I’ve always loved the idea of having a signature scent (like isn’t that what a true lady has?)butI’ve always reacted to perfumes… they make my throat feel like it’s closing and cause my nose to get all stuffy. But, now I finally found a perfume brand that works for me and even I have two scents I love – one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter.
Fragrances and perfumes have been around since 7000 BC, but between then and now, the supply chain has become muddied with loads of toxic chemicals that put our health and environment at risk-even just a spritz of perfume contains “volatile organic compounds which react with sunlight and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone pollution (source). Clean beauty is important to me, especially when it comes to perfume since it sits directly on your skin and can easily get into your pores. With so many unsafe perfume formulas out there, finding the right scent can feel so challenging (and to be honest, even some “clean” perfumes still make me react!).
Perfumes are not FDA regulated, so they don’t need to disclose the harmful carcinogens and endocrine disruptors commonly added to their bottles. (Just like skincare.) Conventional fragrances often include ingredients like SD alcohol 40, styrene, parabens, phthalates, camphor, benzyl acetate, benzaldehyde, ethyl acetate, limonene, linalool, and methylene chloride (just to name a few.) And since brands are not required to list everything under “fragrance”, there’s a big question mark as to what else could be in them. Cool, COOL. Love that. Yikes.
Perfume enters our bloodstream through our skin, and the listed no-nos above are known to be carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting, and toxic to our respiratory systems and our reproductive systems. Hormone disruptors specifically alter our hormone levels and are connected to male and female reproductive disorders, neurological problems, immune and thyroid disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and hormone-related cancers. Since I already struggle with infertility, I try to minimize my exposure to hormone disruptors.
The fragrances used to create perfumes include words like floral, fruity, warm, citrusy, or woodsy. However, conventional perfumes use unregulated synthetic ingredients to make these scents, and typically just list the word “fragrance” on ingredient labels, rather than listing what actually makes up everything in the ingredient “fragrance.” Fragrance is misleading since it can actually be used to hide other ingredients; “fragrance” is considered a trade secret, which is protected, so brands are not required to disclose the exact makeup. So, it doesn’t necessarily or only describe an ingredient that provides a smell. The good news is that there are clean perfume brands, and they use raw materials like plants and essential oils. fume brands that actually smell good.
Today, I’m sharing a roundup of safe scents so you can smell your best without risking your health or harming the environment. I also made sure to include some of my personal favorite natural perfume brands in case you’re sensitive to even the cleanest perfumes, like I am!
I had to start this list with my FAVORITE scent. Lovely Sweet Dreams is citrusy and floral with notes of peach nectar, warm coconut, and apple. The middle and base notes (what does that even mean though?) are white lily, freesia, jasmine, rose, vanilla, blonde woods, soft musks, and tonka bean. It’s feminine, bright, and not too sweet or floral. It smells sweet but isn’t too overpowering or intense for me. This is my go-to fall/winter scent. Dime Beauty is vegan, cruelty free, clean, and hypoallergenic. I’ve found that it lasts all day, getting lighter as the day goes on. I also love that this perfume is more on the affordable side of perfume at $48. Use code TeriLyn20 for 20% off any Dime purchase! (You can read more about Dime perfumes here.
While I was starting to research for this post, DIME actually launched a new perfume and sent it to me to try. I am SHOCKED by how much I love it, especially since it’s very different from my go-to Lovely Sweet Dreams. This scent is bright and citrus-y, not warm or sweet. The main notes are apple, grapefruit, bergamont, juniper, rosemary, bamboo and cedarwood (among others…SO many things make up a scent. See them all here). To me, Core Memory just feels light and clean. It’s a very clean, light scent and feels a little more classic than Lovely Sweet Dreams, so if you don’t like a sweet scent, try this instead. I have found it doesn’t last as long as Lovely Sweet Dreams so I sometimes reapply if I’m going out in the evening. It’s $48 but use code 20% off with code TeriLyn20.
BEE is warm, spicy, and sweet. Top notes of dark rum and Davana are followed by base notes of vegan honey, bran, cinnamon, sandalwood, vanilla bean, and cocoa. All of these notes make a super interesting scent that’s rich but not heavy. It’s vegan, cruelty free, and safe. I really love the smell of this and wore it for a few months, but I eventually started to react to it.
