It’s Valentines season, a time to show your loved ones how much you care. Most of us will find a way to express love on February 14th, and whether a gesture is big or small, expensive or free, what matters is the thought behind it.

As the holiday approaches, you may be considering the gift of fragrance. Traditionally, fragrance has been considered a gift given to women. But it can be a great gift for the man in your life, too.

The importance of scent

Science has proven that sense of smell is tied to memory and emotions. In fact, an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences indicates that olfactory-triggered memories are more emotional than those evoked by other senses. Scent can elicit anything from a general sense of familiarity to specific memories of moments in our lives. Similarly, a persons scent—whether its natural or tied to a regularly worn fragrance—becomes associated with that person in our minds. Buying a fragrance is the gift that keeps on giving, as that scent becomes a mental link to that person.

Many people also don’t realize how personal a gift of fragrance can be. Selecting a fragrance for a loved one involves thoughtful consideration, and the fragrance you choose sends a message about how you feel toward that person.

Getting started

Walking into the fragrance section of any store can be an overwhelming experience. With hundreds of bottles containing a variety of scents, where’s a shopper to begin, especially when selecting a scent for someone else? Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Don’t focus on the individual ingredients.

A fragrance is a composition of anywhere from 10 to 250 ingredients, or notes, which all work together to create the overall fragrance. Think of a fragrance as a painting: You don’t look at the individual colors to decide if you like it;it’s the overall composition and harmony that matters. Keep an open nose and be willing to give anything a try.

  • Don’t take it too seriously.

Many people feel pressured to find one just-right fragrance, but in reality, a variety of fragrances may suit a person. Perfume and cologne can be played with just like fashion, with different scents fitting different occasions and moods. So rather than trying to pick the absolute perfect scent, just have fun finding something that fits the person you’re buying for. And if your sweetie already owns perfume or cologne, don’t discount another fragrance as a gift possibility—think of it as a thoughtful addition to his or her scent options.

  • Don’t focus on gender-specific scents.

Historically, certain fragrances weren’t geared toward a specific sex. Modern marketing changed that for consumers, causing people to associate flowery, fruity and sweet scents with women and deep, woody and spicy’s cents with men. But now, scents are once again becoming more gender neutral. Base your decision on the fragrance itself, rather than packaging—just because a scent is marketed toward men doesn’t mean it can’t also be a good fit for a woman, and vice versa. Ingredients today are very similar in both products.

Tips for choosing a fragrance

Purchasing a fragrance for your significant other should be a thoughtful, fun experience. Think of it as your opportunity to buy something uniquely suited for your loved one. Here are some tips to help you navigate the scent selection process:

Focus on personal details. Think of your loved one while you shop. What colors does he like? Every fragrance has a natural color association—just close your eyes when smelling a scent, and you should see colors. What is his personality? For extroverts, bolder scents may be a good fit, while introverts might prefer something softer and subtler.

Decide on your message. As much as selecting a scent is about the person youre buying for, it’s also about what you want to say with the gift. Spicier, stronger scents tend to communicate love or romance, while more frivolous smells—think fruity, bright or citrus notes—typically communicate friendship.

Know your loved ones taste. Notice the scents your significant other is already wearing. Does she experiment with different fragrances on different occasions? Does she stick to the same fragrance every day? Does she usually prefer strong, spicy scents or light, citrusy scents? Use this information to help guide your selection.

Smell deeply. When smelling a fragrance, close your eyes and let yourself really experience the scent. One quick sniff isn’t enough. Take time to savor the fragrance and decide if it’s a good fit for the person you’re buying for. Also keep in mind that scents evolve over time, so the more time you can spend with a fragrance, the better.

Make sure you like it. You’ll be smelling this gift for a long time, so make sure its something you enjoy. Even if it seems to fit all of the other selection criteria, if you don’t like the scent, it’s not the right gift.

Anahita Mekanikha’s 14 years of experience in the fragrance industry.