Help me find a clean, bright, sexy smelling perfume
April 3, 2013 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I want to get a new perfume but perfume shopping is an utterly horrible experience for me. I'm looking for a very clean smelling perfume. What can you suggest?

I can't just go to a perfume counter or something to find a perfume I like. One, I find them utterly offense to my nose and it usually triggers migraines. Two, I can never smell anything because EVERYTHING SMELLS. So I need to go on a more trusting-the-green mission here.

I am currently using Paradise by Alfred Sung and like it, but I have been using it for a long time and I want to try something else. I briefly tried Shi by Alfred Sung a few years ago but there was something that just smelled off and unappealing to me. In a perfect world there would be a bottled scent that was just like Bounce sheets. LOVE the smell of Bounce sheets. Or the scent of "shower fresh" deoderants. Clean and bright and nice. So I want THAT, but sexier. Paradise is about as close as I have ever found. I weirdly tend to like the smell of men's colognes more than the stuff that women get stuck with, but I don't know how that would work. That said, I also adore the sharp scent of fresh lavender. Not the weird powdery granny version of lavender that a lot of soaps and whatnot use. I mean the real lavender. It just smells heavenly to me.

Scents I really want to avoid:
- powdery notes
- sweet smells
- sandalwood/musk
- rose
- flowery granny smells (you know the type)
- anything resembling what a teenager would wear

Any suggestions? Does a scent exist that matches all this but still smells sexy?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Grab Bag (65 answers total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about Lemon Verbena? It's my personal favorite scent for everything from lotions to candles to soaps to those very few and far between times I wear perfume. To me it smells clean and sharp, but without the strong floral smells of most plant or flower-based scents.
posted by olinerd at 9:38 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

For you, I'd recommend getting a sampler from BPAL, which has hundreds of different scents. You can get 6 samples for $22. The site can be kind of overwhelming, but they have an incredible range of perfumes.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:40 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Standard answer to any perfume question: have you considered Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab? I too am sensitive to most commercial perfumes and theirs, being essential-oil based, don't bother me. Their catalogue is giganticus, but you can search the website for specific notes or check out the reviews and recommendations on the fan forum. Here's people asking for things that smell like crisp, clean sheets, the perfect lavender, and fresh summery flowery. I have to say, your description reminded me a lot of Dirty, which is a clean, sexy floral by all accounts.

On preview: Jinx, showbiz_liz!
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:43 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]
posted by cynicalidealist at 9:44 AM on April 3, 2013

The BPAL version of this that works for me is Embalming Fluid. The description is: "A light, pure scent: white musk, green tea, aloe and lemon."

I don't smell the musk note, personally, so I'm suggesting it in case you want to risk it despite not loving musk in general. Might be worth trying if you're going to get a sampler anyway.
posted by Stacey at 9:44 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perfume also give me migraines. I remember liking some Demeter perfume I had a while ago, though.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:45 AM on April 3, 2013

You might like Hermes Eau de l'Orange Verte, Acqua di Parma, or Annick Goutal Eau D'Hadrien. They're all unisex, kind of citrusy. I love all of them for summer.
posted by padraigin at 9:46 AM on April 3, 2013

Along the left side here - there are people who like this, also like this - that might be a good place to start?
posted by heartquake at 9:49 AM on April 3, 2013

Big fan of this one, L'Occitan Eau de Toilette. It's supposedly for men, but even their website copy asserts that women use it. Like me. It's very fresh. I don't like lavender (old lady, powdery), so even though they say it smells that way, I don't agree.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:49 AM on April 3, 2013

(But maybe it smells like the "Good" lavender?)
posted by Stewriffic at 9:50 AM on April 3, 2013

I like Davidoff for Women, which smells clean and fresh to me. My wife also wears Chanel Mademoiselle, which I adore.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jo Malone Lime Basil Mandarin is an incredibly clean scent.
posted by poolsidemuse at 9:56 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I remember liking some Demeter perfume I had a while ago, though.

A few years ago, I ordered a bottle of Demeter's Ginger Ale splash on a whim. I LOVE it. It's gingery, bright and light, and (I don't know how to explain this) it smells effervescent: sorta fizzy and crisp and fresh.

