Sniffing real perfumes from fakes


Refillable perfumes by Eunice Waithera of Best Aroma Scents, as seen on June 15, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

There is something magical about fragrance. Its ability to rekindle cherished memories can lift spirits, improve one's mood, and lead to an overall feeling of happiness.

And people in the increasingly popular business of fragrance know a thing or two about happiness too. As perfume refill shops crop up on every corner of Nairobi's city centre, they have been making a killing.

Gone are the days when buying that favourite designer perfume was a worrisome months-long saving affair. Today, for as little as Sh100, a customer with take home a bottle of her favourite signature scent.

But genuine are these perfumes?

Eunice Waithera, one of the perfume traders shares tips on how to tell apart the real stuff from the fakes.

Longevity test

The scents of authentic perfumes always outlast the fakes. Experts advise that authentic perfumes should retain their scents from six to 18 months. On the other hand, the counterfeits only last for a couple of weeks.

Their smell is also telling.

"Fake perfumes smell less complex than the originals. They tend to have a very strong opening, which then quickly fades away, leaving a faint smell of perfume essence strongly dissolved in bitter alcohol. But you can always tell their muckiness," shares Eunice.

The quickest test, she advices, is by applying the perfume on the hand and checking the smell after two hours, four hours, and six hours.

"The imitation will likely smell bad and funny or have no smell at all, The real deal, however, will last on your skin and you will still smell it at the end of the day as strong as when you first applied it. "

Pricing test

This is perhaps the easiest test. The authentic perfumes don't come cheap. Often they cost ten times more than the cheap variants. But there are exceptional circumstances such as when a retailer is clearing stock and therefore offering huge price discounts. Other than that, the price is usually a good authenticity indicator.

"Fake perfumes are much cheaper to produce because they replicate the top notes of a perfume and at times, the middle notes," says Eunice.

At her shop, refills cost no less than Sh1,300 for 30ml.

Smell test

Other tests are for the more decerning nose. For those who know the scents of perfumes, it is possible to tell apart the genuine from fake. Authentic perfumes, experts advise, are multidimensional consisting of top, middle and base notes.

This complexity ensures that the scent changes from the initial application until complete skin absorption. The fakes on the other hand often have only one-dimensional fragrance meaning the scent can only last for a short time.

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