From the Forums From the Forums: Layers, Limits, and Drugstores

From the Forums: Layers, Limits, and Drugstores

04/21/17 06:32:54 (13 comments)

by: John Biebel

From the Forums highlights our Fragrantica readers and what they’re talking about on the Fragrantica discussion boards. There you’ll find many topics that range from polls to opinions to requests for help with selecting something new for a personal collection. You can access our forums through the top menu on the website, as seen in the example below. Why not visit and engage in some lively discussion?

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Shall We Begin at the Drugstore?

Fragrantica member Haimorey asks the New to the World of Fragrance forum an innocent enough question: Drugstore finds, shall I dive in? She describes what is, to many of us, that fascinating allure of the cellophane wrapped boxes behind glass in our local drugstores and pharmacies. These usually feature classics of the past, some new releases, and some that barely pay homage to their original masterpiece origins, but others that still hold magic in their charms.

Tabu perfume in a retro urban setting

I don’t think there is anyone among us who isn’t drawn to peer across at the displays to see if there is something we missed when looking before? Not too long ago, I nostalgically bought a new bottle of Coty’s Emeraude to rekindle an old memory I had of the perfume from bygone years. It’s not quite the same as it used to be, but it’s really amazing to think that this perfume is still there, ready to buy, in any number of drugstores around the world.

Haimorey asks this question to the forum:

There's a crazy stash of drugstore bottles I can get hold of in this new little store I've found, and I don't know whether to try one or two of them or not. They are all NIB/wrapped so they'll be recent reformulations (tiny stores like this one don't have to restock biannually but still fairly often).

They must have a hundred perfumes and colognes (mostly geared toward an older crowd) but the ones I'm somewhat interested in are:

 Alyssa Ashley White Musk

 Givenchy Ysatis

 Christian Dior Dune

 Mayfair Pagan

 Guerlain Samsara Eau de Parfum

 Lanvin Arpege

 Dana Tabu

I'm most intrigued by the Pagan, if only for the name and the notes. I've recc'd Samsara and Ysatis before but only as the vintages. The only one on my list I've ever tried (and liked) is Dune, as I have a 10-year-old mini of it that was gifted to me. All the rest are ?? Should I try one?

(this store has bottles of Black XS, Alien, Kouros, Fidji, Rive Gauche and Diorella but I wasn't so keen on them. They even have Jovan Musk and Charlie Red priced at less than a Starbucks which made me laugh.)

Fidgi Perfume on a vintage city backdrop

Never has the crowd rushed to encourage a reader with so much enthusiasm! 

Angelica 000 says: 

 Givenchy Ysatis   Mayfair Pagan  Guerlain Samsara Eau de Parfum  These for sure! The store sounds like a great find.

Anywho reflects a lot of our opinions on this:

This place sounds like a little treasure trove. Do they have tester bottles you can sample?

Jr, too boldly states:

Why are you hesitating?  You only live once.  Dive in and enjoy.  You can always sell, gift, or swap anything you do not like.

Kesslerk89 has some fond memories of drugstore scents herself:

I have a new bottle of Dune and it smells amazing. I wore Ysatis during the 1980s, now own a new bottle, and still love it. I own and like Tabu; if you're not familiar, it is a heavy spicy seductive fragrance along the lines of a CK Obsession.  Arpege is iconic, but to me so overwhelmingly aldehyde fragranced that I can't tolerate it (Rive Gauche is an aldehyde that works better for me). Samsara was one of my mother's absolute favorites; many love it, but it just doesn't smell nice on me. I'm unfamiliar with the others. What a terrific score to have found this place. I hope all goes well with your selections!

Dune Perfume in retro urban setting

For some perfume lovers, drugstore perfumes were the beginning to a love of fragrance in general, as emt1986 says:

I would! Drugstore and other cheapies were a great introduction to the hobby for me.

Konga5000 makes an astute economic observation as well:

LOOK for DISCONTINUED Coty and Dana products! You can probably re-sell them for double!

Personally, I find the Jovan Musks (in all their various forms) to still be stellar performers and there’s not much better outside of a drugstore anywhere. What do you still love from the drugstore? Did you ever find anything irresistible, or a lost treasure you had to grab before someone else took it?

starling bird

I’m DONE! (Maybe…)

JEDI 2.0 brought up a great topic that’s frequently visited in the forums, and always collects many different opinions, but I thought this thread was uniquely interesting. In the Perfume Selection Tips for Men forum, he says that he’s really enjoyed the ride of collecting fragrances, but that he’s all set - doesn’t need to get anything else. And yet, there’s still some leeway in that decision:

No, seriously.  Got all the ones i needed 

Yeah, right, we all say that    i know that's what you're thinking.  But no really, I'm all set.  The only colognes i will buy for the next year or two are gifts, or replacements of what i ran out of.