(I've since tried several other Demeter scents and been less wowed by them. Several of the more complex scents like Laundromat and Chocolate Chip Cookie, I ended up giving away --- and only to people who live far away! --- because the scents made me feel ill. Orange Juice sounded promisingly simple; on me, it's pleasant but not very interesting. I've also tried their roll-on Ginger Ale scented oil, which has more staying power but isn't as crisp and frisky as the Ginger Ale splash.)
posted by Elsa at 9:57 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would avoid BPAL if you like "clean" scents. I love BPAL but many of them have a distinctive "headshop" undertone, that might work against your fresh-smelling goals.

My favorite clean scents are green tea, like Elizabeth Arden Green Tea

In case you want to browse on your own, Here's a site that lets you shop by scent.
posted by Katine at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Dolce and Gabbana, Light Blue. Best light neutral scent I've ever found (my ex boyfriend used to wear it also, is how neutral and un-teenage-girly it was).
posted by like_a_friend at 10:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am a HUGE fan of Demeter's Rain, which they describe as "the cleanest and most delicate of all Demeter fragrances." (It's meant to smell like ozone, and/or the ground/air after a rainstorm.) Here are some Amazon reviews.

It feels like a very androgynous scent to me, which is one of my favorite things about it -- a little bit like perfume, a little bit like cologne. I wear it every day.
posted by divined by radio at 10:00 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: I weirdly tend to like the smell of men's colognes more than the stuff that women get stuck with, but I don't know how that would work.

How it works is you buy it and wear it. For reals. Gender in perfumery is all about marketing and is surprisingly arbitrary. And lavender's been a common ingredient in men's cologne for centuries.

Two good sites for buying tiny perfume samples: The Perfumed Court, Surrender to Chance. Neither of them carries Alfred Sung Paradise or I'd suggest looking it up and following links to similar scents, but the description here has some keywords you might try searching: "Notes include tropical greens, tagete absolute, white peach, jasmine, gardenia buds, rose de mai petals, orchid vanille, sandalwood, and musk." (Notes don't equal ingredients, though; sometimes these descriptions are kind of bullshit.) Or just click around and look at the sample sets, of which there are a bajillion, and see what sounds good.

Stewriffic is probably on the right track about L'Occitane; their stuff is usually good quality for relatively cheap and I bet they do have a good lavender. While you're there, try their green tea scent (Thé Vert); it's pretty citrusy, definitely smells clean and bright to me. (Its fancier cousin is this.)
posted by clavicle at 10:02 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

The primary fragrance in fabric softener is musk, so I wouldn't eliminate that note from consideration if you want something that smells like dryer sheets.
posted by payoto at 10:02 AM on April 3, 2013

Response by poster: Elsa, thanks for bringing that up! Spicy ginger is another scent I love. Not a sweet ginger, but a more pure spicy ginger.

I also tried some Demeter scents a few years ago. Grass and Rain (or storm or something like that) and a fresh laundry smell. They all smelled kind of muddled to me and I felt like I just smelled stale or musty. I ended up binning the lot. So I think I'd prefer to avoid Demeter if at all possible.

The primary fragrance in fabric softener is musk
Huh... I had no idea. Maybe it is white musk that I don't like...?

I had never heard of BPAL! Weird site and slightly off putting scent names, but it sounds promising!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:03 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: Have you actually smelled the Clean line? Half of their stuff smells like laundry & cotton with a slight kick.
posted by haplesschild at 10:06 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I am completely in love with Not a Perfume from Juliette Has a Gun. It's simply Cetalox, which is synthetic ambergris, with no other scents. It smells different on everyone and it's hard to describe but it's the only scent I wear anymore.
posted by workerant at 10:11 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh, two more suggestions after some more thought about clean/bright/sexy: Azuree, Cristalle.
posted by clavicle at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never tried Paradise, but I am a major perfume-head, so here goes:

Gris Clair by Serge Lutens is precisely lavender dryer sheets set on fire in a bottle. It's expensive though. You could always buy a sample from Lucky Scent for a few bucks. Quite masculine. I can possibly send you a sample if you PM me. Caron Pour Un Homme is something you can pick up at one of those discount perfume stores at the mall, and it's somewhat similar.

