Your guide to buying fragrances for someone else

How to Buy a Fragrance For a Friend

It's both the easiest gift to give, and the hardest to get right

marie claire Contributor / May 25 2017

If you’re searching for the perfect present, 
it’s hard to go past fragrance. “It’s one of the most intimate and personal gifts you can give,” explains François Demachy, Dior perfumer-creator. It can be a challenge though: hundreds of new scents are launched every year, and navigating the cosmetic counters
 can be overwhelming. Narrow down the range by considering what she currently wears, and choose 
a scent in the same fragrance family – or pick a perfume to match her personality. Here are our top tips for finding the right notes, plus to streamline the process a little further, we’ve curated the season’s top trends for you to choose from.

The trend: Eau so pretty

“As customers search for everyday fragrances that can be worn with ease, colognes based on citrus notes [typically characterised by a lower concentration of fragrance] and designed to be worn 
in excess, are becoming increasingly popular,” explains fragrance expert Emily Beasley. For a fresh and crisp fragrance update this season, look for notes like bergamot, grapefruit or lemon.

Fragrance picks: Prada Oeillet EDP; AERIN Iris Meadow EDP; Hermès Le Jardin De Monsieur Li EDT; Dear Rose Sympathy For The Sun EDP; Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris Aqua Vitae Forte EDP

When you buy a fragrance for someone else, it’s your interpretation of their personality – you may even discover a scent for them that they may never have considered.
François Demachy

The trend: In full bloom

People want to recognise scents, so floral fragrances are becoming less complicated,
 often highlighting one note – such as rose, jasmine or iris – rather than a complex bouquet of ingredients, says Demachy. “There has also been a strong trend of white florals, such as magnolia, tuberose and lily of the valley,” adds Beasley. These scents are fresh, not overly sweet, and
 are chic yet safe choices when buying for someone whose tastes are unfamiliar.

Fragrance picks: Marc Jacobs Mod Noir EDP; Elizabeth Arden Always Red EDT; Versace Eros Pour Femme EDP; Gucci Flora Gorgeous Gardenia EDT; Estée Lauder Modern Muse Le Rouge EDP

The trend: Forever fragrances

The test of a true classic is how it transcends generations. Wearing your mother or grandmother’s signature scent and not coming off as dated is possible – it’s just how you interpret and wear it (with, say, jeans and a t-shirt, or beachy waves and bold lipstick) that keeps these scents youthful, says Demachy.

Fragrance picks: Calvin Klein Eternity EDP; CHANEL No. 5 EDP; Dior J’Adore EDP

The trend: Spicy selection

Sure to make a perfumed impression, these seductive scents are big, glamorous and easily identified with their spicy notes of clove, cedarwood, cinnamon and vanilla. Nick Smart, director of Agence de Parfum, explains that these blends have more depth and power than those in lighter fragrance families, making them the ideal pick for your life-of-the-party friend.

Fragrance picks: Paco Rabanne Olympéa EDP; Bella Freud 1970 EDP; Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud Cologne

The trend: Sweet treats

“An evolution in the appreciation for different fruit and tea aromas has seen traditional sweet scents incorporate non-traditional notes including blackcurrant, raspberry, mandarin and tangerine,” explains Smart. Demachy agrees, adding “there has been a trend towards perfume with recognisable notes like strawberries and grapefruit”. These new blends offer a contemporary way to wear flirty and feminine fragrances without being overpowering.

Fragrance picks: Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium EDT; Juicy Couture I Am Juicy Couture EDP; Lancôme La Nuit Trésor EDP

The trend: Strong statements

Just like fashion, the borrowed-from-the-boys, androgynous trend continues to rule. This new breed is not to be confused with “unisex” fragrances, says Smart; rather, notes once reserved for male fragrances – such as wood, oud, tobacco, leather and pepper – are increasingly being used in scents crafted exclusively for women.

Fragrance picks: Juliette Has A Gun Gentlewoman EDP; Alaïa Paris EDP

Layer up

After a signature scent? Consider fragrance layering, where you mix scents to create your own custom blend. “It’s one of the best ways to personalise your perfume,” explains Demachy. And don’t worry, there are no rules when it comes to finding the right mix, so be bold, experiment and have fun. Alternatively, try Dior J’Adore Touche de Parfum, which was created specifically for layering – add one or several drops to your favourite fragrance for a completely unique scent.


Buying for a guy? Follow our man's guide to choosing a cologne or pick from our favourite fragrances for him.

For more fragrance tips from marie claire, check out

Image credits: Edward Urrutia

Lucy is a beauty, fashion and health journalist, brand consultant and speaker from Sydney, known for her work across a broad array of platforms. Her work has been published in marie claire Australia (for which she was Beauty Director for 9 years), marie claire France, UK, Netherlands, US and China, Women’s Health and The Australia Women’s Weekly. As a journalist, Lucy has interviewed celebrities including Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Margot Robbie, Aerin Lauder and Miranda Kerr.