A Happy Medium – A Look at Three Types of Perfume

Today, I am talking fragrance solvents, mediums, bases, types, carries, whatever you want to call it! Organizing my perfume collection, not an easy task, I realized that other than perfume “families” that my preferences for perfume goes through many sudden and drastic spurts in the area of “medium”. I have perfume oils, EDTs and EDPs and way too many solid perfumes. And here I go…analyzing three popular perfume mediums.

Betty Blythe with crystal ball

Alcohol based perfumes– I’d say these are the most popular perfumes even though I have no data to back me up… But, it seems that when most people think of perfume, they think of a liquid that they spray or splash on lavishly. This is my favorite perfume medium or carrier. I like the way it evaporates on the skin and I love the convenience. I feel that perfume in this medium shares the most depth and development. These typically reveal the top, mid and base notes of a fragrance with more clarity. I don’t care if it is an EDT, EDP or cologne, this is the type of perfume that I purchase the most.

Oh, and there are water based perfumes…should I go there? No.

Oil based perfumes – Back in the day, angsty high school days, this was my perfume medium of choice. Being obsessed with art and literature, this was the most “ancient” perfume medium in my mind. I’d dab rich oils on my pulse points or rub it in my hair to feel like Cleopatra or a Mucha-ish sylph draped in champagne-colored silk. Ironically, this is my least favorite way to wear perfume now. Of course, there are exceptions, I love aroma M and Opus Oils. I find most perfume oils too heavy for my tastes…verging on the dreaded “fragrance oil” turf. Many seem inferior to their alcohol-based colleagues. (It seems that some oil bases used are this odd, bitter-ish stuff that ruins the perfume for me, difficult to describe but I know it when I smell it.) I also fear that they will stain my clothing and I don’t like the way they feel, especially in the summer. However, perfume oils do wear closer to the skin, appearing more intimate and perhaps more sensual. And since they don’t evaporate so quickly, they tend to wear longer… and more linear. We tend to miss out on the lovely top notes!

Solid perfumes – When I got out of the university and got my “real” job, I decided that solid perfumes were the safest for me to wear in a professional work environment. Why? They aren’t “loud”. So, I went through a solid perfume phase. I’d rub it on my pulse points in the morning and the fragrance would wear closely and discretely on my skin. It seems like I was the only one smelling the perfume and could find solace in sniffing my wrist very quickly. Solids are easy to travel with, so I’d put a few in my purse and apply at the end of the work day when I needed to smell something to lessen the stress of being a “professional”.  I also liked solids because they still had some glamour in my mind. My grandmother collected those Estee Lauder solid perfume compacts that range from pagodas to Siamese cats to Victorian inspired cameos. My love for solid perfumes has lessened with time. I still like them but rarely purchase them. Why? Because they wear so closely to the skin and I get sick of feeling the need to reapply. I also don’t like getting perfume residue on my fingers fearing that I’ll rub it in my eyes or ruin my keyboard. Silly, I know. Solid perfume sticks are an option. Some of my favorite solid perfume brands include Crazylibellule & The Poppies, Madame Scodioli, Patch NYC and Aftelier. And I wouldn’t mind owning a few of those fancy Estee Lauder limited edition compacts.

So, I ask you…

Do you have a perfume medium that you prefer? Why? Have your tastes changed over time like mine did?

Is there a medium that you don’t try or buy? Why?

Do you have gender associations with different mediums? For example, I’ve had men tell me that they’d never wear an oil or solid perfume that those are only for ladies…but I know many guys that wear perfume oils…and solids.

Actually, let me expand the question above because we can be honest here and I’ve heard it all before 😉 I know we have “stereotypes” about fragrance mediums, what are yours? For example, I’ve heard “hippie at a headshop” said a million times about perfume oils.

Betty Blythe with crystal ball from

12 thoughts on “A Happy Medium – A Look at Three Types of Perfume

  1. I think my preferred way of wearing perfume would be alcohol-based as well, but I like the convenience of the solids – I always have one in my purse for the days I forgot to spritz something (shock horror!) or for touch-ups. Surprisingly for me, my husband didn’t hesitate to smear a solid perfume on himself, but I think for every day he prefers alcohol-based perfume too.
    Rocaille recently posted..What’s In My Travel Skincare Bag?

    1. I’m the same way. I prefer alcohol but I do carry solids in my purse for touch-ups or just for smelling.

      EVEN I forget to wear perfumes some days! Today is one of them!

  2. I love them all! 🙂
    OK, yes, I find myself mostly in alcohol based perfumes, but solids and oils are great as well – I just need to be more careful with my clothes.

    1. I think each has a “place”. For example, I love solids for travel or for times when I need a “quiet” perfume. I like oils when I want to feel like a goddess but this means that I need to be careful with clothes. However, not oils are super “oily”. I find it depends on the brand.

  3. I actually prefer solids and oils. My skin is so dry that most alcohol-based fragrances just disappear off of my skin – I get the top notes and the heart notes, but never the base notes.

  4. If I had to choose just one medium and stick to it for the rest of my life it would definitely be an alchohol based formula. I would forfeit solids and (even more so) oil based in a heartbeat! But since I do not have to choose I enjoy all the forms from time to tome.
    Undina recently posted..Scents of My Hawaii Vacation

  5. I like all 3 but I buy alcohol based ones the most. I do really like solids too because I have to travel with work and those are so convenient. And I don’t want to smell overwhelming at work.

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