How to Smell Good 101: Cologne & Perfume Guide for Queers

Being queer or a total fucking weirdo in this day & age means it’s often difficult to locate appropriate beauty and fashion advice in spaces that aren’t totally alienating. We cannot spend our entire lives mentally re-appropriating Esquire’s Manly Men Man at His Best Manly Manliness Manscape or Glamour’s 567 Ways to Make Your Lips Look Like Everyone Else’s to meet our own sinister queer purposes! We need somebody to just do it right the first time!

We’ve decided to take that on. Welcome to The Queer Beauty Bar, where everybody knows your name and we keep our nails very short.

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Today’s topic: Scents.

We had a request for a story on men’s cologne for lesbos, but of course we could not contain ourselves to one gender and had to share all of our feelings about all of the smells in the whole wide world.

Anecdotal evidence shows that smelling good is the number one best way to get laid or to hide your aversion to daily showering. If you have a special somebody this Valentine’s Day, scents are a fabulous way to tell somebody, “I love you, and I want to nuzzle my nose in your shoulder and bite your collarbone.” You know? What I’m saying is that a good cologne is the gift that keeps on giving. Seriously if you’re not wearing cologne or perfume or patchouli or scented lotion or something I don’t really want you anywhere near me, to be perfectly honest.

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Man scents

Dolce & Gabbana, Dior Homme, Armani, Givenchy

Popular Picks: Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue & Burberry Brit For Men

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Brandy HOWARD & Julie GOLDMAN

video stars, “In your box office”

The best smelling man in our life is (hands down) Jonny McGovern. Nothing but the best for the Gay Pimp– he wears Play by Givenchy. And that’s our vote for the sexiest cologne worn by a boy we know.

Julie smells pretty sexual herself, and she sprays on Lacoste for Men and then smokes a cigarette. (That combo is a panty dropper. I’ve seen it happen!)

Both of those are hot, but we aren’t mad at Axe Body Spray. It’s great in a pinch and it’s cheap enough that you can afford to spray it all over your body, your car, and your sheets. (Girls go crazy for that!)


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G. of “Can I Help You, Sir?”

[via fitforafemme]

My preference is for clean, fresh or in some cases, woodsy scents with an underlying masculine feel. I tend to stay away from the spicy colognes, as they’re too heavy. I don’t want my scent to be noticed as soon as I walk in the room; I’d rather it be noticed because someone had to lean in closely to talk to me.

My top 3:

+ Armani Code for Men: I think it’s the combination of the lemon and the wood that really does it for me with this scent. One of the things I like best about it is that it’s definitely masculine without being overwhelming, which is an elusive quality with all the macho colognes out there.

+ Burberry Classic for Men: I really love what Burberry does with their fragrances, especially this one. It just smells great on my skin. It’s been around for a while, but it’s still one of the first ones I grab as I’m getting ready. The top notes of bergamot, cedar and amber really do it for me. I also own Burberry London, Brit and Beat, and I love them all.

+ Banana Republic Slate: I love the fresh scent of this cologne, which relies basically on a blend of ginger and citrus notes. Those two together give it the a quality that is tough for me to find, which is clean AND inviting. It also just feels like a simple, easy-to-wear cologne, which I really like.

My choices also vary a bit depending on the season. These ones are all good fall/winter selections. I have different standbys in the summer that are a little lighter with more prominent citrus undertones (Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue is a favorite).

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via fitforafemme.com

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M.

[via fitforafemme]

First, much like G, I treat most colognes like seasons. Summer scents are not okay in the winter, unless there’s some sort of obscene heat wave that drives all the sea lions from Pier 39 all the way to Oregon. There are a few that are transcendental, though, and can be enjoyed year round, not unlike peach cobbler.

+I like spicy (but earthy) colognes in the fall and winter. Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 and John Varvatos Vintage are good examples. The Varvatos in particular smells like you just made an emergency landing with your prop plane in a mossy forest, survived, and so did your flask. It is quiet-handsome-action-hero-ruggedness! Tobacco, dirt, woods, gasoline, smoke!

