By Deanna Pai
Clean beauty has probably been on your radar for a while now. But even so, it’s likely focused mostly on skin care and makeup. That’s because the ingredients in those formulas have typically been easier to adapt to clean alternatives. Fragrance, on the other hand, has proved to be a bit trickier. But if, like us, you’ve been waiting patiently for the clean movement to take over the perfume world, we have great news: It’s finally happening.
Instead of straightforward essential oils (love them, but still), these game-changing scents are complex, cruelty-free, and formulated without certain ingredients consumers may want to avoid. Plus, they smell amazing and give you all the feels — from refreshed and energetic to date-night ready. And really, we can thank Sephora for a lot of this progress made in the clean fragrance space. They’ve taken the initiative to search for niche brands and introduce them to their larger audience, ultimately creating both supply and demand for beautiful, clean scents.
And for the rest of us, the Clean at Sephora seal has made it easier than ever to discover new brands centered on thoughtful ingredients. Having to sacrifice your favorite perfume in exchange for conscientious packaging and safe synthetics? Not anymore. Here, four clean brands that are changing the fragrance game in a big way — and what, exactly, makes them worth a sniff.
Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt Eau de Parfum
This rich, woodsy scent comes from fragrance royalty and has serious roots in history. Founder Marie du Petit Thouars is related to Louis Marie Aubert du Petit Thouars, who, back in 1792, was kind of an expert in French botany — so the brand’s delicate scents are truly unique and rooted (literally) in botanicals. “We care about what we put on our own bodies, therefore, our products should reflect our ideals,” explains du Petit Thouars. “The challenge is to create beautiful scents that have longevity and smell exactly how we want them to smell without any compromise. While it might be harder to develop products this way, it’s worth it in the long run.”
The 7 Virtues Vanilla Woods Eau de Parfum
Vanilla is anything but, well, vanilla in this reimagined fragrance, thanks to notes of soft caramel and rose. The vanilla itself is organic and fair trade, so the families that grow it in Madagascar receive fair wages for their work. That’s in keeping with the brand’s philosophy: “I founded the brand to help farmers and their families rebuilding after war or strife,” says Barb Stegemann, founder of The 7 Virtues. “We began helping farmers in Afghanistan by purchasing their legal orange blossom and rose oils — and now countries from Haiti to Rwanda come to us.” The formulas are also hypoallergenic and paraben-free to boot, so you can feel as good as you smell.
Phlur Hanami Eau de Parfum
Minimalist and zen, this fragrance is not to be underestimated. It’s grounded in a few lasting notes of fig, white florals, sandalwood, and hazelnut — a bouquet that only gets better as it develops. It makes for the type of sensorial experience the brand set out to create. “[My husband and co-founder] Eric and I create a concept around a real moment in time, like a road trip in the desert with friends, and create visuals, playlists, and write words to inspire our perfumers,” says Cynthia Korman, co-founder and creative director at Phlur. “We wanted to know what we were spraying on our skin, and we didn’t think that we should have to sacrifice beautiful, complex, and unique fragrance to do it.” And without BHT, phenoxyethanol, parabens, phthalates, and polycylic and alicyclic musks, you can wear it without worry.
CLEAN Reserve Rain
One of the OG clean-fragrance lines, this brand has an earth-loving philosophy. Clean ingredients and eco-conscious sourcing have been a part of its ethos for years. This scent in particular offers a light, aquatic aroma that calls to mind the fresh moment after a rainfall. It’s as refreshing and subtle as you’d think (thanks to notes of vetiver, bergamot, and white florals).
Sephora Favorites Clean Fragrance Sampler
Fragrance is anything but one size fits all, so to get a firsthand experience, try the Sephora Favorites Clean Fragrance Sampler. It includes seven different samples of clean scents to mix, match, layer, and enjoy. And if you discover one you especially love, the set also comes with a certificate that's redeemable for a full-size bottle.