from Guerlain’s SAs. November 11, 2013 at 5:32pm Reply

      • Bee: I had hoped it was a company line and I am dismayed that Guerlain would tell their sales staff such rubbish. I wonder how many of them hold the bottle and say ‘but it’s not a spiral shape, that’s just the bottle top – and what about this piece pf plastic tube that brings up the fragrance in a fairly straight line? BTW I speak as someone who works in retail – sometimes they should just tell their bosses they are being ridiculous.
        I don’t think the BS makes anyone buy anything they didn’t want anyway. November 11, 2013 at 6:44pm Reply

        • Victoria: I agree! It’s either a proof of how little even the brand managers know about the science of perfumer or how much they underestimate the intelligence of their customers. November 12, 2013 at 11:35am Reply

    • Dominic: Oh, bless her. And maybe at the end Alladin was jumping out? I reckon she must’ve been on drugs.
      When you think of all the things those sa could’ve been taught, but instead they’re being told such a crap, it’s no wonder that we end up becoming regular blog readers and strive for info. November 11, 2013 at 5:27pm Reply

    • nozknoz: Wow, what shameless marketing department roguery! Yet, this myth is so over the top that I have no choice but to love it! They could do an awesome CGI ad that would top the recent La Legende de Shalimar mini film. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 16, 2013 at 2:09am Reply

  • Leah: Lol, who knew we were all walking Hadron Colliders! This is why I love testing fragrances when a shop just opens – the SAs are typically still trying to wake up and prepare for the day and more likely to leave me in peace to do my testing. Thanks for a great laugh ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 1:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Great tip, Leah! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Courant: I’m usually wearing perfume so When at the perfume counter I lift the lid and sniff around the sprayer unit. Oh, if looks could kill, I’d be dead.
    Tell me please V if the chemicals in paper strips affect the perfume? I have it in my head that they do, which is as bad as the molecule story, I guess. Lovely to have you back. November 11, 2013 at 2:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚
      They shouldn’t, especially in the paper specifically designed for testing perfume. But I notice that in many stores the paper blotters are often contaminated by scents. I guess, when people spray, some of the liquid gets onto the clean blotters. For this reason, testing on paper is a good idea to narrow things down, but your skin is the ultimate test. November 11, 2013 at 4:38pm Reply

  • Liz K: Reminds me of a sa long ago trying to sell me a gentle makeup remover that was formulated “with the tears of a bride”. Because, according to her, tears of happiness remove makeup more effectively than anything else in the world. I can still picture hundreds of young ladies in white trapped in a lab crying into bottles. November 11, 2013 at 3:56pm Reply

    • Hannah: That sounds really creepy. What brand was this?
      What if the bride is crying because she’s worried she might be ruining her life? November 11, 2013 at 4:02pm Reply

      • Liz K: Clinique of all places. I had previously thought their associates were better trained. I was in college so maybe I looked pretty gullible. My best friend was with me at the time and still brings it up – he could not believe they tried to sell something with that twaddle. November 11, 2013 at 4:46pm Reply

        • Hannah: Does Clinique know vegans can’t use their makeup remover?? Have they disclaimed their use of homo sapien tears?? November 11, 2013 at 5:22pm Reply

    • Courant: Tears of a Bride by Miss Havisham..a jilted bride, what will they market next?
      I could imagine it, the happy tears,being a very good marketing ploy for wine, bubbles of course. November 11, 2013 at 4:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Unbelievable!! Who in their right mind could say something like that and be serious?! November 11, 2013 at 4:58pm Reply

  • ralu: I heard the same story regarding crushed molecules a few times but can’t remember where.
    I have a question unrelated to this. I wear Musc by Bruno Acampora and have received many compliments on it but I can hardly smell it. That has been the case since I first started wearing it so it’s not related to the fact that my nose got used to it. Any thoughts on why that may be happening? thank you. November 11, 2013 at 4:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re probably anosmic to the musk used in this blend. Musk anosmia (inability to smell certain musks) is a very common occurrence, even among professional perfumers, so it would be my guess in this case. November 11, 2013 at 5:00pm Reply