At this point i just stick around here for the info, and to see who likes what i like.

Anybody else all set, too?

Huge warehouse of boxes

It’s interesting to see that although a few agree that they, too, feel that they’re at a good “saturation point” in the fragrance game, it doesn’t change their interest in new things that are being released. It also allows for some strategy when honing the collection to the essentials. GRAF says,

No, I'm not done with fragrances yet. I want to try a lot of them and I want to minimize my collection to those I really love. I already have a lot of scents, this is why I want to get rid of a lot of them and keep those I love which are around 30-35 and add another 30-35. I can easily use 60-70 scents annually, this is my target: to have around 70 beloved scents.

Tinwhiskers has a pragmatic approach:

Why quit? Just slow down. This is an ongoing adventure with something great always on the horizon.

Rushrocker sees it very differently from the others:

I tell myself this every day.

But just wait till the next eBay sale... my cart is so full!

D-Bo sees future collecting as dependent on what comes along in the path, but with some numeric constraints:

Most of my collection will not be repurchased. That being said, I would say that I won't ever be under 40-50 bottles. The new ones I purchase will be brand new buys. Unless I reach 50 bottles that I can't live without, I'll always be purchasing and testing new ones.

Room with boxes

Dougczar puts it all into a reflective mood - don’t we make decisions like this all the time, but don’t we always opt to keep experiencing new things?  He writes:

I said the same thing about my clothes about 10 years ago.  Had a whole closet full of nice stuff.  Good thing I didn't quit getting new stuff. 

Ate at some good restaurants in college.  Glad I didn't quit trying new ones.

Learned some funny jokes a long time ago.  If I kept telling those same ones over and over, they sure wouldn't be quite the same after a while.

LeotheLion has a specific number in mind:

Good for you! My target is 40-45 bottles, with at least half being vintage. After that, I'll be happy with only decants and samples from time to time.

And then perhaps there is something to be learned in Platinum1’s take on the topic. Just one more - that’s it - one more!

I have said similar things myself not too long ago but there's always "just one more" that intrigues me.  I really look forward to giving the new Prada L'Homme a sniff and maybe adding it to my small collection then call it quits! 

Prada L'Homme did get it's release some months back, I wonder what the reaction was? What do YOU think? Is there a magic number of perfumes that makes you say “I have enough,” or do you want your collection to keep growing until you can’t count it any longer? Do you have a long-term plan to downsize, or do you do what some friends of mine do, and give away samples of what they buy to help spread the wealth? Where do your thoughts roam when you think about your collection, and how big or small it is?

starling bird

The Fine Art of Layering

Bottle on layers of color

It’s no secret that many people wear perfumes together - one layered over the other. We assume that this has happened for centuries, but it’s still considered an inexact “science,” and one area where perfume wearers are in charge. They make the call: “I like this perfume, but I want to accentuate a different aspect” or “On my skin, it just needs a bit more of this…”

I have not often layered fragrances, mostly because I’m not sure what combinations would really work well. But once I was struck by an idea that seemed fail-safe. I’d been wearing Annick Goutal’s Musc Nomade, and not long before I’d been sniffing The Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, and something about the two just seemed destined to be joined together. I went so far as to spray a bit of both into a new vial, let them sit a few days, and sprayed as if it were a new perfume. Miraculously, they actually did combine to form a delicious new whole that really worked on my skin - a musky, fruity rose with just the right amount of sourness to make it a little more “special” that it was before. 

Musc Nomade and Tea Rose Layered

But for me, this was a bold move, and I’ve not always had the same success. Another area that has consistently worked, though, has been when I’ve combined some scented oils and perfumes. It might be due to different evaporation rates, but the mingling of alcohol perfume and oil can be another fascinating aspect of this intermingling.

A lengthy thread on the General Perfume forum has been dedicated solely to the art of layering, it’s combinations, suggestions for successful layering schemes, and well-thought-out suggestions for those who want to give layering a try. The forum is currently hosting it’s 18th thread dedicated to layering - here are some of the thought-provoking questions and suggestions made by readers in this extremely creative forum. Suhaesa starts us out, with some great articles by Fragrantica staff on the delicate art of layering, and donating much of her own inventive advice on what to layer with what. 

She was asked about some options available with the great musk standby, Kiehl’s Original Musk.

Hi suhaesa, welcome back.

I have  Kiehl`s Original Musk which is okay, but is a little too sweet and floral for me. I tend to like spicy scents/old school scents and even masculine scents. Do you have any recs for how to make the Kiehl's a little more interesting/ a little less sweet?

