If you’re a 21st-century woman with a stressful job and a calendar full of SoulCycle classes, then chances are you’re not into super-heady fragrances. Powdery ones smell like your Nana, floral orientals smell like your mom, and fruity body mists smell like your high school bestie. Clean scents (think light, airy, and shower-fresh), on the other hand, are likely more your speed.
First, let’s clarify what we mean by “clean.” It’s not the smell of your apartment after you’ve scoured it with Pine-Sol. “That’s a more industrial, deodorant clean and, even if you like the scent, there’s a utilitarian quality that will never be truly beautiful,” says fragrance expert
Chandler Burr. The clean we’re talking about is more conceptual. “It’s pure luminescence, or light turned somehow into scent,” he says. “New materials, including some terrific fragrance molecules, have allowed scent artists to create them.”
But what is it that makes "clean" scents so appealing? (Other than the fact that we can get away with washing our hair less when wearing them.) “Clean scents allow women to communicate themselves in a sharper, more clearly defined way than classical fragrances,” says Burr. “They let us speak much more in our own voices.” Intrigued? Click through to find nine of our favorite so-fresh-and-so-clean-clean scents.
This fragrance toes the line between fresh and spicy, thanks to notes of bitter orange, cardamom, violet leaves, patchouli moss, and musk.
Atelier Cologne Trèfle Pur Cologne Absolue, $130.00, available at Sephora.
Fans of grassy, herbal fragrances will love this one from Roads which was inspired by the west coast of Ireland. It features notes of wild grass, mint, fig, and thyme.
Roads Bitter End Parfum, $155.00, available at Barneys New York.
Rose fragrances of yore had a tendency to smell powdery and heavy. This one by Byredo is not your grandma's scent — it manages to capture the perfect mixture of fresh, floral, and slightly spicy.
Byredo Rose Of No Man's Land Roll-On Oil, $85, available at Byredo.
You know that smell of wet pavement during the first 10 minutes of a rainstorm? Derek Lam has figured out a way to bottle that smell — and we want to wear it every damn day.
Derek Lam 10 Crosby Rain Day, $95, available at Sephora.
When we hear "musk," we don't usually think "lightweight." But we'll be damned, because this one — which has notes of fig, grass, and amber — smells like rain on a spring day.
Nova Green Musk, $35, available at Nova.
Finding a woodsy fragrance for fall that feels fresh, not heavy, can be a challenge. This scent mixes fig leaves and cedar to create a day-appropriate take on a spicy scent.
Diptyque Philosykos Eau de Parfum, $150, available at Diptyque.
This orange blossom scent spritzes on light and crisp in the morning, then fades to a subtle floral accord by evening. The fresh aroma lingers, but never overpowers.
Chloé Love Story Eau de Toilette, $115, available at Sephora.
Jo Malone teamed up with master perfumer Anne Flipo to create a collection inspired by an English herb garden. Although the Herb Garden Collection contains five fresh fragrances, this one is our favorite. Rather than veering too far on the sweet side, this cologne utilizes the sweet, yet sour aroma of slightly underripe strawberries mixed with the welcoming scent of a grassy field.
Jo Malone London Wild Strawberry & Parsley Cologne, $70, available at Jo Malone.
Imagine lounging in freshly laundered, 800-thread-count sheets, as the sun glints through your floor-length linen curtains. From your balcony, you feel a soft breeze ruffle a lush garden of white flowers below. Sounds dramatically poetic, but it's exactly what this cocktail of lily of the valley, white musk, patchouli oil, and aldehyde smells like.
Replica Lazy Sunday Morning,
According to the brand, this cologne is an attempt by Thierry Mugler to recreate the scent of a soap he discovered in Morocco. The resulting mix of neroli and bergamot is green, zippy, and energetic — but not in an overly squeaky, Irish Spring kind of way. “It’s like the cool glow emitted from a space station,” says Burr. (Because who doesn't want to
smell like that?)