      • ralu: Thank you Victoria. It sad that I cannot smell it but getting compliments on it makes me happy. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that my mom can’t smell it either so it may be genetic. November 11, 2013 at 5:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: Even Maurice Roucel, the great perfumer, can’t smell some musks, so don’t feel sad! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 12, 2013 at 11:33am Reply

  • Dominic: Victoria, one day you need to introduce yourself as a perfume blogger and reviewer of customer service in perfume industry. Would like to see their faces. November 11, 2013 at 5:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel too awkward to do that even at the industry events I attend. Plus, I doubt most perfume SAs follow blogs all that closely. As I mentioned earlier, as long as they’re polite, they can tell me whatever the vendors train them to repeat and I don’t mind. But the questions about these poor molecules come up time to time, so I thought that I should write something about it. November 11, 2013 at 5:46pm Reply

  • James1051: Splitting Atoms (and molecules) with our wrists! November 11, 2013 at 5:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s the new frontier in science! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 11, 2013 at 5:46pm Reply

  • Jordan River: Let the choir sing. Great analogy.

    The way I have heard this in life was ‘don’t bruise the molecules’.

    Happy to have learnt this is not the case. Those molecules are hardier than most of know! November 11, 2013 at 7:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: They really are! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 12, 2013 at 11:36am Reply

  • Jordan River: Correction:

    Those molecules are hardier than most of us know! November 11, 2013 at 7:44pm Reply

  • kaori: Very interesting! I am relieved to know many people are shocked by SAs comments, not only me. I was once told not to choose a perfume by its bottle at a Guerlain shop. It is funny they use the same bottle for some ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kaori November 11, 2013 at 8:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, and here you go and break my fantasy of knowledgeable Japanese perfume SAs. ๐Ÿ™‚ The comment on choosing perfume based on the bottle is so funny. November 12, 2013 at 11:37am Reply

  • Thai: I never rub my wrists simply because I want to try another perfume on the other one ๐Ÿ˜€ November 12, 2013 at 1:20am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a good, practical point, Thai! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 12, 2013 at 11:38am Reply

  • annemariec: Well, I have a good perfume SA story to tell. A department store near me has completely made over its fragrance and cosmetics floor and has expanded its product lines. The Guerlain counter now offers some things I never used to see in my city (Nahema! Jicky! Vol de Nuit!). I have to say that the SA I spoke to may not have been a Guerlain SA as she seemed not to have heard of any of these, and could not find stock or give me a price on Jicky. But she did not give me the crushed molecule nonsense, thankfully, and she did take my name and number so that I could be called back. (I had to lend he a pen, they are only just settling into their new counters. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    Someone did call me back within a few hours and we had a good chat about things Guerlain. As a result, I did place an order for Jicky even though I could probably get a better price online. Good personal service does make a difference. I remember this lady; I think she may have sold me my Mitsouko in about 2009, and some Diors as well. She’s worked there for years.

    And I have a lovely Xmas present to myself to look forward to! November 12, 2013 at 3:44am Reply

    • Victoria: What a great story! Congrats on Jicky, too. I know that you’ll enjoy this one very much, and it will only get better with time.

      A positive experience makes all the difference. Sometimes I go to a perfume boutique outside of Brussels to buy the same brands I can find anywhere simply because the SA experience I get there is so pleasant that it’s a value added in itself. November 12, 2013 at 11:42am Reply

      • nozknoz: Sometimes I buy from LuckyScent even when there are cheaper options just because they were the first place I was able to get lots of samples. Of course, I also appreciate their wide selection of niche perfumes, well-organized website and great customer service. (I’m not affiliated with LuckyScent in any way.) November 16, 2013 at 1:58am Reply

        • Victoria: I love Luckyscent too, and I order samples from them all the time. In Europe there are some other choices for mail-order perfume boutiques, such as First-in-Fragrance. I just prefer how Luckyscent is organized. November 17, 2013 at 9:54am Reply

