Friday, May 6, 2011

Skin Scent: What is it, What's the Appeal and Top Skin Scents

"Skin scent" is a much brandished term among perfume cognoscenti, but what does it mean exactly? Usually its use revolves around two possible meanings: 1) A fragrance resembling the natural scent of one's skin, i.e. "my skin but better" (as in the ever popular "le no makeup look" or "your lips but better" shade in cosmetic parlance) It amplifies your own skin odour and reflects it back as the smell of soft, clean skin. Or 2) A fragrance that projects at such a low pitch that it melds with your natural smell and stays very close, so that only someone hugging you would be able to detect it.
Perhaps it's a bit of both, sometimes.

But why would this idea be so appealing? First of all, there would be the intimacy factor: There is something alluring and inwardly exciting about something theoretically public, which is there in the open, yet somehow delivered only to those who lean closer to discover it. Like the bearer of happy news who smiles a bit inside at the revelation that's about to happen. Secondly, it's often a mark of elegance and timely discretion: A skin scent does not affect co-workers that work a few cubicles away, or people in the subway, it keeps its manners at all times and yet ~if it's a good one lasting the whole day~ it whispers seductively to your lover when you get back home. There's something deeply satisfying about that.

Skin scents usually run the gamut of fragrance families and categories: There's nothing that prevents them from being florals or orientals "in the letter of the law", so to speak. The sun tan lotion note for instance is technically a tropical reference, usually married to wild white flowers, yet, fragrances sporting it aim to smell like your skin while sunbathing, therefore, like skin...Yet usually they veer into either soft woodies or humming muskies. Musk scents are naturally conceived to be smelling of warm human skin, so the association is self-evident. Another quirky category with lots of potential would be "mineral", abstract fragrances with a nuance of warm stones, sand, salt notes or ambergris.

Below, please find a selection of some of the best skin scents out there. Something out of those would satisfy the desire for such an animal. Highlighted links point to full fragrance reviews.

Woody skin scents:

Gaiac 10 by Le Labo

Wonderwood by Comme des Garcons

Poivre Samarkande by Hermès

In the library by CB I Hate Perfume

Musky skin scents:

Muscs Kubl Khan by Serge Lutens

Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens

Narciso Rodriguez Musk for Her (oil parfum)

Nude Musk by Ava Luxe

No.18 by Chanel Les Exclusifs

Perfect Veil by Creative Scentualisation

Sienna Musk by Sonoma Scent Studio

Voyage d'Hermès by Hermès

L'Eté en Douce by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Mineral skin scents:

L'Eau Ambrée by Prada

Eau de Merveilles by Hermès

Eau de Gentiane Blanche by Hermès

L'antimatière by Les Nez

31 Rue Cambon by Chanel Les Exclusifs

Wild card skin scents (off category players):

Let me Play the Lion by Les Nez

Arsène Lupin Dandy by Guerlain Les Exclusives

Le Parfum de Thérèse by F.Malle

Sonia Rykiel Woman -not for men! Eau de Parfum by Sonia Rykiel

Vanille Insensée by Atelier Cologne

Nude by Bills Blass

Bronze Goddess/Azurée Soleil by Estee Lauder
These are the older sun tan lotion skin note "editions" in contrast to the new Bronze Goddess Soleil which is a tropical citrus.

Which is YOUR favourite skin scent?

Photo by Horst P.Horst "Odalisque" 1943. Stills from the film Last Tango in Paris and Satyricon.


  1. Can "Eau Duelle", Diptyque, be considered as a skin scent? It's dry vanilla, it doesn't have lots of projection, it's a little powdery, a beautiful scent overall but i wish it had more lasting power on me. But i found a way to enjoy it: i spray it on the curtains, so its perfume lingers in the room for days. It's a pleasure.

  2. I have been wearing "Calamity J" by Juliette Has A Gun as a skin scent this Spring.....but reading your post reminded me that I have a bottle of L'Eau Ambrée by Prada around here somewhere - I'll have to find that and see how it does on my skin the the heat. Funny you mention Ave Lux Nude Musk as a skin scent - on me it projects to the moon!!!

  3. Anonymous16:11

    Barbara Bui Le Parfum

  4. dleep17:09

    I think "Opal" by Sonoma Scent Studios would be considered a skin scent and that is my choice.

