Summer is here at last! Bring on the sun-filled beaches, the grassy picnics, the summer parties, the midi skirts—and forgo the intense, romantic perfumes of winter. This is simply not the season to be clobbered over the head with notes of cardamom and fir. When it comes to summer scents, easy does it. In our quest for the best, we reached out to some of our favorite beauty editors and writers, who generously shared their go-to fragrances with us.
Here are ten summer perfumes that capture the season in a bottle:
“I typically gravitate toward light, fresh, oftentimes unisex scents for my fragrance go-tos. A couple years ago, Atelier Cologne submitted Clémentine California in consideration for The Total Beauty Awards and, immediately, I was smitten.
To me, the bright, sparkling fragrance smells like summer in a bottle. It’s like biting into a juicy, just-picked citrus fruit. It’s sweet and tangy as well as young and fun (without smelling too juvenile). As it dries down, you notice fresh, green notes of juniper and zesty mandarin, which gives it depth and incredible staying power.
Every time I wear Clémentine California, both men and women stop to ask me what fragrance I’m wearing; it garners so many compliments. The scent is warm, familiar, perfect for summer, and will put a smile on the face of anyone who wears it.”
—Hannah Savin, editorial assistant,
“I love fragrance (and have been known to keep up to 15 on my desk at any given time), but I have a sensitive nose, so I’m really picky about which perfumes I actually want to smell on myself all day—especially in the summer, when the heat can make even the lightest scent seem oppressive.
That said, I can’t stop dousing myself in Diptyque’s new Fleur de Peau eau de parfum. Musk, iris, and pink peppercorn create the perfect airy, barely-there skin scent; it’s soft and elegant and slightly carnal all at the same time. Plus, it’s inspired by the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros, which is very pleasing to my ancient history-nerd soul.”
—Rachel Krause, senior beauty writer, Refinery29
“My favorite summer scent for 2018 definitely has to be Byredo Gypsy Water. I discovered this gorgeous perfume on Instagram, of course, and had heard rumblings about it amongst my beauty friends for a while now. One of my favorite things about Byredo scents is that, with just one whiff, you’re able to decode this intricate story—every scent gives you a persona that you can (literally) drizzle on.
Gypsy Water is no different, and it especially stands out for summer because of the airy tale it tells—it’s extremely fresh, slightly peppery, and totally timeless and spaceless: perfect for the beach, rooftop happy hour, or traveling across the globe. It’s the kind of summer scent you’ll always find yourself gravitating back to no matter where or “when” you are. I can’t get enough, and don’t think I ever will.”
—Alanna Martine Kilkeary, assistant beauty editor,
The ones ready-made for a vacation
“I recently moved from New York City to Los Angeles and, as someone whose go-to uniform is head-to-toe black, it’s been a big change. While I’m still a Brooklyn girl at heart, I determined that the Cali sun called for a fragrance makeover. I tend to gravitate toward heavier, muskier, and more masculine scents, but I’ve decided to lighten up in more ways than one now that I’ve officially switched coasts.
I was recently sent Creed’s latest launch, Love In White For Summer, and perfumer Olivier Creed developed it during the dark days of winter to remind him of the beach. His vision definitely comes through via bright hints of Bulgarian rose and Calabrian bergamot. At its heart sits my favorite note (and flower!) of all time: Florentine iris. Along with cedarwood, ambergris, and sandalwood at the base, it’s fresh and light but still hasscent mirrors my approach to life in LA: I’m a bit more laid-back, but at my core, I’ll always be a neurotic New Yorker…”
“…When I want to transport myself to Paris (my other favorite city), I reach for Ex Nihilo’s new Viper Green, a blend of iris, vetiver, and patchouli. It’s what I imagine chic French girls wear after the sun sets in Biarritz.”
—Amber Kallor, beauty director,
“A lot of perfumes can feel too heavy for me during the summer, and a lot of light ‘summer’ fragrances have no staying power. Dear Polly sits right in the middle. It never overwhelms, but it doesn’t disappear right away, either.
It’s a beautiful, unusual blend of black tea, apple, and bergamot enveloped in a smoky, honeyed haze—and you won’t smell it on every other person, which is always a bonus.”
—Annie Tomlin, freelance beauty writer
“Blended in small batches on the North Shore of Kauai, Leahlani Bless Aromatherapy Essence’s citrus flowers, sweet tansy, and organic fractionated coconut oil smell like a balmy evening in paradise. It’s intoxicating on bare skin.”
The fresh, crisp scents
“Whenever I think of ‘summer scents,’ I think of all things fresh, citrus-y, and light. I normally gravitate toward layered, warmer, romantic scents. But it’s hard to not be drawn to lighter perfumes when the season is full of sunshine. I recently discovered the Clean perfume line at Sephora and I’ve fallen in love with the acqua neroli scent.
True to its name, the Clean Acqua Neroli eau de parfum spray is fresh and floral, but not overpowering. The citrus scent from the bergamot oil evokes a happy summer day spent walking along the beach. A lot of reviewers have compared it to Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino, while raving about it being half the price. The Clean Acqua Neroli perfume, however, is less musky and perfect for when the daylight hours stretch longer.”
“I’m a bit of a fragrance fanatic; it’s part of my morning ritual to spritz some on, even if I’m running late. I think it started when I was much younger and I’d sit and watch my mom get dressed for date night with my father. For years, she’d spray Chanel No. 5. My grandmother used it too. I tend to gravitate towards more masculine scents, but since moving to L.A., I’ve been drawn to a sort of musky rose. We worked with perfumer Douglas Little on goop’s own line of non-toxic fragrance…”
“…He also has a small-batch collection of his own called Heretic. His Dirty Rose scent is absolutely perfect—not too sweet and not too strong. He mixes roses de mai and damask rose with a citrusy bergamot and spicy pink pepper. It’s really sexy and it makes me think of a scene straight out of Call Me By Your Name, set in a rambling villa in Northern Italy. The only downside is that I’m down to the last few drops of my travel size so I’m on the waitlist for our next delivery. I’ll be using the last few spritzes very selectively…”
—Nandita Khanna, editorial projects director, goop