The Expensive Perfume Trick That Can Save You Hundreds


Recently, I made the financially irresponsible decision to fall in love with Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle. It is both intoxicating and fresh all at once. Like sunscreen and flowers. Floral, green, milky, mmmmm. “Blooming magnetism”, is how they describe it. “Incredibly expensive” is what everyone else says. But no need to dwell on the cash—I’d like to share a Grade A fragrance shopping hack with you all instead that will soften the blow. Nothing is going to make this fiscally responsible per se, but it'll certainly make it more palatable. Also note: This hack is not about dupes. Don’t get me wrong—I love a good dupe like everyone else. But sometimes you don’t want the Tocca version of Byredo Gypsy Water. You want the Byredo version of Byredo Gypsy Water. The key is not to get caught up in labels. Brand label? Fine. Product type? Up for debate.

Turns out, many a fancy fragrance brand will gladly sell you their best scents in different forms. Beyond candles, there are hair perfumes, room scents, etc. The not-so-secret secret is that those hair perfumes and room scents are priced a lot lower. It's mainly due to a few small formula tweaks—but perfume ingredient lists are usually kept pretty secret. So I tapped Melissa Souto, Glossier’s Director of Product Development for Personal Care (basically everything that’s not makeup) to share some insight. What are you getting when you, say, pick up a hair perfume instead of an eau de toilette or parfum? “Typically, hair perfume is the most gentle,” she explains. “Then eau de parfum, then room sprays. Hair perfume tends to have less fragrance and less alcohol so it won’t damage hair. Room sprays are also less concentrated but normally just to sell for less $$ and have other less-glamorous fillers.” Alrighty then! Sounds like a compromise we can live with.

Let’s survey Byredo’s offerings. The 1.7 oz. full-size fragrance is $150. The hair perfume is priced much, much lower at $62. Like Bibliotheque? Get a whopping 8.5 oz. of it in a very chic room spray bottle for $120 (only $14/oz!), but freely douse it on your body when no one is watching. Carnal Flower is $265 for the 1.7oz, but the hair mist is $170. I can say I‘ve tried both and cannot detect a difference in the staying power. Plus, I’m usually spraying whatever it is in my hair anyways. What your compromising in formula potency probably won't make a difference to anyone—not even you, the wearer.

My favorite example comes by way of Santa Maria Novella. Besides the fact that the packaging is so beautiful your bathroom will look like a church, I have been curious to try their scents since I saw one in Delilah Parillo's GRWM. They also have a fragrance called Eva—but that’s beside the point. The point is that you can get a highly concentrated room fragrance extract from them for $70, versus something that calls itself fragrance in the $135 range. All of a sudden you smell very good and are a very savvy shopper. Congratulations. Spray as much as you want (or can afford)—I put one fragrance in my hair and one at the nape of my neck. Maybe it’s a bit heavy-handed, but memories are so closely linked to scent… And I want to be remembered.

—Eva Alt

Now that you can afford it, here's how to scent up your entire life.