Shopping for new perfume can be a challenging (not to mention headache-inducing) experience. But once you find a signature scent, you'll use it for years to come. And keep in mind—Even though we call this roundup the best perfumes for women, fragrance is for everyone. So no matter how you identify, the most important thing to know is how to choose the best perfume for you.
We sorted, spritzed, and sniffed our way through the most popular options to select the best perfume in each fragrance category—floral, fruity, woodsy, and clean—many of which are our favorites here at Byrdie HQ.
Whether you're in the market for a new signature scent or are looking to build out your fragrance wardrobe, check out our picks of the best perfumes.
Best Overall: Le Labo Santal 33 Eau De Parfum
Doesn't 'feel' like perfume, rather natural
Overpowering to some
Who else recommends it? Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Women's Wear Daily all picked the Le Labo Santal 33.
What do buyers say? 73% of 700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
A favorite among team Byrdie, this gender-neutral fragrance is a must-have. Rich and woody, it combines smoky and woody accords with a touch of spicy cardamom for a blend that is truly intoxicating and extremely memorable. (Our editors also love the brand's Rose 31 eau de parfum.)
What Our Editors Say
"Every time I wear it, I get a compliment. I've actually had Uber drivers ask me to write it down for them so they can buy it for their wives. The fragrance is actually considered unisex, so everyone can wear it. Le Labo describes it as 'at once gentle, smoky, and leathery,' and I agree. The fragrance has so much depth that the more you breathe it in, the more it changes. I'm a Le Labo Santal wearer for life." —Kelly Gallagher, former Senior Social Media Editor
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Violet, cardamom | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Price at time of publish: $215
Best Unisex: Byredo Bibliothéque Eau de Parfum
Has a comforting appeal
Scent can lean masculine on some wearers
A library-inspired scent may sound strange, but trust us, it works. Originally one of the brand’s best-selling candles, it was shoppers’ demand that inspired the fragrance version. Peach, plum, peony, and violet are at the forefront, though the base notes of leather and patchouli are strong enough to make it totally unisex, as is the clean and minimalistic packaging.
Free of: Parabens, Sulfates | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz | Top Notes: Peach, plum | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Price at time of publish: $196
Best Classic Floral: Gucci Bloom
Has a sophisticated appeal
Long-lasting with a slow, gradual build
Might be overpowering to some
This full-on floral is classic without ever veering into grandma territory, blending jasmine and tuberose with Rangoon creeper, a south Indian plant with a slightly powdery finish that rounds everything out. The fragrance is strong and long-lasting—as many Sephora shoppers point out—though in a good way, and also wears nicely, fading slowly and gradually.
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.6 oz.| Top Notes: Rangoon creeper | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Price at time of publish: $118
Best Woody Floral: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540
Sophisticated and complex blend
Might be too intense for some
Notes of amber and cedarwood balance out the jasmine that’s out the forefront of the fragrance, making for a well-balanced, woody floral. It’s sophisticated and complex, an unexpected pairing that blends beautifully and is sure to appeal to those who like either woody or floral scents alike.
What Our Editors Say
"The brand would say it has notes of jasmine, saffron, and cedarwood, but for me, it just truly smells like nothing else I've ever come across in the best possible way," she says. "Every time I spray it on, I immediately feel like a more luxurious version of myself. It's not cheap, so I do try to save it for more special occasions rather than everyday wear—though sometimes I spray it on myself when I'm not even leaving the house, just for the joy of it." —Karli Bendlin, Senior Editor
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 2.4 oz. | Top Notes: Jasmine, saffron | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Price at time of publish: $325
Best Modern Floral: Decorté Kimono Yui
Modern take on classic Japanese-inspired floral scent
Scent may be too light for some
The top notes of this fragrance are citrusy—lemon, mandarin, orange—along with a touch of pink pepper, while the middle notes are where the florals come in. A combo of neroli, orange flower, and rose to add that floral hit, though the initial citrus effect, coupled with a musky dry down, make this an extremely modern and fresh take on the classic floral.
"Kimono Yui is floral, citrusy, and peppery. It's one of my favorite perfumes of all time for the way it smells delicate and feminine while keeping its edge. It lasts a long time without feeling heavy." —Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Lemon, mandarin, orange | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Price at time of publish: $75
Best Earthy: A.N. Other WD/2018
Fragrance expert and founder of Formulary 55 Cordelia Smith says she’s “obsessed with this brand.” This is one of her current favorites, a gender-neutral option that combines touches of fruit and floral to round out earthier notes of cardamom, sandalwood, and velvet Madagascar. Bonus points for the fact that all of the ingredients used are clean and ethically sourced.
Free of: Parabens, phthalates, dyes, toxins, and preservatives | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 50 ml. | Top Notes: Pear sparkle, cardamom spice, violet leaves | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Price at time of publish: $85
Best Crisp & Clean: Jo Malone London Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne
Fresh, unassuming scent
Cucumber note is faint
The best perfume for those in search of a fresh, minimalistic scent, this fragrance is straightforward, with an emphasis on clean and crisp cucumber and bergamot, offset with the teeniest touch of musk. Plus, all of the fragrances from this brand can be easily mixed and matched and layered if you want to play perfumer.