Dior Homme is a good men's lavender that is very popular with women, but you might not like the cocoa. Try it!

A wildly different recommendation is something from the Hermes Jardin series. Un Jardin sur le nil or Un Jardin en Mediterranee. Both are slightly quirky "fresh" scents. Mediterranee is tomato leaf, Nil is mango. You can get these at Sephora and department stores.

If you try some green tea scents and like them, run, don't walk, to Bvlgari Eau de The Vert.

I wonder if you might like Jo Malone. Very literal interpretations of fruits and some flowers with not a lot of extraneous stuff.

For effervescent, try anything with aldehydes. Best example to understand aldehydes is Chanel No 5 Eau Premiere (then compare it with the other versions of No 5 to understand the difference). Tonkamande by Parfumerie Generale is an almond milk aldehyde.

If you go to Sephora or Nordstrom (or higher-end department stores) they will make samples for you. DO THIS!!! If you report back with some more specific opinions then I can give you better recommendations.
posted by acidic at 10:24 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

Ralph by Ralph Lauren is "clean" to me, but if you want something more "indie" try Blood by Blood Concept "B" from (they sell samples)
posted by WeekendJen at 10:28 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: Origins' Ginger Essence is a light, clean scent that I love. I first smelled it on a friend of mine, and it made me want to press my nose into her neck. I think it has a warmth that's also a little sexy.
posted by gladly at 10:32 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

JOY by Jean Patou is quite nice and clean...
posted by stenseng at 10:34 AM on April 3, 2013

the d&g "light blue" is a really good suggestion - it's really neutral but very clean. you might also like philosophy's "amazing grace" - i used to wear that and really liked it, it was very clean and slightly floral but not in an old lady way.

now i use fresh scents almost exclusively. i say that like i'm a movie star, but whatever. fresh brown sugar is what i'm wearing right now. on me, it smells citrusy and crisp with just a hint of warmth. i hate things that smell like baked goods or vanilla so i was leery of this scent originally, but it's really rather nice. i use it mostly in the fall and winter.

in the spring and summer, i use fresh sugar lemon. it has a lot of the same qualities i like about the brown sugar but it's much more light.
posted by kerning at 10:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also love clean scents, which seems to usually lead me to perfumes with citrus top notes and occasionally tomato vine notes.

The aforementioned Clean perfumes are good; the original Clean is one of my all-time favourite. They also once had a nice scent called Clean Provence, but it looks like Sephora doesn't carry it now.

Fresh Hesperides is packed full of citrus, although I find that it's not a very long-lasting perfume.

My other favourite perfume is Donna Karan New York Energizing for Women, which has citrus notes as well as tomato vine notes.

An amazing perfume with tomato vine notes is CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness. It really smells like fresh tomato plants. CB I Hate Perfume is pricey, but the 2ml perfume absolute will last you a long time.
posted by neushoorn at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2013

Not sure if it's sexy (I haven't smelled it myself), but maybe Demeter's Laundromat - since you love the scent of Bounce sheets so much. Read the reviews. This is not high quality perfume, but I personally think the scents are lovely (Dirt, Snow, Tomato Plant, for example).
posted by kitcat at 10:44 AM on April 3, 2013

My sister is a huge fresh fan and their sugar lemon scent sounds like it maybe what you're after, as kerning mentions above.
posted by jessamyn at 10:49 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: You want L'eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake, available at department stores/Sephora. A clean but sexy scent.
posted by oceanview at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You need to go to and get a sample of Parfum di Nicolai's New York. You will love it. It is clean, sophisticated, and has enough of that "Bounce dryer sheet" thing happening to please you. But as if Bounce dryer sheets were artisanally-crafted for centuries.

I would advise anyone who likes the "clean" profile to buy this. I am not a fan of "clean scents" myself, but for my money, it is the greatest example of this style ever made.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:59 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry re: Demeter, just saw your note above.
posted by kitcat at 11:01 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: For what it's worth, I'm a woman and I wear several men's fragrances. Generally, I buy them in the lightest formulation - think eau de cologne concentration instead of perfume concentration. I'm wearing Viktor & Rolf Antidote Men's Eau de Toilette today. (That one's not the scent profile you're looking for, but as an example that men's fragrances are fine on women.)

