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Scent notes: top, heart and base perfume notes explained

By Nicole Campanaro
 

You hear about them all the time, but have you ever wondered what top, heart and base perfume notes actually are? Well, if so, you’re in the right place! We’ve put together an ultimate guide to fragrance notes, which will help you to discover the difference between these fragrance layers and become an expert in no time.

What are perfume notes?

Think of perfume notes as the ingredients that make up a fragrance. From natural floral scents to synthetically created molecules, there are many notes for perfumers to choose from. In fact, it’s now possible to create almost any smell you fancy – candyfloss, baby powder, freshly cut grass and even rain. There’s no limit to the number that can be used in each fragrance, but all scents – even the simplest ones – blend at least three perfume notes together. It is the individual arrangements of these notes that create a unique fragrance.

Top notes

Top notes are the first notes you smell when trying a fragrance, so they are the ones that shape your first impressions of a scent. These often fresh, fruity scents are usually light and burst on your skin as you spray, fading 10-15 minutes after applying.

Popular top notes: bergamot, orange, grapefruit, lemon, basil

Heart notes

Once the top notes fade, the heart (or middle) notes start to bloom. These usually floral, full-bodied notes are the most dominant of the fragrance; they are more long-lasting than the top notes but less than the base notes. These notes form the core of the fragrance.

Popular heart notes: lavender, rosemary, black pepper, geranium, juniper

Base notes

Base (or bottom) notes are what remain once the heart notes fade away. It is these notes that you remember most and that help create a memory in your mind. Most fragrances have the same base notes because there’s only a small amount that will last long enough on the skin to be used as a base. These longest-lasting notes also help to boost the staying power of the top and heart notes.

Popular base notes: vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood, jasmine, patchouli

 

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