I indie fragrances and you can, too!

I’ve been indulging in the smallest nugget of self-care lately, focusing my need for frippery and comfort into a literally microscopic sphere.

A while back, I happened to come across the /r/indiemakeupandmore subreddit while I was researching a brand. I quickly discovered that about 80% of the activity there centers around indie fragrances. 

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Back in the early aughts, I had tried a couple indie fragrance brands, but I felt completely overwhelmed and was disappointed with what I bought. Fortunately, the internet landscape has changed so much and there’s plenty of support out there to be had!

Want to know how you can dive in without feeling like you’re headed into the deep end without your floaties? I’ve got you!

  • Start with Sunday Swaps or otherwise second hand – You can usually snag scents below their retail cost and you can scattershot with brands and scent profiles. The IMAM crowd is very organized for Sunday Swaps, often with Google Sheets listing the scent description, size, fill level and cost. Find inexpensive samples that sound appealing to you and place an order.
  • Check reviews – The best thing about shopping online in 2019 is that reviews are out there if you Google hard enough. So long as a scent isn’t brand new, someone will have given their first impressions and in-depth wear review somewhere on the internet. The Indie Scent Library is trying to build a comprehensive database of reviews.
  • Buy a sample pack from a brand – If you think a brand might work for you, head to their website and see if they offer a “create your own” sample pack. This allows you to try several different scents in one go before you decide whether to invest in a larger bottle.
  • Be careful of “atmospheric” scents – These are what is coolest and most frustrating with the world of indie fragrances. They’re blended to give you the impression of a mood or place. That’s a really delightful prospect, BUT if you have really specific ideas of what that might smell like, it can be a huge let-down. They also tend to be very complex, layered scents that can be a bit of a struggle to pull apart with your nose.
  • Be careful with limited editions – Limited edition means you might not ever be able to buy it from the source ever again. It also means that reviews are likely few and far between, and most aren’t available in smaller, inexpensive sizes. However, one benefit is that LEs are often much sought-after by scent fiends who missed out, so you might be able to unload or find spare bottles later on.
  • Give it a rest – “Resting” is a controversial practice among users, but the idea is that the shipping process can “shock” the fragrance, causing it not to smell quite as intended. Many say this is bull, but others swear that letting scents sit in a cool, dark place undisturbed for a week (or even a month!) cause them to “open up” and present more notes. I say letting them sit a week before you test them can’t hurt. Speaking of…
  • Try them dry, try them again next week – Putting your nose to an open bottle of perfume oil is no sign of what the fragrance will smell like on you. Smelling it wet on your wrist is also just as deceptive. You won’t get the full sense of how it truly smells until it’s had a minute to dry down on your wrist. It will also morph over the course of the day. Perhaps most surprisingly? Your current skin chemistry may also change how the perfume smells, so be sure to try it again after a week or so to see if you still love/hate it.

Still feeling in the weeds? In the next few days, I’ll be posting a guide on choosing a scent you love, as well as some of my recommendations.


3 responses to “I indie fragrances and you can, too!”

  1. I love perfume but I have the hardest time getting samples or just finding ways to smell a scent BEFORE I buy it. I also have a hard time mapping the scent descriptions to what I like. I can really only use it those notes and reviews to figure out if it’s a hard pass ( which basically means it has patchouli or something else I don’t like in it ).
    Like you I tried some indie scents back in the day and like you I felt frustrated that I would never find something I really like. Maybe it’s time to try again!

    I got burned once on what turned out to be a “limited edition” but I’m not sorry. I’m happy I got to enjoy it while I could.

    Totally agree about testing it on your skin.. and waiting several hours. Although I need to be “sold” on the initial scent of a product, I won’t buy it unless I have proof I also like the scent hours later. ( Hence my difficulty in getting good test samples. It’s not enough to just spray it in the air or on a stick in a store.)

    Regarding letting perfume “rest”: sounds like bullshit to me. I’mma need more science to back that up. Furthermore, you need to do whatever you can to use up your perfume in a timely manner! Like all organic compounds, perfume suffers from oxidation and it breaks down as it is exposed to air and time. If you’ve ever held onto a perfume for several years and wonder why it doesn’t “smell the same”, that’s why. This is also why I’m reluctant to buy perfume that has been discontinued for years but magically some place has it in stock.

    I have never heard of IMAM or Sunday Swaps! I will have to look into that. Thanks!

    1. The perfume resting is at least more than a couple whisperings–several brands actually pre-rest their perfumes before sending them out and others recommending resting at home. I DO think that some perfumes settle and separate a bit (I’ve got a few that I can actually see the separation), which I think can help perfumes with heavy heart notes that kinda overwhelm the scent.

      I agree about perfume age, but there are a LOT of people who have them for several years and report very little breakdown. Storage is definitely a factor, but I think a lot of brands have moved to carrier oils that don’t smell rancid if they do turn, which I think is probably a saving grace for a lot of these perfume nerds. haha

  2. […] my last post, I talked a little bit about trying out perfume oils. While I suppose there’s technically no […]

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