Help perfume me!
November 8, 2007 11:27 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a perfume to meet my picky needs! I like sweet/spicy/musky perfumes, nothing to sharp or floral. I would love to be able to wear Opium, for example. But anything not oil-based makes me sneeze and/or breakout where it's made contact with my skin.

Scents that I love, but can't wear:
- Opium (weeps) (I can wear it once in a while)
- Aqua di Gio (can't have it on five minutes)

Scents that I love and can wear:
- Body Shop White Musk
- GAP sueded musk (but discontinued)
- pure lavender essential oil
- pure orange/ylang ylang essential oil
- Eau Dynamisante by Clarins (I think)

It also needs to be something I can get my hands on in Toronto anytime OR in the Netherlands this December.

I'd stick to the Body Shop, but not only have the prices gone up exponentially (I don't mind paying top dollar, but it irritates me when prices have doubled since I started shopping somewhere) and I feel like their quality has gone down. What is it in perfume that I react to so badly, that isn't in middling-quality oil-based scents? And is there any way I could get Opium or any other "classic" perfume in a way that doesn't trigger my allergies?
posted by sarahkeebs to Shopping (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried any of the oils from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab? It's mainly mail-order, but they sell sample sizes, and have lots of spicy ones.
posted by lemuria at 11:41 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think there's a fair amount of alcohol in traditional perfumes. Perhaps that's what's irritating your skin, though I'm not sure it explains the sneezing.

Have you ever tried any of the perfume oil blends from Escents? I've always found their stuff to be nice-smelling and of good quality. It appears they now have stores in more places than just BC--check here to find a shop near you (there are several listed for Toronto).

I think there are a few you'd like, but off the top of my head I'd imagine you would enjoy Sensuality (it has ylang-ylang and patchouli; I'm not usually a fan of the sweet/spicy perfumes, but I like this one). Actually, anything from their "Passion" series might be a good place to start if you're looking for sweet/spicy/musky.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:44 PM on November 8, 2007

Seconding The Lab. This is about the third time I've written this comment now so I'm cutting all the crap.

You might like this thread which discusses BPAL equivalents or similar blends to YSL's Opium. Beware the abbreviations: GC = general catalogue; LE = limited edition. The former is always available on their website, and also available in the sample sizes lemuria mentions.

Based on your sweet/spicy/musky preferences I would recommend possibly Morocco, Blood Kiss, Vixen, Snake Oil, Mme. Moriarty*, and Shub-Niggurath (of the ones I have tried and can vouch for personally). Most of these should be searchable via the main site - there's a Search link on the left navigation bar, near the bottom. *Mme.Moriarty is a Limited Edition, which means you can't get a tester from the lab, but often there are decants for sale in the Sales/Swaps forum, and plenty of places on livejournal communities which concern themselves with this sort of thing.

Good luck with your hunt! I find that when I smell good, it makes my day ever so slightly more exciting.
posted by dorothy humbird at 12:17 AM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Mix your own! Start with a base of aloe vera juice. Add vitamin E to create the consistency you like (lighter for a spray bottle, denser for a dabber). Then add essential oils one drop at a time. I've been making my own fragrance for years (variations on bergamot, rosewood, lavender)---it's never irritated me and I get lots of compliments. I get oils from Nantucket Natural Oils and use an atomizer.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:02 AM on November 9, 2007 [4 favorites]

I've always thought the Body Shop men's line called Activist smells a lot like (women's) Opium. It comes as a body wash or an aftershave.
posted by methylsalicylate at 4:23 AM on November 9, 2007

Penhaligons. They are a wee bit pricey, but the fragrances are awesome! You can get a trial size library of various fragrances to try out. My favorites are Artemisia and Victorian Posy. They have fragrances like "Lavendula" and "English Fern."
posted by Sassyfras at 6:05 AM on November 9, 2007

Thirding Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. That's all I ever wear now. Check out their scent descriptions and reviews, and order a few "imp's ears" (sample vials) to see which ones work on you.

If the ship times from the Lab are too long a wait, go to the LiveJournal BPAL community where people often sell their BPAL, and order a few imps from there. Or order off the BPAL boards.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:58 AM on November 9, 2007

Cerutti 1881 is a great fragrance
posted by barrakuda at 8:10 AM on November 9, 2007

Nthing BPAL. I used to wear Opium and now and almost exclusively BPAL.

I also like sweet and spicy so I'd also recommend Al-Shairan, Perversion, and Centzon Totochin (general catalogue).

Livejournal swaps, as mentioned above, are great and you can order sample "imps"from the lab at, I think $3.50 each.
posted by pointystick at 8:35 AM on November 9, 2007

Incidentally, my dear friend who loves Shalimar and Opium loved, LOVED BPAL's Morocco. I love Morocco, too and also loved YSL Opium back in the day.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:01 AM on November 9, 2007

I've heard great things about BPAL as well, and have been wanting to order samples for quite some time.

I'd also recommend Kiehl's Original Musk Oil, which is inexpensive and one of my favorite cold-weather scents. Looks like there's a Kiehl's store on Queen Street in Toronto.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:13 AM on November 9, 2007

seconding kiehl's musk. love this scent, and get constant compliments on it.
posted by butterball at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2007

yet another BPALer here. BPAL will almost certainly have something up your alley, but it might be hard to locate a specific one unless you know for sure what kind of notes you use. You might try posting on LJ or the forum asking for recommendations (though you've gotten some great ones here). other popular e-tailer perfume brands include Possets, Arcana, DSH, and Heaven and Earth Essentials. I don't really use any of those other than Possets, but I just wanted to give you options.

as for Opium, you might try googling "opium dupe" to see if there are any e-tailers who have duplicated that scent and offer it in an oil-based perfume.
posted by dropkick queen at 12:45 PM on November 9, 2007

There's a shop in Berkeley, CA (that was, incidentally, originally called The Body Shop, till the UK one came to the US) called Body Time that makes excellent perfumes out of essential oils. I can't vouch for any specific scent, as the one I use is now discontinued, but they have always had some nice spicy and musky options. They do ship, but I'm not sure about internationally.
posted by dizziest at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2007

Next time you're near Lush's Toronto shop, pop in and sniff their solid perfumes. It sounds like you'd like Karma, Potion or Fever.

If you aren't familiar with Lush: they are also a UK-based shop, originally incarnated as a small manufacturer ...which happened to become the main supplier to the Body Shop. In the 90's, Body Shop management decided they didn't like so much of their product supply tied up in one company, so they bought out the owner -- who took the money and went on to start Lush. Long story short: if you like the older formulas of the Body Shop, you might find that you like Lush as well or even better, since the companies have similar DNA.
posted by pineapple at 2:59 PM on November 9, 2007

I would recommend trying Terranova Natural Body Care's products. Here's their web site - - and you can search via their store locator for a local distributor or order their products through They have a China Musk scent.
posted by Silverlantern at 11:30 AM on November 10, 2007

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