If you like the boy scents, don't hesitate to buy them.
posted by 26.2 at 11:15 AM on April 3, 2013

Versace Bright Crystal.

I'm also partial to a men's scent, Issey Miyake, L'eau D'Issey pour Homme.
posted by Aubergine at 11:17 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you get fragrance-triggered migraines, AVOID BPAL. IT IS STRONG. Yes, all caps and bold tag strong.

I've tried kajillions of fragrances, but one I keep coming back to is L'Aromarine Cola. It smells light and fizzy and a little gingery - not literally cola-like to my nose. I've had a bottle for years and it's outlived many other perfumes (I haven't gotten bored of it, and it hasn't gone bad).

My other go-to is Tokyomilk Waltz. You might like some of their stuff; some of it veers syrupy but mostly it's clean and wearable.

The Philosophy fragrances are good and all very clean and light. I also like Clean Skin; most of the Clean line smells off to me, but Skin is great and not overpowering.

I also second Not a Perfume and Luckyscent samples.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only perfume I've been able to wear at all is Lacoste Pour Femme. It's possible teenagers like it (Lacoste), and I suspect it's ever so slightly on the woodsy side, but it's delicious and so light I barely notice it on.
posted by nelljie at 11:33 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding also the avoidance here for BPAL - they are very heavy-handed. They style themselves after a dark, Goth vibe and their releases reflect this. If you want a heavy black velvet curtain of scent around you, they're the go-to company. If you want Bounce dryer sheets light and clean, I'd go with something else.

Nothing against BPAL as a line, but not really what you're after here.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 11:35 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Cipresso di Toscana. Smells like real lavender, with notes of rosemary, pine, eucalyptus -- all very herbal. Nothing heavy, musky, powdery, or flowery. Speaking as someone who also loves real lavender, I love this perfume. In fact, I need to order some more.
posted by snowmentality at 11:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

as mentioned above, most "clean" scents are musk-based (generally a clean white musk. I'm guessing you don't like the dirty musk scents).

counterintuitively, you may want to try Kiehl's classic musk

The absolute best "clean" line I've found is Sarah Horowitz's "perfect" line, specifically Perfect Veil. Very clean, fresh, like clean skin and laundry. So many "clean" fragrances skew too floral or too citrus, but Perfect Veil is really quite lovely.

I've also tried out her Perfect Kiss (clean white floral), Perfect Vanilla (clean vanilla, more foodie type vanilla), Perfect Bliss (clean and fruity, a bit fizzy) and Perfect Nectar (clean Hawaii-ish smell fruity and floral) via the Lucky Scent samples.

I also highly reccommend poking around Basenotes's database and forums for some additional clean fragrance reccs.
posted by kumquatmay at 11:47 AM on April 3, 2013

Oddly enough I liked the fragrances carried at PacSun in the mall. They are fresh and not overpowering. One of them kind of smells like green tea.

There is actually also a green tea fragrance, although I can't remember who it was by. It should be in a department store.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:58 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: Philosophy's "Pure Grace" is my go-to clean scent, but I don't know if I would call it sexy - that part is pretty subjective. My favorite clean scent that DOES smell sexy to me is Il Profumo's "Musc Bleu" (the absolu osmo, not the EDP) - it does have a musk in it, but it smells like fresh-white-soap-clean-yum with a bit of sexy under it. It is not super-easy to smell in the US (it's an Italian brand) - if you MeMail me I will send you a sample.
posted by ersatzkat at 11:59 AM on April 3, 2013

Best answer: I have horrrrrrrible sinus and migraine reactions to the vast majority of fragrances out there, so I'm not... um, well-sniffed? Whatever the fragrance equivalent of well-read is. However.

I can recommend the CLEAN line, definitely. They are precisely aimed at people who like "clean laundry" kind of scents. Especially the Warm Cotton. Go gently -- they're actually pretty strong. You can also get a rollerball.

My daily wear is Origins' Ginger Essence, as mentioned above. It has a warmth to it, but it's also very fresh. It's not very complex, but that's what I like about it.

