If you’ve tried clean fragrances in the past and have come up short, you owe it to yourself to TRY AGAIN. Clean fragrance has come a long way. I’m talking, no more trying to wean yourself onto patchouli oil, lol. These days we are getting what feels like real luxury scents…and in some cases even better. Here are our current faves.
By: Lisa Fennessy + TNK Team
IN THIS POST:
- What to consider when buying perfume
- TNK team’s clean perfume personalities
- TNK team’s clean perfume faves
- Clean perfume FAQs
What to consider when buying perfume
If you’ve dipped your toe into the wellness scene by even just an inch, I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard “buyer beware” language used when it comes to buying fragrances. It’s not new news but it’s also ladened with nuance.
In a nutshell, fragrances pose a “special” circumstance when it comes to making an informed decision because according to the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, brands do not need to disclose fragrance ingredients. This applies to fragrances and perfumes that you spray on your body as well as to the word fragrance or parfum or perfume indicated on an ingredient list for products (skincare, toiletries, cleaning products, etc).
So, I have two beefs with this. The first beef is NONDISCLOSURE. AKA, brands can legit legally put ingredients in their products and not tell you what they are. Like, how is someone going to try and sell me something to put on my body and not tell me what’s in it? Nah bruh. The second beef is that some of these undisclosed ingredients are actually really concerning like phthalates, linked to endocrine disruption. NO THANKS!
How do we apply this information? Nine times out of 10 I’m going to stand behind the tip, “If you see fragrance listed on an ingredient list, put it back.” BUT, clean beauty as a movement is pushing for more transparency…and we are starting to see it.
For example, Credo is advocating for radical fragrance transparency meaning they have challenged all 120 brand partners to fully disclose all fragrance ingredients. 71 have complied and now full fragrance ingredient lists are visible on the Credo website…even if they are not on the brand’s packaging yet 😱.
We are also seeing some fragrance brands step out on their own accord making their ingredient lists fully transparent like Abbot NYC and Henry Rose for example.
What this means is that we, as consumers, are given the power to look at ingredient lists and decide for ourselves if we want to put something on our bodies or not. It’s a massive power shift from brand to buyer and I’m here for it.
In the meantime, because nondisclosure is still so rampant, I love encouraging people to rely on third party certifications / verifications to help make the best decision for you. If a fragrance is third party vetted it means that someone (outside of the brand itself) has looked at the ingredients and put their stamp of approval on them. You can read more about which standards we recommend using here.
TNK team’s clean perfume personalities
Besides navigating ingredient lists, the other part that makes choosing a fragrance so hard is that it’s personal. Not only do scents smell different to different people, but each individual’s body chemistry will bring out different notes in a complex fragrance blend. That said, you probably know what types of scents you gravitate towards. Here are the TNK team’s perfume personalities to help when reading through our recs.
Lisa’s perfume personality
More than anything else I am drawn to a big, bold, musky fragrance. I can’t breakaway from the idea that that those spicy, big, grounded scents equal sex appeal for me…and alway will. Like, hit me with some Drakkar Noir and I’m dead. That being said, I also enjoy mixing it up with something totally not this—something super light, flowery, delicate and pretty—like rose or neroli. I also hate the smell of gardenia.
Nicolle’s perfume personality
I tend to choose scents with a floral top note and a grounding base. Sweet, with a bit of depth and maybe some bright citrus on top. Jasmine and vetiver are two individual fragrances I love, and love together.
Kristy’s perfume personality
I gravitate toward subtle and light scents because I’m easily overwhelmed by fragrances. I adore earthy florals and all things minty fresh. My fave floral is jasmine, as I now realize it is featured prominently in my perfume and go-to hand cream. I did learn (the hard way) that my love for jasmine does NOT translate into beverages, as I had to throw away a full glass of jasmine iced tea last week (that tasted EXACTLY like my perfume and lotion).