Free of: Parabens and phthalates | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.0 oz. | Top Notes: Bergamot | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Price at time of publish: $80
Best Soft Woody: Chloé Atelier des Fleurs Papyrus
Fresh, light appeal
Can work for day and night
Scent doesn't last long
Dry, smoky, and woody, the top of papyrus reign supreme here. Still, because they’re complemented with touches of fresh and green notes, the result isn’t too heavy but rather light enough to wear even during the day.
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Papyrus | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Price at time of publish: $148
Best Fruity: Burberry Her Eau de Parfum
Fun and bold scent
Smooth curved glass body for easy holding
Doesn't last long
Black currant, raspberry, and blueberry make up the top notes of this fruity gourmand scent, hitting you with a punch of sweetness. Floral jasmine and violet keep it feminine and flirty, though, like all the Burberry scents, it still has a touch of the brand’s signature amber and musk.
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.6 oz. | Top Notes: Red and dark berries | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Price at time of publish: $112
Best for Summer: Dior Joy
Mix of floral and musk
A little goes a long way
Scent might be too powdery for some
This soft silky scent is floral forward, but it also has a touch of musk that makes it sensual. It's the ideal fragrance for a summer night that will linger until morning.
Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Bergamot, mandarin orange | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: No
Price at time of publish: $118
Best for Non-Perfume Lovers: Juliette Has a Gun Not A Perfume
Scent may be too faint for some
The name really does say it all. This perfume is formulated entirely differently than any other perfume, ensuring it smells like no other perfume and is sure to please even those who don’t like wearing fragrances. Rather than having top, middle, and base notes, it’s made of just one note—cetalox, a woody and earthy scent that’s usually used as the base in most fragrances. It’s hard to explain, but it makes this a perfume that really doesn’t smell like a perfume. It just makes you smell great, and isn’t that the ultimate goal after all?
Free of: Parabens | Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 3.3 oz. | Top Notes: Cetalox | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Price at time of publish: $140
Best Set: Maison Louis Marie Perfume Oil Discovery Set
Incense-like smell might not appeal to some
“More and more brands are coming with discovery sets, featuring a variety of scents and notes for all preferences,” says Smith. It gives you the option to experiment before fully committing, she adds, noting that this is one of her favorite sets. It comes with five of the brand’s best-selling perfume oils, a mix of different woody, tropical, and earthy fragrances.
Free of: Parabens, alcohol, and phthalates | Type: Perfume oil | Size: 5 x 0.5 oz. vials | Top Notes: Varies | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Price at time of publish: $49
Best Floral Aldehyde: Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum Spray
Makes a great signature scent
Works well day or night
Can be overpowering
Often considered the world's first "abstract" fragrance, the best-selling Chanel No. 5 is not for wallflowers. The blend of aldehydes and florals is layered over a base of vetiver, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, and patchouli to create a complex, lasting scent that definitely leaves an impression. When applied to skin, the perfume reacts with the wearer's body chemistry to create a highly subjective effect—though many women love it, others find it overwhelming. Our reviewer suggests trying a sample before you buy the full-sized bottle.
Type: Eau de toilette | Size: 1.2 oz. | Top Notes: Aldehydes, ylang-ylang, neroli, bergamot, lemon | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Price at time of publish: $90
Best Subscription: Luxury Scent Box Discover Your Scent
Various scents to choose from
No contract required
Can't modify shipping frequency
For those who aren’t quite sure what they like, Luxury Scent Box offers an easy way to try a wide variety of options. How it works: Every month you get a 0.3-ounce sampler size of a fragrance (either selected by you or on recommendation from one of the brand’s fragrance specialists). There are both mainstream brands to choose from, as well as smaller, more niche options. Find one that you love? You can then buy the full-size bottle at a discounted price.
Free of: Unknown, Varies Based on Fragrance | Type: Varies | Size: 0.3 oz. monthly | Top Notes: Varies | Byrdie Clean: Varies | Cruelty-Free: Varies
Price at time of publish: From $10 a month
Best Patchouli: Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum
As its name suggests, this best-selling scent is floral-forward, though the bouquet is balanced by base notes of patchouli, musk, and vanilla. It's a versatile but heavy perfume that's made for nighttime wear and better suited for the winter months.
Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 3.4 oz. | Top Notes: Tea, bergamot, Osmanthus | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Price at time of publish: $168
May be overpowering to some
Best for Date Night: Carolina Herrera Good Girl Eau de Parfum
Sweet without being cloying
Complex blend of floral and musk
Doesn't last long
As the stiletto-shaped bottle suggests, Good Girl is a study in contrasts. It's a blend of bright florals like tuberose and moody notes like tonka bean and coffee, making it a great pick for date night.
Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Almond, coffee, bergamot | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Price at time of publish: $103
Best Citrus-Forward: Chanel Coco MadeMoiselle Eau de Parfum Spray
Fragrant yet subtle
Versatile enough to wear year-round
Made for (and marketed to) younger women
This citrusy scent is youthful and effervescent, with top notes of orange and mandarin and florals like Turkish rose and jasmine at its heart. It's strong yet fresh.
Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Orange, mandarin orange, bergamot, orange blossom | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Price at time of publish: $116
Best for Winter: Maison Margiela Replica By the Fireplace
Woodsy but not overpowering
Smoky scent may not appeal to all
This unisex offering from the eclectic designer is sweet, warm, and familiar, all without being overdone. It's an iconic cold weather fragrance—essentially cozy vibes in a bottle.
Type: Eau de toilette | Size: 3.4 oz. | Top Notes: Cloves, pink pepper, orange blossom | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Price at time of publish: $144
Best Trendy: Glossier You
Mixes with wearer's natural scent to create a unique effect
Iris note is unappealing to some
Glossier's signature scent has a bit of spice yet a beautiful floral aroma. The perfume blends with each person's natural scent differently to create an effect that is unique to you.
Type: Eau de parfum | Size: 1.7 oz. | Top Notes: Pink pepper | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Price at time of publish: $64
Best for Teens: Marc Jacobs Fragrances Daisy
Doesn't last long
An eau de toilette, Daisy only contains 4-8% of pure fragrance, making it lighter and less intense than other perfumes on the market.
Type: Eau de toilette | Size: 3.4 oz. | Top Notes: Strawberry, violet leaves, jasmine | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Price at time of publish: $120
The best perfume for women largely boils down to individual preferences. Do you prefer floral notes? Woody? Clean? Fruity? The options are endless, making it even harder to choose a favorite. Team Byrdie stands by Le Labo Santal 33 Eau De Parfum as one of the best perfumes of all time for men and women alike. Le Labo describes it as "at once gentle, smoky, and leathery," and it's guaranteed to score you compliments. Another great unisex pick is Byredo Bibliothéque Eau de Parfum, which boasts peach, plum, peony, and violet notes. You could share both of these with significant others, partners, and friends, but chances are you'll want to keep it all to yourself.
What to Look for in Perfumes for Women
Your Signature Scent
What smells good to you may not appeal to someone else. The effect of a perfume depends on factors as varied as how it interacts with your unique body chemistry and your favorite smells from childhood. Consider which fragrance category—floral, fruity, woodsy, or clean—you want. Knowing that will help you narrow down your search. Sampling should also be part of the experience since there's no better way to tell how a perfume wears than taking it for a test drive.
Parfums have the highest scent concentrations, followed by eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and eau de cologne. Perfume oils—which usually come in a roll-on applicator—have high scent concentrations, but even though they will last longer than most sprays, they don't have the same "throw," which means the effect is more for the wearer than for those around them.
Quality and Wear
Perfume is considered a luxury item, which means that the price you pay depends not only on the ingredients but also on factors like the packaging and the name brand itself. Less expensive perfumes often contain fewer notes and lots of sweet-smelling florals, which are abundant and easy to source. Pricier fragrances use rare essences that can run the price up to thousands of dollars per ounce. And while some dupes can almost replicate the smell of more expensive scents, they usually don't have the staying power.
Clean and Cruelty-Free
In general terms, perfume is "clean" if it contains natural extracts and is free of potentially harmful ingredients like phthalates, parabens, and artificial dyes. (Be sure to read the list of ingredients if you have specific sensitivities—even natural fragrances can cause allergic reactions.) If you're searching for a cruelty-free perfume, consider brands that don't test their products on animals and can prove that their ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced.
How do you choose a perfume for women?
While perfume choice is totally personal, the key thing is to make sure you try it on yourself first. “The way a fragrance smells can vary based on body chemistry, so it’s important to make sure you like it while actually wearing it before committing to the full bottle,” suggests Smith.
How do you apply perfume for women?
Smith suggests spritzing it onto your pulse points: the wrists, neck, and crook of the arm. (This will help intensify and diffuse the scent.) But, if you’re spraying it on your wrists, do not rub them together, as so many people do. “This generates heat, which can end up altering the scent,” explains Smith.
When does perfume for women expire?
There’s no set answer here, but if your fragrance is properly stored, it can last for years and years on end, says Smith. Make sure to keep all your bottles in a cool, dry environment; if and when the fragrance starts to change or smell ‘off,’ that’s when it’s time to replace it, she says.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the most popular and best-selling perfumes available today, evaluating their key features—like ingredients and sourcing, ease of application, and wear time—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We also polled our team of beauty editors, writers, and perfume lovers for their tried-and-true favorites.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her perfume tastes fall on the clean, fresh, and green end of the spectrum, and once she finds a fragrance she loves she sticks with it. Case in point: She’s been wearing the Jo Malone and Juliette Has a Gun perfume on this list for years.
Meet the Expert
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough perfumes from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
The 19 best perfumes of all time. Harper's Bazaar. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/makeup/g38284762/best-perfume-for-women
Best women's perfumes: 31 you're guaranteed to fall in love with at first spritz. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/beauty-hair/g12464323/womens-perfume
The 45 best perfumes for women, according to experts. Women's Wear Daily. https://wwd.com/shop/shop-beauty/best-perfumes-for-women-1235007146