All of the Philosophy "Grace" scents have an element of what you seek. Pure Grace is kind of the "soap and water" one. Amazing Grace has a touch more musk. The original Philosophy scent, called just "Philosophy," is actually the closest to one of the CLEAN scents. I think these days, you can only get it on QVC. It was discontinued for a while in favor of all the Grace formulations, but it's back, by popular demand.

Expensive, but if you can find 'em, investigate some of the more unusual Comme des Garcons scents like the ones you can find here. Unfortunately, my favorite, Dry Clean from the "Synthetics" series, has been discontinued, but there are some reeeeeally unusual and refreshing fragrances still to find. Also, if you know anyone who wants to smell like tire rubber, you'll find those there, too.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:08 PM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

There is actually also a green tea fragrance, although I can't remember who it was by. It should be in a department store.

You might mean Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea. I like it, but it doesn't last long. MMV.

Historically, a men's fragrance a lot women wear is Christian Dior's Grey Flannel.
posted by jgirl at 12:30 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I frankly have a metric ton of really incredible suggestions to work with. You guys are awesome. I honestly thought I'd get maybe seven answers. Getting over 40 properly helpful answers is staggeringly awesome.

I appreciate the heads up on the strength of BPAL. I may try them eventually, but I think I'll keep to safer stuff to start. I actually like the idea of getting a handfull of smaller bottles/testers/etc of a bunch of different scents to try out. Having a few scents to work with and choose from, depending on the day, sounds great.

Origins' Ginger Essence is DEFINITELY one I am going to check out, it sounds perfect.
I am also extremely curious about Not A Perfume. I am going to go on a quest for a tester/sample of that.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:33 PM on April 3, 2013

Another vote for both Fresh (I'd recommend Brown Sugar and Hesperides for you) and Clean. You can get reasonably priced rollerballs (larger than a sample via but not quite a full bottle of perfume) of Fresh at Sephora. (They also carry Clean.)

If you ever decide to try BPAL (very unconventional, yes, but great strong, long-lasting, natural scents), Dirty is the scent for you. Much in the same way big burly dudes get nicknamed Tiny, Dirty is a very fresh-soapy-clean-laundry sort of scent.

Many, many moons ago Avon carried a line of perfumes called Comfort Scents. There was a Clean Cotton that smelled pretty much exactly like dryer sheets, and a Stonewashed Blue that also had a clean, but crisper and maybe slightly more aquatic? (it's been a long time!) scent. The links are to eBay listings, where you can always find them.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:50 PM on April 3, 2013

If you find your scents are too strong on you (and I actually have the opposite reaction to BPAL, they're much lighter than standard perfumes on my skin, but then, I'm weird), you can also consider diluting. You can use a neutral smelling-oil like grapeseed for any perfume oils you like and either perfumer's alcohol, Everclear or vodka for sprays, eau de toliette and other alcohol-based scents.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:54 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you anywhere near a crummy perfume counter? Like, one where you are not actually permitted to test the stuff out?

I really dig going to "Winners," which is a big store where stuff that didn't quite fly in its first go in the retail world ends up -- it's last season's bad clothing fads, shampoo that got a packaging design, and discontinued or now-repackaged or ??? perfume, etc; I think the US equivalent of this is T.J. Maxx...? and checking out the heavily discounted perfumes while looking them up on until I read something that sounds right. Only rarely do I get a total miss with this method, and it's cheap enough that the gamble is fun, and also cheap enough that you can discover a whole slew of things you like. I wore the same perfume from age 15 until they discontinued it in my early 30s, never ever wearing anything else, and good grief, what a bore. Now I have a little hoard and enjoy the hell out of it.

+1 on the Arden Green Tea not lasting long; unfortunately I found it almost useless.

My current favourite that I am trying to not run out of is Parfums 06130 Lys and I think it meets your criteria. Very water lily; avoid if you do not thrill to water lilies. But, not powdery, granny, or saccharine.
posted by kmennie at 1:16 PM on April 3, 2013

The Perfumed Court is an excellent place to get samples of scents you'd like to try without committing to buying a bottle or going through the hell of visiting a perfume counter.
posted by erst at 1:51 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

As workerant says, Not A Perfume is a single ingredient. If you are at all interested in trying it you could simply buy ambroxan crystals and perfumer's alcohol and make your own. There are a lot of discussions about this over at the Basenotes forum.
posted by payoto at 2:08 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: sample of Not a Perfume from The Perfumed Court
posted by mefireader at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2013

Dior's Eau Sauvage is a very clean, citrus and herb-based men's fragrance that can easily be worn by women. Sephora carries it and will be happy to make you a sample. While you are there, get a sample of Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino, which is a sophisticated take on "shower fresh". It's expensive and doesn't last so well, but super nice while it does. Worth getting a free sample, that's for sure!

