The best perfumes for women
05 February 2020
Whether you're a once-a-day spritzer or prefer to religiously re-apply throughout the day, choose a new scent for summer from this list of Mumsnetter favourites
What is the difference between Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette?
Perfumes are made up of a mixture of water, alcohol and oils (the oils are what give your perfume its smell), and the higher the concentration of these oils, the stronger your perfume will smell and the longer its scent will last. This also usually means these more concentrated scents will cost that bit more (but a bottle will end up lasting you longer). These heftier perfumes are called parfum or eau de parfum, and can comprise anywhere between 15% and 40% oils. Eau de toilettes are around 5% to 15% oil, and are therefore less long-lasting but often more affordable.
There are a couple of other types of perfume too, and this handy perfume guide from Fragrance Direct will give you all the information you could need on those.
What to look for in your perfect perfume
Perfumes generally have top, middle and base notes, each of which can be smelled different lengths of time after you spritz. The top notes will smell stronger straight after you put the perfume on, then the middle notes will develop, and finally you'll be left with the longer, lingering base notes once the first two 'layers' have worn away – so it's important to think about this when you're choosing which perfume you want to wear all day in the office.
The kind of scent you prefer varies from person to person, and it's important to remember that the scent profile of a perfume can change when worn by different people (it's something to do with the chemistry of your body, apparently).
The best perfumes for autumn and winter
Chanel No5 Eau De Parfum, £67.15 for 50ml (RRP £79)
Instantly recognisable to many, Chanel No5's distinctive and powerful fragrance is a timeless classic. Being a long-lasting eau de parfum, it's the perfect choice if you're on the hunt for a new signature scent, and can be teamed with a matching body lotion or bar of soap. It has both floral and citrus top notes, and base notes of vanilla which will stick with you throughout the day (and often beyond).
“A 50ml bottle of this took me five years to finish, as you only need a little and the scent often clings to clothes even after washing.”
“I've used a Chanel one for 27 years. Three times I tried something else, and always went back to the Chanel.”Shop now
Clarins Eau Dynamisante Spray, £36 for 100ml
Clarins perfumes are renowned for their coloured bottles, and you may have heard them lovingly referred to as Clarins Blue, Clarins Yellow and Clarins Red. Mumsnetters have a particular affinity for Eau Dynamisante (the red one), thanks to its refreshing scents of lemon, patchoili, white thyme and rosemary. It cleverly combines the smells and benefits that plants can have on your skin – claiming to not only leave you smelling great but also leaving skin soft and moisturised. It's ideal for liberal application after exercising or showering.
“There was a woman wearing Clarins Red at the gym last week, and it smelled so good I had to go out and buy some.”Shop Now
Maison Margiela Replica By The Fireplace Eau De Toilette, £96 for 100ml
Comforting and autumnal, Mumsnetters turn to this fragrance when the nights begin to draw in. Crammed with the scents of chestnut, burning wood and orange flower with deep, Cashmeran base notes, it'll leave you nostalgic for cosy nights by the fire. It also comes in a slightly larger bottle, so you get more bang for your buck.
“I'll wear By The Fireplace today as I need comfort and it's looking a bit grey out there.”
“My younger son has just asked to spray his teddy with my By The Fireplace for a school trip.”
You can also get your hands on a wider range of the Maison Margiela Replica scents to try out (including the much-loved By The Fireplace, of course) in this handy discovery set, which includes five different miniatures for £55.Shop now
Related: take a look at the best face creams for any budget, as chosen by Mumsnetters.
Estée Lauder White Linen Eau de Parfum, £35.96 for 60ml (RRP £54)
Looking for a signature scent? White Linen is a long-standing favourite thanks to its extensive appeal, simplicity and easy wearability. It's also an ideal year-round scent, as ingredients like Bulgarian rose, violet and orris blossoms lend themselves to all seasons. Crisp, clean and smart (just like its namesake), White Linen is a no-nonsense scent you'll never get bored of.
“My signature scent is White Linen. I love it. I’ve worn it every day for 30+ years.”Shop now
Next Cashmere Eau De Parfum, £15 for 100ml
Plucked from the more affordable end of the scale, Next's fragrances serve as excellent dupes of the top class stuff. This eau de parfum not only comes in a beautiful bottle, but also has a fabulously deep and musky scent. Plus, you can get your hands on a really tiny version for just a few pounds, which is ideal if you want to try it out before buying a larger bottle (or for slipping into your handbag for on-the-go top ups).
“I'd recommend Next Cashmere – it smells like a Donna Karan one. I find it lovely, especially in the cooler months, as it's comforting and rich.”Shop now
Related: The best deodorants for women 2020
Jo Malone Oud & Bergamot Cologne Spray, £92.59 for 50ml
This cologne spray (cologne sits just below eau de toilette on the concentration scale, somewhere between 2 and 4%) is designed for both women and men. It has a vibrant, fresh citrus smell, and, if you love the scent, why stop at perfume? Jo Malone fragrances come in so many different forms, your birthday and Christmas presents will be sorted for life (Oud & Bergamot candle, anyone?)
“I wear Jo Malone Intense Oud & Bergamot. It's more expensive than their others but a bottle lasts me a whole year, and the fragrance has good staying power. I always get compliments on it.”Shop now
Marc Jacobs Pear Eau De Toilette, £23.99 for 100ml (RRP £38)
OK, so everyone's heard of (or at least had a whiff of) Marc Jacobs' Daisy perfumes, but did you know that there are plenty of others in Mr Jacobs' repertoire? This lesser-known Pear scent, part of the Splash Collection, is a fresh and light alternative to those better-known perfumes. Simple but refreshing, it was originally released in 2008 but was redesigned and re-released as a special edition in 2016. It can be tricky to get your hands on, but Mumsnetters certainly seem to think it's worth it.
“My mum buys me all the new fancy perfumes for birthdays and Christmas when they’re released, but this one remains my favourite.”Shop now
Related: everything you need to know about menstrual cups, the eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads.
Estée Lauder Knowing Eau De Parfum, £48 for 75ml
Another timeless classic, this is the second Estée Lauder scent to appear on this list – and with good reason. Mumsnetters love Knowing for its fresh, signature woody scent. It's an eau de parfum, too – meaning that you can expect it to linger for the whole day (at least) before fading away. Plus, the beautiful bottle will add glamour to any dressing table.
“I always get complimented when I wear Knowing by Estée Lauder – my friends tell me it smells fresh. Even complete strangers comment on it.”Shop now
Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau De Parfum, £70.55 for 50ml
A deep, rich fragrance, Tom Ford's Black Orchid is the perfect eau de parfum for broody winter days. Highlights include black truffle, bergamot, lotus wood and blackcurrant, making it smell almost good enough to eat. As well as being available as an eau de parfum (£83 for 50ml), you can get your hands on a slightly less intense eau de toilette, too (£72 for 50ml).
“I bought this for myself after smelling it on someone and chasing them down to ask what it was.”Shop now
Zara Perfumes, from £3.99 for 10ml
Renowned for its fashionable clothing (and hugely anticipated sales), did you know that Zara also has a range of popular perfumes? With everything from the floral and delicate Nude Bouquet to the breezy and light Applejuice (the orange blossom and coffee-scented Gardenia somewhere in between), it's a pretty handy place to find yourself a new scent.
“Zara do some really lovely perfumes. They're cheap as chips, and very fresh-smelling and not overpowering at all.”Shop now
Prices correct at time of publication. Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here).