+I am loathe to admit this, because Tom Ford is a giant dickbag, and most of his colognes reek like urinal cakes, but I really liked his Black Orchid cologne for Men. Fuck you, Tom Ford (but also: good job)! I plan to steal some from a department store so Mr Ford doesn’t profit. This makes me feel better. Anyway, why I liked it- even though he is like an attention-whorey-Vegas-casino, the cologne is more like an Olympic fencer: surprisingly subtle.

+ Summer and Spring call for lighter, cleaner/fresher scents, to go with lighter clothing. Although I am all out, Creed Silver Mountain Water is my favorite. It is light and clean and not FRUITY! I don’t want to smell like food. Only food should smell like food! In fact, I have a household ban on any non-food product that smells like food (candles, soaps, cleaning products, etc). Okay, okay, I made one exception for a fig candle.

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Kelsey

Video Assistant

I roll with Old Spice “Swagger which my girlfriend Taylor insists smells like everybody’s grandpa.

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Jess

Senior Editor

My best friend is an impeccably groomed twenty-something gay guy and he always smells delish. He wears Dior Homme or Gucci II for Men. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.

via fit for a femme

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Corey

Music Blogger

Personally, I wear Curve for Men. It’s the least overpowering men’s cologne I have found and it smells good. As an added bonus my girlfriend likes the way it smells when she wears my jackets so that aspect doesn’t hurt either.

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Natalie

News Writer

I enjoy Burberry Brit For Men – it’s smart, fresh and light, but also robust and earthy, just like my honeys. I like it because it says “I’m serious (you can wear it to the office) – but come from a peaceful, relaxed place.

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Fit For a Femme

Fashion Blogger

There’s a great, super Portland company that does old-timey scents in great little manly bottles here that are definitely worth taking note of (don’t say I didn’t warn you; you will want them ALL).

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mixed-gendered scents

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Robin Roemer

Photographer

If you want to break all gender barriers and also the bank, you can be one of many NYers who visit Le Labo to get a Feminine, Masculine, or Androgynous perfume.  Carly’s gay boy roommate and I had the same scent for awhile.   I like being able to sample an array of scents and see which one fits best.

Burberry’s The Beat is another one I own.  Although I believe it’s “for women”, it’s a pretty unisex smell.  It’s not too flowery or too musky.  I like straddling that line between smelling feminine and masculine.

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Deanne Smith

Comedienne Columnist

I wear Chanel Allure Homme. If you smelled it, you would want me to hug you.  My smell-sensitive and generally allergic little raw nerve of a girlfriend likes it, too, which is a bonus.  I found out recently that her mom wears Chanel Allure for ladies, though, and I’m trying not to be weirded out by this.

The best-smelling fragrance in the world is Gaultier 2. On the right body, when it settles in, it seriously smells like muffins.

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Rachel B.

Tech Writer

I really like warm, spicy smells. The kind that smell comforting and cozy.

I like to wear Intimately Beckham by David Beckham because it’s very warm but also light. It combines really well a spicy aroma while being sweet at the same time. Also Curve Crush smells really good because it kind of smells really clean and like you’re sitting at the ocean and it’s kind of a cold day but you have a really great cardigan on. Another favourite is Paris Hilton for Men. It’s sweet and very delicious but my bottle ran out a long time ago and I’m still sad about it.

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Carly

Televisionary

I love fragrances! It’s one of my favorite accessories and they always come in very exciting packaging. I never leave the house without spraying something on. A scent can completely change your perception of a person… a great scent goes a long way but so does a bad one. I’m always asking my friends what perfume or cologne they’re wearing if I like what they smell like. Wow reading this back I sound like a lunatic.