I would recommend Surrender to Chance over The Perfumed Court -- TPC has really gone downhill over the last year or so, and it can take 3-4 (or more!) weeks to get your order. I also recommend the sample service from Aedes de Venustas -- for $20 you can choose seven samples of crazy expensive fragrances. The same haul from STC or TPC could easily end up costing you $50-60 or more. You might like some of the Santa Maria Novella fragrances. I think Gaggia (Mimosa) smells most like dryer sheets!

Lastly, I nth the suggestion to avoid BPAL for a light, dryer-sheet sort of a scent. They stock a million things, but none of them qualify as fresh or clean.
posted by apparently at 2:57 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of great suggestions in here. I love BPAL, but it takes some research and experimentation to find the notes & blends you're after, which can be overwhelming or just seem like it takes too much time investment. If you'll consider it, I recommend asking this very question in the BPAL forum (linked above).

Personally, I think you might enjoy Dirty and Embalming Fluid, and also Juliet (it's under the Illyria section). And I think it's best to consider BPAL and similar "perfume oils" as more like perfume concentrate. A tiny drop goes a long way.

I also strongly encourage you to ask for samples at the department stores. Ask what the notes are in the perfumes you like. Once you identify some notes you like, you'll be better able to find the right scents for you. For example, the notes for Origins Ginger Essence.
posted by asciident at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2013

Well, I think the thing with BPAL that no-one has mentioned is that they are essential oil formulations, not perfume, cologne, etc.; thus the "strength." But I find using a glass wand to touch the fragrance on strategic points controls it quite nicely. "Cathode" is another BPAL you might want to try ... it's quite unusual and sometimes I'm not even sure that I like it, but I wore it on a sweaty four-hour drive recently and I couldn't keep from repeatedly nuzzling my refreshing wrists, so there's that.

(haha asciident! jinx!)
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2013

I also love clean scents and will second the Philosophy Grace line and the Clean line. Since it hasn't been mentioned, I'd also highly recommend Bobbi Brown Bath, which smells like soap. Really light and fresh (the Bobbi Brown Beach perfume is also pretty amazing in that it smells just like old school coconutty suntan lotion, yummy) A very similar scent that I also really like is Jennifer Aniston's brand, which I think is almost identical to the BB Bath except a little less soapy.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:03 PM on April 3, 2013

I think Dior's Adore smells bright and sexy, but maybe not as clean as you want. Samples are easy to find though.
posted by windykites at 5:29 PM on April 3, 2013

Clean scents are my favorites.

Carriere by Gendarme is a light citrus fragrance with a hint of lavender and musk. A similar fragrance in the men's line is called Grabazzi. I prefer the men's version because it's slightly sharper than Carriere but it still has that freshly showered vibe.

Don't laugh but Glow by JLo is so nice. A little floral, a little citrus, a little musk and you've got a Man Magnet. Seriously. If you apply it lightly, it smells like you and not like a product. If I wear it while I travel, guys help me with lifting luggage. If I don't wear it, they just sit there texting.

Finally, here's an 'outside the box' suggestion: Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Deodorant. It's more of a soft clean scent. Yes, it costs more than drugstore deodorant but it's effective and it smells so good. It's a cult product that I only started using recently and I will definitely repurchase.

Good luck in your search!
posted by Soda-Da at 6:33 PM on April 3, 2013

I am like you! Love clean fragrance, get perfurme-induced headaches, hate musk/sweet/rose/powder, and prefer men's colognes over most aimed at women.

You are getting lots of good advice. Clean is great, as is Philosophy. Jo Malone is great too, but they don't really do clean: all their scents are either citrus, floral or sweet. I adore I Hate Perfume, but I think their clean/watery scents are their weakest: they are best at earthy. Demeter is pretty good but their scents don't last and they're best at vegetal.

