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Help me, Internet: I need a new fragrance

Categories: beauty



A few weeks ago, on a random Tuesday morning, my brother texted me: “I just put Coppertone on my face. I smell like summer.”


Scents can call up all sorts of memories; for me, the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion is the scent of long summers at the pool and tennis courts. I’ve passed this on to my sons as well; when I lotion up to go running, even in the winter, my kids will say, “Mmm, smells like summer in here.”

Because scent has such powerful associations for me, it’s hard to pick a new fragrance. For years, I wore Origins Spring Fever, a citrusy mix that smelled like sunny days, but then Estee Lauder discontinued it (of course). My current scent is Clinique Happy, which I love (it reminds me of living in Tacoma, in the years between graduate school and our first baby), and while I’m still happy with it, I’m in the market for something new.

But I need help.

I’m picky about smells; I don’t like anything too flowery, or anything musky or strong. I’m a makeup minimalist, and I want a scent that is also pared down and simple, with citrusy, clean notes. I had high hopes for Kate Spade’s Twirl, but when I spritzed myself with it recently, I found it a little overwhelming.

I’m picky, I know. Get used to it.

I want a scent that I can wear everyday, something that’s not overwhelming, just light and pretty. Give me your best recommendations, and while you’re at it, tell me what you’re wearing, even if it’s not something I would like — I’m sure there’s someone else out there looking for the perfect signature scent. So share!

What should I spriz myself with the next time I’m at the mall? And what’s your favorite fragrance?

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70 comments so far...

  • Hermes Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. I’m very picky about scents, too, in the sense that most give me migraines. This one is perfect–light and sweet, and no headaches!

    Erica  |  August 8th, 2011 at 8:39 am

  • It sounds like we have very similar taste in perfume - I also favor clean, citrusy notes. I rarely wear a scent anymore as I’ve become very sensitive to smells since my first pregnancy and I tend to find them overwhelming. Having said that, CB I Hate Perfume has a very lovely, light, fresh scent called “Just Breathe” that you might like: - hard to find in a department store, however. He has some other extraordinary scents that I find incredibly evocative even if I wouldn’t wear them myself (I want to carry “In the Library” around with me and just sniff it periodically), but “Just Breathe” is the one that sounds most like what you’re looking for. Good luck!

    Genesis  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:01 am

  • If you like Happy, I suspect you’d like Amazing Grace, too.

    I have all but given up perfumes, going for nicer lotions, instead. Because I’m lazy. Currently loving Sensual Amber from Bath and Body Works, which, hey, is available from them as Eau de Toilette, too.

    Mir  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:01 am

  • White Citrus or Country Chic @ Bath & Body Works fit the bill and are really afforadable. I wear these a lot in summe.r My all the time fragrance is Ralph Lauren Romance. When I’m at Sephora though I always have to spritz Dolce & Gabanna Blue :)

    rose  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:03 am

  • Try DKNY Be Delicious original and the Juiced ones. Very light, appley smell.

    Lorna  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:07 am

  • I suggest Issy Miyake (the original). It’s clean,crisp,classic, and you won’t run into anyone else wearing it.

    ASuburbanLife  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:07 am

  • I’m a Stella faithful. But, it may be a skooch too much for you. Always worth a shot.

    elz  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:37 am

  • I would say Jo Malone in the Grapefruit or the Lime Basil Mandarin. Light and unusual.

    Carryn  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:41 am

  • I love Gloomaway from Origins. It is a nice citrus scent. They used to have a fantastic roller application but alas, no more!

    Jessica C.  |  August 8th, 2011 at 9:57 am

  • I really like the unisex Hermes d’Orange Vert.

    I also recently bought a trio of Clean perfumes (Warm Cotton, Fresh Laundry and Cotton T-shirt, I think). They are mini-bottles so I could try a few without a big investment. The scent is definitely light to the point where I think you would need to be pretty close to smell it.

    k-t  |  August 8th, 2011 at 10:19 am

  • Go look at eau de Cartier - I’m like you, has to be fresh and clean and not fade to musky or powdery. This has been a signature scent for years.

    Plus? I’m a sucker for a great bottle.

    Pam  |  August 8th, 2011 at 10:20 am

  • So glad you asked this. I have been needing the same info.

