With the first whiff of pumpkin spice in the air, it seems we’re all ready to switch things up for fall. While some are more stoked to start layering their looks with cozy knits, others could be particularly pumped to play with the darker shades in their makeup palettes. Though we mostly concentrate on the visual tweaks, the perfume we decide to pick up can have a big impact as well. “It’s an invisible accessory, but it is an accessory [nonetheless],” says Rachel ten Brink, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Scentbird. “It’s how you finish a look.”

Sure, you might have a signature scent that you wear all year-round, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with other aromas to help set the seasonal mood. We spoke with a number of perfume experts to score their tips and suggestions on how to make the fragrance-focused shift this fall.

Woman spritzing wrist with perfume.

Complement Your signature Scent Family

There’s a bit of debate on how to adjust your perfume for the season since it’s so personal, and most of the experts we spoke with understand that there are just some scents that people prefer to stick to. But understanding the notes in your favorite fragrances as well as the seasons can help you determine which top, heart, and base might enhance them for fall. “The idea of staying within perfume families is a safe bet and gives you the foundation with which you’re trying to operate,” says St. Clair Scents founder Diane St. Clair.

Many of the perfumes we gravitate toward have a common note. For instance, when someone says they like fresh scents, it means they’re likely drawn to the citrus accord of notes like bergamot, lime, grapefruit, and so on. Although these bright scents take center stage during the summer months, thanks to their lightness and quick evaporation, Alexander Vreeland, president of Diana Vreeland Fragrances, says they can be worn all year round if there’s a formula built to make them last. “We have three citrus fragrances in our collection, but, in fact, we have found that people who fall in love with them often wear them into the winter months,” he explains. “Even though this is a citrus scent, it is often worn year-round.” He pointed to Smashingly Brilliant ($185), a citrus scent with a strong bergamot and lemon finish. St. Clair’s Frost ($65), an homage to a poem by Robert Frost (not specifically a winter scent, however), also combines citrus notes of bergamot and Meyer lemon with clove absolute.

You could also look for contrasting notes that sync up with the season by becoming familiar with your go-to’s fragrance family, similar to the color wheel. For instance, spices like cinnamon, cardamom, patchouli, incense, and more are most commonly connected with fall since they not only flavor Starbucks’ signature seasonal drink offerings but are also synonymous with a variety of pies baked around the same time. These can work well with sweeter scent categories, like soft florals or juicy, fruity flavors. Tom Ford Velvet Orchid Lumière ($125) or Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb ($85) combine luscious blooms with hints of spice.

Woody notes of cedarwood, sandalwood, oakmoss, leather, and vetiver might make one think of warming up by a roaring fire. However, those scents can be a bit much. To help soften the fragrance, By Rosie’s founder Rosie Johnston loves to pair them with fresher fragrance families like herbal aromatics, fresh greens, and more powdery florals. Try Jo Malone’s Basil & Neroli ($68) or By Rosie Jane’s James ($50) for something green and earthy. “I don’t love woodsy notes, so I like to dilute them with something sweet like a vanilla; it can add a creamy feel or something green like fig just to lighten it up and not feel so heavy,” she says. “James is unique because it is so light for a fall fragrance. It’s grounded and earthy but still very sexy.” Or you could cut through some of the sweetness with a whiff of woody notes like Nest’s new Coco Woods ($74) — a favorite of ten Brink’s.

Lightly Layer with Simpler or Single-Note Scents

If the prospect of literally sniffing out the perfect scent sounds too involved, there are other ways to achieve a similar effect. St. Clair admits that while they can be hard to find on their own, formulas that focus on one note, such as Demeter’s fragrance library, can be layered to enhance your go-to fragrance or combined with others to create something completely customized. Ten Brink agrees, saying, “You can absolutely [layer single notes if available] do that, but I will say that it gets tricky when you start to create it on yourself from scratch because again, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

But fragrance houses are making it easier to do so by offering ancillary scents that can be spritzed over each other. Ten Brink clued us in on how Kenneth Cole for Her ($85) was recently re-released with a set of three unisex fragrance add-ons to amplify the aromas, and the supplementary Intensity scent would be a fit for fall since it adds a splash of spice to the mix. Thierry Mugler also just unleashed a new unisex cologne collection (available for $70 each) that the brand calls an “olfactory rainbow” that allows you to layer them on in whatever hue that suits your mood. Two of the scents would be suited for the season: Love You All (the blue one) blends notes of blue licorice and white amber to give you the warm fuzzies, and Run Free (the purple) offers an intense, electrifying rush with a combination of purple ginger and a vibrant Akigalawood for that ever-alluring spicy, sultry finish.

Separate the Smells

Whether it’s your go-to formula, something more seasonal, or a completely customized concoction, St. Clair suggests, “Put one on your wrist and one on your neck, but keep them separate.” This allows all the notes to have a little added breathing room, so they can diffuse more gently than if they were applied one on top of the other. She adds that you can add a spritz to your strands, which can also help diffuse your preferred perfume, or your scarf, which is great for those warmer aromas that will keep you extra-cozy as the temperature drops.

You might also look to body care buys like lotions and body creams; their oils hold onto scents for much longer than a fragrance spritzed on dry skin. Diana Vreeland’s signature Body Cream ($125) was meant to serve as a subtly scented base for its line of perfumes. “We envisaged it as a base for fragrances so that they stay longer and stronger on your skin,” Vreeland explains, though you could easily snap up a fall-fragranced body butter and spray your signature scent at your pulse points.

Whatever option you decide to test-drive, just know it’s all about trial and error to find something that smells seasonal and uniquely you. And if you don’t dig the results, you can always wash off the layers of scents and try something else altogether. As ten Brink puts it, “The beauty of fragrance is that if it really smells terrible, you can go take a shower. [Or] you can just go to the bathroom and wash your hands, and it’ll be done.”

Do you swap out your scent according to the season? Let us know @BritandCo!

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