Monday Question – How Would You Introduce A Teenager To Perfume?

Imagine you have a daughter, son, niece, nephew, godchild or other young person you are close to. How would you introduce them to the world of fine fragrance beyond Britney Spears and Justin Bieber?

Which line do you find especially good as a “starter line” into niche perfumery?

What about the classics? Too much too soon or just the way to go?

How would you kindle appreciation of the art of perfumery in the next generation?

(Thanks to reader Empliau for the idea to this question.)


My Answer:

I think perfume, just like art, or oenology or any kind of cultural interest, even fashion, is a thing that warrants and profits from an introduction, ideally by someone who is passionate about it.

Niche lines that are great starting points on any individual journey into perfume are the ones that are close to the mainstream in the sense that they do not demand too much from the wearer. Atelier Cologne, Annick Goutal, Ormonde Jayne all come to mind as lines that are accessible, easy to wear, pretty but still a big cut above most mainstream offerings.

I don’t think it is a good idea to start with an Amouage or a Serge Lutens, nor would the classics like Guerlains or Chanels be my first point of introduction. There is time for that later.

I also think that perfume needs to be – to a degree – age-appropriate, there are always exceptions of course, but in general I think most fourteen year-olds wear Eau D’Hadrien better than Chanel N°5.

What do you think? How would you get a new perfumista started?


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37 Responses to Monday Question – How Would You Introduce A Teenager To Perfume?

  1. Hey Birgit,
    I think I would start with some better than average mainstream so that repurchase for a working teen would be doable, and not put them off forever as too expensive. Guerlain Aqua Allegoria, L’Occitane Grasse line, Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess, the Bottega Veneta ranges or the Benefit fragrances. All way better than the norm and easily accessible. Also quite easy to for them to say the names if asked why they smell so good. The names sound posh but not ridiculous tongue twisters.
    Portia x

    • Olfactoria says:

      Good thinking about the price factor, the benevolent parent, aunt, godfather etc. I had in mind will not pay forever. 😉
      Aqua Allegoria is a wonderful start!

  2. Undina says:

    I agree with your recommendations – OJ, AG and AC are all great “starter houses.” I would add Diptyque, Ineke, and L’Artisan Parfumeur. All these brands have interesting but not too out-there perfumes.

  3. You my dears have more experience than I do! I started with Clinique. I stayed with it until I started working in a four diamond spa before I ever changed face care product lines. But for perfume, I am working class so for me, Aromatics Elixir, Nanette Lepore, I do buy used Coco Chanel off ebay and try to keep at least one full bottle on hand at all times because it’s a classic for me once I got past the age of 33…it was just a good time for me as a student to upgrade. Over the years I wore Tribecca, Beautiful, I still like Boucheron and have a bottle. I want an orange blossom and a vetiver. It just takes time to save up at least $100 or so dollars to spend on a respectable product when I can’t afford the full 200 and up price tag.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Great picks, borderland!
      Finances are surely a big issue when starting out with perfume. And prices for niche are out of hand in my opinion. It is really getting ridiculous… 😦

      • I found perfume posse and a lady said she was going to mail me an entire decanter two or three weeks ago now but I haven’t received it. I think she may be in Australia for some reason so it may take a bit longer. I don’t personally know anyone who is from there or lives there now.

  4. Reblogged this on Borderlands of Health and Wellness and commented:
    I think this is a great question for anyone to start considering more deeply around the age of 25. When your younger than that, your playing and trying a bit of this or that and experimenting with the effect of certain scents not only on your own perceptions but of the reactions others have to the scents you choose. For instance, I had a used bottle of Shalimar given to me when I was 16 or 17. I was thrilled because it was a ‘grown up’ brand. I wore Tribecca, Giorgio, Liz Claiborne – nothing more expensive than about $45.00 until I hit 25 or 26 and even then, until I hit my thirties, Boucheron was the most expensive perfume I ever bought and wore. I still have a bottle of Boucheron I keep, but I wear Coco Channel. I also keep a bottle of Nanette LePour on hand and I need to reinvest in another Aromatics Elixir to keep a spicy scent.

  5. lucasai says:

    I would say brand such as Atelier Cologne, Annick Goutal and Histoires de Parfums are especially good to start a niche perfume adventure with.

  6. Sabine says:

    Teenagers are usually very specific about what they like in terms of fashion and looks. So, while I agree on the houses mentioned so far, I would not chose them for a girl who is a bit more of a rebel or just not that girly. Lush and its Gorilla perfumes and Body shop come to mind.

  7. Emma's Room says:

    For very young simple natural oils are lovely and can be put into a spritz bottle to make them less potent. But really be led by the little miss. My daughter has her own favs and these change as she is becoming older. Initially it’s all about the pretty bottle and then she has developed over the years eg Marc Jacobs daisy/honey, then angel. She is also influenced by my scents and is happy to pinch- chance by Chanel or the new Stella. These are all in a good price range and develop nicely on the skin. But like anything we grow and now when I smell the really early scents of my childhood – dewberry or le must de Cartier (I know I started young -and it was the perfume) I am immediately taken back to that time. That’s how it should be for your family immediate and extended! Rambeling and off to beach now. Xx

  8. Lester says:

    Glad to see Lush’s Gorilla line mentioned; that’s what I was going to recommend as well.

