Spritzing on a warm, heady fragrance in the summer feels like wearing tight black jeans and a turtleneck to the beach in the middle of July: stifling, sweltering, deeply and profoundly wrong. Strong woody notes stew in the hot sun; musks start to smell less like having hot sex on clean sheets and more like the sweaty balls they're named for.
Summer calls for light, breezy fragrances that won't suffocate you, or anyone who happens to be sitting near you in the stagnant air of your office, for that matter. These are perfumes that smell pleasant but not obvious, are easy to wear but not boring, that make their presence known but also somehow don't? It's complicated — but where words fail, your olfactory glands won't.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
1 of 8
Prada Les Infusions Mandarine Eau de Parfum
As juicy, bright, and sweet as the real thing, this fragrance is true to its namesake, not a poorly-formed plasticine version of it. The orange peel and mandarin leaf come off light and citrusy, not bitter, but the scent is just tart enough to be revitalizing — like stepping out of the dizzying heat and into a big, airy room to peel and eat clementines in front of the A/C on blast.
2 of 8
Atelier Cologne Iris Rebelle Cologne Absolue
If you want to smell like nothing but also kind of like something, this soft, ethereal skin scent is floral and faintly powdery, clean, clear, and muted, with a woody finish that's barely-there in the best way.
3 of 8
Ellis Brooklyn West Eau de Parfum
Like Joni Mitchell's "California" or a few lines of prose pulled from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, this fragrance belongs to a very specific time and place — it's a hazy, sun-soaked ode to an early-'70s Golden State. Blood orange, clementine, and lemon are bright and brilliant, and the segue into a warm, woody underbelly of amber and vetiver satisfies like a smart turn of phrase.
4 of 8
Eau d'Italie Rosa Greta Eau de Parfum
Named for Greta Garbo, and inspired by the sea of Ravello Roses that surrounded her villa on the Amalfi Coast, this eau de parfum — with bright, blooming notes of pure rosebud and white tea — smells secretive and sublime, like a luminous starlet who's fled a public life for a quieter, more beautiful one (but then the paparazzi found her anyway).
5 of 8
Ex Nihilo Viper Green Eau de Parfum
Dominated by blades of fresh-cut grass, with fresh, crisp angelica and aromatic galbanum, this distinctly green fragrance is the olfactory equivalent of dozing off on a sun-soaked lawn in the early afternoon while absolutely not under the influence of any alcohol whatsoever.
6 of 8
D.S. & Durga I Don't Know What Eau de Parfum
This unique scent enhancer lends depth, longevity, and a certain je ne sais quoi to whatever it is you already smell like. It's transparent and difficult to describe, and totally transforms anything you layer it over, be it your favorite go-to fragrance or just your sweaty summer skin.
7 of 8
Clive Christian Miami Beach Travel Set
Who needs a round-trip ticket to Miami when you can have this fragrance instead? With bright, sweet pear and citrus and a hit of salt, like the rim of a margarita, it's a beach-in-a-bottle (actually, two bottles — and sized for travel, at that) that will last a hell of a lot longer than a frozen mojito in hand.
8 of 8
Narciso Rodriguez Pure Musc Eau de Parfum
Musky perfumes and high temperatures typically go together like a hot, overcrowded subway car and someone trying to eat a Big Mac with one hand while gripping the pole with the other — so, a hard pass. But don't be fooled by its featured note: What you'll find here is the lightest, cleanest freshly-washed-linen scent, with orange blossom and cashmeran to keep it soft, breezy, and close to the skin.