You don’t need us to tell you that our beauty routines have changed as of late. In fact, virtually everyone we speak to has something to say about the ways in which they have tweaked their daily regimen to fit in with the new normal. Mostly, we have found ourselves waving goodbye to bold lipsticks, colourful eyeshadows, and full-coverage foundations in favour of low-key formulas suitable for home life. And for the most part, no one seems to be particularly mad about it. In fact, there is actually something quite wholesome about stripping things back to basics—except when it comes to perfume.
When lockdown hit for the first time at the start of spring last year, many of us found ourselves reaching for perfume less and less. After all, if no one’s smelling it, what’s the point? However, as time went on, people started to realise that perfume actually is just the sort of spirit-lifting boost we all need in times of despair. Now more so than ever, we’re using the power of perfume to keep us going.
However, with shops closed and smell-evision yet to be invented, shopping for perfume has never been harder. So in a bid to help those struggling with fragrance browsing this year, we reached out to some of the most perfume-loving beauty insiders we know to help compile the ultimate scent shopping list. Keep scrolling to discover the most popular perfumes of 2021, according to those who really know.
“To compensate for the fact that I have basically been sat on my sofa for the best part of a year now, I have started wearing Byredo Velvet Haze in a quest to help me feel more like a sophisticated woman with places to go and people to see. It’s done the trick. This perfume is musky, heady with patchouli, and beautifully refreshing thanks to an unexpected dash of coconut water in the mix. It lifts my spirits whenever I spray it.”
“I recently rediscovered this perfume, and boy is it good. Rose perfumes tend to get a bit of a bad rep, but this one is fresh and fruity with notes of lychee and bergamot. To me, this is a really modern take on floral fragrances and makes me feel like spring has arrived. Oh, Ouai also recommends spraying it in your hair too—ideal if you’re always looking for ways to extend hair wash day like me.”
“Inspired by Gabrielle Chanel's favourite coastal escape, this is a wonderfully fresh and vibrant fragrance. It has notes of grapefruit, mandarin, and lily of the valley, so it is citrusy and warm, evoking feelings of springtime. I love that it's light enough to spritz liberally and perfect for everyday, as it's not overpowering. I always pop it on before heading to my desk, even though no one else is around to enjoy it right now! I'd love to choose some more perfumes when stores open, as I miss being able to try them all out. Luckily, Chanel Les Eaux was a successful online find!”
“This has been my go-to, ride-or-die scent for a few years now, and it’s one that I can’t smell on myself anymore because it’s so heavily embedded in my wardrobe. I love the black tea mixed with the depths of cedarwood and musk along with hints of tobacco. It reminds me of when I had a life beyond Zoom calls.”
“This is a new discovery for me. It really gives me Santal 33 vibes but a little bit lighter and sweeter. I love wearing a little bit of perfume to bed (tell me I’m not alone?), and this is my current favourite. The sweet and fresh notes settle into a woodier vibe on me—warm and comforting.”
“Powdery and comforting, with a fresh oriental twist introducing poppy and tonka bean with hints of vanilla. This is a new one in my fragrance wardrobe but is, by far, a favourite. It's subtle enough to not be overpowering but lingers on your clothing and skin beautifully. It's also such a warming fragrance with a soothing powdery-ness, and right now, I'll take anything comforting. I also enjoy how genderless the scent is and think it’s perfect for pairing and fragrance layering. This is my spring/summer daytime fragrance if I need an extra spring in my step.”
“This stuff has pear, cedarwood, and musk as the top notes, layered with milk and tonka bean. It is, hands down, my favourite fragrance of all time and is one I didn't expect to love. It's so memorable. It has a scent that transports you to such a familiar time, yet you can't put your finger on it. It's deliciously creamy and luxurious, and the staying power is the longest I've ever experienced. The EDP has the most intense and concentrated notes, so it instantly packs a punch. I can just envision myself strolling around Paris, coffee in hand, book in bag, with all the time in the world when I wear this. I can't get enough and even store some in a vial across my handbags. The scent is so comforting to me if I'm ever feeling slightly anxious.”
“This smells like the spicy freshness of bergamot and pink pepper that's smoothed down with ylang-ylang and coconut milk. I think by now you can get an overview of the notes I like! This is my perfect escapism fragrance. It really has got that salty-hair, sandy-toes atmosphere within the bottle, and I'm completely transported to somewhere hot and tropical. It's amazing that scent has this power!”
