Your skin but better. That phrase is often touted when we talk about foundations and tinted moisturisers, but here’s a new beauty category you might want to associate it with too — fragrances.
To start your year off on a fresh note, maybe it’s time to drop the intoxicating florals and heavy musks; instead, consider transparent scents that are clean, minimalist and oh-so-subtle.
If you’ve never thought about how scents can be “transparent” or “naked”, here’s a brief run-down. When we think of clean scents, it’s usually ones that enhance your body’s natural pleasant scent, rather than overpowering it. Think light, airy, soft.
There’s usually an association with stepping out of a fresh shower or the smell of fresh laundry as well, or of evocative scents that capture the elusive but comforting feel of warmth on skin, a kind of sensual quality that’s really best experienced than deciphered.
Still, we’ve noticed certain similarities between the beloved scents in this family. Florals and musks, for instance, are always included, as are amber and woody bases, including cedar and sandalwood.
These soft ingredients are more commonly used by niche perfumers to bring out the qualities of a transparent perfume, labelled so because there’s the idea that a list of minimalist ingredients gives space for the scent to breathe, and for each material to do its work. We just think the word “transparent” nicely conveys the light-as-air quality of these fragrances, which linger on your skin just enough that you might believe you actually smell that good.
Here are some of our favourite clean scents to consider:
1. MAISON MARGIELA REPLICA LAZY SUNDAY MORNING
One of the most lauded clean scents in the market, Lazy Sunday Morning smells like comfort in the bottle. The brand’s known for scents that evoke vivid memories, and a whiff of this sends you right back to bed, in particular, that feeling of endless joy when you lounge in bed with sun on your skin, with the smell of fresh cotton sheets in the air.
While technically a floral fragrance of white rose petals, iris and orange flower, its the delicate and creamy notes of white musk and lily of the valley that lingers on, giving rise to its formidable cult-favourite status.
$185 (100ml). available at the Maison Margiela flagship store, and at Sephora.
2. LE LABO ANOTHER 13
Meet my latest obsession. Le Labo’s line of fragrances aren’t like the rest —they’ve managed to make a rose scent that’s as un-rose-like as possible, which is a fine compliment by the way, since the fragrance makers are all about soulful, thoughtful, hand-blended scents. And yes, we’re daring you to venture beyond the popular Santal 33 here.
An0ther 13 is a subtle scent that smells like your skin but better, the kind you know is there, but might only just get a whiff of when going about the day. It’s oddly both addictive and comforting, and mainly composed of ambroxan, a synthetic animal musk, blended with jasmine, moss and ambrette seeds absolute for a soft shine. Visit their stores for a Fragrance Lab experience, where your scent is personally hand-blended in front of you, complete with a personalised label.
$115 (15ml), $270 (50ml) and $390 (100ml). available at le labo boutiques.
3. MAISON FRANCIS KURKDJIAN AQUA UNIVERSALIS FORTE
Here’s another musky-floral scent that has quite the reputation, Aqua Universalis, a universally-loved number by the famed perfumer that’s said to be inspired by cleanliness. Its original Eau de Toilette form has a sunnier disposition compared to other scents within this category, and is made up of bergamot, Sicilian lemon, lily of the valley, sweet orange and blond musky wood, perfect for the day.
If you prefer a longer-lasting version though, go for the Eau de Parfum, which intensifies the former’s solar notes and radiance with green bergamot from Calabria, as well as jasmine and rose absolutes from Egypt and Morocco.
$200 (35ml), $335 (70ml). Available at escentials stores and escentials.com.
4. D.S. & DURGA I DON’T KNOW WHAT
With a conversation starter of a name, you can think of I Don’t Know What as being equivalent to the French phrase je ne sais quoi, often used to describe personalities whose appealing qualities cannot be pinned down in words.
Similarly, this woody scent is touted as a “fragrance enhancer with transparent radiance”, a phrase you’ll have to experience for yourself. What we can tell you is that its versatile notes of bergamot, iso e super, vetiver, amber and sandalwood translate to a clean, refreshing scent that’s great worn on its own, or layered with something else.
$393 (100ml), available at escentials stores and escentials.com.
5. BYREDO BLANCHE
Human touch and the smell of texture and skin. If that’s not alluring enough, we don’t know how else to entice you. Blanche is one of Byredo’s most iconic scents, and it’s one that lures you the moment you pick it up.
The floral-aldehyde fragrance smells fresh above everything else, with an initial hit of aldehyde that then softens into delicate peony and violet, through sandalwood and musk. It’s a neat scent that’ll appease those who like to see their homes neat, since it evokes the feel of fresh laundry as well.
$274 (50ml), $372 (100ML). AVAILABLE AT THE BYREDO BOUTIQUE, ESCENTIALS PARAGON, AND ESCENTIALS.COM.
6. CLEAN RESERVE SKIN
Just, skin. That’s how Clean Reserve’s classic scent wants to be remembered, and indeed, Skin wants to convey what it means to be human. In their words, the “exhilarating touch of a warm embrace”. Now-familiar notes of bergamot and fresh musks are included here, but what’s different is vanilla, a usually sweet and comforting note that’s softened by florals and woods.
As a clean beauty brand, Clean Beauty Collective also strives to source their ingredients from sustainable communities; here, their vanilla comes from Madagascar, in support of a programme that provides drinking water wells and medical facilities for the farming communities, along with supporting reforestation projects.
$120 (100ml), available at Sephora and cleanbeauty.com.
7. LOEWE 001 WOMAN
Launched as a pair from the house of Loewe, 001 Woman and 001 Man are bright, fresh, yet warm scents that reinterpret the scent of a skin caress, which seems to be a running theme among our sensual fragrances here.
The Loewe 001 Woman comprises of sparkling citrus notes of Italian bergamot, tangerine and pink pepper, that leads in to a modern heart of Egyptian jasmine combined with linen and musk, which gives this scent its classic “morning after” warmth.
$200, available at loewe boutiques.