The best women’s perfumes and fragrances 2018: hit the right notes with your next scent

Sweet and girly, decadent and exotic, or clean and green, hit the right notes with our pick of the best ladies’ fragrances.

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Adorning ourselves with perfume can be a really lovely way to bring scents that make us happy into our day-to-day lives, but no matter whether you’re buying for yourself, a friend, or a relative, finding the right perfume can be a tricky task. 

It’s not just about the brand, it’s about personality, signature style, your mood, and even the season. So where do you start? Here, of course!

How to buy the best perfume

First, the basics. Seen the acronyms EDT and EDP around but wondered what they have to do with anything? Allow us: EDT, or eau de toilette, usually contains around 5-20% aromatic compounds, while eau de parfum contains around 10-30%. Both typically last somewhere between 4 and 6 hours. 

Cologne, meanwhile, contains just 2-3% aromatic compounds and lasts between 1 and 4 hours, so will need reapplying a bit more frequently.

If you’re not sure what sort of scent you, or the intended recipient of the perfume, likes, scent types or “families” can provide some guidance. With men’s as well as women’s fragrances, the buzzwords to look out for are floral, fresh, fruity, citrus, oriental, woody and spicy. 

Use these straightforward descriptors as a starting point, and find the notes (for example rose, jasmine, bergamot or vetiver) that appeal to you to narrow it down.

Whether you prefer something unashamedly girly or a bit more unisex, fun and frivolous or grown-up and mysterious, there’s a fragrance on our list for you, so let’s get started. While you’re looking at female fragrances, if a more masculine nose is required, take a look our list of best men’s fragrances too. 

These are the 7 best women's perfumes:

1. Estée Lauder Beautiful eau de parfum

This perennial favourite is fulsome, floral, and — what else? — beautiful

Specifications
Best for: Classic floral scent
Scent family: Floral
Type: Eau de Parfum
Reasons to buy
+Classic scent+Long-lasting
Reasons to avoid
-Not for those who don't like full floral scents

Beautiful is a time-honoured classic, and little wonder. Upon application, the scent is apparently light and floral. Estée Lauder then intend for the heady rose and lily to eventually soften out into jasmin and ylang ylang before warming to a rich, woody base of sandalwood and vetiver. Reviewers have noted that, once on, it stays put, making it a delightful, long-lasting fragrance for day time. A fabulous gift for Mums for Christmas, or just because.
 

2. Marc Jacobs Decadence Eau de Parfum

A sexy, woody scent for starlit evenings

Specifications
Best for: Deep woody scent
Scent family: Woody
Type: Eau de parfum
Reasons to buy
+Sensuous woody notes+It's a tiny handbag!
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best for all-day wear

Never has a perfume been named so aptly; everything from Decadence’s emerald green glass and tactile python cap to its sensual and exotic aromas has been intended as a heady luxurious treat. Marc Jacobs have infused some unusual notes — orris, plum, saffron, and papyrus woods, to name a few — making for a devilishly grown-up fragrance that’s perfect for evening wear. Its popularity among reviewers is undoubted, and with its Instagram-worthy design, it’s a great gift for romantic partners (or for keeping for yourself).
 

3. Lancome La Vie est Belle Eau de Parfum

A sweet and feminine fragrance to give you a sunny outlook

Specifications
Best for: A sweet scent
Scent family: Floral
Type: Eau de parfum
Reasons to buy
+Sweet, girly scent+Wear day or evening
Reasons to avoid
-May be cloying to some

La Vie est Belle’s delightfully feminine bottle, with its delicate gauze accents and pink hue, is just as sweet as its contents. With iris, jasmine and orange blossom at its heart; juicy pear and blackcurrant at the top; and patchouli, tonka and patchouli at the base, this is an unashamedly girly perfume for day or evening wear. It may be too sickly for some, but for lovers of gourmand and sweet scents, it’s certain to be a winner.

4. GHOST Sweetheart Eau de Toilette

An unexpectedly complex fruity fragrance — get it for your daughter, or your sweetheart

Specifications
Best for: Fruity value option
Scent family: Fruit
Type: Eau de toilette
Reasons to buy
+On the inexpensive end+Broad appeal- range of subtle notes
Reasons to avoid
-Needs reapplication - doesn't last too long

Ghost intended for this fragrance to emanate the image of fledgling love. Infusing blends of fresh mint and lemon with subtle floral scents, Ghost have made sure the sweetness and the excitement is there.  White flowers make up the heart; a woody base brings it down to earth; and there’s a powdery, almost talc-like impression as it dries down. The common word is that the scent is a little spontaneous, but Sweetheart manages a wide appeal all the same, making it the perfect gift for tricky-to-buy-for young ladies.

5. Michael Kors Wonderlust Eau de Parfum

Let the zesty top and exotic woods of Wonderlust take you on a sensory voyage

Specifications
Best for: Exotic
Scent family: Woody
Type: Eau de toilette
Reasons to buy
+Exotic fragrance+Beautiful bottle
Reasons to avoid
-Quite strong

With top notes of bergamot and pink pepper and a smooth sandalwood base, Micheal Kors have developed a beautifully balanced fragrance that reviewers say moves effortlessly from fresh and zingy to soft and mellow over the course of wear. The on-trend ombre bottle with its sunset hues and the luxe gold cap (reminiscent of MK’s famous hardware), have been designed to evoke the memory of a warm summer evening - much like the fragrance inside. For the big Michael Kors fan in your life, or for anyone who would like a deliciously exotic and unexpected fragrance, this makes a great gift.

6. Jo Malone London Basil & Neroli Cologne

A fresh, light, and lovely herbaceous cologne from queen of green Jo Malone

Specifications
Best for: Fresh
Scent family: Citrus, floral
Type: Cologne
Reasons to buy
+Elegant, grown-up scent+Fresh and subtle
Reasons to avoid
-More of a summer scent

This wonderfully fresh unisex cologne from posh parfumier Jo Malone is just the ticket if you want a light, subtle scent, but tend to find florals cloying. The clean, citrusy neroli has been used to instill the sense of a breath of fresh air, while the basil infuses a clean herbiness that helps to create the playful and fun connotations that Jo Malone is going for. Like many of Malone’s perfumes, this scent is uncluttered for everyday use and the perfect choice for people who don’t do perfume.

7. Benefit Maybe Baby Eau de Toilette

Is this floral treat the best perfume for teens? Maybe, baby...

Specifications
Best for: Teens
Scent family: Floral
Type: Eau de toilette
Reasons to buy
+Sweet but not overpowering+Cute retro design
Reasons to avoid
-Has the tendency to be discontinued 

Benefit promise there's an abundance of light white florals, a hit of jammy apricot and sharp white ginger, and a hint of musk, which makes this sweet fragrance an ideal first perfume for teens. With its playful packaging, it’s undoubtedly girly in its approach, but is more complex than you might expect at first glance. Reviewers say it strikes the right balance between noticeable and subtle, and dries down to a mellow powdery scent. A great stocking filler for daughters and granddaughters, but a lovely flirty scent for Benefit fans of all ages, too.

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