A Step-By-Step Guide to Choosing Your Signature Summer Scent

We all need one.

By Langa Chinyoka
Perfume display.

What does summer smell like to you? The salty sea air? Fresh, farmer’s market finds? Sunscreen? For me, it’s a blend of all these nostalgic, warm-weather scents. If you close your eyes, you can probably transport yourself back to summers past with just a whiff.

That’s because the part of your brain that processes memory is adjacent to the part that processes smell. If you take this a step further, you can hack this cognitive process by intentionally creating scent cues for yourself. Wearing a specific perfume to work, for example, will signal to your brain that it’s time to buckle down. (There’s a productivity hack the hustle-culture bros won’t tell you.)

Babba Rivera headshot.

How to Find Your Signature Summer Scent

As a self-professed reset obsessive, I do everything in my power to make every season (or era, if you will) feel brand new. This means switching up my daily routines, like my wardrobe, skincare, and my scent. When I feel a new season or vibe calling, I find a scent that matches it. And nothing pleases me more than switching over to my summer scents. I gravitate toward vanilla, and because I’m a summer baby, all the best summer fragrances make my rotation.

But with new boutique scent brands emerging daily—fighting with the classics for a place in my summer scent tapestry—I get overwhelmed by choice. To sift through the finely scented mist, I tapped Ines Guien, VP of Operations at Dossier, to help us pick the best summer fragrances.

Guien’s ultimate guidance? “Don’t be afraid to experiment!” Fragrance should be fun—just like summer!

Ines Guien

Ines Guien is the Vice President Of Global Operations at Dossier Perfumes. Prior to that, Guien was the Business Development Coordinator at Le Labo Fragrances.

Perfume on nightstand.

What are the best scents for summer?

“I think everyone wants to be a more playful, lighter version of themselves in the summer months,” says Guien. The best summer fragrances embody this more carefree version—the one whose mind is on maximizing beach time, not managing mental lists.

From fun, flirty florals to sweet summer scents, there’s a signature fragrance for everyone. Even if you gravitate toward earthier, heavier scent profiles that thrive in the winter, Guien affirms: there’s a fragrance for you. “If you prefer deeper ‘winter’ scents, there’s nothing that says you can’t wear them year round!”

Making Sense of Scent Notes

It all begins with understanding scent notes. “The top notes are the initial scents you smell when you first apply. The middle notes or the heart notes, appear once the top notes have evaporated and last for several hours. Finally, the base notes are those final scents you smell and are the most long-lasting. Base notes provide depth and richness and help anchor the top and middle notes.”

For summer scents, look for lighter top notes balanced with earthier or richer base notes. “Once you understand these notes, you can choose fragrances that complement each other.” This will also help you as you experiment with layering scents.

Odette Annable

Some tried and true notes are consistent throughout many of the best summer fragrances, says Guien. “Most people tend to prefer lighter, fruitier, and sunny scents for summer to match the season,” she says. “They also gravitate toward fragrances with prominent notes of vanilla during the warmer months. We’ve also seen a resurgence in popularity of fruity and gourmand scents.”

Specific summer 2024 fragrance trends influence the summer scents du jour. “Over the past two years or so, we’ve seen genderless fragrances explode in popularity. Consumers no longer want to be bound by gendered scents when it comes to their perfumes.”

Mary Ralph makeup.

Tips for Finding Your Summer Fragrance

Summer scents should be personal. They should reflect your own intentions for the season. And you should be excited to spritz your skin in the morning. To figure out what scents fit you best, check for common ingredients in your favorite fragrances. My ideal situation is smelling like a bonfire and s’mores. That explains why all my summer scents contain vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, and something woody.

Experiment With Layering

Another way to create a new—or new-ish—summer scent is through layering. “Layering fragrances is a great way to create a signature scent that is unique to you,” says Guien. “The easiest way to layer scents is to mix complementary notes. For example, combine floral with fruity scents or a woody scent with a spicy one to create a complex and interesting scent.”

Pro-tip: like with skincare, go from lightest to heaviest. “Apply your fragrances lightest to strongest to ensure the fragrances blend well and last all day.”

