The first perfume that truly meant something to me was Paperwhites by Robert Isabell. The green floral scent smelled like gardenias, sandalwood, citrus, and chiefly, my mom, who wore it every day. I loved that she had a signature scent that I still associate with her, even though Paperwhites is long discontinued and she’s moved on to Versace Bright Crystal (another floral, citrusy concoction). 

Paperwhites kicked off my fragrance obsession. Since I was a child, I’ve been fixated on signature scents and used perfume as a portal to specific memories and special moments. Whether or not you identify as a fragrance snob, scents have touched your life in one way or another—be it through a loved one’s signature scent or a perfume you come back to again and again.

Luckily, the world of perfume is in a bit of a renaissance. There have never been so many fragrance houses or so much innovation in the industry. Perfumers are taking chances with their blends, consumers are more likely than ever to try new scents, and fragrances have never been a bigger part of the cultural climate thanks to factors like TikTok

To celebrate, we decided to take a deep dive into perfume’s current state of the union. We tapped the renowned creative forces behind some of the industry’s most iconic fragrances to discover their favorite scents, fragrance houses to learn what celebrities are their most loyal fans, and experts to find out (once and for all) whether or not there is a "right” way to spray on a scent. We even reached out to our most valuable source: you, our reader. You told us what perfumes garner the most compliments, which you think have become blasé, which will always be cool, and which you pull out for a hot date (spoiler: the results may surprise you). Welcome to the art of smelling good. We hope you stay a while.

The Perfumes People Can't Stop Buying

Thanks to TikTok, certain perfumes (which may otherwise have remained in relative obscurity) have skyrocketed in popularity. And the incredible range of said perfumes—from price to olfactory family—is incredible. Not surprisingly, the scents that have seemingly taken over our feeds are, more often than not, the very same scents sitting at the top of retailer’s best-seller lists. Take Sol de Janeiro’s completely delectable scent, Brazilian Crush Cheirosa ’62, for instance: Though it’s the same salted-caramel-pistachio–and-vanilla confection behind the brand’s longtime beloved Bum Bum Cream bottled into a nostalgic body spray that’s become one of TikTok’s most notable fragrance darlings, its popularity has catapulted. (To be specific, one $38 bottle sells every seven seconds.) 

Glossier’s You and Dior’s long-loved Miss Dior are other such examples of popular perfumes becoming all the more covetable thanks to the frenzy they’ve created on social media. While newer iterations of Miss Dior like Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet have, according to the brand, "soared” in sales, it’s the original Miss Dior (or at least the 2021 relaunched version of the 1947 original) that continues to be the brand’s best-selling perfume worldwide.

While sales have increased by double-digit percentages every year since Glossier You’s 2017 launch, one bottle now sells every 39 seconds, and the influence of TikTok on said sales is undeniable. According to the brand, after Bitcoin Papi’s viral video posted on June 22, 2022 (with roughly 14.2 million views, 559,000+ likes, 3500+ comments, 4077 shares, and 88,000 saves) the brand saw a nearly 50% increase in sales in the 24 hours afterward. The day the video was posted, Glossier sold nearly 6000 units of You. 

Before the age of TikTok, perfume houses like Parfums de Marly and Maison Francis Kurkdjian were known and obsessed over among industry insiders and editors but weren’t as well known to the general public (perhaps, in part, to their $300-and-over price points). These days, however, both represent household names and certain scents like Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s ever-iconic Baccarat Rouge 540 and Parfums de Marly’s Valaya (a new 2023 launch that sold out almost instantaneously) top best-seller charts, regardless of those splurge-worthy price points.

It Girls Past and Present

Here at Who What Wear, It’s no secret that we’re always chasing what It girls have—we channel them in the clothes we wear, the bars and restaurants we frequent, and the hair inspo photos we show our stylists. Perhaps the most intimate way to get to know an It girl is by wearing her favorite fragrance. There’s something about scents that helps you tap into who a person really is. Below are a few of our favorites and their go-to scents. 

