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Need a Great Gift Idea? Follow Your Nose

Holiday Scents

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Holiday scents are in the air!

Looking for a can't-miss holiday gift that can calm, de-stress, uplift or energize the recipient? How about something that smells?

Smells good, that is. An aromatic treat — a scented candle, oil or shower gel, or an eau de toilette (EDT) or eau de parfum (EDP) — is a guaranteed mood booster. It also secretly allows me to play "beauty shrink" as I contemplate how the giftee may benefit from certain ingredients, aka the "notes" of citrus, rose, jasmine, patchouli or even pepper that infuse a fragrance.

Given the doozy of a year we just survived, why not present everyone you love — or merely like — with one of these cost-conscious cadeaux (gifts)?

Shop for 'goal' notes. Check the ingredient list to find one of these two fragrance "personalities."

  1. Relaxing notes — of lavender, for example, or of sandalwood, vanilla, neroli oil, pine, ylang-ylang or bergamot oil — are ideal for anyone feeling anxious, burned out or on edge. (In short, for all of us!) Some of my favorite scents in this category are Victoria's Secret Scandalous Fragrance Mist, and Flower by Drew Barrymore Eau de Parfum Spray in Radiant. And purse-sized rollerballs make it easy to give an upscale scent for less; two reasonably priced options are the Yves Saint Laurent Mon Paris EDP Rollerball or the Marc Jacobs Divine Decadence Rollerball.
  2. Energizing and uplifting notes of citrus, grapefruit, orange, eucalyptus or spices can perk up even your glummest chums. Among the many lower-priced candidates available, consider the Body Shop Pink Grapefruit Body Mist, Bath & Body Works Stress Relief Eucalyptus Spearmint Scented Candle or SJP Stash EDP Rollerball by Sarah Jessica Parker. All promise to reboot your spirits ... stat.

Don't be a scent snob. The same companies that create high-end luxury fragrances also turn out drugstore sprays, "no-name" scents and pop-star brands. Coty, for example, is a major brand perhaps best known for its Gucci fragrance, yet it also still manufactures reliable "oldies," such as Vanilla Fields cologne, at drugstores. Recently I've grown enamored of an "unknown" orange-blossom-and-citrus scent called Le Couvent des Minimes Botanical Cologne of Love (the name alone is heady enough) and rediscovered the citrusy, still-great Jean Naté After-Bath Splash Mist; at Walmart, it's less than one Hamilton.

Body mist is à la mode. Light and airy, this lower-cost, head-to-toe spray may have been a cheap trick once upon a time, but nowadays even pricey labels (Tom Ford, Dior, Ralph Lauren) have launched their own versions. All three are above my bottom line, thank you very much, so I plan to stick to a pair of drugstore bargains that smell both classy and contemporary: Calgon Hawaiian Ginger Fragrance Body Mist and Prince Matchabelli Wind Song Body Spray.

Revisit the oldies. Maybe Proust and Cher were on to something: To trigger old memories for your closest friends, ask them which drugstore scent would best "turn back time." When I conducted this highly nonscientific research myself, the fragrances most frequently mentioned were Elizabeth Arden White Shoulders Eau de Cologne Spray; spicy green Charlie Gold Eau Fraiche Spray; cool, crisp Old Spice Eau de Cologne Spray Classic; and the James Bond-ish Brut Cologne Special Reserve. All are available online — and have been updated for 2017.

The 'noses' know — do you? As perfume professionals are aware, every grain of garlic or shred of spicy food you eat over the holidays will waft from your pores and mouth for up to two days afterward, undermining the purity of whatever scent you happen to be wearing. So don't say we didn't warn you! Because fragrance clings best to moist, hydrated skin, drink plenty of water, lubricate your skin with a no-scent moisturizer as a base, and spray or dab perfume on sweat-prone spots where your body heat can amplify its action: wrists, backs of knees, neck, cleavage and the small of your back.

Being 5-foot-1 myself, I know good things come in small packages — and are far easier to wrap!

For more beauty and fashion tips for women age 50-plus, take a look inside my book The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50,  AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine, and my weekly column in this space.

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