    I love Clinique Happy and that has been my go-to for years. I also use Happy Heart occasionally, though it is almost too strong. I used to love Eddie Bauer Balance, but it’s no longer available. Used to like Gap Day and Jessica McClintock eau de Parfum, but find those a bit strong for me. Also really like Bath & Bodyworks White Citrus, but it is so light it doesn’t seem to last until late morning. Eons ago my sister wore 4-7-11 (no idea who it’s by) and I still have a large vat of that, and I still love it, too. I should take it back out!

    Lisak  |  August 8th, 2011 at 11:38 am

  • Escada Into the Blue. So fresh smelling!

    Devin  |  August 8th, 2011 at 11:59 am

  • I don’t know if it will become your new go-to fragrance, but I love Fresh Cannabis Rose and wear it every single day. And most days someone tells me I smell really good,

    It doesn’t smell great right out of the bottle, but it really works with my chemistry.

    My back up is White Musk by the Body Shop, which pretty much smells delicious on everyone.

    Marketing Mommy  |  August 8th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

  • I tend to favor very simple citrus or rose scents. The citrusy perfumes that I wear (or like and don’t find overwhelming) are Jo Malone’s Lime, Basil & Mandarin; Jo Malone’s Verbenas of Provence; and Fresh’s Sugar Lemon.

    kate  |  August 8th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

  • I love all things Jo Malone - lime blossom and orange blossom are my faves.

    Courtney  |  August 8th, 2011 at 1:22 pm

  • This is maybe silly, but I am in love with Bath and Body Works Forever Sunshine perfume. I hate perfume, and am super picky with scents, but theirs sucked me in to buying it, even though it’s cheap. I love it - some floral, some citrus, some praline - it’s really sweet and subtle. My husband loves it. Yum.

    Leah @ JustPluckingDaisies  |  August 8th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

  • I don’t wear perfume often, but when I do I like Tomato by Demeter (yes, tomato. Modeled after the scent of the leaves not the fruit though) It’s light, very fresh and unique! Works great with my body chemistry, but of course everyone’s different :)
    I also like Ananya by the Bodyshop occasionally — its kind of spicy and floral and musky so it’s more of a date night perfume for me rather than a daytime scent.

    Shannon  |  August 8th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

  • Marc Jacobs–Daisy.

    Em  |  August 8th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

  • I also like light, citrusy scents, and I wore Happy many years ago. I like the aforementioned Jo Malone Verbenas de Provence, also for straight citrus I like L’Occitaine Verbena (I think they have some variations now too). I am also loving the Bliss scent too (as in Bliss Spa). I love almost all of the Philosophy scents too, they are really great.

    Leslie  |  August 8th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

  • My vote is for the new Coach perfume. It’s a light floral, perfect for daytime. Plus my hubby adores it, so win-win.

    Michelle  |  August 8th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  • Oh my goodness. We likely bought that darn Happy at the exact same Tacoma Bon Marche (I’m sorry, but Macy’s just isn’t the same). I LOVE that scent. I got out of the habit of wearing perfume when I worked in an office with someone that had a severe allergy to all scents. Hmm, maybe I should start again…

    BethanyWD  |  August 8th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

  • The following reside on my vanity:

    Coco Chanel
    Angel by Thierry Mugler
    Romance by Ralph Lauren
    Miami Glo by J-Lo (this smells like summer)
    Very Sexy Hot by Vicoria’s Secret

    and while these are all my favorites, lately I’ve been wearing some different scents by Sula. They make these mini rollerball perfumes in every day scents like Vanilla, Blackberry, Citrus. I love them and they are great for keeping in my purse.

    Carrisa  |  August 9th, 2011 at 6:59 am

  • I am so intrigued by CB I Hate Perfume, mentioned by Genesis! Looks like a shop very close to me carries it, so I will check it all out and report my findings.

    whoorl  |  August 9th, 2011 at 7:17 am

  • Trish McEvoy has some really unique scents. I wear Snowdrop and Crystal Flowers year-round. It’s very light and refreshing.
    Also, Jo Malone fragrances are unique in that you can layer them (I guess you could do that with any fragrance, but the women who worked there showed me how to do it with JM scents). I layer French Lime Blossom with Grapefruit; very unique and fresh.
    Marc Jacobs (doesn’t have a name other than that, so it must be the “classic”?) is lovely, as well.
    And my all-time favorite is So Pretty by Cartier, which I wear in the evenings only.

