I’m all for ostentatious, extravagant and OTT beauty moments. Having fun is the only real endgame, after all. But sometimes, this rule doesn’t apply so cleanly to perfumes. Big, blousy, explosive scents have a time and place, for sure. But sometimes you just want something fresh, light and clean. And for those purposes, here are ten of the best.
When thinking of a barely-there scent, Glossier’s You is one of the first to spring to mind. It’s designed to meld with your own personal, pheromone based fragrance to create a uniquely cosy and soft scent moment. To me, it smells sweet, musky and a little bit creamy – like clean skin but a little more edible. There’s also an odd hint of damp cardboard which I honestly do not dislike.
There’s no better smell than that ephemeral after-the-rain moment. And while that’s basically impossible to capture and bottle, Commodity have given it a damn good try. This fragrance smells lightly aquatic with a fresh, almost citrusy touch. It’s very clean but not artificial-smelling.
A more artificial take on the clean scent is this genius scent from Byredo. I’m happy to admit I’m somewhat of a Byredo fangirl, and this is one of the products which sparked my love. According to Byredo, the prevalent notes are supposed to be white roses, pink pepper and aldehydes, but to me it’s 100% washing powder. But, like, in the best way ever.
If you aren’t into sweet scents but want something soft and light, this is for you. It’s quite a herbal accord, and to my nose is definitely unisex. It’s super refreshing and uplifting, and quite a bargain among perfumes, too.
Speaking of bargains, this is one of the biggest in the fragrance game. At around £10 per giant bottle, this fragrance smells like clean ironing, herbal tea and lime peel. It’s a fairly simple idea, but one which totally works, and has done for over a hundred years. If you’re feeling tired of heavy, intrusive perfumes, 4711 is definitely the antidote.
Lemon in perfume is a bit of a divisive issue – to some it smells fresh and clean, and to others of toilet cleaner. L’Occitane’s Citron Noir is definitely on the “fresh and clean” side, as it blends the citrusy top notes with darker, sweeter notes of myrrh, neroli, patchouli and vanilla. This is the perfect mix between freshness and depth, and is thus a great fragrance for all occasions.
Fresh Life is a delicious, mouth-wateringly juicy scent. If you want to smell like you are freshly showered and have just done laundry, this is the one for you. The notes of grass, moss and cucumber stop the scent from being too much of a citrus party, and add a bit of interest to the scent. It’s simple but undeniably effective.
If these options sound a little too unisex for you, Narciso Rodriguez For Women may be more up your street. This scent is undeniably girly, with a musky overtone and sweet florals. But it isn’t sickly or cloying, instead smelling more like a hug from a friend than an explosion in a candy factory.
L’Eau D’Issey is one of the classics in light, fresh scents. Designed to be “as clear as spring water” the scent has a range of floral and fruity notes, but thanks to its aquatic vibe still remains clean. Think more “walk through a magical forest” than “soap and bubble bath” and you’ll be more on the right lines.
I’m a huge fan of fragrance brand Clean, and have honestly never tried one of their scents I haven’t loved. Reserve Skin makes this list, though, as it’s the most “barely there” in vibe. Which doesn’t mean it’s weak or lacklustre, more that it melds with your skin to give a soft, cosy, but delicious aroma. To me it’s sort of a much more natural take on a gourmand scent, thanks to praline and tonka bean notes, although there’s a certain animalistic saltiness which also comes through.
Shop editor-approved fragrances perfect to take you from day to night
Featured images via Condé Nast Archive, Vogue, April 1964
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