’m very sensitive to scent. So much so that when I was younger, I chose friends based on how much I liked their smell (this went on until I accidentally offended a unsavory-smelling classmate — at which point I was told by my mother to keep my scent opinions to myself). In my adult life, my sensitive nose means mostly that I have a complex relationship with perfumes and colognes — for me, there’s a thin line between perfumes that nicely enhance my natural smell and an intense, overwhelming stench.
Bad perfume isn’t just unpleasant for those of us with sensitive noses, though: I think we’ve all experienced sitting next to someone on the metro or being introduced to a colleague whose scent is so overpowering, you essentially lose all sense of space and time. Since I love wearing perfume but am mildly terrified of overdoing it, I’ve taught myself a few tricks to keep my scent in check. What’s most important, I’ve found, is to spray the scent directly on one pulse point (i.e. wrists or neck) and then, if you want a little bit extra, spray in the air and walk through it. Not a drop more than that.
The good news: Below is a list of charming, inoffensive perfumes that will enhance your natural scent, adding another level of fun self-expression to your beauty routine. The bad news: I’ve found it very difficult (and very frustrating) to find pretty, non-offensive scents that I like for under $50. Most everything I’ve tried on the cheaper side not only hurts my nostrils but is actually sticky on my skin — and there’s nothing worse than actually feeling like I’m wearing perfume. Which is all to say, I’m sorry in advance for recommending fairly expensive perfumes, and as an apology, I’ve also added some incredible-smelling candles to the list so you can more affordably bring fragrance into your home and life.
Affordable and effective, this Glossier perfume is one of the best perfumes on the market for that “enhancing your natural scent” vibe. It’s warm, woody, and clean with almost no floral or fruity notes. It’s not as cheap as most things from Glossier, but there is a lot of product, and the bottle is glass, not plastic.
I recently got travel-size vial of this perfume and it’s quickly become a staple. A variation on the original Miu Miu scent, this new rendition is less earthy and more rosy, making it feel a bit lighter. Rose is personally one of my all-time favorite scents — it’s classic without smelling old lady–ish, and always makes me feel fresh and elegant. I wouldn’t say she’s a cheap deal, but she’s worth the splurge if you’re feeling like investing in a nice, soft but effective scent.
This is the first perfume one of my friends ever bought online without trying the scent out in person first. Trusting that she’d like the scent based on the description (“Juniper berry and Sandalwood”) alone felt really crazy, but she went for it anyway. And thank God she did because she really loves it. DedCool is a Los Angeles–based, unisex, vegan fragrance brand that she first noticed while window-shopping on Garmentory. Though it’s one of the “louder” scents she has in her collection, I almost always compliment on it when she wears it out. When I’ve borrowed it, I’ve found that it actually smells better after a few hours when it’s fully absorbed into your skin.
This perfume was a birthday gift from my friend many years ago and is a true first perfume love of mine. Again, I wouldn’t say this scent is subtle — you can certainly smell it immediately when someone wearing it walks by. Having said that, it’s a lovely floral, romantic scent — always what I wear on nights out and times when I want to feel fun and flirty. A little does go a long way, so I always buy the smaller version. I understand that this still isn’t even that cheap, but for a designer perfume that will last you a good amount of time, it isn’t awful.
I randomly got this perfume in sample form at Sephora (although, oddly, you can’t buy it on the website) and became immediately addicted to it. It’s so soft and subtle, but also really charming with subtle honey and vanilla notes that are surprisingly not too sweet. Note: You can get it at Walmart, too.
Looking to spend an absurd amount of money for a truly incredible perfume? She’s the one. I do typically love that smell of jasmine, but there’s something about this perfume that’s especially warm, smooth, and seductive. I’ve been stopped on the street and asked about my scent twice while wearing this. I’m serious, if you’re looking for a very high-end perfume (perhaps as a fancy gift for your mom or to really treat yourself after you’ve gotten that paycheck) this is the one.
Why a hair perfume, you might ask? For those of you who want that extra kick of perfume but want it to come off as your own smell (read: not like you’ve manically spritzed yourself as you rushed out the door), a hair mist is a way to go. Hair mists lend a really nice, light fragrance that wafts in a more subtle way than regular perfume. One of my favorite scents of all time comes from Sachajuan — the scent is so subtle, clean, and rosy, I’m absolutely addicted. On days when I’m late for work, I quickly spray this one to two times on my head and then toss my hair, and that’s that. I’ve been complimented on my scent when I’ve worn this more than a few times. And, bonus, it also makes your hair shiny.
Another excellent hair-mist option for my rose-loving girls out there. This is vibrant and lovely without being too aggressive or hair-product-y-smelling. There’s also camellia oil in it, which provides nourishment for your lovely locks.
There’s a common misconception that cheaper candles don’t aromatea room as successfully as pricier ones. This is absolutely not the case with this straight-up staple of mine from Meyer’s. If you’ve used any Meyer’s cleaning products, then you know just how good of a job they do of transforming a horrifying mess into a sparkling, fresh-smelling scene. This candle is that times ten. In my old apartment, one of our neighbors smoked weed in his apartment (I’m really trying to be, like, young and chill about it), and the smoke somehow manages to seep through the walls and waft into my apartment. Whenever he’s smoking, I used to light this candle and it completely knocked the scent out of my apartment. I used to buy these in bulk on Amazon because I’m not messing around.
I absolutely love this candle that I randomly discovered at Nordstrom. Though the candle brand is called Boy Smell the scent itself isn’t masculine at all — it’s a really nice, clean, less dominating-than-the-Meyer’s candle scent that will spruce up your apartment and create the illusion that it’s cleaner than it really is.
Same goes for this candle — which is only $28 and seriously one of the largest candles I own. Unlike the Meyer’s and Boy Smell scents (which are both pretty forceful), this one is light and airy and a more subtle, floral experience. It’s less for cleaning purposes and more for enhancing a room’s smell. The first time I smelled this one, it reminded me of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai and it instantly relaxed me.