Read the Label

“No matter your budget or scent preferences, always look for fragrances that are made with quality ingredients and follow the strictest guidelines,” says Guien. “At Dossier, we make all of our perfumes in Grasse, France with only the highest-quality ingredients. We also follow strict U.S. and U.E. guidelines to ensure our products are ethical, sustainable, and most importantly non-toxic.”

Perfumes on dresser

The Best Summer Fragrances for 2024

The main scent families include Amber, Aquatic, Aromatic, Citrus, Floral, Fougère, Fruity, Gourmand, Green, Musky, Powdery, Spicy, and Woody. Ahead, discover the best summer fragrances for every scent type—and let’s find your signature summer scent.


This evocative scent family is rich and spicy. Are you after a sensual, warm fragrance? Look for notes of amber, spices, resins, and woods. For summer, these are often mixed with vanilla and bright fruit extracts

Brown Girl Jane Carnivale

Top Notes: Caribbean Mango, Jasmine, Nectar
Heart: Amber, Ginger, Whipped Musks
Base Notes: Golden Pimento, Creamy Sandalwood, Vanilla
Best For: Summer nights

Dossier Ambery Cherry

Top Notes: Cherry, Almond, Cinnamon
Heart: Clove, Rose, Jasmine, Plum
Base Notes: Peru Balsam, Tonka Bean, Vanilla
Best For: Sweet treat lovers


Dive into this immersive scent family. Just because aquatic scents are watery and fresh, don’t mistake them for boring. They’re refreshing and intense—perfect for summer days at the beach, pool, or on a boat (manifesting).

Korres Kyma

Top Notes: Lime, Mandarin, Orange
Heart: Marine, Watery, Pepper
Base Notes: Cedar, Vetiver, Nutmeg
Best For: Surf and sea

Maison Margiela ’REPLICA’ Sailing Day

Top Notes: Sea Notes, Aldehydes, Coriander, Red Pepper
Base notes: Juniper, Iris, Amyl Salicylate, Rose
Heart: Seaweed, Ambergris, Cedar, Amberwood
Best For: Beach day or a coastal vacay


Herbaceous and fresh, this plant-powered scent family contains notes of basil, chamomile, lavender, mint, mugwort, peppermint, rosemary, sage, star anise, and thyme. They’re grassy and telluric, and in the summer, often sweet and romantic.

Heretic Parfum Dirty Grass

Top Notes: Black Pepper, Lemon
Heart: Coriander, Galbanum, Hemp, Violet Leaf
Base Notes: Haitian Vetiver
Best For: Being in nature

Le Labo Lavande 31

Top Notes: Neroli and Bergamot
Heart: Lavender
Base Notes: Musk, Tonka and Amber
Best For: Frolicking in a field of flowers


Summer is the season for citrus. Drench yourself in these invigorating citrus scents all summer long to feel fun, fresh, and flirty.

DS&Durga Steamed Rainbow

Top Notes: Red mandarin, orange, yellow elemi resin
Heart: Green cedar, blue almond flower, indigo grass
Base Notes: Violet, vetyver, vapors
Best For: Fun, fresh, flirty vibes

Moodeaux Worthy

Top Notes: White tea, orange blossom
Heart: Red rose, lavender, leafy greens
Base Notes: Dry musk, vanilla woods, amber
Best For: Instant confidence


Florals never go out of style. For summer, think light florals like jasmine, tuberose, orange blossom, and white rose. Prepare to be in bloom.

Serge Lutens Fleurs D’Oranger

Top Notes: Jasmine, tuberose and white rose
Heart: Orange blossom
Base Notes: Floral musk, hibiscus, cumin
Best For: Date night

DedCool Sunlit Blooms

Top Notes: Orange Blossom
Heart: White Floral
Base Notes: Salty Vanilla
Best For: Soaking in the sun

Fougère (Fresh)

Fougère or fresh perfumes are barely there, but they make all the difference. Perfect for summer minimalists, they’re clean and fresh, making your skin smell bright and energetic.

Frederic Malle Sale Gosse

Top Notes: Neroli oil, Bergamot, Petitgrain
Heart: Narcisse Absolute, Rose, Violet
Base Notes: Musc
Best For: Mothers

Philosophy Pure Grace

Top Notes: Water lily
Heart: Leafy greens
Base Notes: Musk
Best For: Summer reset


Peak season fruit in a bottle. These naturally sourced sweet scents are never saccharine—they’re always juicy and alluring.