Anyway, I am obsessed with Le Labo Fragrances (lelabofragrances.com). They have a store an adorable store in SoHo. They’re all amazing and they whip you up a fresh batch whenever you buy one. A little pricey but it goes a long way. And their whole look/decor is fantastic. Currently I’m wearing Fleur D’Oranger 27. They have collections that are for men, women, and unisex, but I’ve found that most if not all of their fragrances can be worn by anyone.

Other favorites: Gucci II for Women, Burberry Touch for Men, Clean’s entire line for women, Viktor & Rolf Antidote for Men, and even though it’s mega-popular, D & G Light Blue for Women is lovely. And whatever that Burberry scent is that Robin wears, it’s really really nice :)

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Stef:

Music Blogger

I used to be really obsessed with the natural perfume oils at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, which are handmade and unisex and delicious.

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Vikki:

Mom-Blogger, uppoppedafox.com

I’m of no help. We don’t wear cologne. Luisa always smells like men’s speedstick and I smell like mentos gum. Unless alcohol counts because apparently drinking a lot of whiskey makes you smell flammable and I came home smelling like that a couple weeks ago.

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Intern Elizabeth

I don’t tend to like or wear any cologne or perfume because I’m pretty allergic, but I do enjoy when a person (guy, girl, whoever) wears Old Spice Sport or if they just smell like regular aftershave or fresh laundry. I guess I just like it when people smell like they shower?

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via etsy.com/shop/ForStrangeWomen

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Crystal

Music Editor

I’ve always been in love with the classic Hugo Boss Man fragrance (and anyone who wears it), however it’s extremely strong and masculine and post-college I decided that it was a little too bold to pull off. So now I wear Hugo Boss Element, a far more subtle fragrance for men that could really be marketed as unisex, it smells amazing and always attracts compliments from both genders.

I also wear Hugo Boss Deep Red, which is a fragrance for women that’s wood & spice-based rather than floral. I like it because it’s soft and warm and there’s something rather masculine about it. But that can be said about a lot of Hugo Boss lady products, the brand caters to people who prefer their fragrances & fashion to be a little androgynous.

Every now and then I’ll also wear Daisy by Marc Jacobs and With Love by Hilary Duff, they both smell pretty.

Becky

Style Editor

Kiehls Original Blend-Toilette Spray – it’s pretty expensive, but it was seriously the best/sexiest thing I’ve ever smelt. Also I can get down with the apothecary aesthetic of the bottle. Other favorite smells include cigar boxes, cocoa butter, and jasmine.

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lady scents

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Gucci, Burberry, philosophy, Chanel, Hilary Duff

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Rachel B

Tech Blogger

Some favourites that my lady wears are Heat by Beyonce – this is a very sexy, dark, deep smell. Obvs. And With Love by Hilary Duff. It is also wonderful when she wears the Lemon Bath and Body Works spray. But that just makes me want lemonade.

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Michele

The Scene writer

Most days I wear Falling in Love by Philosophy because my grandma has been buying it for me since 10th grade and it smells like a good winter day and also because I’ve been wearing it so long that people associate it with me and I like that. But I like to wear Axe, too, which is totally nauseating I know but I have no doubt that inside I’m a 15 year old boy. 15 year old boy is a really fun thing to channel before going out on a Friday night. Also I like how cheap and fresh it smells.

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Intern Lily

I wearProvocative Woman” by Elizabeth Arden for a number of reasons. Mainly because I really really like wearing something called “provocative woman”, I think it is hilarious. It is also fun to pretend to a be a “provocative woman”, of which I pretty much am not. I got a free sample of this stuff freshman year of high school when I was hanging out with my friends after school. It was a day that was just really really good for no reason in particular–I hadn’t been consistently content or happy in a long time so the feeling was new and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it but I knew I liked it. So that perfume reminds me of being ok. Who knows if I even truly love the smell, I just like the sense of security it gives to me. And, of course, the name.

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Intern Megan

Very Sexy from Victoria’s Secret because it’s what my first girlfriend wore and I’m now addicted to the scent.