Missing Person is a long-lasting scent that’s warm and somewhat spicy. The top notes are musk, bergamot, and jasmine along with base notes of cyclamen, neroli blossom, orange flower, sandalwood, and musk. The description they use to describe this scent is “nude” which actually makes a lot of sense when you smell it. It’s just natural and pretty. PHLUR is vegan and cruelty free. They use both botanical and synthetic ingredients, but their synthetic ingredients are tested and chosen carefully to still deliver safe and environmentally ethical products. Their brand stands by full disclosure of all the ingredients they use, which I appreciate. This scent isn’t my personal favorite, but I know PHLUR is loved by lots of my friends who care about low toxic living.
Rosie is a sheer skin scent with notes of nude musk and sweet rose. It’s soft, clean, and floral and lasts pretty well throughout the day. Rosie is By Rosie Jane’s best-selling perfume, and they have lots of other cruelty free, clean, vegan scents to choose from. Their perfumes are also climate neutral and recyclable, which is a bonus in my book! Extra points for great branding too. This is next on my list to order.
ILYSB stands for I Love Your Scent, Baby. It’s a gardenia and sandalwood perfume with hints of vanilla. There are notes of peach, raspberry, red fruits, lily of the valley, rose, vanilla sugar, amber, and musk. I don’t love gardenia so this scent isn’t my favorite. This perfume isn’t too sweet or vanilla-y, so it would make a great option if you are a gardenia fan (my employee, Hannah, LOVES the smell of gardenias, so I’m going to make her review this). It’s long-lasting, cruelty free, vegan, and hypoallergenic. The bottle is only $48 + 20% off with code TeriLyn20.
Aquarian Rose is a super fresh, floral scent with notes of rose, seawater, marjoram, and sandalwood. The brand uses a hydro-distilling method to extract the aroma straight from real flowers, so it gives off a realistic rosy smell. Strange Invisible Perfumes are clean, certified organic, cruelty free, and vegan. I read a few people saying the dry down (the final phrase of a scent) on this perfume gave them a headache, so if you’re extra sensitive like me I would maybe pick a different scent. But if you’re not prone to headaches and love roses, this may be the perfume for you!
I Am Bright is a summery scent with notes of pineapple, salted coconut, tiare flower, orange flower, and lemon. It’s not too overpowering and the formula is vegan, cruelty free, and clean. This scent would be a great option if you’re on the hunt for something that isn’t too overwhelming and I personally want to try it, knowing there’s a smaller concentration of the fragrance oil itself. Since this is an eau de toilette rather than eau de parfum, the scent may not last as long as others on this list. (Eeau de toilettes have a smaller concentration of fragrance oil and also tend to be a bit more affordable.) It’s only $39!
This is another By Rosie scent, and this version – Lake – has notes of vanilla, sandalwood, and neroli. The vanilla is super subtle, so I wouldn’t recommend this for a true vanilla scent. It’s described as “sleeping under the stars” and is inspired by mountains and nature. It’s cozy, crisp, and comforting. This perfume isn’t as long-lasting as some of the others on this list so you may need to reapply for all-day wear. By Rosie Jane is cruelty free, vegan, climate neutral, and safe for humans and the environment. It’s $70.
Queen Bee is the perfect option if you want a sweet fragrance that isn’t too sugary. It has notes of black currant, peony, and amber which combine to make a vibrant floral scent. Good Chemistry perfumes use essential oils and no animal testing for their vegan, clean formulas. It lasts all day and is non-irritating on sensitive skin, so this is great for everyday wear. And it’s only $28! The bottle is cute enough to leave on your vanity too!
Malibu Night is a refreshing coconut musk and berries scent. The top notes are raspberry, pear, and green leaves, along with base notes of coconut milk, pink rose, peony, sandalwood, vanilla, and musk. It’s light, beachy, feminine, and sweet, but just not as good as Lovely Sweet Dreams in my opinion ;). It’s cruelty free, vegan, long-lasting, hypoallergenic, and 20% off with code TeriLyn20. If you like perfumes on the sweeter side I would recommend this scent!