Ouai St. Barts Hair and Body Mist

Top Notes: Orange oil, ocean breeze accord, dragon fruit
Heart: Orange blossom, sampaguita, tuberose
Base Notes: Baltic Amber, musk
Best For: An invigorating, everyday scent

Diptyque, Ilio

Top Notes: Prickly pear
Heart: Barbary fig, Bergamot
Base Notes: Jasmine, Iris
Best For: European summer vibes

Gourmand (Sweet)

Gourmand comes from the French for “glutton.” Indulge in these rich, sweet, food-inspired scents. Pro tip: I like to balance these with something earthy or spicy.

Dossier Floral Marshmallow

Top Notes: Marshmallow, Neroli, Bergamot
Heart: Orange Blossom, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Orris
Base Notes: Vanilla, Musk, and Amber
Best For: Romanticizing every day

Sol De Janeiro Brazilian Crush Cheirosa 62 Perfume Mist

Top Notes: Pistachio, Almond
Heart: Heliotrope, Jasmine
Base Notes: Caramel, Vanilla, Salt, Sandalwood
Best For: Beach days


Waking up to the sound of the lawnmower? Nay. But the smell? Sign me up. Sharp and vegetal, they are fresh, light, and cool as a cucumber.

Henrik Vibskov, L’eau Rouge Heirloom

Main Notes: Basil, Tomato Leaves, Refreshing, Green Aroma
Best For: Gardening. Dinner parties.

Vacation After Sun

Top Notes: Aloe Vera, Melon and Green Tea
Heart: Ozonic notes, Gin, Tonic Water, and Cardamom
Base Notes: Musk
Best For: Last day of vacation


A subset of the amber family, musks are warm and rich scents inspired by our natural smell. They add a layer of personalization and sophistication to any fragrance you pair it with.

Diptyque, Fleur de Peau

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Pink Pepper, Angelica, Bergamot
Heart: Iris, Turkish Rose
Base Notes: Musk, Ambrette (Musk Mallow), Carrot, Ambergris, Sandalwood, Leather, Amberwood
Best For: Dinner and drinks al fresco

Byredo Blache

Top Notes: Aldehyde, Rose Centifolia
Heart: Peony, Violet
Base Notes: Musks, Sandalwood
Best For: Personalizing your scents


Like clean linens and baby powder or immersive scents like musk and iris, powdery scents are more of an effect than a particular note. It’s an all-encompassing scent family that often combines intense floral notes with unexpected hints of musk, vanilla, and amber. When paired with ambery, spicy, or woody scents, they create a heady combination.

Glossier You

Top Notes: Pink pepper
Heart: Iris, ambrette
Base Notes: Ambrox
Best For: Layering

Celine Nightclubbing

Top Notes: Galbanum, Iris
Heart: Vanilla, Patchouli, white orris butter
Base Notes: Musk, tree moss
Best For: Dancing all night


Sharp, adventurous, and warm, spicy scents are great for summer—in light doses. I especially like them for adventures like city days and spontaneous nights. Find scents that blend spice with sweetness and fresh, natural notes.

DS&Durga Radio Bombay

Top Notes: Radiant Wood, Copper, Cedar
Heart: Sandalwood, Radiant Iris, Boronia
Base Notes: Balsam Fir Absolute, Coconut Musc, Ambergris
Best For: City dwellers

Boy Smells Cowboy Kush

Top Notes: Hazelnut, white leather, mandarin
Heart: Tobacco, saffron flower, cannabis leaf, suede, laudanum
Base Notes: Tonka bean, patchouli, oud
Best For: Chill days at home


Summer bonfires are the best bonfires. So, of course, the woody scent can translate to the warmer months, too. Instead of evoking a fireplace, they feel like sitting by a fire pit or taking in the fresh forest air. Instead of winter woods like Santal and Hinoki, gravitate to Matcha and Blonde woods for the summer.

Le Labo Thé Matcha 26

Top Notes: Bitter orange, bergamot
Heart: Matcha tea accord, fig, sesame
Base Notes: Vetiver, cedarwod
Best For: Matcha dates

Sunday Forever Smokeshow

Top Notes: Vanilla Orchid
Heart: Bergamot
Base Notes: Blonde Woods, Whipped Musk
Best For: Day to night