    I think some of the Trish McEvoy scents might be what you’re looking for, based on what you’ve liked before.

    Good luck!

    Amanda  |  August 9th, 2011 at 8:45 am

  • I’m picky as heck about scents, too, and while I can’t guarantee that we are picky in the same way, I also favor relatively citrusy scents (though I love SOME florals) and I can’t wear anything sweet or heavy because it smells terrible on me and instantly gives me a headache. Because of this I often head to Sephora and do a big smell before buying anything.

    For years I wore Anais Anais by Cacharel, which smells to me like Paris.

    Recently, I switched to Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermes, and I think you’d love it. It smells like green mango and carrots, but the translation is sort of a watery grapefruit scent. It was designed as a unisex scent, but I think it’s feminine. You can google the name and “sample” and buy a sample cheaply to test it out.

    I also wanted a change, so more recently still I started wearing Jo Malone orange blossom (actually, I started wearing a dupe of Jo Malone orange blossom that I bought for under $10 from a site called Bathed and Infused). It’s floral but also a bit soapy and I like it a lot. I also like the French Lime Blossom (also a Jo Malone dupe from the same site). Jo Malone generally has a lot of light fragrances that might be worth checking out.

    Kate @ Savour Fare  |  August 9th, 2011 at 10:23 am

  • I am a huge fan of light, citrusy scents, and have been wearing Eau D’ Hadrien by Annick Goutal for years. It has an irresistable lemony scent, and I get compliments on it all the time. I also like L’Occitane Verbena and Fresh’s Sugar Lemon too.

    Christine  |  August 9th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

  • I love Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely…it’s light and simple. Also, Amazing Grace is really nice.

    I don’t like overly done scent as I’ll give myself a headache and both of these work for me. Good luck!

    Sally C.  |  August 9th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

  • “Inspire” by Lollia

    Katelar  |  August 9th, 2011 at 9:16 pm

  • What about Light Blue, by D&G? It has some citrus hints, but it warms up with wear. I love it!

    A  |  August 9th, 2011 at 10:13 pm

  • I just started wearing perfume a few years ago, inspired by one of my BFFs who always smells incredible, and always smells the same. I think it’s sweet that she has a scent of her “own.”

    I wear Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely. Every day. I love everything about it, including the name, because it really is simply lovely.

    Shannon  |  August 10th, 2011 at 6:03 am

  • I love Jo Malone’s orange blossom. It doesn’t read “perfume” to me, but smells so fresh and clean- I wear it daily!

    kristen  |  August 11th, 2011 at 9:17 am

  • I rotate between three Ralph Lauren fragrances - Ralph Lauren in the blue bottle for summer, Romance for spring/summer and Glamorous (my all-time favourite) for the winter months. It’s strong but not flowery or anything like that, and I adore it.

    Sarah  |  August 12th, 2011 at 6:38 am

  • The Marc Jacob colognes are really great - they are light, all of them smell fantastic, and are reasonably priced.

    Joy  |  August 12th, 2011 at 5:22 pm

  • Have you tried the Philosophy Grace fragrance collection? Pure Grace, Amazing Grace, Baby Grace, and the one I personally love, Inner Grace. They are light and smell clean more than anything else. I like heavier fragrances myself–Marc Jacobs signature fragrance, Samsara by Guerlain, Tiffany for Men… but the Philosophy group is light.

    spacegeek  |  August 13th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  • I went from “Happy” to “l’eau par kenzo” which is a clean, fresh scent.

    and from there I then went to “Lolita Lempicka Women’s Eau De Parfum” — which I don’t think would qualify as a ‘fresh’ scent — but I found it to be a perfect ’signature scent’ — it is complex and has a certain something, it’s like a mix of violets, chocolate and apple pastry.

    SamiJ  |  August 15th, 2011 at 7:40 am

  • I love having & wearing different perfumes. I think it’s fun to wear a different scent based on my mood, and as you say, they remind me of different times and places in my life. I have such a strong attachment to smell!

    Kate Spade’s Twirl is one I wear, but when I want something cleaner and lighter (and in the summer I usually do!) I have two others I wear that you might like:

    Roger & Gallet Cedrat. I found it in a drugstore in France, but you can find it online. It’s citrusy, fresh, and to me smells unisex

    My other favorite is Azahar by Adolfo Dominguez. Others have mentioned orange blossom scents, and this one is too. I love it. So light and clean.

