Recently, I popped into noted natural perfumer Mandy Aftel's Berkeley, CA studio for a tour. I found it quite inspirational to see someone so passionate about her work. Seriously, the enthusiasm was contagious.

So, when I told Aftel that picking a fragrance is a difficult task for me (as I'm sure it is for many of you), she gave me some cool tips I'll definitely be remembering next time I cross paths with the fragrance aisle.

  • Love the dry down — When it comes to picking an aroma you'll love, "It's important to get down to that dry down note — which is that last note that's left on your skin — because that's what's going to stay with you," Aftel said.
  • Don't judge a bottle by its cover — Aftel recommends not even looking at the bottle or names on the label. Just go on smell alone. Hey, in that case, there must be some real gems in this photo collection of ugly perfume bottles.
  • Discover the other two tips when you


  • Follow your appetite — For inspiration, "look to what you are attracted to from eating and gardening," she said. Think of wood, leaves, blossoms at night, orange, or the smell of a cup of tea, for instance. "Use your experiences in the natural world to guide you towards ingredients," she advised.
  • Use your digits — While sampling many of Aftel's essential oils and perfumes, with every dab she applied to my skin, it was always done to a new finger each time. When I asked her why the fingers, she said, "Oh, it's just to keep track." Why didn't I ever think of that? It's like having ten of those perfume sampling sticks at your fingertips. Hey-o.