Which perfume lasts longest? How to pick and wear fragrances that really last

Want to know which perfume lasts longest? These are the scent styles, notes and buys with true staying power

which perfume lasts longest main flatlay of perfume bottles on pink background
(Image credit: Getty images)

Asking which perfume lasts longest is a bit like asking which cocktail tastes most delicious. Sure, there are certain qualities that will make one fragrance linger on the skin longer than another—scientific factors like composition, percentage of fragrance oil and evaporation rates certainly play their part—but so much comes down to your own personal influences.   

The good news is, once you have navigated the balancing act, there are so many benefits to choosing a scent that will last. For starters you can apply your perfume before breakfast and continue enjoying it all day. You won't need to carry a clunky glass bottle around or worry that it's going to explode in your bag (even the prettiest flower fragrances won't make a great dressing on your lunch break falafel). Plus you'll never be that person who fills a confined public space with a throat-burning fog of fragrance molecules. No need! The right perfume will ensure you're still smelling sweet from that 8 a.m. spritz. 

And as with most beauty decision-making, from choosing the best eye cream to working out how to contour makeup, it's best to apply a blended approach of facts and feelings. Luckily we've got both right here. We've consulted the experts to equip you with a solid knowledge base of notes, styles, and fragrance types, then use your new know-how to select the long-lasting scent of your dreams.

Which perfume lasts longest? Your expert guide

Pick the right perfume concentration

You've probably heard of eau de parfum and eau de toilette, but how many of us know exactly how to define them? "Longevity is the amount of time a perfume is detectable for, and this is a really important factor for many consumers when purchasing a scent," write Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven in The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Scent . "Different concentrations of perfume will last different lengths of time, and bear in mind that most fragrances last longer on clothing than on skin."  

We don't always have access to counter experts when scent shopping and with many of us having to learn how to buy perfume online, it's particularly useful to understand these distinctions. The higher the percentage of fragrance oil, the longer the scent will generally linger. "Typically, these have different and styles," explains Nick Gilbert, founder of luxury candle brand Boujee Bougies and private fragrance house Olfiction. Here is Nick's handy cheat sheet: 

"Colognes are fresher, based around citrus and herbs, and anywhere between 3-5% of fragrance oil"

Eau de toilette
"EDT is also a fresher take, with anywhere between 8-15% fragrance oil."

Eau de parfum
"EDP tends to focus more on the heart notes and warmth of a fragrance, with around 12-20% fragrance oil."

Pure parfum
"Parfum is concentrated on the heart and base of a fragrance—usually 20-30%, and wears more closely to the skin."

Understanding how to define these perfume types is the first step to ensuring your fragrance will last the day, it isn't the whole story. "The important thing to remember is that it isn’t just the concentration that impacts longevity, but the combination of ingredients used that help scent last on the skin," says Gilbert.

Look for fragrance notes that linger

When it comes to which perfume lasts longest, concentration isn't the whole story. "The industry has developed the 'Notes Pyramid' as a way of explaining what something smells like," explain McCartney and Scriven. "In shops, when you ask what’s in a perfume, they’ll often list three top notes, three mid notes and three base notes. Top notes are most volatile and will float away first, perhaps after thirty minutes or so. Mid notes will last up to four hours, and base notes linger the longest, eight hours or more."

So which notes should you seek out in this pyramid? "Woody notes and musky notes," advises Nick. "They are all made of big molecules that require a lot more energy to warm up off the skin, so they last a lot longer than say citrus which is made of small molecules that zing off the skin. I personally love sandalwood notes for their longevity, as well as iris and resins." With florals, heady, fleshy notes like jasmine and tuberose tend to have superior longevity to crisp neroli or fresh 'green' notes like lily of the valley. And anyone who lived through the 1970s can attest, once there's a whiff of patchouli in the air, its sweetly earthy aroma is hard to shake off. 

If cross-referencing concentration and notes sounds complicated, don't worry. Good perfumers take the guesswork out by matching long-lasting notes with stronger, more concentrated fragrances. "You’re unlikely to find a citrus-based parfum because natural citruses leap up and bounce away quickly no matter how much you use," agree McCartney and Scriven. "They’re more likely to be found in eau de colognes and as the top notes for stronger blends. Likewise, perfumers would put deep, balsamic labdanum into a stronger blend because it will last."

Apply and store your scent so it lasts

You've considered concentration and notes to pick your perfume, but just as with the skincare ingredients in your skincare routine, the way you apply your scent will also help to maximize its properties. Many experts recommend spraying fragrance on clothes and hair as well as on the skin for extra longevity. You can also try a rubbing a little Vaseline into the skin and spraying your perfume onto that, as the occlusive (moisture blocking) qualities of petroleum jelly will help 'trap' the fragrance molecules. 

"If you find a fragrance doesn’t last on you, It’s usually the result of dry skin," says Nick. "Try using a moisturizer to help increase the longevity. An unscented moisturizer can be used with absolutely any fragrance, but if your perfume has a matching body lotion it is worth using that alongside the perfume, as you’ll have more of the scent on and some of it is locked into the moisturizer too." 

To get the most out of your perfume, the way you store it fragrance counts, too. "Light and heat make perfume degrade, so for a favorite that you save for best and only use occasionally, keep it in the dark, in its box for example," say McCartney and Scriven. "Then, as you get towards the end of the bottle, speed up and empty it; there’s no point hanging on to the last few milliliters of a sad, dark, sticky liquid. If it’s an everyday fragrance that’s only going to be around for a few months, you can free it from the box and keep it on your shelf." 

Perfume that lasts, for every taste and budget 

woman&home thanks Nick Gilbert for his time and expertise.

The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Scent By Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven is published 21st September 2021

Fiona McKim

As woman&home's Senior Beauty Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more beauty products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant beauty find on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair dye experiments and cute shih-tzus)

Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013, working under legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know about the industry (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). 

In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a features writer at publications including Junior and Prima Baby, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz gossip pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine if it’s all the rage in Japan, loves fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.

When not slathering herself in self tan or squinting at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park. 

Come to think of it, the hot dinners and beauty products are probably about even.