    Good luck, let us know what you decide!

    Oh! And since you asked, I also wear Juicy Couture’s Viva La Juicy (mostly in summer) and their original (which I think is just called Juicy Couture). I also like Kenneth Cole Reaction for Her, but I don’t usually wear it any more - mostly I sniff and reminisce about my youth when I did wear it :)

    I also have a bottle of Plumeria fragrance I got in Hawaii. It smells like a flower freshly plucked off the tree and reminds me of time spent there when my husband lived there. I never wear it, just smell it or use it as a room spray to reminisce!

    Caitlin  |  August 15th, 2011 at 11:55 am

  • Chanel Chance Eua Fraiche.

    It’s super light and divine.

    CLH  |  August 15th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

  • jo malone. lime, basil, mandarine. smells just right. not too anything. it’s my favorite. and I am super picky!

    susannah  |  August 15th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

  • DKNY Energizing for Women. I’ve heard it can be hard to find in the U.S., but it’s the perfect light, citrus scent, with a bonus hint of tomato vine. Yum!

    ND  |  August 17th, 2011 at 2:46 am

  • Another vote for Light Blue by D&G. It’s light and fresh and everyone comments on it when I wear it. DKNY’s Be Delicious is also lovely. A friend wears it occasionally and I always notice how fresh it smells.

    Catherine  |  August 17th, 2011 at 2:49 am

  • I love light scents as well and have trouble finding something that doesn’t give me a headache when I wear it. Banana Republic Classic is light grapefruit-y, not too sweet, metallic or “fake” smelling.

    bontal  |  August 17th, 2011 at 6:36 am

  • i switched from happy to dolce and gabbana’s light blue.

    Allison  |  August 17th, 2011 at 6:39 am

  • DKNY’s Be Delicious has been my go to for the last few years after using Clinique Happy for a long time.

    Demeter has cool scents too, I looove the Ginger Ale one!

    Kerry  |  August 17th, 2011 at 6:46 am

  • I’ve spent a decade trying to find a scent to replace Tommy Hilfiger’s Freedom for Women, which I wore daily for the few years it was available, and which was (on me, anyway) a glorious, light, white-blossomy, memorable scent. (I miss it, can you tell?)
    Mostly, I wear Estée Lauder’s Pure White Linen, which is lovely, but not so “me”. I’ll sample a few of the suggestions made here.

    Lynn  |  August 17th, 2011 at 8:40 am

  • L’Occitane makes a beautiful Miel & Citron (Honey & Lemon) fragrance that is both citrusy and sweet. It’s light and perfect for those who are sensitive to heavy fragrances.

    Laura  |  August 17th, 2011 at 9:01 am

  • Sephora has a tool where it finds other fragrances you might like based on a favorite.

    It helped me find something like Gap Visionary.

    Anne  |  August 17th, 2011 at 9:15 am

  • - “Calyx” (can be found online)
    - ” Stella MacCartney”
    - “Lovely” by Sarah J Parker
    - “Kai” sold in small boutiques and online

    Sorta gender neutral cologne/perfume “Gendarme” - smells clean, like soap

    RH  |  August 17th, 2011 at 11:07 am

  • Hello, there!
    I´m really picky too! I know the feeling… I sorta have 40 bottles of perfume and only get to use one or 2.

    Then, here is my favorite fragrance: Lolita Lempicka´s Forbidden Flower.
    It´s the yellow one with the lilac box!
    And the funny thing is that I hate all other Lolita Lempicka´s fragrance but that one. To me it smells like fairytale!

    Camilla Corrêa  |  August 17th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

  • I just purchased the Clean Cotton T-shirt fragrance from Sephora…and it smells AMAZING! It’s clean and fresh and not too overpowering. You should definitely give it a try.

    Cassie S  |  August 17th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

  • Fresh Hesperides: it’s light, grapefruity and green. I started wearing it when I wanted something a little more complex than Origins Gloomaway.

    Sarah  |  August 17th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

  • I’ve been so pleased with Marc Jacob’s Daisy Garland. I bought it on a whim without smelling it and am so happy I did! (

    Kaela  |  August 17th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

  • I really like the perfumes in the “A Rather Novel Collection” at Anthropologie - my favorite is “Taverns & the Hague” which has a light, citrusy, fresh smell to it. I also love the “Oceane” eau de toilette by L’Aromarine - it doesn’t last long but smells a lot like The Body Shop’s “Oceanique” which they no longer carry. :(

    Kristy  |  August 17th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

  • Jo Malone. Love them all.