Vanilla Woods is warm, spicy, and sweet. Top notes of pear round out the base and heart notes of rose, vanilla, amber, caramel, and benzoin (which is a type of tree). The pear is a great complement to the other notes and keeps it from being too intense. It’s made with natural and organic essential oils and is cruelty free, vegan, clean, long-lasting, and hypoallergenic. Other people testified that this is a great option for those who are extra sensitive to perfumes, but I have not tried it myself. If you have, leave a comment! I guess this should be on my list to try! It’s on the pricier end, at $88.
WEST is a true citrus scent. It’s energetic and bright and stays on all day. The top notes are blood orange, clementine, lemon, and basil with base notes of pear blossom, waterlily, ginger, vetiver, amber, and oakmoss. Ellis Brooklyn scents are vegan, cruelty free, and clean. They use a blend of natural and safe synthetics in their formulas which are safe for people and the environment. WEST is super fresh and not overly fruity. It would make a perfect summer fragrance. I got a sample of this and LOVED it. A full-sized bottle is $108.
Dirty Hinoki is described as a “Japanese forest bath in a bottle” Sure, I’m here for a forest bath. It has top notes of lemon, cedar, nutmeg, thyme, and pine. The base notes include hinoki, cypress, elemi, balsam, frankincense, wormwood, and fir absolute. This scent is very unique and citrusy with woodsy and herbal twists. Heretic combines natural ingredients with safe synthetics for long-lasting formulas that are plant based and cruelty free. Dirty Hinoki is woodsy but still sweet, light, and crisp. I really want to try this one, but it doesn’t seem like the typical scent profile I go for, so it’s hard to justify spending $65.
No.09 Valle de Farney is inspired by the forests of Mauritius Island (an island on the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean). The main notes are grapefruit, orange, and black pepper and those are accompanied by the base and mid notes of cedarwood, patchouli, geranium, vetiver, amber, and musk. It’s a woodsy, mineral scent with a hint of citrus that isn’t too sweet and lasts all day. It comes in a beautiful bottle and is $93.
Dans Les Bois is warm and feminine with notes of blood orange, lemon, jasmine, lavender, saffron, sage, florals, and base notes of amber, woods, leather, amber, and vanilla sugar. It’s floral, woodsy, and bold. It’s DIME’s best selling perfume and while I do like it, I still like Lovely Sweet Dreams and Core Memory better!
Fragrance 02 is woodsy and warm with notes of juniper, green floral, woods, patchouli, and a base of sandalwood. Dedcool uses beneficial organic extracts without toxic chemicals, and all of their scents are vegan and cruelty free. This perfume has staying power and is a very unique scent, but it loses points for its packaging. It’s $90.
7 Summers isn’t my favorite Dime perfume, but I’m including it in the list as another nontoxic option I’ve tried., It’s floral, fruity, and warm with top notes of juicy pear, champagne, and warm sugar. The base notes are cozy with lavender, vanilla, praline, musk, coconut cream, and bergamot. While it has a lot of floral and fruity notes, I’d say it does come across as a “clean” scent. It lasts and becomes more subtle towards the end of the day. It’s vegan, cruelty free, and perfect if you’re sensitive to scents like I am. You can get 20% off using code TeriLyn20. I love to layer this with Lovely Sweet Dreams!
Described as “the perfect vanilla”, Pure Vanilla is a sweet, creamy fragrance with notes of Madagascar vanilla and tonka bean. The formula uses essential oils, botanically-derived aromas, and nature-identical oils for a gentle, vegan, and cruelty free product. Lavanila perfumes are long-lasting and specifically made for people with sensitive skin, so I’d give this one a try if you’re on the sensitive side! They also offer their scents in perfume oils depending on what you like. It’s $48.
Smyth is a crisp, bright, and clean scent that smells fruity, fresh, and tart rather than too sweet. It has top notes of granny smith, watery notes, and melon-pineapple sorbet along with base notes of apricot nectar, jasmine, white tea, sandalwood, white woods, musks, and amber. It’s feminine but not too floral and long-lasting. Henry Rose’s Los Angeles-based perfumes are EWG-verified and cradle-to-cradle certified, blending botanical ingredients with safe synthetics. It’s $120.
I’d love to know what’s missing from this list! If there’s a clean perfume that you love, drop the name or a link in the comments below!
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