13 Best Perfumes for Women, According to Beauty Insiders

The best perfumes have the ability to evoke memories, transport you through space, or perfectly encapsulate a feeling. They can usher in a mood shift or awaken the senses; other times a scent is just the thing to encourage a newfound sensuality or a boost of confidence. Our precise olfactory system acts as a means of processing the world and, often, finding pleasure in it, which is where modern perfumery enters the scene. The often lovely bottles that encase them also make quite the giftable delight.

Early versions of perfume popular in 17th-century France presented themselves as a fanciful facade. With advancements in chemistry, including the development of synthetic molecules, scents came to be increasingly intricate, incorporating an amalgamation of notes quite unlike their monofloral predecessors. Chanel notably introduced aldehydes into fragrance formulas in the 1920s, cementing the house as one of the pioneering innovators. Since then, the landscape of fragrance has grown to encompass leading-edge science and old-world oil blends and everything in between—anchoring the idea that perfume choice is about reflecting personal will rather than catering to outside sensibilities. The best perfumes mirror that complexity of the self, with top notes that are detected upon contact, heart notes that bring a rounder layer of aroma, and base notes that provide a lasting foundation.

As these real-world recommendations show, the perfumes that prove their staying power are the ones with stories to tell.

All products featured on Vanity Fair are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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