  5. Zazie17:15

    May Shaal Nuur be considered a skin scent?
    When dabbed it has low projection and a creates a sweet incensy skin veil. Very nice.
    My suntan-lotion-smelling-skin-scent would be my one and only from that category which I inexplicably adore: Montale intense tiarè. To call it a skin scent is quite a stretch. Unless you’re generous with the suntan lotion.
    Would it be provocative to say that the best skin scent of all times for me is Shalimar extrait?
    Maybe I’m just not a skin-scent person… even if the concept is appealing, at least every once in a while…

  6. Anonymous18:59

    Hi E!

    Love this topic!

    My skin scent is Cartier L'Heure Fougueuse. It melds perfectly with my skin. It is quietly sensual but not sexy. But I find that "quietness" sexy if you know what I mean. It has this naturalness about it that I find absolutely brilliant.

    It's the perfect combo of floral, tea with a saltiness beneath it. I cannot get enough of it and it is one of the few scents that I never fail to get a compliment or two on the days that I wear it.

    From your list, Nude by Bill Blass and No. 18 are great skin scents that I do wear somtimes, but nothing touches or comes close to L'Heure Fougueuse.

    L’Heure Fougueuse includes notes of bergamot, magnolia, lavender, horsetail, maté, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, coumarin.

    Happy Weekend to you Elena.



  7. Anonymous20:02

    I'm with Marko---I've been wearing JHAG Calamity J as my favorite skin scent: to me it really does smell like "my skin but better," and the low, long lasting hum gives a cozy, comforting fell to it as well. It doesn't hurt that the hubby likes it too!

  8. I find Iris can come off as very skin-like. L'Eau d'Hiver I absolutely adore as a skin-scent. C16 by Indult also comes to mind.

  9. I love the drydown of Bvlgari Eau Parfumée The Rouge. It´s such a soft, comforting note...too bad the perfume starts out rather sharp in the top notes on me.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Anonymous13:43

    My favourite skin scents are:
    -Fleur Poudree de Musc (Les Nereides) which is a daring combination of bright florals, powder and one of the stinkiest, pissy-est musks I have ever smelled
    -Ca Luna (Aqua di Biella), a mineral composition very close to Voyage d' Hermes, more bitter and mysterious


  12. Anonymous15:22

    I really love DSH Special Formula X and Special Formula X-treme! Both are sheer but really just accentuate my own skin smell. Yummy!

  13. I love Tocca's Giulietta this time of year. It's slightly sweet but in a good way.

  14. Efi,

    perhaps it might. Some of the vanilla scents include musky components which are not miles off the scent of some people.
    Spraying on curtains is such an indulgent but ingenious use of perfume: reminds me of Diaghilev!
    Do you find that it stains them though?

  15. Marko,

    Calamity J is getting quite the rep for being a skin scent, so clearly I need to revisit asap. Thanks for the timely reminder! I believe you will find the Prada very elegant and whispering soft. Daniela Andrier has done a great job with the brand.

    As to NM, I meant it more in the sense of its smell than on the second meaning, ie.low sillage. It's indeed a sillage monster to me as well: only a drop under clothes is enough!

  16. Barbara,

    good thinking, thanks!
    I included its "twin" Sonia Rykiel. For some reason I tend to use that one more. Weird, I know.

  17. DLeep,

    you're absolutely right. Opal (very close to PV and NM) is a great choice of a skin scent!
    I trust you like the muskiness, right?

  18. Zazie,

    I like your way of thinking!! :-)
    Yeah, Intense Tiare is one I'd think a 100 times before calling a skin scent; it's so potent, so warm and flowery too. It's quite lovely though, I can see the attraction.

    There is no necessity in being loyal to skin scents, it's just a handy category to have around. Don't you find it practical for weekends, running errands or for office wear?

  19. Dawn,

    dearest, thanks for stopping by and commenting in such a brilliant way.

    I need to sit down and review Fougeuse, these Cartier scents have something to recommend them, indeed.
    Glad you agree on Nude and No.18! I find them unique and quite elegant, even though No.18 turns on my skin (or in my brain due to specific associations)

    (BTW, you NEED to email me with that quote on how bad a certain fragrance smells, you know the one you wouldn't mention on pol>>dying of curiosity!)

  20. dee,

    you're sorely tempting me to bite the bullet (hey, it's rather punny if you consider the packaging of the brand) and order some!
    Seriously, did you need to mention your hub likes it? You're giving me all sorts of ideas.

  21. trhoades,

    how very interesting!!
    Indeed iris can come off as skin-like: I find this is the case with Hiris by Hermes. L'Ed'H I was THIS close to including and then thought about its more almondy nuance and reconsidered a bit: human skin doesn't smell THAT good. Or if it does I am seriously missing *tee hee*

    I need to find some C16 by Indult, not sure I have sampled?

