I always knew that I liked perfume, but it wasn't until my last move when my fragrances required an entire packing box that I realized how much I truly love it. Sure, I was able to part with a couple of out-of-date bottles, but most of my stash felt too precious to weed out. The thing about perfume is that it's so personal. Scent is linked so closely to memory that even if you've only worn a fragrance a few times, you can evoke a past time and place with just one spritz.
The problem? Perfume is expensive. Of all the products I've collected over the years, my fragrances are worth the most, and unfortunately, I have expensive taste in scents. Byredo, Tom Ford, Maison Margiela… Most of my favorite perfume brands will set you back around $100 for a bottle. Trust me—I know how ridiculous that sounds, especially as someone who spent her early teenage years buying knockoff bottles of Thierry Mugler Angel and CK One, and circling J.Lo Glow in the Christmas catalogs.
That's not to say there aren't plenty of fantastic, affordable options out there that rival my more expensive favorites—you just need to know where to look.
Keep scrolling to shop 12 of my favorite affordable fragrances under $50. Take my word for it—these are just as good as the expensive ones.
1. Zara Fleur D'Oranger
Designed by Jo Malone CBE, founder of Jo Loves, the Zara Emotions collection is responsible for just about the most dreamy perfumes on the high street. This particular scent smells floral but with hints of orange and neroli. Most importantly, it smells incredibly expensive.
2. Beauty Pie Mandarin Leaf, White Cedar, and Freesia
While many an editor will sing the praises of Beauty Pie's affordable yet effective skincare line, their fragrances tend to fly under the radar despite being seriously good. Created by perfumer Frank Voelkl (the man behind cult fragrance Le Labo Santal 33) this musky scent really stands out. It's floral but with fresh tea, green mandarin leaf and woody cedar. Plus, if you become a Beauty Pie member then this will only set you back $17—bargain.
3. Zara Gardenia Eau de Parfum
Zara fragrances are something of a beauty-editor secret, and trust me—the scents truly defy their modest price tags. Again, there are plenty to choose from depending on your scent preferences (Nude Bouquet is another favorite of mine), but this one made the cut, as it's essentially a straight-up dupe of YSL Black Opium with notes of orange blossom, coffee, and vanilla.
4. H&M Comoro Ylang Eau de Parfum
You're getting the expert hand of another legendary perfumer here at a fraction of the price. Olivier Pescheux, who has worked on scent for the likes of Dior and Montblanc, has turned his attention to this innovative scent for H&M. It manages to be both fruity, spicy and musky with notes of mandarin, ylang ylang and tonka bean for an intoxicating blend.
5. Floral Street Neon Rose Eau de Parfum
It might sound obvious, but a good hack for finding more affordable fragrances is to purchase them in smaller sizes. London-based perfume brand Floral Street offers all of its scents in travel-friendly, 10 ml bottles, which is a great way to discover if you really love a scent before committing to the full size. I'm a big fan of this brand for unusual scents, but I think Neon Rose is a real crowd-pleaser—a fresh, green floral.
7. The Body Shop Black Musk Eau de Parfum
I'm pretty sure every girl who grew up in the '90s would be familiar with The Body Shop's White Musk perfume. (It's still available, by the way!) Trust me, though—this black version is like white musk's cool older sister. It contains sweet pear, spicy pink pepper, and heady bergamot, and it smells incredible. Honestly, I had a colleague who used to wear this, and I lost count of the number of times people asked her what she was wearing. It's that good.
8. Lush Sun Perfume
9. Rituals The Ritual of Sakura Hair & Body Mist
It won't last as long as a proper eau de parfum, but there are some incredible body mists on the market right now if you don't mind refreshing throughout the day. This sweet, cherry-blossom scent is as uplifting as it is calming and makes a great addition to my desk-side beauty stash.
10. Nuxe Sun Delicious Fragrant Water
I'm a huge fan of Estée Lauder's iconic Bronze Goddess fragrance that comes out every summer, but this affordable scent from French skincare brand Nuxe is a close second. Both scents contain notes of coconut, vanilla and tiare flowers, and have that sunny, tropical feel that makes me think instantly of beach vacations and piña coladas.
11. Zara Jo's Rhubarb EDP
Yes, it's another Zara Emotions scent—what can I say? They're brilliant. This is a new fragrance in the range and I'm totally obsessed with it. It's fruity, fresh, and perfect for summer. And honestly, I'll buy anything that Jo Malone puts her fragrance prowess to.
12. Roger & Gallet Extraits De Cologne Tubereuse Hedonie
This beautiful scent smells so expensive, it's hard to believe it's under $50. If you like heady florals, it's worth taking a look at this tuberose and jasmine scent. Delicate but wonderfully powerful at the same time, it's deceptively modern.
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