Plus, our must-have tricks for finding the perfect scent online.

By Amber Katz
February 18, 2021
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This is part of our weekly series Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, and explore new techniques IRL.

Early on in our new normal, I took a little hiatus from my regular perfume application. My thought was, why bother spritzing if no one else can smell it? But fast forward a couple of months and I realized that scent provides me with a sense of sanity—wearing my signature fragrance makes me feel more like me, even if my day-to-day differs drastically from 2019. I soon found myself donning even my more formal scents for Zooms and daily walks.

As for home scents, my candles took on a new, more vital role. I'm a longtime member of the work-from-home crew (ten years) but instead of lighting my usual smoky-fireplace and coffee-scented candles, now I opt for candles that remind me of far-flung locales, like the Indonesian-inspired Juara Hope Candle ($16, Juara).

Credit: Getty Images

I wanted to start fresh in 2021 with a new perfume and home scent but was overwhelmed about tackling this task remotely. To help me find my new favorite fragrances from afar, I tapped a few experts to share some tips on shopping for a scent online.

Choosing the right home or personal fragrance can be daunting when you don't have the opportunity actually to sniff them in person. Phil Riportella, co-founder of Snif admits that shopping for a fragrance online is almost impossible. "When you read a fragrance description from a traditional brand or even a direct-to-consumer brand that is still following the traditional rules, even if you can understand the complicated 'notes,' it's almost impossible to know what the combination of ingredients will actually smell like," he points out. Plus, each fragrance smells different to and on everyone. At Snif, the team's approach is simple and clinical when it comes to product descriptions. "We even use video content to help create an emotional connection to our products," Riportella says. 

Givaudan Senior Perfumer Caroline Sabas recommends you establish the olfactive families you're drawn to―florals, gourmand, citrus, etc. "If you love jasmine in nature, you might like a floral fragrance or natural smells," Sabas says. "If you're a fan of clementines, experience a citrus scent. Identifying the category you prefer can help narrow things down."

When it comes to home scents, keep it light—especially for the bedroom. "A perfect home scent has to work in conjunction with your everyday life," Lucky Scent Co-Founder Adam Eastwood says. "Pick something that can blend with the area's activities—herbaceous scents for the kitchen, clean/musky scents for the laundry room," he adds. You can go with a single scent scenario throughout your home, as well. "If you want to scent your whole house in one fragrance, err on the side of gentle, light scents to ensure that it's never overwhelming regardless of what else may be going on at home," Eastwood says. 

Next, Sabas says to do the research. "See what some of your favorite scents have in common and use that as a guide," Sabas says. "Maybe it's a note or it could be the perfumer (similar to a favorite author or artist)." Sabas notes that having a benchmark of fragrances you gravitate toward can simplify the process as you select one from home. Here are a few to try.

Credit: Courtesy of Royal Apothic

I’m a New Yorker through and through, but this LA-inspired fragrance is a longtime favorite of mine. It smells like the jasmine you see driving through the Hollywood Hills, plus a hint of ocean and eucalyptus notes.

Buy It: Royal Apothic City of Angels ($48, Royal Apothic)

Credit: Courtesy of Jafra

Romantic dinners are celebrated at home these days, but the perfect scent to wear for the occasion is Jafra Adorisse Passion, which is feminine yet fresh. Order in or indulge in a little al fresco dinner with this beautiful blend. It opens with crisp apple and is tempered by Indian jasmine and red velvet meringue.

Buy It: Jafra Adorisse Passion Eau de Parfum ($46, Jafra)

Credit: Courtesy of Snif

Snif has a beautiful selection of scents and makes the online fragrance experience easy. The company offers three genderless fragrances to choose from at any given time. The kits come with three full-size bottles plus a mini sample bottle of each scent—which are yours to keep for free. If you like what you smell, you simply keep the full-size bottle. Snif offers free shipping, free returns, and a free 7-day trial period.

Buy It: Snif Trial Box ($150 for three full-size scents, Snif)

Credit: Courtesy of Target

Sabas says that samplings and discovery kits are a great way to test something new out with low commitment. “If you have a friend or neighbor with an extensive fragrance collection, try a swap!” This kit allows you to explore five best-selling fragrances, which are perfectly sized for a weekend trip away.

Buy It: Mix:Bar Discovery Set ($14 for 5 scents, Target)

Credit: Courtesy of Crabtree & Evelyn

If you want something bold and sophisticated for a WFH setup or a study/reading room, look at fragrances with lots of spice and woods—studies show these notes can increase concentration and decrease stress, Lucky Scent Co-Founder Franco Wright says.Ask yourself what you're hoping to achieve with your home scent choices—if you want something sweet, creamy, and mouthwatering to chase away the winter doldrums, pick a gourmand or amber scent that will make you feel cozy even in chilly weather.” This vibrant citrus scent works throughout your house to brighten the mood.

Buy It: Raw Instinct Candle ($28, Crabtree & Evelyn)

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