  9. Vanessa says:

    I got a 7 year old called Violet interested in perfume with a scent that sounded similar to her name – Borsari Violetta di Parma. 😉 But that was a very specific hook, it’s true. For teenagers I would try a two pronged approach of the better end of mainstream (Kenzo, Prada, certain Chanels etc) and the more accessible ‘niche’ brands as already mentioned – and Jo Malone I would also include in that, which was a gateway brand for me indeed.

  10. arline says:

    I got my niece, who is 12 Mon petit Cheri, by Annick Goutal, and My sister fell in love with it and took it over, but it was one of the 15 ml bottle, as I wanted to make sure it was loved. It was, so for christmas last year, I gave them both big bottles of it.

    I am not sure that Jessica, my niece is quite ready to embrace the perfume world, but I believe she will.

    I think back to when I started loving perfume, and it was at about 15 or so, maybe 14, but I know that I was into good smelling bath products at 14, and Jessica really likes those.

    So… Maybe get her some wonderful bath products, with a small perfume, to see whether she takes to it. Also, how could one not be interested with a collection such as yours, introduce her to that, and see what happens

  11. Bee says:

    A couple of years ago I gave my god daughter a selection of samples of light florals and told her she could choose one as a full bottle gift, she chose rose ikebana and I gave her the travel sprays, the size is ideal for her! This year I blindly gave her terracotta and she is very happy with that too.

  12. anitathepianist says:

    Hummm, interesting question. My own start was a bottle of Shalimar EdT. That did me for me; I was hooked for life. Today I’d choose something by Lolita Lempicka, the original and “L”. When I wear those, my nieces and nephews love them, which is a good clue that they appeal to youngsters.

  13. Nina Z says:

    My daughter picked her own perfumes when she was a teen. She liked Tommy Girl (which might still be a good pick) and also the clothes by Tommy Hillfiger. After that, she moved on to Chanel Allure. One thing to consider would be if there is a designer the girl admires because sometimes the perfume from that designer is the only thing a teen can obtain, and it is really a thrill to her to get such a fragrance. And sometimes the designer actually has a fragrance you might also think is a quality fragrance, so that would please both of you. Another idea is to prepare a bunch of samples for the teen and let her pick the one she want and then purchase the bottle. Or, take her sniffing some selected scents for a fun girls day. Just picking something that you admire from a line that you think of as accessible but quality could turn out to be disappointing because you are really on a different wave length.

  14. Lavanya says:

    I guess it depends..For me Jo Malone, L’Artisan and Serge Lutens were all gateway brands. But that was probably because their modern ‘not too perfumey’ vibe appealed to me then (of course now I’m all about the perfume-y perfumes)..I would think Jo Malone is a good intro line but I never used that for my sister or mom because I knew they would prefer more perfume-y perfumes (I gifted my sister OJ Taif)..So I guess I would say Jo Malone or Ormonde Jayne depending on personal taste. Because of Undina’s review, I am going to start exploring Ineke as an intro brand. Diptyque would be another choice. Surprisingly though- both my mom and mil seemed to have fallen for Amouages pretty early in their ‘sniffing paths’…:)

    • Lavanya says:

      Actually i just remembered- as a teenager the brand that made me realize I loved perfume was Christian Dior (I loved my minis of Dune and Hypnotic poison and then when those were empty wore my mini of Jadore)..I would think J’adore would be a good intro perfume though I have no idea how J’adore currently smells..

    • Olfactoria says:

      Your mum and mil most probably are no longer in the teen demographic… 🙂
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lavanya!

      • Lavanya says:

        haha- I realized that I’d strayed off the path of the question- as soon as I’d typed my comment..:)- hence the addendum based on my teenage years..;-)

  15. For me it’s all about turning fragrance into a discovery – their first ‘proper’ perfume should feel special and personalised. There are plenty of places which offer a tailored service to help you find the right fragrance for you (like Ormonde Jayne, Guerlain or Nose boutique) and this could be a really fun birthday gift for someone. I got into more sophisticated brands like Guerlain via some of their more youthful, less ‘serious’ scents like Insolence – a fun, sweet introduction to a great family of fragrance!

  16. I love this question! When I was 14, I studied abroad in France for the first time. At the end of my stay (I was there for the whole summer), my host mother told me that she was trying to figure out what to get me as a going-away present. She decided that the best thing to do would be to do what she would with her own daughter when she turned 14: buy her first real perfume.

    I remember going to the parfumerie and sniffing perfume after perfume. The SA took her time and never pressured me in one direction or another. I walked out with Dune, not the most age-appropraite fragrance for a teen, but one that I loved deeply for it’s non-girliness and otherworldly strangeness.

    That would be my real advice: no lines specifically — other than to just keep in mind a somewhat accessible budget — and just let them find themselves.

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