The suggestions for layering are an astounding array:

Graph of Kiehls Musk Layering Alternatives

The choices range from Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, to Jil Sander No. 4, Paloma Picasso, to Juliette Has a Gun’s Mad Madame

in her advice to Milathewriter she says:

you have an incredible wardrobe for layering

good luck finding combinations that will work for you

kihels musk is great for layering as a trio it works well as a base accord and you can layer it with almost your entire wardrobe.

Eyviab had some great luck blending together three feminine maquillage-type perfumes: 

Today I layered these beauties and wow so feminine sweet and beautiful!

 Maison Martin Margiela Lipstick On

 Christian Dior Pure Poison

 Dolce&Gabbana Rose The One

Rosegold makes an unusual choice for layering with excellent results:

 Christian Dior Ambre Nuit has been in heavy rotation the last few weeks.  It layers well with so many scents!!! Today I layered with  Diptyque Volutes ...I smell like a classy cherry cocktail.  

Merel36 follows the same instinct as me by mixing oil and perfume together:

Today I'm wearing:

 Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb + a tiny dot of  Al-Rehab Choco Musk


Choco musk nicely enhances the chocolaty note in FB. You really need the tiniest amount of choco musk as this is a strong one!

What’s particularly great about this thread is how helpful it becomes for everyone involved - there is a lot of knowledge sharing, and surprisingly great combos that you might never think of. Someone raised the question about one of my all time favorites, Caron’s Yatagan. What do you think would layer well with Yatagan?

Caron's Yatagan

Added to the database

We’re always adding new perfumes to Fragrantica's database. Member KajiraSuzanne has asked that we add the Mennen classic SkinBracer. This is part of a larger project to bring some of the classic after shaves/colognes into the database, which we'll be doing in the weeks coming up.

SkinBracer aftershave

This includes some of our dads’ favorites like AquaVelva (and its numerous flankers) and the Barbasol series, based on the scents from their aftershave foams. What are your thoughts on these classic after shaves, and Is there a fragrance that you’d like to see added to Fragrantica’s database? Tell us about it in our Forum HERE.

Keep the conversation going at Fragrantica’s Club, our Forums

Have some fragrance questions or need assistance locating a hard-to-find scent? Fly on over to the Forums and plant the seeds of a new fragrance discussion.

May your fragrant wishes bloom!

John Biebel John Biebel is an editor for Fragrantica living and working in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He began writing for the site in 2011. He holds a degree in Fine Art from The Cooper Union in New York City and works as a software application designer and a painter. He began his own indie perfume venture, January Scent Project, in 2015. He has a particular love for perfume history, the chemical composition of perfumes, and interviewing perfumers when he travels. He writes two recurring columns: From the Forums, and Perfume in Technology. In the world of fragrances, John has a great personal attachment to certain classic perfume types like fougères and chypres, men's scents of the barbershop type, rose perfumes, and the perfumes of Serge Lutens.


Previous From the Forums



i have grown to love layering-i couldn't imagine the layers at first-but suhaesa's help was incredible-she has soooo much patience with us-going thru our wardrobes and seeing the potential in them-explaining and re-explaining the way to see the layers-
-i love layering my perfume oils-it adds new deoth to them-and i am so grateful to her for giving us the benefit of her genius.


thank you John Biebel for mentioning my layering topics and posting some of my suggestions" A lengthy thread on the General Perfume forum has been dedicated solely to the art of layering, it’s combinations, suggestions for successful layering schemes, and well-thought-out suggestions for those who want to give layering a try. The forum is currently hosting it’s 18th thread dedicated to layering - here are some of the thought-provoking questions and suggestions made by readers in this extremely creative forum. Suhaesa starts us out, with some great articles by Fragrantica staff on the delicate art of layering, and donating much of her own inventive advice on what to layer with what." ..i have been layering and collecting for 3 decades and i am extremely passionate about perfumery as a whole and layering in particular..
thank you suzanes for your lovely comment "I love Suhaesa's advice!"...i am honored to hear that i was able to help you utilize your amazing wardrobe..
thank you azcactusgirl for your encouraging words about my layering skills "Suhaesa is a genius when it comes to layering!!"....i would love to share articles with everyone about perfume layering and perfumery in general..
thank you drugstoreclasics for saying "I personally consider Suhaesa to be a mix master" really means so much to me dear..i am humbled and honored..and i a am so happy to be here in fragrantica with people who understand and appreciate my passion and love and natural talent for creating and recreating perfumes ..


Thanks for adding Skin Bracer, and also for considering adding the other old-school aftershaves!


I have found the best place to start with layering is with at least 2 perfumes from the same general group...for example Terre d'Hermes 3 sprays with 1 spray of Guerlain Heritage....both Woody Spicy fragrances.


Suhaesa is a genius when it comes to layering!! I am constantly amazed at the many ideas she comes up with! I always thought that you should never mix two fragrances together, that it would result in a disaster.... I am not a drinker but it brings to mind the thought that alcoholic drinks should not be consumed as different concoctions together.