    Joanie  |  August 17th, 2011 at 5:36 pm

  • Light Blue by D&G is, well, light and fresh.
    You can also try Clean’s Fresh Laundry.

    TPS  |  August 18th, 2011 at 2:01 am

  • jo malone’s lime basil mandarin

    i’m hanging on to my last bottle of the body shop’s tobacco flower which has been discontinued.

    mona  |  August 18th, 2011 at 8:59 am

  • I like Calyx by Prescriptives:

    “The artistry of legendary perfumer Sophia Grojsman lies in interweaving a veritable cornucopia of fruity notes alongside clean, green florals and a subtle musky-mossy base that hums more than speaks, aimed at every woman who wants a ray of sunshine all her own. “

    kristen  |  August 18th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

  • Another very enthusiastic vote for Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien. I have worn this scent forever and though I love perfume, have never been able to stay away from this one for very long. The parfum version smells better than the eau de toillette. Sold at Bloomies, Nordstrom, etc.

    Janna  |  August 18th, 2011 at 6:04 pm

  • I was given a sample of Jo Malone Wild Bluebell the other day at nordstrom, it’s not out yet in the US (9/1 I think) but when it is I am Getting It! So light and clean and beauty.

    Amybeth  |  August 18th, 2011 at 6:19 pm

  • I find that my local Bloomingdales is the BEST place to get scent or to find new scents. First, they don’t hard sell, which is a big deal for me. Plus, the perfume lady seemed to know every scent they carried, not just one brand. Second, they gave me tons of samples, 3 of which were dead solid great picks (although the others were pretty good too). And third, they spent 20-25 minutes helping me find a scent for my husband (which was a home run for him too).

    SamiJ  |  August 19th, 2011 at 9:06 am

  • Try coco mademoiselle. It is a fresh clean scent. It first hits you with citrusy/bergemot scent but has light rose/spice undernotes. It is not musky or flowery or powdery.
    Its has a more delicate citrus scent than alot of other citrus perfumes, which can sometimes settle into your skin with a too sweet lemonade smell or worse a citronella lemon pledge scent.
    I really like the way coco mademoiselle settles out.

    Anni  |  August 19th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

  • Thanks for posting this .. I am always looking. Went back to Halston body lotion this summer, and had forgotten what comments I rec’d when I wore it before. Soft, refereshing, and apparently, others love it too!

    maureen  |  August 20th, 2011 at 11:21 am

  • Summer: Victoria Secret Pink Warm & Cozy
    Autumn: Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely
    Winter: Chanel Coco Mademoiselle
    Spring: Miss Dior Cherie

    Hehther  |  August 20th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

  • any hanae mori!!!! im wearing number 4-the mens version is THE best thing ive ever smelled!! im giving away my secrets, but bugari jasmine noir!! to die for!!!

    mary barrett  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 6:47 pm

  • hanae mori-number 4, or any of them!! the mens version is THE BEST thing i have ever smelled!! im giving u my secrets-bulgari jasmine noir—to die for!!!

    mary barrett  |  August 23rd, 2011 at 6:48 pm

  • Try out some of the scents in the YouStinkSoap shop on etsy. I am smitten with their solid perfumes and have bought multiples of many of them.

    bunnyslippers  |  August 24th, 2011 at 10:54 am

  • i second, third, or fourth d&g light blue - it’s citrus-y and light and very summery. i also like origins gloomaway - it’s simple and grapefruity and also very summery and light.
    i use both of those all the time in hot weather. for fall and winter i like (but you probably would not) prada (vanilla and patchouli and amber) and guerlain’s samsara (jasmine and sandalwood)

    leela  |  August 24th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

  • Count my vote for Philosophy’s Amazing Grace…and, like Mir, I just go for the lotion.

    Nancy R  |  August 26th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

  • I was searching for the “perfect” perfume for years-
    I wanted a very subtle scent

    and fell in love with Burberry Brit Sheer.

    Light, feminine without being cloying

    colette  |  October 13th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

  • Try Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline, light and sophisicated, you’ll find it at most department stores; great price on Amazon.

    Content  |  September 20th, 2012 at 5:30 am