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Riese:

Editor-in-Chief

My first scent EVER was Fuzzy Peach from The Body Shop which I picked because I got a lot of Body Shop stuff on my birthdays. I then graduated to a ten-year romance with Tommy Girl which I selected because it made me think of tomboys. Then when I was no longer a girl, I switched to Burberry Brit because my boyfriend said it was the best scent for a woman. If anything smells oaky, fruity, calm, oceany, or whathaveyou, I know not of these things.

When I’m traveling, gymming, or spending a day in the unscentisfactory wilds, I pack a travel-sized bottle of Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy or a rollerball of Juicy Couture Original which is about as big as a tube of chapstick. The former I liked when it came free with something I bought during the Semi-Annual Clearance Sale and the latter I selected for its size, but consequently fell in love with the scent. Perfumes worn by my roommates which I have co-opted and worn myself include Fresh Sake and Mademoiselle by Chanel.



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Jess:

Senior Editor

I’ve been using the same formula since late high school to make myself smell good….. CK One + Gap Body Dream. For some reason these two scents are a bit too strong for me when used individually, but when I spray one of each on my wrists and rub them together = magic. That’s my staple, but I also dip into Angel and Burberry Brit on occasion. Don’t mix those together!

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Alex Vega

Design Director

I wear Gwen Stefani’s fragrance called “LAMB” because my mom bought it for me for Christmas one year. I just kept buying it after that because I feel like it’s an androgynous scent, or at least less “flowery” than others geared towards the ladies. Also, it comes in a cool square bottle so I dig the packaging/product design on it!
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Feature graphic image from wild umbrella. Special thanks to Fit for a Femme for letting us republish M. & G.’s responses from her fantastic post on this topic.

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204 Comments

  1. My signature scent is Breath Of God by LUSH’s Guerrilla Perfumers. It’s pretty spicy (vetivert, cedarwood, amber, and sandalwood)with subtle floral undertones (some light jasmine, rose, and neroli)and a bit of fresh citrus (lemon). It’s delicious. That mixed with my pretty much pure patchouli deodorant is a match made in heaven.

  2. I am sensitive to scent because I have a really powerful sense of smell and am allergic to numerous things. However, I found that cologne bothers me less than perfume.

    I think what is more important that the scent is knowing how to put the scent on your body properly. Perfume and cologne are meant to be hints of a smell not “I took a bath in my bottle of curve” powerful. Generally you should spray and then walk through the mist…. that’s all you really need.

    • Ahh no!

      You should definitely not do the mist walk-through when applying fragrance. Some perfumes and colognes stain clothes really badly, and spraying it on fabric usually makes them smell different in a bad way.

      You should also never spray wrists and rub them together. Rubbing ruins the molecular structure of the perfume and also makes it smell weird.

      Just spray an appropriate amount on pulse points. Perfumes and colognes all differ in strength. If unsure, just ask a very honest friend if you’ve put on too much or not enough.

      And I am officially a perfume geek. ^^

  3. No one has mentioned this, which makes me sad.

    My bestie gay boy friend wears Anchor Blue’s cologne, which I believe is just called Blue? It’s in a little blue square bottle. NOT Anchor Blue Sport, which is all I can find on the internets except for one tiny little obscure site which sells the one I want, I think. ANYWAY. Love this scent. I hug my bestie & he doesn’t even have to hug me back; just the smell of that cologne makes me feel all comforted & warm & safe & happy. I cannot really describe the scent, though. It just smells like boy to me; not boy in a gross way, but boy in a nice way. I plan to buy some when I have money next. /rambling

    I am devastated that Anchor Blue is going out of business, mainly because eventually all this cologne will be gone & I will cry.

    & oh! Very Sexy by VS. I had forgotten about that stuff. I’ve never worn the perfume, but my aunt used to use the shampoo & conditioner & then I stole it from her. I should get more of that sometime for when I am feeling girly.

    Also, currently, I am using Old Spice Swagger. The deodorant, though, not the cologne. It DOES NOT smell like everybody’s grandpa.

