Although it may seem strange to buy a fragrance without sniffing it IRL first, online scent shopping has a long list of benefits. Of course, there’s the universally-appealing convenience factor that applies to all kinds of virtual purchasing. But as it pertains to perfume specifically, the internet is also a veritable treasure trove for not only good deals and steals but also a place where you can discover a wide array of new and interesting brands that may not yet be available at the department or big beauty store where you’d otherwise be shopping. Not to mention that many sites offer all kinds of different sampling and tester options, so you can, in fact, take a scent for a test run before you buy a full-size.
A few things to keeps in mind: It’s helpful to know what types of scents you gravitate towards (florals, woody, oriental, etc.) since many sites do—very helpfully—categorize their olfactory offerings according to those. Also, be sure to check on the return policy, since you want to know what your options are in case you don’t love what you end up with.
Ahead, the best places to buy perfume online that will make you seriously rethink how you scent shop.
Of all the online department store options, this is one of our faves. Yes, the amazingly flexible Nordstrom return policy applies to fragrance too, and you can even order online and pick up in-store if you’re really in a rush. They also offer a ton of store-exclusive perfumes and scents, not to mention that there’s always that iconic Nordstrom anniversary sale every year.
Those who love a good deal will appreciate the notably discounted prices and the plethora of coupons always available, making this a great pick for more affordable perfume shopping. Shipping is free, too, and there’s a good selection of samples that you can also buy.
Price at time of publish: $93
Ever finally find a signature scent that you’re obsessed with, only to find out it’s been discontinued when you go re-stock? Yeah, us too. Search for in on this site, since they have many discontinued fragrances available. They also have a loyalty program, always an added benefit in our book.
Price at time of publish: $9
The in-store fragrance shopping experience at Sephora is quite good, but so is the online version. There’s a helpful quiz that can help you figure out what kind of fragrance you might like (great for those who just aren’t quite sure as to what they’re looking for) and plenty of brands and sizes available. You can also return anything you don’t like as long as it’s only ‘gently used.’
Price at time of publish: $116
The tagline of this site is "date perfumes before you marry them." We can get into that. The subscription service lets you choose from over 500 designer and niche fragrances; for 15 dollars a month you get one, 8ml spray (about a month’s worth of daily spritzing). You can also change the frequency of your subscription if monthly is too often for you.
The offerings on their site are helpfully and simply split up by scent families—like floral, fresh, and warm and spicy—on the fragrance landing page, making this a great pick for those who know what types of perfumes they like. They have a great loyalty program, lots of gifts with purchase which are always fun, and you can return anything you don’t like (even without a receipt, as long as you paid with a credit card and/or are part of the loyalty program).
With plenty of splurge-worthy options, NM is the place to go when you really want to treat yourself. We also appreciate that they offer not only standard sprays but also unique options such as scented jewelry. Plus, free beauty gifts with purchase abound.
With options to search the many offerings according to price, fragrance type, and notes, this is one of the easier sites to navigate and find your fave. The offerings for men’s cologne are also very extensive, FYI.
Clean beauty is nothing new, but this now applies more and more so to fragrances, too. With very rigorous standards as to what ingredients they do and don’t allow in the products they carry, you can feel confident knowing that any of the fragrances here are completely clean. The added benefit? This is a great spot to find all kinds of smaller, indie brands that you may not yet have heard of.
Just like the fashion offerings on this site, expect an ultra-chic, curated collection of sophisticated scents that are sure to both smell good and look great on your vanity. It’s a great spot for sourcing gifts (be they for someone else or for you, we won’t judge). Just keep in mind that all fragrance sales are final.
Remember how you used to go to the Macy’s at the mall as a teen to stock-up on Tommy Girl perfume? No? Just us? Anyway, their site is the place to shop now, with ah-mazing sales pretty much all the time, as well as plenty of sets, and a nice selection of travel-friendly rollerballs, too.
We appreciate that the wide variety of brands offered on this site range from the big-name mainstream options, to smaller, niche companies. There’s a never-ending amount of choices for men, women, and home scents, too. If samples are your thing, you’ll be into the extensive array they offer. Oh, and if you spend over 150 dollars, you get three free samples with your purchase. Also helpful: The glossary, which breaks down the most commonly used fragrance terms. Because really, does anyone know the difference between an eau de toilette and an eau de parfum?
The offerings are broken down by super helpful categories here—by price, what’s trending, deals of the month, and more. You get free shipping over 59 dollars, and returns can either be sent back or brought back to one of their retail stores throughout the country (though they do have to be unopened, FYI).
This newcomer on the scene is not only a shopping site, but a company launching its own fragrance brands. These range from everything from celeb and influencer fragrances to clean options like natural brand Esscentials. In other words, the goods you find here you won’t find anywhere else. Either way, the description of all the fragrances are clear, concise, and very helpful, making it easy to get a sense of what the perfume you’re considering actually smells like.
Luxury Scent Box
Those who prefer a hands-off approach will appreciate that this month-to-month subscription service offers an option where you simply get a new ‘fragrance of the month’ each month. You can also fill out a survey about your preferences and let them choose for you, or pick your own. Thirty dollars per month will get you two, 9ml spritzers.
When it comes to buying fragrance online, our best overall pick is Nordstrom, which features an amazing variety of fragrances, including many exclusive offerings, as well as samples for you to test out a scent before committing to it. We also love their generous and flexible return policy. Consider trying Scentbird, a subscription service that takes sampling to the next level.
What to Look For When Buying Perfume Online
Many perfume online retailers offer free samples or samples you can buy inexpensively to try out a fragrance. Isolating fragrance samples might be a more effective way of trialing scent as often times when you're sampling perfume in the store, you might mix scents and not get the most accurate read on each particular fragrance on its own.
Fragrances will have a description of their notes, so it's important not only to pay attention to these descriptions but understand what they mean. Each fragrance is made of up layers called notes. There are top or head notes, which are the first impression of the fragrance and fastest to evaporate; the middle or heart notes, which are the foundation of the fragrance, and base notes, which are the last notes to evaporate and typically associated with what's called the dry-down of a fragrance.
How do you buy perfume without smelling it first?
Read the descriptions with an understanding of top, middle, and base notes. Fragrance blogs can also be helpful when it comes to reviews of scents. Remember, however, that fragrance is subjective so it's more important to look for objective claims like what notes make up a fragrance, as opposed to whether or not someone likes or dislikes it.
What are common fragrance notes?
Typical top notes, your first impressions, are usually light and alluring. They tend to be made up of citrus like orange and lemon, as well as herbal essences like lavender, basil, or sage.
Typical heart notes, making up your fragrance foundation, are usually warm and full-bodied like rose, neroli, and cinnamon.
Typical base notes, long-lasting notes that make up the dry-down are vanilla, musk, and sandalwood.
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. She considered dozens of retailers for this roundup, and after careful research and pouring over third-party reviews, named these 15 places the best to buy fragrance online.