(Image credit: Getty/Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood; Mason Poole/Parkwood Media/Getty Images for Atlantis The Royal)

Beyoncé’s go-to fragrance, Kilian's Angels' Share, smells like top-shelf cognac, oak, cinnamon, Tonka bean, sandalwood, praline, and vanilla. It’s also infused with cognac essence, which gives it a caramel color. 

(Image credit: Getty; Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Hepburn’s favorite fragrance was one of the more unique floral fragrances in existence. Krigler’s English Promenade 19 is an almost guttural mix of grapefruit, neroli, orange blossoms, jasmine, white musk, and ylang-ylang.

(Image credit: Getty/Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management; Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Tom Ford Santal Blush is the ultimate spicy, woodsy scent. Notes like cinnamon bark, ylang-ylang, and sandalwood weave together to create a hypnotic blend worthy of Taylor Swift. 

(Image credit: Dominique Charriau/WireImage; Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Portrait of a Lady is one of Frédéric Malle’s most iconic scents, so it makes sense that Beckham would gravitate toward it. It’s rose at its most sophisticated—the flower is mixed with an inimitable blend of red fruits, cinnamon, benzoin, incense, patchouli, sandalwood, and castoreum.

(Image credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Meghan Markle may have relinquished her role in the British monarchy, but she’s still wearing a scent fit for royalty. Jo Malone’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne is the perfume version of walking along the English Channel thanks to brisk notes like salt, sage, and ambrette seeds.

(Image credit: NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images; Getty; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage; D Dipasupil/FilmMagic; Prince Williams/Wireimage; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue; Steve Granitz/WireImageedwsaxZ)

What are famous men spraying themselves with before they leave the house? Harry Styles wears Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, a unisex fragrance infused with tobacco leaf, ginger, and vanilla. Drake also opts for a Tom Ford scent: Tuscan Leather (it smells like leather, saffron, and black suede), which is fitting since he wrote a song about it. Robert Pattinson opts for Dior Homme, a warm, woodsy scent that’s heavy on cedar, vetiver, and patchouli. Ever the tastemaker, George Clooney Wears Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur, a hyper-sensual fragrance with notes like bergamot, mandarin, cinnamon, vanilla, tonka beans, sandalwood, amber, and tonkitone musk. And John F. Kennedy wore a scent fit for a president: Krigler America One 31, a fresh fragrance that smells like bergamot, cumin, mandarin, neroli, and pepper.

The Scents People Who *Really* Know Fragrance Love

(Image credit: Courtesy of Frédéric Malle)

We spend a lot of time wondering what other people smell like. (See the above section as proof.) But in addition to celebs and It girls of today and yesteryear, we’re perhaps even more interested to know what perfumes the people who really know scent (AKA the people who have composed and published some of the most iconic scents of all time) really love. 

Renowned perfume publisher Frédéric Malle is a legend. He has spent roughly 35 years dedicated to working with the industry’s best noses whilst creating some of the most beloved perfumes of all time. (Does Portrait of a Lady, Carnal Flower, and Musc Ravageur—to name just a few—ring a bell?) With Editions de Parfums, Malle is not only able to create some of the world’s most memorable scents but truly celebrate the noses that create them. When asked about the perfume he feels he’s best known for or that marked a historical moment within the world of fragrance, he cites two: the first being Bigarade Concentree by Jean-Claude Ellena, which features top notes of bitter orange (bigarade), cardamom, pink pepper, and a base note of cedar. "Bigarade Concentree redefined the idea of eau de cologne,” he tells us. 

His second pick, L’Eau d’Hiver (also by Ellena), is a subtle, yet warm amalgamation of notes like bergamot, iris, hawthorn, and heliotrope. According to Malle, L’Eau d’Hiver created a new paradigm where a light, transparent perfume could also be warm. And while Malle didn’t have a hand in Ellena’s Déclaration by Cartier, it’s a scent he loves deeply, calling it "a masterpiece.”

