New study says perfume considered ‘unshareable’ among women


A BYU professor was researching new packaging and marketing designs for women’s fragrances when he discovered something interesting: women avoid sharing their perfume.

“A woman’s fragrance is such a very intimate pillar of their personal identity, that they would never share with a good friend,” said industrial design professor Brian Howell.

Howell explained that the study revealed that if a woman likes a scent, she is less likely to buy it for her good friend. Actually, she is more likely to buy a fragrance for her good friend if she does not like the smell.

“It looked like sabotage,” Howell said. “What are women doing to each other? This led me to go back and investigate.”

Gabrielle Cueva is an employee at Macy’s department store and has been selling perfumes for more than 15 years. She said it is not uncommon to see women buying perfume for other woman, but it is rarely for their good friends.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU
Women often only shop for their own perfume, not for others. BYU professor Brian Howell attributes this to the intimate nature of women’s fragrances. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

“We do have women that come to buy for other women, but it is usually for their mothers or sisters,” Cueva said.

Cueva went on to say that most women who buy fragrances are there for themselves.

“They come in and want to see how it smells for themselves,” Cueva said. “We encourage them to try it on.”

Cueva also explained that it is often a process to find the right perfume. Women will try some on, leave, walk around for a while and come back if they like it.

While this notion may be obvious to women, Howell was surprised by his findings and had no idea that women hold certain things as “unshareable” and so personal.

“Every women I ask, they all say, ‘Duh. Of course I would never buy a fragrance for a woman,'” Howell said.

BYU campus news manager Emily Hellewell agreed.

“Buying perfume for another woman is like buying a swimsuit for someone else,” she said in a press release about the study. “Swimsuits, like perfume choices, are very personal, and it’s not a gift you would give a friend.”

Howell explained that this study was not intentional at first. He was researching packaging design based on the colors that women often associate with certain scents.

“It was very much an accident,” Howell said. “The purpose of the research had nothing to do with this.”

While the practical application of these findings is not clear yet, Howell was fascinated by the study.

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