  • Delilah: Ok, I seem to have gone from “oh this is a nice interesting looking website” to “must read more, MOOOOORRREEE” to “comment on every page you read” in the past couple of weeks.
    I have always been into scent, I remember as a young child always asking the department store ladies for the samples (and my mum being embarrassed about her 7 year old marching up to the “ladies with orange faces”, putting on my “poshest” yorkshire accent and requesting some samples), although they usually obliged, and the first “proper” perfume I recall having a sample of and loving was Rochas Tocade. Mum hated it. I loved it and wore it to school. Primary school. In infants, when I was 5, I requested to be moved into a different teachers class because she always smelled so lovely. And I remember experimenting with cacharel, Estee lauder and clinique scents at secondary school when my peers were raving over Charlie and Impluse vanilla kisses body spray!
    Anyway, I digress.
    The molecules thing – I have heard that all my life – “don’t crush the molecules, you’ll spoil the scent.”
    The thing that I dislike about shopping for perfumes on the high street is that they are often displayed and stored in closed, brightly lit glass cabinets, and when you reach in they are HOT in there. Surely this is not a good way to store perfumes? I usually request they get me one from the store room as they tend to be cool rather than hot – but now I am wondering if this is a myth or not? I store my perfumes in a dark, cool cupboard and they tend to last years. What are your thoughts on this please?
    When testing I tend to spray on my forearm – and then end up sat on the bus home sniffing my arms like a lunatic (you get the seat to yourself though ๐Ÿ™‚
    The thing SA’s do that I find offensive though is when I am sniffing scents and I am overlooked in favour of older “posher” looking ladies. I was once asked “are you sure you can afford this, maybe you should look at some cheaper scents?”. so rude!!!
    My other question, which I asked elsewhere too and am determined to get some opinions – does your perception of scents, or the way they react on your skin change at different times of the female cycle? I have some perfumes that just don’t work at certain points in my cycle, that are wonderful at others and I am curious, is this normal, is it that my skin chemistry changes, or is it my olfactory perception that alters?
    Thanks November 16, 2013 at 1:51am Reply

    • Jillie: Hi, Delilah! I have a lovely picture of you sitting all alone on your seat with everyone else in the bus huddling away from you!

      Yes, skin chemistry changes all the time – hormones, degree of dryness/oiliness, weather, time of year, altitude etc; you name it, it will cause your perfume to smell different, even if only in a subtle way. In fact there have been lots of scientific papers detailing how our sense of smell alters during the female cycle, as we are programmed to quite literally pick out our ideal mate by using our noses! Just like the animals we are ….

      The other big effect on our perception of smell is our mood too, but I suppose that could just be a culmination of all of the above! November 16, 2013 at 2:24am Reply

      • Delilah: Jillie, that is pretty much what happens – crowded bus but I sit down, roll up my sleeves and sit there sniffing away and before you know it – seat to yourself! (I am not sure if it is because people don’t like the fragrances I have tested, or because I look just a tad insane) November 22, 2013 at 9:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy that you’re enjoy spending time with us! The more perfume lovers, the better. ๐Ÿ™‚

      There have been so many times when I’ve asked a sales associate for a tester bottle and discovered that the juice has turned. If a bottle sits directly under the lights and gets heated up, it’s not good at all. And I don’t like the shops where you have to ask for every tester, because smelling when someone is standing over you and prompts you for feedback is not at all relaxing. A much prefer stores like Sephora where you’re left in peace.

      As for your last question, yes, I do notice that some fragrances smell overwhelmingly strong on me at that time. Maybe, the skin chemistry changes. Or maybe, I become just more sensitive to smells in general. November 17, 2013 at 9:52am Reply

      • Delilah: I wonder why they persist in storing and displaying them in this way? because it looks “fancy”? Why not switch to LED bulbs instead of halogens to reduce the heat output?

        I am glad I am not losing the plot when things smell different on me at certain times. I sprayed some perfume on once and thought it had turned, it smelled so wrong but a week later it smelled great again. And sometimes I crave totally different scents at different times of the month! I absolutely cannot use body shop shea butter products at “that time”, it smells like rust on me! Not the style I was going for (I am not a massive body shop shea fan anyway it has a quality I am not so keen on but I was given a sampler set of shower gel, lotion and lip balm, gave it a try and stank of rust. Not good!) November 22, 2013 at 9:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: In some stores, the response is because “we have always done it this way.” I suppose, yes, it looks really nice when the glass bottles are lit up. Anyway, I prefer to shop at places that avoiding cooking their perfume under strong lights. One thing if it’s a tester, but it also might mean that they don’t store their stock properly. November 24, 2013 at 5:53am Reply

  • nozknoz: Hmm, what about nuclear fission or nuclear fusion due to careless perfume application?