(Image credit: Courtesy of Guerlain)

If we’re talking perfume legends, we’d be remiss to leave out The House of Guerlain, which has roots dating back to 1828 when Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain first opened up shop on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, ultimately creating custom fragrances for the who’s who of Parisian high society (for example, his most famous client was French Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugénie, who served as the muse for Guerlain’s iconic Eau de Cologne Impériale in 1853). Of course, other perfumes you’ve undoubtedly heard of have followed, like Jicky in 1889, L’Heure Bleue in 1912, and Shalimar in 1925. In fact, it’s the still-available Jicky that will have a forever hold on Perfumer and Guerlain Fragrance Creative Director, Delphine Jelk. 

"Aimé Guerlain’s creation was the first to use synthetic molecules (vanillin and coumarin) in a fragrance,” Jelk tells us. "I love the idea of Jicky being an androgynous English young woman wearing her hair short and riding horses like men back in 1889! I love to wear it on my wrists and neck.” As for the Guerlain scent that Jelk is most known for, she shares her soft spot for La Petite Robe Noire—a scent she was inspired to create while thinking about "a Mademoiselle Guerlain” fragrance. "I love everything about her!” she says. "That was so inspirational for me. I brought this idea to Guerlain. I was 28. It became a huge success. It is a true fairytale!”

Hot Off the Press: Fall's Most Exciting Scents

Notes: Jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, violet

There are few modern scents more iconic than Dior’s J’Adore. The original fragrance was released in 1999, and has been a cornerstone of the brand’s fragrance collection ever since. In L’Or, J’Adore gets a new treatment, thanks to Francis Kurkdjian, Perfume Creation Director for Parfums Christian Dior, who is a fragrance legend in his own right. L’Or is Kurkdjian’s first fragrance with Dior, and he’s starting on a high note. It’s hard to reimagine a scent so legendary, but Kurkdjian has managed to pull it off by pulling apart J’Adore’s floral bouquet and rearranging it in his own style. The flowers in J’Adore L’Or are crisper, cleaner, and more refined than ever. In this new scent, Kurkdjian pulls off a kind of floral maximalism that somehow isolates each flower and melds them together into a blooming bouquet that ushers J’Adore into today’s world.

Notes: Saffron, blackcurrant, lemon, bergamot, praline, plum, patchouli, oud, papyrus

Byredo’s Night Veils collection has featured some of the most interesting perfume extracts in recent memory (think scents like Vanille Antique and Casablanca Lily). Rouge Chaotique, the collection’s first oud gourmand, is the perfect missing puzzle piece to a set of fragrances that pays homage to every adventure that happens after the sun sets. The scent is inspired by founder Ben Gorham’s belief that chaos is a pivotal part of creating something singular and special. The notes do sound chaotic—on its face, the perfume may seem like a scent salad. This is where it’s important to trust the creative process: Each note blends together seamlessly for something jammy, floral, sultry, and perfect for all of your after-hours affairs.

Notes: Vanilla, violet, rose, woods, amber, animalic notes, sandalwood, oud

What do the last hour before sunset and the first hour after sunrise have in common? They’re both often coined as "magic hour,” a time of day with light so good it leaves you feeling gooey and warm. This slice of light is captured perfectly in Perfumehead’s newest scent, Xanaboud. Since its launch in 2022, Perfumehead has been the disruptor the fragrance industry needed—and the brand’s creativity in scent keeps getting better and better. Xanaboud is an intense, wood-forward fragrance that captures the star ingredient, oud, in a way it’s never really been captured before. In Xanaboud, oud is at its most exhilarating, complemented by spices, vanilla, deep florals, and an animalic, feral quality that makes it ferocious.

