Finally, Some Fragrances You're Supposed to Layer


If you were watch me get ready for my day, you’d likely observe an interesting beauty behavior: I apply four fragrances, back to back, right before walking out the door. There's no strategy other than if I have two fragrances that I equally adore, I’ll use both, and that’s that. And so it was my penchant towards crafty scent mixing that led me to a new fragrance category specifically designed for fragrance bartenders like me. They’re called fragrance enhancers, formulated to complement whatever scent you already have going on.

What makes a fragrance enhancer different than the traditional eau de parfum, and why it makes layering fragrances more magical, is that it’s designed to play well with others and not necessarily stand on its own. Fragrance enhancers may feature a single note, a blend of just a few, or a brew of fragrant waters, essences, and seeds. When layered with an essential oil or traditional fragrance, it comes and goes in waves: you might lose the scent for a time, only to reconnect with it later at unexpected moments. (A fragrance meet-cute, if you will.) Here are the ones I already know and love:

Escentric Molecules Molecule 04

First stop: Escentric Molecules, vanguard of the anti-perfume category. The gimmick is that each of their Molecule fragrances only uses one specially crafted scent molecule. Molecule 01 is the most famous one, but I prefer Molecule 04, which employs a more delicate synthetic sandalwood note known as Javanol. It has a vague freshness that reminds me of stones by a freshwater river, plus a spiciness that hits the back of my throat upon first spray but fades into fizziness.

Wear it with…
Tom Ford’s Venetian Bergamot or Maison Louis Marie’s Cassis. Their notes (grapefruit, bergamot, and a modern rose) are always safe bets––but they’re equipped with a little extra oomph when paired with Molecule 04. Bright, sweet, and snug, Molecule 04 gives them a smoky edge that’s not too cloying.

DedCool Milk

Can a scent be creamy and clean? Its three main notes (bergamot, white musk, and amber) open with sophistication and warmth, and settle soft and sweet. It’s pleasant, addicting and wholly satisfying.

Wear it with…
Something dark and resiny. I love to use Milk to soften deeper, woodier scents that I love but are too hazy to wear before dark. Paired with Milk, Aesop’s Hwyl becomes more buttery and less tart, and Coqui Coqui’s Tobacco becomes more beach bonfire than cabin-on-fire fire. Both fragrances stay intriguing, but read as bittersweet, not plain ol’ bitter.

DS & Durga Crystal Pistil

At first Crystal Pistil is warm and earthy, but it reveals itself as a mandarin-y light floral after some time. D.S. and Durga perfumer David Moltz says it highlights “the humid parts of a flower”: there’s dampness, there’s just-trimmed stems, and there’s a cozy attractiveness. (Must be the musk.) I can’t help but think of my favorite minimal, skin-like scents Kuumba Made’s Persian Garden and the original Riddle Oil when I use it. It’s as if the notes of Crystal Pistil (among them: orange blossom water, civettone, ambrette seeds, dew-on-petals) are abstract versions of those fragrances rather than bold declarations.

Wear it with…
Crystal Pistil's orange blossom and Iso E Super surround and enhance anything they're sprayed over, even if it's just scented moisturizer. Sometimes that’s enough! During those times pair it with a fragrance oil or essential oil that you want to amplify. Apply that to your pulse points after a good spritz. Now you’ve got your own personal fine fragrance.

—Utibe Mbagwu

Want even more fragrance-layering options? You’ve got ‘em:

Photo via ITG