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Are Signature Scents Coming To An End? Maybe, But It Might Be A Good Thing

Image by Ivan Gener / Stocksy
October 29, 2022
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There's nothing wrong with having one perfume you love—but why is there such an ominous pressure to find that signature scent and commit to it with unwavering devotion? 

The concept of hunting down the "right" perfume for you was, and still is, the backbone of many fragrance companies and their success—but does this rigid structure still fit in the evolving beauty conversation? Gen-Z seems to disagree, and how they're using fragrance offers a whole new approach focused on intention, fluidity, and sustainability.

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The shift away from signature scents. 

The core function of fragrance is changing, shifting more toward internal satisfaction rather than people-pleasing. Before recent years, fragrance was generally focused on (and marketed toward) the other. "You would think about your fragrance as part of an allure about yourself that you're trying to create to attract others," clinical psychologist Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., tells mbg.

This is partially why there was such a stark difference in men's cologne and women's perfume. Musk and woodsy scents were marketed toward men, while classic florals and hints of warm vanilla were essential to a women's blend–with generally zero crossover.

There was also a certain prestige with wearing a big-time, name-brand fragrance, and it was an even bigger flex if another person could smell your perfume as soon as you entered the room. The fragrances created a few decades back were practically made to be devoured and evaluated by others—the intention was to impress, to have your signature scent be memorable and desirable.

At present, a recent consumer report shows that 60% of Gen-Zs own over three fragrances. But the real difference is not how many fragrances exist on a shelf but rather the question of why.

Fragrance is way more personal these days. 

"There's a level of intentionality that's going beyond a results-driven approach," Carmichael says. The goal is now to feel something, not impress, attract, or perform. And fragrance marketing is reflecting this shift.

By Rosie Jane, a particularly buzzy clean fragrance brand, describes their products based on how they make you feel, not just the top notes. Phrases like "standing on the porch during a rain storm" or "LA spring days and wine in the afternoon" remind consumers that their product is meant to make you feel something—not find someone.

Rosie Jane Johnston, the founder of By Rosie Jane, finds inspiration for new scents from cities, seasons, elements, emotions, and experiences—all of which are simply human, not gendered. To that end, musks and florals have intertwined to create novel dynamic blends. Even top sellers like 11:11 by Lake and Skye are adored by people of all identities alike—with no emphasis on any masculine- or feminine-forward marketing.

The world is becoming more fluid—how we dress, how we identify, and who we're attracted to continues to break rigid boundaries, and fragrance is beginning to mirror that shift, finally relaying true independence beyond brand names, gender-based scents, and a focus on attracting a lover.

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So, is there anything wrong with having a signature scent?

If there's one scent you want to use every day for the rest of your life because you love it—then don't let anyone stop you. But with the evolution that comes with each new year, we must make room for people to switch up their fragrance to match who they are now and how they want to feel, and thus, why the concept of a signature scent just might be on the outs.

"It points to what's really happening in society," Carmichael says. "If we think of fragrance as art, then it's one of those things where we ask, 'Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?'" 

The fragrance industry is certainly imitating the fluidity and intentional attitude of a generation—and it echoes the freedom to rethink who you are every now and then and select notes that make you feel something for yourself.

So if you want to layer your fragrances, do it. If you want to switch up your go-to scent every year or so, go right ahead. If you want to use one fragrance on your nights out and another for the daytime, so be it. And ultimately, if you want to use no fragrance at all, more power to you.

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Hannah Frye
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.