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Looking for an affordable scent that smells great, too? We polled a panel of beauty editors and asked them to share their favorite fragrances that are also easy on the wallet.
Read on for a dozen budget-friendly perfume picks, from floral French spritzes to citrusy Italian mists.
The best perfumes for women
- 1. Caudalie Thé Des Vignes Fragrance, $31 (usually $39), Amazon
“Perfumers will tell you this fragrance contains ginger, neroli, orange blossom and jasmine ... but you can’t pinpoint any of that. In fact, I’ve never smelled anything quite like it. It’s strong but soft. Classic yet trendy. Heavy on the musk, zero percent Grandma. Plus, it’s off the radar in a good way: No one ever says, ‘Oh, you’re wearing [insert popular fragrance here]!’ It’s a sexy little mystery,” Leah Wyar, executive beauty director of Cosmopolitan and Seventeen, said.
- 2. Kai Perfume Oil, $35 (normally $45), Amazon
“I stumbled upon this gem of a fragrance when I was 16 years old in a cute little boutique in Dewey Beach, Delaware, while on vacation with my family. The store had a tester on the counter, and I remember swiping it on, loving the exotic scent and buying a little vial. More than 15 years later, it’s still one of my go-tos and a cult favorite of many beauty editors and celebs (and my Gram Lois, who hoards it!). Some white florals can be overwhelming, but Kai (a mix of jasmine and frangipani) is beachy and clean, too. The oil is portable, so I keep it in my bag to easily reapply. A tiny dab of the concentrated oil lasts hours longer than a few sprays,” Heather Muir, beauty director of Real Simple and Health magazines, said.
- 3. Elizabeth & James Nirvana Black Eau De Parfum Spray, $55, Amazon
“Before I go on a trip, I raid the People magazine beauty closet for a few travel-sized products to add to my (already overstuffed) toiletry bag. On one of these occasions, I grabbed the rollerball version of Elizabeth and James' Nirvana Black. I love the mix of sandalwood, vanilla and violet so much that I would've committed to a full-size bottle, but there's something nice about having a perfume that you only wear when you travel. It becomes the official aroma of ‘you on vacation.’ In fact, the first time I apply it at my destination, it's like my nose tells my brain to sit back and relax until further notice,” Andrea Lavinthal, style and beauty director of People, said.
- 4. Aerin Mediterranean Honeysuckle Eau De Parfum Rollerball, $30, Nordstrom
“I discovered this scent while putting together a story on summer fragrances, and it’s since become my favorite year-round scent. It’s not too crisp but not too sweet or flowery, either — it’s the perfect balance. You can smell the fresh grapefruit and bergamot in it, but it’s mixed with lush white flowers like gardenia and jasmine, so it’s a little sexier and sweeter than a straight-up citrus cologne. And it really does smell just like summer in the Mediterranean. It comes in a roller ball, which is great for travel and doesn’t spill or take up any space. You can just dab it on and go! I even keep one in my desk drawer, and if I’m having an insane day, I’ll dab it on to instantly calm my mind,” Victoria Kirby, beauty director of Redbook, said.
- 5. Fresh Sugar Lemon Eau De Parfum Rollerball, $25, Sephora
“It’s basically bottled sunshine (aka, everything I need during these very gray, cold winter months). It's bright, sparkly, clean, a little sweet, a little tart and always puts me in a happy mood. It's one of the rare scents I use both as a perfume and a home fragrance, and I'm just as obsessed with the candle as I am with the body wash (which makes my bathroom smell like limoncello every time I use it). I'll often do the body wash, lotion, then a few spritzes of the perfume on my wrists, behind my neck and chest — it's subtle, so it's impossible to overdo it. So good!” Kate Erickson, beauty writer at Glamour, said.
- 6. Happy by Clinique, $39, Amazon
“Fun fact: I wore (this scent) to a competitor’s fancy-pants fragrance launch, and when their perfumer hugged me goodbye, he asked, ‘What are you wearing?’ I told him, warily. ‘You stick with that,’ he said, appreciatively,” Jessica Matlin, beauty director of Teen Vogue, spilled.
- 7. Maison Margiela Replica Beach Walk Rollerball, $28, Sephora
“I’m always a sucker for a beachy scent — this one reminds me of the years I lived on the West Coast in Santa Barbara while I was in college. It isn’t super flowery or tropical (although there is a hint of ylang-ylang and coconut milk), and it captures the scent of ocean water and driftwood. Plus, you can’t beat a rollerball: It’s portable and spill proof and so easy to apply in the exact right place. A swipe on each wrist and a dab under each ear is just enough,” Kate Sandoval Box, beauty director of Shape, said.
- 8. Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker, $23, Amazon
“This is my favorite inexpensive fragrance. It’s a pretty, soft scent that has hints of orchid, white amber and cedar. And I love the simplicity of the bottle,” Kahlana Barfield Brown, fashion and beauty editor at large for InStyle, said.
- 9. Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Coco Eau De Toilette Spray, $42, Amazon
“I'm a sucker for vanilla and coconut scents — especially come summertime — so finding one with notes of both feels like hitting the jackpot. This blend instantly transports me to a tropical vacation ... without the hefty price tag. Think the beach, bottled. The only thing missing is a pina colada!” Dori Katz Price, beauty and fashion director of Family Circle, said.
- 10. Philosophy Pure Grace Spray Fragrance, $34 (usually $42), Amazon
“You know that moment when you first get out of the shower and you smell perfectly soapy and clean? That's exactly what this scent captures. It blends bergamot, musk, water lily and lavender, but it doesn't smell flowery or perfumy at all. It’s just fresh and crisp. Best part: It comes in a bunch of different forms, so you can smell like it from head to toe. They even just came out with a dry shampoo version, so I’m excited to add that to the regimen now, too.” Alyssa Hertzig, contributing beauty editor of Rachael Ray Every Day, said.
- 11. The Body Shop White Musk Perfume Oil, $20, The Body Shop
“My earliest fragrance memories involve strong, heady scents from the ‘80s — think Giorgio Beverly Hills and YSL Opium. It was the new ‘power woman’ aimed at making a statement from her shoulder pads to her perfume. So when I was old enough to go to the mall by myself (the ‘90s) and came across White Musk, a comparatively unassuming scent, it was a revelation.
“The Body Shop was simply the coolest beauty store around, and finding my first signature scent among the treasure trove of grooming goodies felt like a true discovery. Like all great classics, the blend endures. It smells clean and fresh, and just a little bit bohemian; there's a subtle exoticism that's neither here nor there. I think it's still incredibly modern,” Erin Flaherty, beauty director of Marie Claire, said.
- 12. Fresh Sugar Lychee Eau De Parfum Rollerball, $25, Nordstrom
“I first started using Fresh’s Lychee scent my senior year of college. I was living in New York City and splurged on a bottle of the light, sweet scent to cheer up the dresser in my dorm-style apartment and escape (in my mind, at least) from the city heat. Sixteen years later, I am still obsessed with the fragrance. It takes me back to my early city days every time I put it on, and I think about how far I've come,” Jacqueline Gifford, special projects editor at Travel + Leisure, said.
This article was originally published in February 2017 on TODAY.com.