    • NO! So sad to hear that Anchor Blue is going away. They made the first guy’s plaid flannel shirt that I somehow managed to con my dad into buying for me about a decade ago. The end of my baby-dyke era…

  4. so i’m a little late to the perfume party but can i just say that i was in the market for a new scent (i normally wear burberry brit, but i’m wildly impulsive and try to do everything autostraddle tells me to) so i went to le labo in soho yesterday and bought rose 31. and today i smell like excellence! plus the girl behind the counter was wearing this cute little lab coat like a chemist! science can be sexy and now i know. thanks for the recommendation you guys.

  5. i’m definitely a seasonal person – dkny’s ‘be delicious’ on warm days, ck’s ‘euphoria’ otherwise, esp. on nights out. in future i might buy either ‘envy’ or ‘gucci’ by gucci – the model freja beha erichsen mentioned that she wears them and i’m a little in love with her at the moment /shallow
    a friend of mine wears ‘individuelle’ by montblanc which used to send the blood rushing through my ears. though i’d probably marry the first cute girl who could make viktor and rolf’s ‘flowerbomb’ work for them, since it doesn’t for me :)

    also, for those who wear britney’s ‘fantasy’ – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE STOP! it’s on everyone and it’s not funny any more.

  6. I really really enjoy DKNY Be Delicious (the light green bottle), my first love bought some for me my senior year and i’ve worn it ever since. Everyone calls it my signature scent and i think that is awesome.
    its a super yummy scent.

  7. im a chef and prefer not to mess with my nose so i dont normaly where any thing unless going out with my BestFriend then i where hers its this oil that has fermons in it and i dont know if its that or her or its really that good smelling but its amazing and unisex her ex hubby used to where it also but she wont tell me what it is and she getts it at a little market in las vegas and they mix it she tells me that its the smell of a high class hooker but im not sure what a hooker smells like but since my only other fav sent is the smell of a chick thats been drinking cheep vodka and smoking camels all day id say i have a strange taste in womens sents

  8. The Old Spice deodorants, the new ones that smell like blank, blank, and freedom are pretty awesome. They could definitely straddle a lot of lines. I particularly like Fiji.

    Snaps for my pops who just recently switched from wearing “girls'” deodorant to the floweriest “boys'” one. Snaps man snaps.

  9. feeling ripped off because your allergic, but would love to smell as good as some of your friends?
    well, i did anyways. until the vanilla extract spilled in my cupboard and i had an idea. a dab of extract on my collar bone or backs of my knees. and not just vanilla, either. almond, mint, etc. its going to sound zany but lemon or orange zest rubbed in my inner elbows, or a cinnamon stick in my pocket.

  10. I am SUCH a picky perfume human, largely because I’ve got the olifactory skills of a basset hound. I personally wear Kai, because it reminds me of the Big Island and mixes crazy well with my body chemistry.

  11. I love, love, LOVE Falling in Love by Philosophy, so I was really excited to see it on here! It smells like flowers and snickerdoodles, and I would smear it all over my face every day if I could.
    I also like to use Bath and Body’s Warm Brown Sugar fragrance/spritz bottle thing, because I really like sweet, delicious smells.

  12. Definitely my go-to scent is “Inspire” by Christina Aguilera http://amzn.to/zFDEdl

    However, I ran out and perfume is expensive sooo, I have some cheaper back-ups too:
    “Natural Vitality” by Adidas http://bit.ly/zgxgb8
    “Vanilla Noir” by Bath & Body Works (which I’d sometimes mix with my tester of “Curios” by Britney Spears until that ran out)
    http://bit.ly/yw5q7p
    “Dark Kiss” by Bath & Body Works (this scent seeps into bras and t-shirts and skin like nothing else, espesh if I use the body butter after a shower, omg it’s delicious. And the ladies appreciate it, also)
    http://amzn.to/zP4llH

    Also, at the Duty Free last month I fell in love with either “Euphoria” (http://amzn.to/xWvz8x) or “Forbidden Euphoria” (http://amzn.to/A02IKE) by Calvin Klein. One I adored, one I didnt, can’t remember which is which. But they both have a sexy, powerful, not-super-feminine vibe which made me feel like a total sexpot. Just one was not a scent that I personally would wanna rock, ya know?