  22. Eva,

    the Bulgari is full on the white musks in drydown, they do have a cozy clean skin scent ambience to them. I agree that the opening can be something else though!

  23. Christo,

    I find the Nereides line is a very underrated line, I should probably review this one, I happen to like it too! I don't recall Ca Luna, though. Is it very masculine?

  24. Anon,

    indeed those two are musks that follow the best "recipe" out there. I should probably have included them (they are featured in my Musk Series though)

  25. Eld,

    I admit the Tocca line is tempting me sometimes, I haven't invested in a whole bottle yet, although I like a couple out of them. Your input is putting me in more temptation. Hoping that Giulietta is quite musky. (?)

  26. I don't find Giulietta to be musky at all. I find it to be a floral through and through. The fruity part of it seems to disappear in the first 15 minutes. It's a great perfume for the dog days of summer.

  27. Anonymous06:06

    Parfum de Peau by Montana!The original one,composed in 1986... wonderful!

  28. I think sometimes people perceive "dryer sheet" muskiness as skin scent. I don't use them but I did get some hand me down kids pajamas that must have been laundered with "Bounce". That stuff clings like you would not believe, even after laundering. To the clothes as well as to the skin.
    The skin scent of a well crafted perfume is my favorite part, the base note is always the determining factor of whether or not a fragrance is a "keeper" to me.

  29. Balenciaga Paris. Stays very close to the skin. Throughout the day, but only occasionally, it wafts up from my collar to reach my nose.

  30. Eld,

    noting this down.

  31. Cristina,

    wow, talk about a very potent fragrance!! I do like its drydown though, very sensuous. :-)

  32. TA,

    luckily we don't get Bounce here, though I can totally see what you're saying.

    Yup, the base notes are a major determining factor for me too. After all, one has to live with them for a long long time. ;-)

  33. Dana,

    you're absolutely right! Thanks for the addition.

    I have always since its launch maintained this is a perfect everyday and office scent and this is why; it's there but it's subtle and graceful and invites the question "does she or doesn't she wear something?" (which I find so elegant a stance on perfume wearing)

  34. My favorite skin scents: Lauder's Sensuous, Elixir de Merveilles, Demeter's Clean Skin, Chanel Jersey, Kumbaa Made Oriental Musk, Memoire Liquid Nudite Absolue, Strange Invisible Musc Botanique, SJP Lovely

  35. Annina,

    what a great list! Thanks for mentioning them.

    I admit I hadn't thought of Elixir de Merveilles in that category, but now I need to see it through new eyes (off to test). I haven't tried any of the Kumbaa Made things, I hear them mentioned a lot, where do you get these?

  36. Annina,

    what a great list! Thanks for mentioning them.

    I admit I hadn't thought of Elixir de Merveilles in that category, but now I need to see it through new eyes (off to test). I haven't tried any of the Kumbaa Made things, I hear them mentioned a lot, where do you get these?

  37. Annina,

    what a great list! Thanks for mentioning them.

    I admit I hadn't thought of Elixir de Merveilles in that category, but now I need to see it through new eyes (off to test). I haven't tried any of the Kumbaa Made things, I hear them mentioned a lot, where do you get these?

  38. Annina,

    what a great list! Thanks for mentioning them.

    I admit I hadn't thought of Elixir de Merveilles in that category, but now I need to see it through new eyes (off to test). I haven't tried any of the Kumbaa Made things, I hear them mentioned a lot, where do you get these?

  39. Oh, please update this list! I own most of the list and would be over the moon to find more skin scents to try!

  40. @architart

    making a mental note to add more skin scents to the roll! Thanks for commenting and asking. :)

  41. Anonymous07:37

    I know this thread is very old but may I add "Pois de senteur" from Caron. This one has been much dismissed by Lucas Turin and yet it is a real gemm. It is the perfect "parfum de peau" which might seem innocuous at the start but deserves your patience to enveil its treasures. For the first hour it is a very beautiful but timid green scent kind of Lily of the valley mingled with jacinth. The sensuous sillage stay very close to the bearer et developp slowy, quietly with subtility envelopping you in an honeylike cloud of ambery sweetness (but not sugary). It has all the french allure of the Carons without any asperity or strangeness yet it is distinctive, very unique with a sensual mood hard to describe.The remanence is enormous (24 hours) and all the time it stays close to you, mingling with your skin, becoming part of you but letting go some whispers much like the real flowers of cassie, linden or wisteria would tease you in spring, when you fleetingly catch their fragrances and start being intoxicated in a sensuous and very discreet way.


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