But, you definitely should try Gendarme! Gendarme is a little-known classic (like Joy, although the profile is very different from Joy). It's aimed at men but I think it works great for women. The company claims Gendarme has been worn by a long line of presidents and prime ministers and diplomats and I believe it -- it is light and entirely inoffensive, it lasts forever, and makes you smell like starched cotton and soap. I find some clean scents slightly juvenile but Gendarme isn't -- I think there might be some leather in the basenote.

The company makes about five different scents -- they're all very similar and personally I like Gendarme best. I think you can buy them in tester vials online, which I remember being pretty expensive. And Nordstrom carries it, although you have to ask -- it's not trendy or celebrity-marketed, so it's kept somewhere behind the counter.

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 7:12 PM on April 3, 2013

Seconding Cristalle: back when I wore cologne, this is what I wore in warm weather. (I am a guy, so that's some indication of how fresh and non-cloying it is, or at least how I remember it.)
posted by La Cieca at 9:57 PM on April 3, 2013

Oh, I'd forgotten about Gendarme! I've liked all the Gendarme fragrances I've tried; they do light and clean exceptionally well. I'd put any of their scents at the very top of your to-sample list.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:57 AM on April 4, 2013

Best answer: Philosophy scents are very 'clean' smelling. I misread 'clean' as citrus for some reason, and was going to suggest Annick Goutal's Eau de Hadrien which is fairly crisp and unisex. I also like Cartier's Basier Vole, which is very very green - the lighter sister to Prada's Infusion D'Iris (which is a lovely springtime scent but is probably too earthy smelling for you as it has a heavy dollop of sandalwood).

You might also like Comme Des Garcons Sherbet: Peppermint. Gris Clair smelt - very strongly - of ironing to me. I couldn't handle it but then I haven't ironed anything since 2001 and it was probably making me feel guilty.

Jo Malone also do a lot of herbal and floral scents which are on the lighter side.

IME BPAL is quite hit and miss and some of their notes do not agree with me at all - anything with an alcohol-based note, especially wine, or dragon's blood, will give me a migraine very quickly, and many of the scents smell very different to the descriptions.

Nthing Surrender To Chance - very few stores here give out samples, and I'd be ordering more from them if the postage rates from the US hadn't shot up recently. Their newsletter often has discount codes. I have soem here: 15% discount April 4 until midnight EST with code CELEBRATE; 10% discount April 5 through midnight EST April 7 with code ANNIVERSARY.
posted by mippy at 7:17 AM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to all your wonderful suggestions I have samples of 14 different perfumes coming to me from Surrender To Chance. Shipping to Canada isn't too bad, and it had such a wide variety to choose from and included most of the ones people were suggesting... well, it seemed perfect. I didn't even know sites like that existed!

I got a couple sample packs, as well as some individual perfume samples. I even splurged and got a couple other samples of perfumes that weren't normally what I would choose but sounded really interesting - for 3$ why not try!

The only sad thing is that they didn't have samples of Origins Ginger, which I am super interested in. I would like to try it out before I commit to a whole bottle, but no dice. Ah well.

This whole perfume choosing process is proving to be way more fun thanks to your help!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:38 AM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

My friend recently let me smell her Orla Kiely perfume - I think this one would be really good for you.
posted by hollygoeslightly at 10:44 AM on April 8, 2013

You probably have to go to an Origins counter or store to get Ginger Essence. The fragrance comes in a body oil, a lotion, some kind of souffle thing, a rollerball, and a few other forms, so if you can't find a sample easily, you can at least order it in a less expensive form. I like the rollerball for my purse.
posted by houseofdanie at 11:49 PM on April 24, 2013

Response by poster: Update: I stumbled across a perfume called Cabotine Perfume Gres, and it is exactly the smell I was looking for. Fresh, clean, sharp, a bit gingery. It smells STRONG for the first 10 minutes or so after you put it on, but it mellows out after that to a nice scent. I still weird Alfred Sung Paradise (which is very similar only it has a bit of a vanilla undertone instead of the gingery undertone in Cabotine) but I have a choice now.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:49 AM on December 19, 2013

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