    (KIDDING!) November 16, 2013 at 2:01am Reply

    • Jillie: Nozknoz, I don’t think that this is too fanciful; after all, our lovely perfumes are being demonized all the time, and I expect that the way we apply them is all wrong too! Smiley face emoticon here, if only I knew how to do it! November 16, 2013 at 2:29am Reply

      • Victoria: Jillie, you put a colon : and then a right round bracket ) without any spaces, and you get :). WordPress converts it into an emoticon itself. November 17, 2013 at 9:47am Reply

    • Victoria: You made me laugh! But don’t give any ideas to the anti-perfume movement. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 17, 2013 at 9:48am Reply

  • Aisha: Just crushed some molecules not too long ago. I’m such a rebel. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    This really was funny to read — both your post and the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚ November 21, 2013 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: We’re such renegades! ๐Ÿ™‚ November 22, 2013 at 7:51am Reply

  • renee: Please compassion ladies for the sales assistant! I was one of those lowly serfs in the 1990s. Working a part time job 20 hrs a week pushing perfume at the DFW department stores. I had a full time job but not income enough to pay for care packages for my 2 genius daughters attending ivy league schools on scholarships. The poor things know very little. Just tell them I prefer to do it this way. I was always astounded at how much we could sell on a Saturday. One Christmas it was over 40K at my Dillards store. If men only understood the power of perfume they would buy it for their wives once a month. April 4, 2014 at 8:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, unfortunately, the sales staff are underpaid and overworked. I myself worked at a department store in my first year of college, and I remember how grueling it was. You also don’t get to sit down for the whole time you’re working, and it’s hard on your back and feet to be standing for so long.

      Best of luck to your girls! What an impressive accomplishment. ๐Ÿ™‚ April 5, 2014 at 10:38am Reply

  • jaidgossamer: I find that there is a difference between “crushed” scents and “non-crushed” ones. I don’t spend a lot of time smelling commercial perfumes (which tend to have more of an alcohol base), however the ones that I make don’t use alcohol (I dilute scents by mixing with a neutral scent) . . . When testing perfumes, I test them across different “platforms” – for instance, I test perfumes on skin (crushed, and then uncrushed), and also on different types of paper. I find that, generally, the scents do change (both in the scent itself as well as how long the scent lasts) based on platform used.

    While I agree that the “crushing of molecules” is likely an inaccurate description – I smell a definite difference between those scents that are crushed on skin versus uncrushed on skin. September 8, 2015 at 8:27pm Reply

  • Jean: At the risk of sounding more than a little eccentric, I am beginning to think my cat is something of a perfume expert. Sometimes when I offer him a sniff of my wrist he buries his nose right in. Usually he will sniff with some amount of interest, but he would not sniff Stella. He absolutely refused to get in close with that one. He turned his head away.

    After a few hours I had to wash it off. It didn’t actually come off, but it was more tolerable. February 21, 2016 at 8:50am Reply

    • Victoria: My mom’s cat definitely has her perfume preferences. When my mom wears iris anything, she comes closer and sniffs her. February 22, 2016 at 2:52pm Reply

  • sourav barik: lolz..

    im not sure how many times i have crushed the molecules. February 12, 2017 at 5:58pm Reply

  • memphis tn: Great article. August 18, 2020 at 4:18am Reply

  • Lisa Czyzewska: Delilah I’m guessing we’re about the same age. Did you ever get one of those Boots ’10 mini scent samples in a box’ for Christmas?!! X

    Victoria I’ve just come across this article after a ref to it on Reddit. It’s very informative; I’ve been avoiding ‘crushing the molecules’ for a good few years now after I read about it in different magazines. I don’t remember it being described as ‘C the Ms’ but..! Anyway, thank you! December 14, 2020 at 7:11am Reply

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