Best Skin Scents: 14 Understated Perfumes I Swear By

Skin scents are the perfume equivalent of ‘no makeup’ makeup or a slick of blush-coloured lip gloss. They have that ‘your skin but better’ quality that is catnip to those of us who like our perfume to be softly spoken rather than a larger-than-life flower bomb of heady gardenia.

Powdery, soapy and humid, skin scents typically have a shadowy note of musk in the background and just the merest hint of something animalic or spicy as the ace up their sleeve. Some smell like flushed damp bodies; others conjure up the tactile feel of silk against bare skin or cotton without the anaemic smell of freshly laundered sheets.

But what all skin scents have in common is intimacy, as they can only be smelt by the wearer and someone who is so close, their eyelashes skim your neck when you embrace.

“Musk can be compared to a second skin, which makes it very appealing,” says Olivier Cresp, perfumer and co-founder of Akro. “It gives a clean aspect to your skin, which is both reassuring and relaxing.”

In other words, they’re the viral vanilla girl aesthetic bottled and they’ll never be offensive in a crowded lift.

What is a skin scent?

Interest in sensual perfumes certainly isn’t new but skin scents typically fall into two camps. In one corner, perfumes that mimic the smell of naked skin with powdery iris, creamy musks, velvety woods and vanilla.

Chanel Jersey, for example, billows in soft and milky with lavender, musk and vanilla while Byredo Blanche skews towards warm clean skin with a soapy aldehyde and Glossier You adds a damp, salty note to the mix.

In the other corner are perfumes laced with Iso E Super, a molecule designed to intensify your unique natural skin scent. It’s almost invisible on your pulse points, although you may catch a whiff of wood or musk, but Iso E Super is essentially ‘eau de slept-in sheets’.

“Speaking scientifically, pheromones are the only olfactory way that we can appear sexy towards another human,” says Ulrike Hager, founder of Feminista, which uses a high percentage of Iso E Super as a means of amplifying your pheromones.

These airborne aphrodisiacs, secreted via sweat, leave a barely detectable vapour trail but are thought to signal our readiness to mate. “Pheromones are actively involved in sexual attraction and, upon release, they can stimulate arousal, desire and lust.”

Which perhaps explains why #pheromoneperfume and #skinscents have garnered more than 135 million combined views on TikTok.

What are the benefits of a skin scent?

And added benefit of skin scents is that they are quietly reassuring on days when you need something soothing to cut through the noise.

“The smell of Musk and Vanilla are warm on your skin and make you feel like you are in a cocoon,” says Olivier, who namechecks Night by Akro as the perfect example of a comforting fragrance. “I added some musk to bring a clean facet to it but you instantly feel protected while wearing it.”

For more from Fiona Embleton, GLAMOUR’s Acting Associate Beauty Director, follow her on @fiembleton.

14 best skin scents so you can smell like you – just better.