The technique of layering two or more fragrances is opening up a whole new world of fragrance and it is a way for me to use up some of the lesser liked blind buys I have gotten, to use them as a base and then spray something else over the top to bring out the best of both and also to birth a whole new lovely perfume!!

I'd love to see Suhaesa write some articles on layering, she is a tremendous source of knowledge!


Thank you for this great article, John. The topic of "limits" is particularly relevant to me.

I've always liked perfume, but my birthday this August will mark two years since I really began my perfume journey. I began buying all the bottles I could find, that seemed both interesting and decently priced. I bought over 100 bottles in a little over a year―much more than what I could actually afford. For a while, it was getting to be a problem.

Gradually, I found myself buying more slowly, as I began running out of space, and I was also wearing a lower and lower percentage of my perfumes (not counting my relatively few unsuccessful blind buys; most of those I put back up for sale).

I still have a very lengthy "To Get" list, but I've already acquired most of the ones that I wanted really badly. Most of my list now is just a wish list, and the perfumes on it are a lower priority for me now. I still check ebay nearly every day, though, to see if there are any new L'artisan Parfumeur listings, and I'll still bid on them.

Alhough I'm unlikely to ever declare my collection complete, I'm content with it as it is. I mean, when Fragranticans I'd never "met" before send me private messages telling me I have a fantastic wardrobe, I know I'm not a novice anymore, that I've "made it," and I'm all the more appreciative of the many gems I do have and love.

drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Good ones, John!

I personally consider Suhaesa to be a mix master - helping us to maximize our perfume potential, haha. Quite seriously, layering ideas can utterly transform a boring fragrance into BRILLIANT, and that's just what her suggestions are. :D

Well, you KNOW I can't resist Drugstore topics. ;) That particular thread reminded me that many times drugstores/chemist's shops purvey Designer fragrances also - often ones marketed more heavily 20 or more years ago. They have come down in Wow appeal, but in many cases still smell marvelous. Imagine my elation when my local Walgreens put Dior's DUNE on clearance with an odd assortment of nail polish and hairbands!!! You'd better believe I snapped up that lovely bottle with the speed of lightening...

The more 'humble' fragrances found at the chemist are getting harder to source, perhaps owing to IFRA restrictions or (poor!) inventory choices. I sometimes have to buy back up bottles online now, but thankfully many Coty and Dana favorites are abundant and inexpensive. To sum up: Owning my Dune has not made me any less appreciative of the less respected beauties out there.... far from it! I'd be a far less happy camper without Tabu, Shalimar, Navy, Toujours Moi, and soooo many others. Vive La Drugstore Chic!


I learn SO much by reading Fragrantica topics and members' advice! What a wonderful asset Fragrantica is to perfume lovers everywhere. I just love it! My perception of notes is improving because I look up and re-look up every fragrance I have, literally studying!

Fragrantica could open an online school of parfumerie and I'm sure many would as I would gladly pay! Thank you SO much! I'm giving layering a try and feeling confident.


I love Suhaesa's advice!
She can turn a meh fragrance in your wardrobe and pair it with something else and its stunning! Shes recommended a mixture of 20 different fragrances in my wardrobe and combine it into one for an amazing custom scent.

Im so grateful her experience and knowledge is a valuable resource for the members of fragrantica. Her help has helped me to utilize my large perfume wardrobe better! Please do read her basic primers she has listed for layering and anyone can do it fairly easily.
Thank you for spotlighting one of the hidden gems of fragrantica.


I was quoted!!!!!!!! I'm so happy! Thank you John !!!!!!

I remember this thread well. Although Dune was in the assortment in this store-- Dune is not really a "drug store classic". And I like it a lot but it's never at CVS, Target or Walgreens . (Some better CVS's even have Shalimar!)


Lol, p.s., thank you for this article - it inspired me to drench myself in Jovan's Musk for Men & I'm enjoying a very pleasant wallow in its soapy lavender wakeup call. Gorgeous, totally unisex, and not a trace of chemical ugly.


It's one of the mysteries of the universe how Jovan manages to continue to produce warm, rich musk products I actually want to smell like, while expensive/overpriced brands, including Chanel, insist on using the bugspray variety.

I refer to the horrendous aromachemical that's front and center in all the Arden Green Tea flankers, to name just one.

I can only assume expensive brands are cutting corners to maximize profits at the expense of customers.

I'll just add that I never have a problem with anosmia with Jovan stuff, so I assume they aren't overloading on the nose killing Iso E the big brands like to think they're fooling us with.


Lovely article! I layered Alien by Thierry Mugler with Sicily by D&G yesterday (it was a cold rainy day here in Transylvania), and they worked AMAZINGLY together. I'll remember to do this mix again if I feel like warming up things a little bit.


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