TNK team’s clean perfume faves
Lisa’s pick: Vyrao Free 00 Eau de Parfum | $190
✅Naturals, ✅Synthetics, 🚫Transparent Ingredient List, ✅Third party vetted
Helloooo lovah. This was sent to me by Credo Beauty recently and I INSTANTLY fell in love. The scent, the packaging, the feeling, all of it.
Vyrao launched in 2021 and is announcing itself as the world’s first wellbeing brand to fuse energetic healing with master perfumery—which is great and all but you know us, we want to know what’s actually in it. From their website:
“Vyrao fragrances are formulated sustainably and are comprised of 88-89% natural ingredients of which 80% are certified organic, with raw ingredients sourced from Robertet Grasse, the world leader in providing organic materials for perfume.
The 11-12% of “unnatural” ingredients we use in the fragrance are compounds we use in place of plants that need to be sustained in nature, not picked for their perfume.The base of our fragrance is 100% organic sugarcane alcohol, which is grown without pesticides and fertilizers.
All of our products are vegan, cruelty free, gluten-free and ethically-sourced.”
And although we don’t have access to an exact ingredients list, we do know it does not contain any of these ingredients as it has been vetted by Credo.
I’ve tried all 5 scents and Free 00 is my fave. Vyro said they created it specifically to evoke feeling alive and uninhibited, which also speaks to me.
Scent profile: Fresh Sicilian lemon, mandarin, soothing orange flower absolute, Egyptian jasmine and vanilla, notes of calming sandalwood and waterlily for courage of heart.
Why I love it: It’s bold, sexy, musky, big, sensual and confident—my type of scent.
When I wear it: Like a big piece of statement jewelry, I wear this anytime and anywhere as a signature scent. No scent is too bold for 8am coffee when it’s you being you.
Lisa’s pick: Henry Rose Jake’s House | $120
✅Naturals, ✅Synthetics, ✅Transparent Ingredient List, ✅Third party vetted
Michelle Pfieffer is coming in hot with an elevated line of clean fragrances she’s dubbed Henry Rose. Everything just hits here from the chic packaging to the scents to the third party vetting. I feel so giddy about this line that not only checks that “no compromises” mark but actually slays it by overshaddowing conventional on all accounts.
My pick is Jake’s House which is watery, light, crisp, clean, powdery, floral and a tad musky. Love this for during the day but it could easily elevate any situation.
Also love that the ingredient list is 100% transparent with all ingredients listed on their website. (I would love to see every fragrance brand do this!). AND it’s also EWG Verified by the way…which…is…HUGE.
Scent profile: Light and fresh yet very defined with notes of neroli, peony, jasmine, ambroxan and musk.
Why I love it: This scent makes me feel put together, polished and grown up in a I-have-my-shit-together kind of way.
When I wear it: A beautiful day-time scent but I could easily wear this at night too especially to an evening summer concert or an alfresco dinner.
Nicolle’s pick: Heretic Parfum Dirty Grass | $65
✅Naturals, 🚫Synthetics, ✅Transparent Ingredient List, ✅Third party vetted
I’ve been a big fan of this brand for a while, given their cheeky product names and chic branding. What also drew me to it was their declaration that the line is made of “functional fragrances.” Because they only use natural and naturally derived ingredients, Heretic claims to retain the aromatherapeutic benefits of each fragrance’s blend. And I’m here for a long-lasting scent that is also a mood.
After trying a few samples, I landed on three picks—but just learned that two of them are no longer available, which is sort of devastating because picking a scent is kind of tedious. (sad face) Thankfully, my favorite from the line is still here: Dirty Grass.
Scent profile: Top notes of black pepper and lemon, middle notes of coriander, galbanum, hemp and violet leaf in a base of vetiver.
Why I love it: It’s a crisp, bright scent with a sultry note of deep vetiver, which I love like a sister.
When I wear it: Because it’s a brighter fragrance, I tend towards this one in the summer and during the day.
