In my opinion, there are two subcategories of alluring fragrances. The first is overtly sultry—the kind I'll spritz before heading out for a first date or if my plans involve negotiating a crowded bar. Intoxicating florals, smoldering spices: These are the scent notes I know will turn heads.
But I'd argue that the scents in the second category are even more seductive, and that's because they're quite subtle. With hints of musk, salt, soft cotton, and, in some cases, actual pheromones, they're designed to smell like your skin, but better. The perfume version of "no-makeup makeup," if you will. They invite someone to lean closer and really get a whiff—they won't know where the fragrance ends and you begin. And isn't that the point?
Of course, there's no day like Valentine's Day to engage in a little scent seduction. Below, find some of our favorite second-skin fragrances.
Maison Margiela's ingenious Filter collection was formulated to pair with other fragrances—each of the oil-based "fragrance primers" subtly enhance certain notes based on their designation. (The Glow Filter, for example, contains notes of citrus and neroli to make any perfume a little more sunny and effervescent.)
But we've found that they really shine when used on their own, since this gives them the opportunity to play up your natural sillage. We're particularly smitten with Blur for this purpose, as it exudes that same feeling you get from lived-in sheets, soft skin, and lazy weekend mornings in bed.
This recently launched, Los Angeles–based perfumer specializes in scents that circle around the four pillars of nature: air, earth, fire, and water. In spite of its smoldering name, Flamma is surprisingly soft and well-balanced—creamy notes of sandalwood are the main pull here, grounded by sultry amber and musk, as well as a floral note of orchid and a playful hint of spicy cardamom.
But as if the scent itself isn't alluring enough, it's worth noting that this cocktail is also steeped in self-affirming energy, thanks to an infusion of yellow jasper crystal.
For those who like their perfume subtle yet obvious, this recent launch from Vilhelm strikes that balance flawlessly. Meant to evoke the old-world sex appeal of a Parisian hotel room, this formula relies on a sweet and sensuous blend of fig, tobacco, sandalwood, pomelo, and grassy vetiver.
The latest launch from Elizabeth Arden is soft, simple, and inviting. Notes of citrus and white iris give it a feminine lift, while a trio of musk notes offer that second-skin appeal.
A better designation for this might be un-perfume—it contains just one ingredient, an aroma chemical meant to play up your natural scent. With that in mind, it's the only fragrance that is truly authentic to you.