No matter how many hours you spend holed up in the corner of a cigarette-infused dive bar, this elixir of 22 notes — among them earthy petitgrain, bitter grapefruit, warm amber, and verdant vetiver — can make you smell spa-day fresh. Hence why it’s recently become a cult favorite among cool girls and models.
Rumor has it this scent was inspired by a walk near the Aswan Dam on the Nile, which is spotted with garden islands. (Sounds nice, right?) The blend of green mango and lotus smells pleasantly exotic and sparkly — not fruity or overly sweet — and a hint of sycamore wood brings it down to earth.
Un Jardin Sur le Nil,
Unless you’re blessed with synesthesia, colors don’t have scents. But here, creator Ben Gorham attempted to evoke the purity of white using white rose, light woods, and aldehyde. The result is sharp, pure, wearable — and one of our favorites, ever.
Blanche Eau de Parfum,
While sunrises and dewdrops don’t have a fragrance, per se, but they do have a feeling. In this bottle, it's evoked by clover leaf, green tea, and spearmint. “It’s a work so beautiful, it brings tears to your eyes,” gushes Burr.
Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca,
If you were ever so lucky as to skip along the Champs-Élysées on the first barelegged day of spring, stopping to nuzzle fresh herbs (tarragon) and citrus blossoms (lime and bergamot), then you already have this scent committed to memory.
Jo Malone London
French Lime Blossom Cologne,
The top-note trifecta of lemon, orange, and mandarin could leave you smelling like a slosh of sangria. But sheer woods, musk, and jasmine anchor the juicy citrus peel for a crisp, earthy finish.
Lily of the valley, frosty musk, and leafy green team up for a simple, soap-and-water scent. If, that is, the soap were handmade in the French countryside and the water were plunged from an icy, babbling brook.
Bergamot, precious woods, and white musks are what (private island) memories are made of — at least, that's what perfumeur Albert Fouguet says.
Eight & Bob Memories de Mustique, $45, available at Sephora.
Think of geranium as a lighter alternative to rose – it's still in that floral family, but with an crisp and fresh aroma that smells like a blooming, springtime garden.
Diptyque Geranium Odorata, $98, available at Diptyque.
This classic scent has almost 2,000 five star reviews on Sephora — and rightfully so. We like to think the combination of apple, bamboo, and cedarwood smells like fresh ocean waves.
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, $76, available at Sephora.
Some may remember 1990 as the year when all you needed was a good white tee and a solid pair of Levi's. To match it, you'd reach for a scent like this: It smells like clean skin and the faint hint of lavender shampoo in your freshly washed hair. Swoon.
Banana Republic BR90 Pure White, $25, available at Banana Republic stores.
Even though this scent is inspired by
a ghost story, there's nothing scary about its herb top notes. Viktor & Rolf Magic Collection Sage Spell, $220, available at Saks.
Imagine strolling through Paris' Tuileries Gardens on the first day of spring. There's a colony of rose bushes surrounding you on all sides and, without warning, you get a whiff of vetiver and sandalwood that's so faint and clean you'll want to go back for more. That's what you get, minus a passport stamp, with this scent.
Maison Margiela Replica Promenade in the Gardens, $126, available at Sephora.
Fresh florals are our favorite year-round fragrance and this one is mighty powerful. Extracted from the sweetest flower, freesia, and infused with bergamot, this lightweight scent is the perfect medium between sexy and sweet.
Korres White Tea Bergamot Freesia Eau de Toilette, $44.50, available at Korres.
Like Paris in a bottle, this complex fragrance was formulated to emulate the spirit of Coco Chanel herself.
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum, $100, available at Sephora.
It's impossible not to feel like a fly guy or girl while wearing Cartier's newest scent, fused with citrus and Gaiac wood.
Cartier L’Envol de Cartier Eau de Toilette, $105, available at Cartier.
A light, fresh, subtly citrus scent in a clear blue bottle that's the exact color you'd imagine the waves in Santorini to look like. It's the 1%'s kind of clean.
Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Acqua, $155, available at Sephora.
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