Nicolle’s Pick: Strange Invisibles Dimanche | $70
✅Naturals, 🚫Synthetics, ✅Transparent Ingredient List, 🚫Third party vetted
This brand is the crème de la crème when it comes to the cleanest, most natural fragrance on the market. The founder is the step-daughter of a famous movie director, and it started as her pet project. She built a custom distiller in her perfumery to hydro-distill her botanicals, which include certified organic, wildcrafted, biodynamic essences. Then, they’re hand-blended, set into a base of custom distilled esprit de Cognac and aged for a minimum of six months. They’re blended, decanted and bottled in-house (which you can visit by appointment only in Venice Beach).
I mean, can you tell the founder was inspired by wineries in Napa Valley?! Having sniffed alllll the scents myself in Venice Beach, I can tell you, you can’t really go wrong (though their Signature Scents are better than their Perfumes of the Zodiac, IMO).
Scent profile: Iris root, hydro-distilled rose, honey and amber.
Why I love it: It’s totally a unisex fragrance, even though rose is a strong component of this blend. It’s grounded and deep and lasts forevvvvvvvver when I spritz it. It makes me feel sultry and like I should be going to a black tie affair.
When I wear it: It’s a deeper fragrance, so I reserve this for night time special occasions, especially in the fall and winter.
Nicolle’s Pick: Phlur Hanami | $96
✅Naturals, ✅Synthetics, ✅Transparent Ingredient List,❓Third party vetted
Originally founded by a husband and wife team, Phlur is now owned by a beauty / fashion influencer-turned-entrepreneur, but the goal seems the same (for now): create beautiful, long-lasting fragrances with safe ingredients—natural and synthetic. Since we know sometimes synthetics are actually safer than naturals, this approach feels responsible and mindful to me.
Plus, the brand’s use of “safe” synthetics makes the scents last allllllll day. Like all day. And if you truly want the traditional perfume experience (complex scents that dry down to a unique-to-you finish), this combo of naturals and synthetics is the way to go.
*Phlur recently rebranded. We don’t know if this means their formula changed too. Credo used to stock them which would qualify as third party vetted for us but as of now they have not stocked the rebrand so we are keeping an eye on them.
Scent profile: Fig, white floral, sandalwood, musk, vetiver.
Why I love it: Can you tell I love vetiver? This is another complex scent that gives me Blake Lively vibes—sexy, but still fun and playful.
When I wear it: All the time. I reach for it for special occasions, for dinner out or if I need a boost on any old weekday morning. Also, this one lasts ages—like I-can-smell-it-on-the-moto-jacket-I-wore-to-dinner-last-month-and-didn’t-wash-it long.
Kristy’s Pick: Roots Rose Radish Jasmine Clary Sage | $74
✅Naturals, 🚫Synthetics, ✅Transparent Ingredient List, 🚫Third party vetted
Made from just a few natural ingredients, each scent is crafted by a trained clinical herbalist, and prepared as a solid perfume that is nestled inside of a sea shell compact. It’s visually unique and striking…and I love it.
Roots Rose Radish is also dedicated to being an environmentally safe and sustainable company. All of their packaging is reusable and recyclable. Once the perfume is all used up, the shell compact can still be used for decor or storage.
Scent profile: Jasmine, clary sage
Why I love it: I’m a sucker for subtle earthy florals. Plus this one looks so stylish sitting out on my dresser. Nature lover that I am, I think it’s just the prettiest perfume with its speckled cowrie shell exterior.
When I wear it: This is my go-to perfume. The scent is light enough to be worn daily and it makes me happy every time I open up that little shell.
Clean perfume FAQs
If a fragrance is third party vetted it means that someone (outside of the brand itself) has looked at the ingredients and put their stamp of approval on them. You can read more about which standards we recommend using here.
It is important to look at the ingredients – all of them. In a nutshell, fragrances pose a “special” circumstance when it comes to making an informed decision because according to the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, brands do not need to disclose fragrance ingredients. This applies to fragrances and perfumes that you spray on your body as well as to the word fragrance or parfum or perfume indicated on an ingredient list for products (skincare, toiletries, cleaning products, etc). You can read more about which standards we recommend using here.
What’s your go to clean perfume?
TNK Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TNK uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TNK stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.