How to buy perfume for her

If you're struggling for gift ideas for your wife or girlfriend, perfume often seems like a safe bet. But once you've hit the shops the array of scents can be overwhelming and many a stressed husband has been seen wandering the department store perfume counter with a handful of fragrance samples and a bemused expression... not to mention a headache.

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So if you are determined to find the perfect perfume, it's important to know what you're letting yourself in for.

Firstly, not all perfumes suit everybody - by that we mean that what smells fabulous on your female work colleague may not on your partner, so simply asking your female friends what they wear won't necessarily work.

Instead, try to ascertain what type of fragrance your loved one usually wears. Does she prefer a soft floral scent, a fresh, citrus fragrance, a deeper woody aroma or the sweet and spicy flavour of an oriental perfume?

Also, be aware of when she wears her perfume - for instance, if she has a daytime fragrance, consider a more sumptuous evening scent or vice versa. Consider too that an eau de parfum will likely be a stronger and more concentrated perfume while eau de toilette may be a cheaper but lighter alternative.

Once you know which kind of fragrance she prefers staff at the perfume counter should be able to advise on which perfumes belong to which group. Alternatively, find out the name of her usual scent and ask which fragrances fall into a similar category.

Chanel is a name synonymous with classic fragrances and No. 5 will almost always go down well. But their new fragrance, Chance, offers a more youthful aroma if the likes of Coco and Allure are on the heavy side.

Estee Lauder's newest scent, Beyond Paradise, is a mix of hyacinth, jasmin and honeysuckle (inspired by the Eden project, no less) and a luscious choice for floral fragrance lovers, while for the younger generation, Cacharel's Amor Amor is a sweet, slightly fruity scent ideally suited to a girly teenager.

Meanwhile, L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake is a complex but fresh perfume that's perfect for daytime wear and if the lady in your life is already a fan, it's worth considering alternatives such as Cool Water or Emporio Armani's Acqua di Gio. If money is tight, consider Herve Leger Femme by Avon - perfect for a day at work, it's a subtle mix of floral and citrus notes and has all the delicacy of a designer perfume without the price tag.

Popular among woody fragrances this year are Prada's Infusion d'Iris and DKNY Delicious Night.

However, if your partner is a confident woman, a bolder perfume may prove ideal. Estee Lauder's Sensuous is floral with oriental and woody undertones and is a seductive scent ideal for a sophisticated evening out.

And classic fragrances are very much making a comeback this year, so consider J'Adore by Dior, Poison (also by Dior) and Angel by Thierry Mugler which is a woody fragrance and one of the UK's top five best-selling perfumes.

Perfume is a gift that few women are disappointed with, provided it appeals, so brave the department stores and discover a scent that both of you will adore.