  13. I practically collect fragrances. It’s so fun! CK One and CK Be are awesome, unisex scents that pretty much everyone likes. Bvlgari Black is another fun one that smells like vanilla, leather and… well, rubber, but not in a bad way.

    Personally I wear men’s colognes that smell more unisex than heavy, but I’m not gonna reveal which ones ;)

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  15. how did i only just find this article? I have so many feelings about smelling good and being cruelty free at the same time. it’s tricky! currently i’m searching on etsy for complicated/unusual scents but when I do remember to wear perfume it’s Lush’s Vanillary, which is super sweet.

    my most favourite perfume ever though is my ex’s, called black xs (the women’s one) and I swear, it’s like an aphrodisiac. it’s kind of floral but incredibly sexy and, I can’t even explain, smell for yourself.

  16. My problem with most colognes or perfumes is it may trigger a migraine. Though I’d love taking recommendations, I can’t make any, because if anyone is like me, doesn’t matter what the scent is or how good it smells or how much I spent on it, if it triggers a migraine..it will collect dust in my cabinet. For me, I’ve found the aftershave version of whatever cologne I like (right now I wear Paul Sebastian or Joop…old school I know, but they work for me). Though they are basically the same scent, an aftershave is more diluted and doesn’t give me a headache 2 hours after I put it on.

  17. I’ve recently bought a bottle of Acqua Di Gio pour homme and it’s amazing – I’ve been getting comments from my straight girlfriends about how they find me suddenly more attractive(!) I usually spray only a little of it because it’s pretty string. My more casual fragrance of choice is the unisex scent Mer Mistral by L’Occitane. Their products are made from natural ingredients, and very light on the skin. When I feel like wearing a more girly scent, I use their Neroli & Orchide Aue de Toiltte. It’s undoubtedly fruity and girly but still very mellow.

  18. I love the body sprays from a company called The Gnarly Whale. 100% vegan and under $20 for a bottle that lasts a long time. I think they started carrying them at Urban Outfitters recently. I tend to lean slightly masculine with scents, so Pirate Bay is my favorite. It’s like you were kissed by a cinnamon stick on the beach. I’ve tried a couple others and generally have been pleased by all their products (including their beach waves hair spray). Fair warning, Mountain Man smells great but is a little on the stronger side.

  19. I’ve been in Tenerife the past 2 weeks and there is a perfume shop on every corner there. My absolute favourite I found was Chanel Bleu, its similar to Allure Homme but more fruity, less obnoxious and more sophisticated I suppose. I like Allure Homme too though, and it last a long time, I can still smell it on me after testing it yesterday. I also enjoyed Versace Eros, and I’m trying to decide if that’s too strongly masculine for me. I’m a tomboy but there’s nothing butch about me. The problem is, these perfumes are bloody expensive haha. At least £45 for a little 50ml bottle of Bleu eau de toilette? I’m gonna look into the CK perfumes (I did try CK free which was nice but not amazing me) and that Play by Givenchy because I can find them around pretty cheap. I found a killer deal on a Versace Eros box set just now for £36… but its sold out naturally *cries*.

  20. I was recently in Salem, MA and found this place called Aroma Sanctum (they have a website). I am now obsessed and bought a bunch of oils. The owner does essential oil blends and goodness, they are delicious! I went with “Darcy” which starts off like musky-tobacco-lavender- patchouli (it smells like…dirty, sexy, painfully yummy) and dries to something “cleaner” and more work appropriate. I have received SO many compliments!

    Side note: I do not work for the company or have any relation to them…I just like the way I smell and notice that others really like it to. :)

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