Notes: Myrrh essence, myrrh resinoid absolute, sandalwood, vanilla, musk

Tom Ford is the reigning king of warm, mysterious scents. His latest, Myrrhe Mystère, is the kind of scent that pairs perfectly with a stiff drink and a candlelit bar. It’s the kind of scent you wear on a third date to inject an aura of intrigue, thanks to two types of myrrh. Myrrh is a notoriously difficult note to weave into fragrance since it can be overpowering to other notes. In this fragrance, however, myrrh manages to be perfectly balanced by sandalwood, vanilla, and musk for a unisex scent that will give anyone an air of sultry mystery.

Notes: Water lily, fig, cassis bud, Madagascar vanilla, patchouli leaf, sandalwood

Chriselle Lim, Phlur’s founder, is at a pivotal moment in her life. The mogul is recently divorced, dating, running a successful business, and acting as the head of her household. Some might even say she’s turning the stereotypical role of a father figure on its head—and Phlur’s latest fragrance cements it. The green, fig-centric scent has a sort of melty muskiness that makes it both soft and a head-turner. It’s sensual and empowering but also cool and low-key. If Lim’s current life stage were a fragrance, Father Figure would surely be it, and we’re happy to channel her energy by wearing the scent.

Notes: Jasmine grandiflorum, helichrysum, cactus flower, pear

Modern femininity is slippery. How can you nail down a concept with so many subtle complexities? In the Alien Goddess collection, Mugler is taking their best stab at it. Like the other scents in the collection, jasmine grandiflorum remains a common thread that weaves all the scents together. In this iteration, however, jasmine grandiflorum is found in a co-distillate with helichrysum, also known as the "everlasting flower.” Cactus flower and pear help elevate Alien Goddess Supra Florale to something truly not of this Earth.

Notes: Bergamot, rich orange blossom absolute, warm woods, patchouli, Ambrofix

While Mugler is ushering in a new era of femininity, YSL is redefining modern masculinity. Myslf is the brand’s first men’s parent fragrance since 2017, and it’s a sharp departure from typical men’s fragrances. Myslf is the brand’s first woodsy floral and is uniquely fit for the modern man. Orange blossom weaves its way into a traditional woodsy scent, creating something different and delightfully disruptive.

Notes: Cabreuva, orchid, pink pepper, vines, green vanilla leaves, cypress root, vanilla absolute, dark patchouli, hay

Vanilla is used in fragrances all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s used well. Often, when a fragrance is laced with vanilla notes, it ends up smelling cloying, like buttercream frosting or cake batter (lovely smells, but not welcome to anyone who enjoys more nuanced scents). D.S. & Durga proves that they’re up to the task of creating a warm, smoky vanilla fragrance that blooms once it hits the skin, evoking "jungle vines and good times,” according to Co-Founder David Moltz.

Fragrance Etiquette 101

One of the most notable trends in fragrance right now is a "rules do not apply” philosophy to choosing and wearing perfume. Sweet, dessert-like scents (previously considered to be less sophisticated) have catapulted in popularity, and even celebrity-created scents have risen to TikTok superstardom. (Ariana Grande’s best-selling Cloud Eau de Parfum is one such example.) That being said, if you want to extend the lifespan of your perfume collection for as long as possible or want to avoid making the people around you cough due to OTT application, there are still some very valid dos and don’ts in regard to etiquette. For details, we reached out to two top experts in the perfume biz, Ben Krigler, the fifth-generation owner of the Krigler fragrance house (which is historically well-known for an exceptionally iconic fan base) and Daniel Patrick Giles, the founder of every beauty editor’s favorite new fragrance brand, Perfumehead.

First things first is storage. No matter how tempting it may be to stow your favorite perfumes in the bathroom, it’s the number one mistake that will sacrifice a scent’s integrity and longevity. "Exposure to air, light, and heat are the biggest enemies when it comes to perfume,” Giles explains. "Generally, a really good, well-composed fragrance can last for two or more years, but so much is dependent on the type of notes, composition, and their sensitivity to oxidation.” Do your perfume the favor of storing it somewhere cool and dark (like a closet or drawer in your bedroom), or even in the fridge, as Giles does.

