If you’ve ever walked in the opposite direction of someone and then encountered a waft of fragrance, then you might have stepped into their perfume sillage.
Sillage is the scent trail that you leave as you move through a room while wearing perfume. It can be subtle or powerful. And it can have a minimal, moderate, or broad impact on those around you.
Keep reading to understand why sillage is important and how to test your perfume sillage.
The Perfume Sillage Trail
When you’re known for a signature fragrance, then it’s possible for someone close to you to locate you based on your scent.
A French term, sillage means “wake,” or “trace.” This term is firstly used to describe the impression a boat leaves on the water, which I think is a helpful visual. Imagine a speedboat moving down the river and then seeing deep grooves and froth indicating the direction where the boat was coming from.
That’s its trace, or you could say, the aftermath of its passing.
Similarly, perfume sillage is like a line of invisible bread crumbs floating in the air. And if your trail is strong, then a person can find you without a problem. They can trace your steps, so to speak.
How Do You Pronounce Sillage?
Although sillage is a French term, its spelling is only one letter away from the English word, village. If you’ve never taken French, you might think that sillage rhymes with village, but it does not.
When pronounced correctly, the “i” sounds like a double “e.” The double l’s sound like the letter “y” and “age” sounds like a long “a” with a “z” at the end. He’s how it’s spelled phonetically: SEE-yazh or sijaʒ – depending on the source.
If you’d like to hear it pronounced, check out the video below.
What Impacts Sillage?
When your perfume has good sillage, you become a human diffuser, releasing fragrance into the air as you move. Movement is the primary factor that activates perfume diffusion.
The place on your body where you apply your perfume also impacts sillage.
By now I’m sure you’re familiar with pulse points – the areas on your body where you generate more heat. When perfume is applied in these areas, then your scent trail becomes stronger.
Well moisturized skin also amplifies perfume sillage.
Do Some Fragrances Have More Perfume Sillage?
If you are wearing a layered fragrance, you can expect top note scents to leave a lighter impression. Going back to the boat analogy, when paddling a canoe, the wake it leaves won’t be as deep as that of a speed boat.
So for sake of comparison, top note fragrances are like a canoe. They leave a trail that disappears into the water pretty quickly.
Citrus fragrances and some florals are top note scents. Middle floral notes and woodsy base notes on the other hand, leave more of a trace.
How to Test Your Sillage
It’s impossible to know how your fragrance will impact everyone around you.
At the same time, you don’t want to leave a trail that causes others to puke. Finding that middle place where the wake that you leave is noticeable without being overwhelming is ideal.
But how do you go about doing this?
If you’re amongst friends, you can listen to their feedback. Usually if someone enjoys your sillage, they’ll let you know. Others might enjoy the scent but remain quiet.
When it’s unbearable, though, someone will definitely let you know – whether it’s done directly or indirectly. They may make a comment, or you might notice an uncomfortable facial expression. You can then make adjustments to the amount of perfume you apply each day.
What about when there’s no one else around to offer you any clues about the impact of your sillage?
Since movement is one of the primary ways to detect sillage, then I would suggest spraying on your perfume as usual, and then walking out of the room.
After five minutes or so, you can then circle back in order to gauge the scent of your trail. This approach may not be as accurate, but it might offer you a hint.
Is Perfume Sillage and Projection the Same?
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same.
Sillage is the trail that we’ve been discussing. But projection describes how far your scent radiates away from you. You don’t have to be moving in order for your fragrance to project.
There could be a huge gap in projection range between fragrances.
Some perfumes are considered skin scents. They have little to no projection because you’d have to be extremely close to a person in order to smell their perfume.
And then you have some scents that are either too strong or have been overapplied, making them difficult to tolerate by others in your vicinity.
Finding a sweet spot in between is ideal for most settings. Although some work environments prohibit employees from wearing fragrances, even if you’re in a surrounding that allows fragrances, it’s best not to wear one that projects really far.
A strong scent can be distracting and irritating – both emotionally and physically. Think of it in terms of a scented candle.
The fragrance throw of a candle is how far you can smell the scent when you’re a distance away from the candle. It’s the same with perfume projection. How many feet away from you can a person be and still smell your perfume?
How is Sillage Different from Longevity?
Longevity describes the length of time that your perfume lasts on your skin or clothes.
Body chemistry plays a huge role here because the same fragrance can smell different from one person to the next. Your personal scent, skin moisture levels, and the environment can all impact the longevity of your perfume.
In terms of fragrance composition, scents with a higher concentration of fragrance oils and/or essential oils tend to have more longevity because they aren’t as diluted.
Your scent will also last longer when you spray it onto your pulse points. These warmer spots on your body will gradually release your perfume throughout the day.
All things considered, longevity refers to time – how long the scent lasts. Whereas sillage is the scent others smell as you pass by them.
How to Choose a Perfume According to Sillage
Your fragrance can have minimal sillage or wide reaching sillage. The one you choose will depend on the environment in which you are wearing your perfume.
If you don’t have to be concerned about offending anyone in close proximity to you, then it’s okay to wear a perfume with medium to high sillage.
But when working in close quarters with someone or when meeting a coworker, or attending the opera, having dinner in an intimate setting, etcetera, wearing a low sillage perfume is more appropriate.
Golden Nectar by Nest New York is a good example of a perfume with low to moderate sillage. It’s a warm orchid floral scent with amber and musk as base notes. Amber and musk are what lengthen the reach of sillage for this fragrance.
For medium sillage, you can try Mojave perfume by Abbott. It’s a blend of bergamot citrus, peppery spice, and woodsy tobacco.
Can You Reduce Perfume Sillage?
If you find that your sillage is overwhelming, then there are a few ways that you can reduce its impact.
Rubbing alcohol can remove perfume from its application site. If you have some on hand, you can pour it onto a cotton ball or use an alcohol wipe to rub the area. This offers more immediate relief from strong scents and subsequent sillage.
When you’re able to plan ahead, you can take preventative measures.
Apply less perfume. If you previously applied three squirts, reduce it to one or two. Dabs and roll-ons are harder to measure, but just try to use less than the day before.
Spray clothes instead of skin. When you apply perfume to your clothes, it’s less intense. And since the perfume won’t be responding to your biochemistry, it won’t constantly release fragrance throughout the day. A fainter perfume scent might lead to a more subtle perfume sillage, but not always.
Some scents like amber, must, or sandalwood, might continue to have a broad sillage even when used in small quantities. But the projection of these scents wouldn’t be as far, which might be helpful.
Perfume sillage can be a positive or negative experience for those around you. You have control over the scent trail that you leave behind. So use social cues and experimentation to make adjustments where necessary.