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How (and Why) to Change Your Fragrance for Different Occasions

A woman spritzing perfume on her neck.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Want to add some variety to your beauty routine in a subtle, but compelling way? Try changing up your fragrance for different occasions.

While the scent you wear isn’t visible, it’s still part of your personal style. And you do feel different depending on which fragrance you wear. A scent you associate with a positive experience can make you feel more confident, while one that reminds you of a memory can make you feel nostalgic.

Your fragrance can also impact how other people see you. Your scent makes a statement. And if you change your scent, you can change that statement in powerful ways.

How can you choose the right scent for every occasion? While it all comes down to personal preference, we’ve gathered some tips that can help guide your choices. Here’s how to make your scent speak for you at any event.

Why Switch Up Your Scent?

Some people see perfume and cologne as frivolous luxuries. While wearing a fragrance certainly isn’t necessary, scent is more powerful than many people realize.

Science backs this up. One researcher found that people rated odors as good or bad, depending on the experience they associated with that scent. The scent had nothing to do with the experience, but its presence during a good or bad event influenced people’s perception of it.

This means if you associate a scent with something good, you can actually change your mood if you wear it. When you like a fragrance, you typically don’t just like how it smells. You also associate it with positive feelings based on past experiences.

Above all the other senses, smell is primed to get an emotional response from you because of the anatomy of your brain. Your olfactory bulbs (how you smell stuff) are physically linked to the parts of your brain that govern emotion.

So, perfume might be a needless luxury, but it has a fascinating ability to influence your mood.

How to Choose the Right Scent for the Occasion

All of this offers a compelling reason to wear different scents for different occasions. Of course, you can always rely on a single signature scent that you love. But when you rotate fragrances, you get new, interesting results from the interplay between scent and emotion.

Changing your scent for each occasion is really no different than changing your outfit. Most of us change how we dress to suit what we’ll be doing. The clothes you wear on a date will most likely be very different from those you wear to run errands. Why shouldn’t your scent be different, too?

Here are a few occasions for which you might want to wear a different fragrance, and how to choose the best one for each.


Most of the time, your day involves work, errands, commutes, and other relatively mundane activities. You can make those activities a bit more enjoyable if you wear a scent you like.

You might not want to wear your favorite, show-stopping fragrance for ordinary daytime activities. Also, it’s warmer outside during the day, and higher temperatures can influence your fragrance. Heat makes a scent last longer and travel farther. So, while a strong, intense scent might be perfect at night, it could be overpowering on a warm day.

Light scents are best for daytime. Look for more floral, citrus, or grassy notes and fewer spicy or woody ones. Make sure it’s something that makes you happy, too, so you can get a little mood boost during routine tasks.

Unisex scents also tend to make wonderful daytime fragrances because they’re just “neutral” enough.


Woman spritzing perfume on her neck against a black background.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

At night, you can break out scents with heavier gourmand or sultry notes. These are the scents that fare better in cooler air.

To choose your go-to evening scent, you might want to think about what you usually do in the evenings. Do you typically find yourself at happy hour with your friends? Try a scent with a note that reminds you of fun, like vanilla (many people have positive associations with the sweet smell of baked goods, after all).

Are you more likely to head to a cafe with your laptop and work on a creative project at night? A scent with a note of coffee or green tea might help you tap into that sense of focus.

For a Date

You probably don’t go on a date every night. They’re usually special and happen only on certain evenings. And you might want to wear an entirely different scent than you usually do to put you in the perfect mood.

If you often go on dates with new people, you might opt for a scent you associate with feeling confident. Sweet, spicy, or musky scents also tend to lend themselves well to first dates.

If you’re more likely to be on a date with your steady significant other, it can be fun to pick a date scent with a note that you both love. For example, you can use your fragrance to tap into a fond memory you share, whether it was drinking from fresh coconuts on the beach or hiking in a green, cedar-scented forest.

For Work

Not everyone should wear a fragrance to work—it depends on your job and workplace. But for those who do, a reliable workplace scent can work wonders for your career confidence.

Look for something light and neutral so it won’t be off-putting to your coworkers or clients. But you should also choose something that makes you feel great. For example, maybe the scent of sandalwood reminds you of the incense you burned in your college dorm while working on your senior thesis. If you wear a scent with sandalwood to work, it will remind you of that successful feeling you had when you got that project done.

For Vacation

While you certainly don’t need to buy a vacation-specific scent, travel does offer you a great chance to switch things up yet again.

You might pack a selection of travel-sized fragrances to try out on your trip. As you make positive vacation memories, you can also make positive associations with new scents, which might lead you to discover a new favorite.

Travel also gives you an opportunity to try out local scents. Pay attention to the fruits, flowers, and spices you encounter. A scent that includes one of those notes could remind you forever of the great trip you had.

The scent you wear is part of how you present yourself to the world. And there’s no rule that says you have to wear certain scents to certain events. But if you select the perfect scent for an occasion, it can help you create the experience you want.

We’re also big fans of upending convention. If you want to wear a clean, unisex scent on a date, or a rich, musky fragrance during the day, go for it! How you react to a fragrance depends on your unique experience with that scent, so always wear what feels right to you.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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