If you’re a 21st-century person 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) and floral fragrances, 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 our favorite so-fresh-and-so-clean-clean scents.
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Described as "a love letter to Los Angeles," this breezy floral smells nothing like car exhaust or broken dreams; rather, it's as fresh and clean as a fragrance can get, predominantly jasmine and fig with a touch of understated sweetness from honeysuckle. The formulation is also literally clean, insofar as it's paraben-, phthalate-, and cruelty-free, and the packaging is 100% recyclable.
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Forget what you know about heady, seductive musks: This take on the classic note weaves in components better associated with sweetness and light, like white orchid, jasmine petals, and pink lotus, over an earthy base of patchouli, white cedarwood, and liquid musks, which give it an airiness that smells like your skin, but better.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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If Monet had a fragrance of choice, it'd most likely be this — or, at least we'd hope so. Considering this perfume is inspired by the waterlilies in the gardens of Giverny, the Sicilian bergamot, dewy greens, waterlily, and jasmine sambac practically capture the essence of the natural sunlight in a small, rural French village.