Rules as far as how and where to spray are considered a bit old-fashioned, but if you’re someone who likes to layer your fragrances, Giles recommends gently misting a scent on your outfit and then applying the same (or a different) scent in small amounts at key pulse points (i.e., behind the ears and at the base of your neck). Oh, and absolutely resist the urge to spritz your perfume on your wrists and rub it in, which, Giles explains, reduces the time your scent will last, and, more importantly, breaks down the top notes. (Instead, he likes to end his scent ritual by spraying perfume on his heart chakra.) Applying a rich, fragrance-free moisturizer to your skin pre-perfume will also help the scent last longer on your skin since dry skin can’t hold onto fragrance as well. The more you know!

We’ve all been in a situation where we’re stuck in a small, poorly circulated area, and it feels nearly impossible to breathe thanks to someone having applied maybe one (or 10) sprays too many of their favorite fragrance. In fact, Krigler says the only real "faux pas” that exists with fragrance (other than incorrect storage) is going overboard with the application. Because it’s easy to get used to your own scent and it can be tricky to know what will read to others as "too much,” Krigler recommends the bathroom or closet test. Simply apply your perfume, go into a closed-door bathroom or closet for five to 10 minutes, exit, and then come back after five minutes. "This way,” says Krigler, "You’ll get the impression you’ll leave with your sillage.”

While it can be tempting to simply buy a perfume based on its best-seller status or the fact that thousands of people on TikTok are telling you to, it’s important to remember that just because someone else likes a perfume, doesn’t mean that you need to. "Your perfume is the most intimate thing on you,” Krigler shares. "Unlike a piece of clothing, it’s literally you.” So, choose wisely, and choose something you absolutely love and that feels like a natural extension of your skin chemistry and innate sense of style. "Wear a fragrance for yourself,” Giles concludes. "Beautiful scents will change how you feel, lift you up, and bring instant joy.”

Pulled From the Polls: Our Readers Offer Their Juiciest Fragrance Opinions


A familiar favorite: You

The most complimented perfume isn’t the strongest, the most expensive, or the most well-known—it’s actually a scent known for its subtlety. Glossier You has a spicy bite of pink pepper, a powdery flash of iris, a warm burst of ambrette seeds, and Ambrox to keep it mellow. The brand says the scent is missing an ingredient: You. This perfume feeds off of everyone’s unique body chemistry, resulting in a warm, familiar scent that smells a bit differently on everyone. Don’t believe me? I made my friend group try it



Why is fragrance ubiquity a bad thing?

Many of you said Le Labo Santal 33 and Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 are "out,” but they also were voted some of the most complimented scents. Santal 33 and Baccarat Rouge are two of the most popular scents out there, and for good reason. They both follow the same winning scent formula (floral + spice + amber + woods) and they’ve both surpassed viral status to be cemented into the current fragrance zeitgeist. Maybe people really are sick of these two star scents, or maybe they just hope people will stop wearing them as much so they feel more unique. The jury’s out on this one.



The surprising scent for a hot date: Tom Ford Lost Cherry

Tom Ford is everyone’s favorite date-night fragrance brand, but more specifically, you’re all reaching for one of the house’s most polarizing scents: Lost Cherry. Lost Cherry is a sugary take on cherry that still manages to be wearable thanks to an almond twist. Clearly, it’s doing something right: Lost Cherry was by far the most popular date-night scent in our survey. Tom Ford himself said, "Like the plump fruit waiting to be eaten, Lost Cherry is powerful and insatiable.” Maybe Ford knows something other perfumers are too scared to touch. After all, on date night, we all just want to smell like sexy dessert, right?

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Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.