Should I have a different fragrance for work and play?

Bottles of Jennifer Lopez's perfume Glowing dangle at a recent perfume launch.  Lopez offers a variety of fragrances but must you change yours for work and play?
Bottles of Jennifer Lopez's perfume Glowing dangle at a recent perfume launch. Lopez offers a variety of fragrances but must you change yours for work and play?
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Every time you turn around there seems to be some fashion rule that requires your attention: No white shoes after Labor Day! Never wear linen before Easter! All of these mandates can get pretty exhausting for even the most adept fashionista. So, we're trying to find out if one of the age-old fragrance-related requirements is really necessary. Must you sport one type of perfume for work, and another one for your free time?

The traditional justification was that scents appropriate for daytime are lighter and less overwhelming than those for nighttime. The rationale makes sense because most people don't want to make eyes water in the office conference room or elevator, thanks to an overpowering fragrance. Meanwhile, nighttime scents could be heavier, richer and more sensual.

Of course a lot of this depends on your agenda. If you're headed to a packed movie theater you might want to adjust your evening scent accordingly. If you're about to play an afternoon game of tennis, you'll probably want to skip the scent or keep it very light as heat and sweat tend to increase the impact of a fragrance. If you're meeting a date for lunch, you might want to switch to a more memorable scent. But you don't have to follow any of these rules. Many fragrances can do double duty.

"To me, all scents are suitable for both day and evening wear," says Elizabeth Barrial, perfumer with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, based in North Hollywood, Calif. "If you want to feel dark, sexy, and feral during the day, go for it! If you want to counteract a balmy evening with a fresh aquatic, do it! Scent evokes a mood, often quite dramatically, and it's as vital an accessory as any cosmetics, jewelry, clothing or hairstyle."

Whether you decide to go with heavy, light or one of each, there's certainly no shortage of fragrances out there to choose from. Although the selection can be daunting, it is possible to identify and select scents that fit your own personal needs. According to Barrial, the most commonly enjoyed daytime fragrances are green scents, aquatics, citruses, light florals and some pale oriental fragrances.

Animalics (associated with traditional animal scents, like musk), incenses, heady florals, gourmands (scents with a food-like odor) and oriental fragrances are traditionally more suited for evenings. Of course, since the overall outcome of any scent is affected by a number of factors, including body chemistry, skin type and diet, it's important to always remember that a fragrance can smell completely different on different people. So, one person's "light" selection might turn out to be surprisingly heavy on another individual. You simply never know how it's going to turn out until you test it on yourself.

However you choose to sport your fragrance, make sure to refresh it as needed. Very few scents will make it through the workday and into the evening without requiring an extra application or two.

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  • Barrial, Elizabeth. Personal interview via e-mail. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Aug. 10, 2012.
  • "Perfume Faq's." 2012. (Aug. 10, 2012).
  • The Fragrance Foundation. "FAQs." 2012. (Aug. 10, 2012).