“Le Labo Another 13 will always be my favourite fragrance—ever. Right before lockdown, I had just under half a bottle left, and I’ve been sneaking sniffs to remind me of better times, but I'm saving the rest for when we can socialise again. Even though I know I’ll be buying this musky, creamy jasmine scent for the rest of my life, I’m still cherishing the remnants of what I have left. It’s too precious.”
“I’m the worst person to buy perfumes for because my preference changes on a daily. I like to complement my perfume to my mood, outfit, or an event… Nowadays, it’s just to feel something. Being stuck indoors, I have enjoyed lifting my mood with somewhat expensive scents. It’s a complete psychological thing of making me feel more sexy and put-together. This perfume reminds me of summer 2018. I wore it daily (and wasted it on some unfortunate dates). The scent makes me feel super calm and comforted. In the description of the product, it mentions the unusual salted praline base note, and I have a real sweet tooth, which is probably why I love this warming aroma!”
“I really struggle to express how amazing this perfume is. It smells like a luxurious holiday in Provence that I dream of taking some time in the future. I love how delicate this perfume is and the longevity of the scent staying on my skin.”
“Scent has always played a comforting role in my life, but in 2020, perfume well and truly became my olfactory comfort blanket as well as the only means by which to upgrade and accessorise my WFH uniform of sweatpants and hoodies. As a child, my mum would (on special occasions) let me spray my teddy bear with her precious Chanel No 5. As an adult, I apply it at duty-free before a flight, and over the past year as the weeks since our last time together have stretched into months, I’ve found the comfort of her hugs in the last dregs of the bottle I keep on my nightstand.”
“Of course, fragrance has also offered a welcome escape during a year I’ve spent mostly confined within the four walls of a studio apartment, and so I’ve increasingly found myself reaching for scents that will transport me elsewhere. I wore Byredo Bal d’Afrique on a trip to Australia several years ago. The warm, vibrant scent immediately transports me back to balmy Sydney nights by the ocean. I’m scared to rewear it in case I erase the trigger, but I smell it every so often.”
“This has fast become one of my favourite scents! Scarlet Poppy is the newest cologne intense fragrance by Jo Malone, and I love its versatility. It's soft, sweet, and floral but also rich and sensual—the smell of decadence! This will be my go-to this Valentine's Day.”
“Not only do I absolutely love the messaging behind this perfume with Lady Gaga as the face (a celebration of individuality and diversity), but I love how radiant and powerful this scent smells after just one spritz. On the days where I decide to dress up and want to feel my best self. this is my favourite.”
“I would say that 95% of my perfume collection comprises deep, spicy scents. I like my perfumes to be bold and barge into a room like the powerful personalities that they are. However, as the tides start to turn after a truly tumultuous year, I have been reaching for fragrances that sit in the other 5%—light florals, and cosy musks and zesty citruses. This new take on Philosophy’s classic Amazing Grace has a spring-like addition of jasmine and rose. It’s light and airy and makes me want to chuck on a linen shirt and throw open the windows.”
“Like so many others, I haven’t spent any quality, in-person time with my family for the best part of a year. I have been having vivid dreams of spending summers frolicking in the garden of my childhood home, and I think that has something to do with my love for this perfume. With all of the homely, musky goodness reminiscent of my pre-teen go-to, The Body Shop White Musk, it also has a creaminess to it that makes it wonderfully adult. This stuff is the definition of a "jeans and a white tee" fragrance. I couldn’t be more in love with it if I tried.”
“Speaking of missing family, this is a shared favourite between my mum and me. It’s zingy thanks to lemon leaves but also has a powdery, floral dry-down that makes it comforting and warm. Its zestyness makes it the perfect pick-me-up, while the delicate floral notes make me think of natters with my mum over chilled glasses of rosé on the patio. It’s one of the most comforting slices of home I have right now.”
“I was introduced to L'Artisan Parfumeur a couple of years ago, and it's been a firm favourite ever since. I have a couple of the brand's fragrances and find they are beautifully balanced, unique scents. I've always loved fragrances which have rich, woody notes, and the Ambre scent, which is inspired by the opulence of the 1930s, is just divine. It has waves of amber and gold spices that transport you to an exotic location—just what you need during lockdown!”
“I love the story behind this brand—the concept of memory being linked to smell. The fragrances are all created to transport the mind and transform the emotions. No. 02 is musky and warm smelling, with notes of cedarwood, tonka beans, and tobacco. It reminds of lazy summer evenings spent outside.”