Online Perfume Shopping Is Hard—Read This, and You'll 100% Choose the Right One


(Image credit: @cocoweekend)

Ah, online perfume shopping—a topic that sparks much debate. Some would argue it simply can't be done, while others swear by it and have fully mastered the art of selecting the perfect scent straight from their couch. What camp do I fall into? Well, I would say it's the latter but only because I had help.

Whether you love a deeply floral aroma or something fresh that captures the essence of a vacation in a bottle, you can learn to select a fragrance online with the right expert advice. In this case, I turned to Chandler Burr, former scent critic for The New York Times, author, and founder of the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts. I think it's safe to say he's more than qualified to give advice on the matter. If you're ready to dive into the (seemingly) mysterious world of online perfume shopping, keep reading for Burr's guide below.

Tips for Online Perfume Shopping

"Buying a scent online is arguably better than buying it in a store and for multiple reasons," says Burr. "In both cases, you can see the packaging, bottle, font the brand chose—and really, who gives a damn? You don't wear the packaging. The advantage of buying online is that you can read in quiet, sitting down, about the scent. You can read everything from the marketing copy to buyers' comments, the history of the brand, and (for the hard-core perfume buyers) who the perfumers are. [Perfumers like] Maurice Roucel, Caroline Sabas, and Alberto Morillas each have very different résumés and strengths. It just allows you to know more.

"It's also easier to try on the fragrances because you can order samples—and you should (usually) order samples. Blind buys are rolling the dice, and good online perfume sites like,, and others sell samples for next to nothing and or include them for free when you buy a bottle of something you already know [and love]. You can get the perfumes delivered to you, try them on at your leisure, in an airspace that isn't inflected with the smells of makeup, other customers' fragrances, and the scent of the street."


(Image credit: @amy_lawrenson)

Points well made in favor of online perfume shopping. Anything that allows me to shop from the comfort of my own home always bodes well with me, but there are also a few other pitfalls Burr says to avoid. "One thing to never do [is] select a perfume by its list of raw materials. You could see two cakes with bitter chocolate, hazelnuts, and charred vanilla bean. If I'm making one and master pastry chef Della Gossett the other, you should choose hers 100% of the time. The perfume has tuberose and orange flower? This means nothing. It's all in the execution. And ordering a tester with a click will give you the answer."

Lastly, if you're still hung up on gender marketing when it comes to selecting the right fragrance for you, Burr says to let that go. "Online, no one cares if you're a man, woman, or something else. You can easily ignore the marketing that tells you which gender a fragrance is 'for.' Fragrances are for everyone. The first rule of perfume buying is ignore the gendering. Buying online makes that effortless."

Armed with these tips, you can now confidently select the right fragrance for you via the internet. To give you a head start, read on below and shop Burr's all-time favorite scents and a few other beauty-editor picks.

Chandler Burr's Picks


(Image credit: @lefevrediary)


(Image credit: @cocoweekend)


(Image credit: @daleedasoomar)

Up Next: And Now, the 17 Most Popular Designer Perfumes of All Time

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.