5 Perfume Trends Happening in 2023, Thanks To TikTok

Rosie Jane Johnson started her fragrance label By/Rosie Jane because people liked the way she smelled. “I mixed fragrances myself and people were asking me what I was wearing,” Johnson tells me as we discuss the fragrance trends of the year. We talk about everything, from the notes we’ll likely smell in next year’s fragrance categories to the impact TikTok has made on her brand and the industry at large.

Reflecting on the “casualness” of today’s perfume consumer, Johnson says that the perfume sharing which happens on Instagram and #PerfumeTok has changed the game. “What I love is the youthful side that’s coming into fragrance — it’s never been so talked about,” Johnson says. This year, an influencer featured a 3-year-old By/Rosie Jane fragrance on their Instagram Story and independent of any promo or marketing, it immediately became the brand’s top-seller.

“We had this crazy-organic thing happen,” Johnson explains. “[Vanesa Amaro on Instagram and TikTok] talked about how much she loves the Rosie Eau De Parfum. We saw a massive spike in sales,” and Sephora reported the same, says Johnson. The reason she thinks people started shopping like crazy? “The people who follow her really trust her.”

In terms of what smells good, we’re experiencing an influx of scents vaguely reminiscent of the ’90s, while also endorsing “nude skin” scents, like the aforementioned Rosie (musk with top notes of soft rose), almost whispering, move closer. Honest reviews help, but still, it’s hard to shop a perfume without smelling it. Ahead, Johnson talks about the general trends happening in the industry to make shopping new perfumes (or layering your current fragrances) a little more informed.

’90s vanilla

The reason we’re seeing a lot of vanilla leaning perfumes at the moment, like Ellis Brooklyn’s Vanilla Milk (a Refinery29 Beauty Innovator Award winner) and Kayali Vanilla (a best-seller at Sephora) is because you have a vanilla memory. For Johnson, it’s an ode to the ’90s, a time when things seemed more carefree. “I’m an emotional [fragrance] mixer,” Johnson explains. “I don’t tend to see a gap in the market that I try to fill. It’s more like, ‘what am I feeling and what are the senses I’m absorbing from the general population?’ I’m loving vanilla because it provides this very nostalgic journey back into my younger years.”

“Even watching movies from the ’90s, there are house parties and people kissing and you think about living through that time when you weren’t having to wonder, Do you have the flu? Do you have Covid?

It’s not cozy like sugar cookies, but more sexy. There’s that aspect of a vanilla scent that makes you remember making out in a basement. “Even watching movies from the ’90s, there are house parties and people kissing and you think about living through that time when you weren’t having to wonder, Do you have the flu? Do you have Covid? It was this time where you were very much in the moment and there was nothing that was crazy-scary. I think 2023 [fragrance is] still going to carry over this idea of not making life feel so intense. “

Sage & Sandalwood

An antidote to the cultural noise, Johnson predicts “earth” notes will be popular. “For me, I’m gravitating towards sage, honey and light florals,” she explains.”I think people are searching for a moment of calm and a moment of breath.”

Not essential oils, these fragrances will be fine fragrances — eau de parfums — with botanical bases like lavender, rose, sage, light woods, and sandalwood. They all make great base notes, Johnson explains, the notes which really last on the skin. “The wonderful thing about perfumery is that you can take the idea of what a plant really smells like and turn it into this wearable, very beautiful and complex version.”

If you’re looking for a new winter fragrance, try Lake & Skye’s new Santal Gray, which is a blend of sandalwood and cardamom or Ralph Lauren’s Polo Earth, which is clean and a little more outdoorsy. Another option is Jo Malone’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt, which smells like walking on a beach in New England bundled in a scarf, puffer and probably mini Uggs.

Nude skin scents

You may be familiar with the ‘skin scent‘ or ‘pheromone perfume‘ discourse happening on TikTok. Basically, there’s a move towards fragrances that are very faint and smell, well, like someone’s skin. “Rose in particular is a nude skin scent that sits close to the skin,” Johnson explains of the brand’s recent runaway hit. “It smells different on everyone. It’s a nude musk but has a tiny hint of rose in it — but you wouldn’t even recognize the rose. It just gives it a tiny sweetness.”

The reason that people are gravitating towards subtle, skin-baring scents, Johnson asserts, is about closeness. “I think it’s because people are looking for something that isn’t overwhelming,” she explains. “It’s like thinking, this is for me and if you want to smell it, you have to be a little closer. Though it’s been on the market for three years, when I mixed it, it was inspired by meditation, like an exhale or naked skin. I didn’t want to smell anything in particular. I more wanted to feel something from it.”

“A nude skin scent is like thinking, this is for me and if you want to smell it, you have to be a little closer.”

The By/Rosie Jane’s Rosie is obviously a good pick. Other options in this barely-there, smells-different-on-everyone category include Glossier You and D.S. & Durga I Don’t Know What Eau de Parfum.

Travel-spray wardrobe

Instead of a ‘signature scent‘, we’re seeing people embracing the experimentation of fragrance by mixing and layering. “I love this approach,” says Johnson. “People are buying fragrance and making it their own by layering and changing, trying new things, wearing men’s fragrance, women’s fragrance, whatever suits you,” Johnson explains. Johnson likens a scent collection to a closet. “It can be like your wardrobe. I don’t want to wear a black T-shirt and jeans everyday, so why would I want to smell the same?”

As a cost-effective solution, you can get a few travel sprays for the price of one large bottle of perfume. “Travel sizes are my new most favorite thing in the world,” raves Johnson. “For me, as a consumer, I buy so many fragrances on the market and travel sprays are such an incredible way to do that. You don’t have to commit to a single fragrance for a year and a half. Try a few, layer them, throw them in your bag. It allows you to try more.” 

If you’re looking for a few different fragrances that are proven to layer well together, watch the below video by skin-care and fragrance expert @thenotoriousnef on TikTok. They say this is the most complimented layering combo: a hair and body mist, Beija Flor by Sol de Janeiro ($20 for the mini bottle) and the travel-sized spray of Wonderland Peony by Floral Street ($32). You could also try an assorted fragrance collection, like the Replica Memory Box by Maison Margiela.

@thenotoriousnef #stitch with @TheTildzTerro This perfume layering combo gets me non-stop compliments and I’m obsessed! This is also a long lasting perfume duo so you don’t have to reapply often. Spray it in your hair and thank me later! #perfume #fragrance #perfumetok #fragrancetiktok #smellgood ♬ original sound – Nefertiti🌱 Skincare+Fragrance

Perfume oils

If you’re looking for something calming that works to ground you while you’re on the go, Johnson points to perfume oil (more concentrated than a spray). “Eau de parfums are beautiful, but they have alcohol, so sometimes you have to spray them and let them sit for a minute to let that alcohol dissipate. Perfume oil is straight up and it smells amazing. You just dab it on your wrists, neck and chest.”

Johnson considers perfume oil on track for a comeback as people look for therapeutic, calming scents that are easy to throw in a purse and dab on at a crosswalk or a subway platform. “You can use it on a train or at your desk,” Johnson adds, “and it’s personal. The smell is driven by the warmth of your body and it quietly grows.”

Nest has a new perfume oil, for example. It has Turkish rose, Seville orange, Madagascar vanilla and baobab oil, which softens the skin wherever you apply it. By/Rosie Jane offers perfume oil versions of all its scents if you prefer the rollerball and higher concentration to the travel sprays. Or there’s Nemat fragrances oils, which you can get at Whole Foods or (recently) Ulta Beauty. The $20 bottle feels like a mini treasure.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

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