best women’s perfume for summer

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This summer we’re in the mood to celebrate — with lockdown slowly lifting just as temperatures soar, there’s definitely a mood shift compared to last year. With the increased heat, smell gets heightened — coupled with the fact that sweat magnifies any perfume we’re wearing. Hence, now is not usually the time for heavy, cloying scents. 

Leave your hard-hitting patchoulis or rich leathery scents at home — a light, citrus-based scent with staying power is what you should be aiming for. Think sparkling bergamots, together with sharp zesty bites of lemon and grapefruit, combined with a dash of mellow orange blossom. Even cute candy-inspired concoctions are fine for this season, provided they’re not too sweet or sickly.

We tested our summer perfumes on some of the hottest days in the past few weeks to see how long they stuck around and developed on the skin. We chose the ones that didn’t feel suffocating or cloying — think a soft, linen summer dress rather than a skin-tight PVC trouser suit. 

We also looked for the more unusual and quirky characters – scents with something to say – not just pretty lemon puffs that disappeared as soon as we sprayed them on.

The below ten scents fit the bill and are as pleasant as sipping a sangria on the orange tree-lined streets of Seville (even if most of us will have to make do with a balcony in Finsbury Park).

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best women’s summer perfumes for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Boy Smells flor de la virgen: £105, Spacenk.com
  • Best for girls who like to smell like boys – BDK sel d’argent, 100ml: £150, Selfridges.com
  • Best for an escape to the Italian coast – Dolce & Gabbana light blue forever, 25ml: £51, Theperfumeshop.com
  • Best for adash of old-school French glamour – Annick Goutal eau d’hadrian, 100ml: £110, Libertylondon.com
  • Best for getting back in your party heels – Jimmy Choo I want choo, 40ml: £44.50, Theperfumeshop.com
  • Best for pink ladies – Moschino toy 2 bubblegum, 30ml: £39, Theperfumeshop.com
  • Best for feeling serene – Medeau origin, 50ml: £85, Medeaufragrances.com
  • Best for sunny and rainy days – 4160 Tuesdays both sides of clouds, 15ml: £50, 4160tuesdays.com
  • Best for those with the travel bug – 2787 Barcelona wandervogel, 87ml: £155, Harveynichols.com
  • Best for a summery evening scent – Maison Crivelli osmanthe kodoshan, 100ml: £170, Harveynichols.com

Boy Smells flor de la virgen 

Best: Overall

If you haven’t discovered Boy Smells candles, they’re a little piece of heaven (move over Diptyque) and flor de la virgen forms part of their new eau de cologne collection. It’s arguably the most summery scent this gender-neutral (or “genderful”) brand have created, with sprightly sweet notes of pomelo and sweet fig, drying down to an enveloping and addictive heart of jasmine, soft saffron and musk. It has all the wearability and cheeriness of a cologne with enough floral flamboyance to see you through till the evening – and honestly, it’s so beautiful it deserves to become a modern classic. Available from June 14.Buy now £105, Spacenk.com

BDK sel d’argent, 100ml

Best: For girls who like to smell like boys

Salty accords in scent are growing in popularity and for good reason – they don’t just remind us of the salty sea air, they are also more subtle than their sweet counterparts and a great deal sexier (the salty tang of a lover’s skin springs to mind). This scent dials up the seductive nature of salt and, despite being a cologne, actually goes light on the citruses – a subtle sparkle of bergamot and some crisp hints of grapefruit are all that’s needed.

It’s an aquatic perfume and its waters definitely run deep, with enveloping orange blossom and green galbanum that emit warm, musky undertones. A masculine (but not “blokey”) scent that’s subtle and insidious – like going skinny dipping with the sexiest Frenchman you’ve ever encountered.Buy now £150, Selfridges.com

Price comparison

Dolce & Gabbana light blue forever, 25ml

Best: For an escape to the Italian coast

You may have heard of 365 Days, a so-bad-it’s-good film on Netflix where an impossibly hot Italian mafia boss kidnaps an equally hot Polish woman and things get steamy (so we’ve heard). Probably the only good thing about the film is the stunning backdrop of the Sicilian landscape – and this latest scent by Dolce & Gabbana is pretty much the olfactory equivalent.

No one does a cologne quite like the Italians, and this is what you might call the “braggadocio” of the bunch, boasting some serious lemony swagger, tempered by sweet notes of apple and heady orange blossom. A “happy perfume” if ever there was one, it dries down to a soft whisper of cedar and musks and is perfect for spending a balmy summer evening with a brooding mafioso.Buy now £51, Theperfumeshop.com

Price comparison

Annick Goutal eau d’hadrian, 100ml

Best: For a dash of old-school French glamour

Who said citrus scents can’t be chic? They might not have the “oh la la” chutzpah of many classic rose and jasmine perfumes, but when a citrus is as good as this, it really outshines its showier floral counterparts. This under-the-radar classic was created back in 1981, becoming the fragrance to wear with your shoulder pads and bubble-perm, and was reportedly loved by the likes of Madonna, Sharon Stone and Oprah Winfrey. This sparkling citrus practically shimmies out of the bottle, enveloping the wearer in a fragrant cloud without the risk of giving your colleagues or family members a migraine.Buy now £110, Libertylondon.com

Price comparison

Jimmy Choo I want choo, 40ml

Best: For getting back in your party heels

If your summer Spotify playlist is full of classic R&B hits from the likes of Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill and TLC, then Jimmy Choo’s latest launch is the summer scent for you. This cheery crowd-pleaser harks back to the fragrant, feminine scents of the 1990s, starring a chorus of peach, mandarin and jasmine sambac, underscored with sweetness of vanilla to give it extra staying power. It’s a guaranteed mood-lifter, providing the perfect olfactory soundtrack to the long evenings, when it’s still light at 10pm and the fun is far from over.Buy now £44.50, Theperfumeshop.com

Price comparison

Moschino toy 2 bubblegum, 30ml

Best: For pink ladies

There’s nothing wrong with being a girly girl with a sweet tooth who loves pink (it never did Emma Bunton any harm) and one’s perfume should reflect that. But in the wrong hands, sweet girly scents can smell all manner of awful cupcake blandness – but not with Moschino toy 2 bubblegum. The way they’ve managed to capture the scent of bubblegum is uncanny, but unlike the popular tuckshop treat, it doesn’t turn bland once the initial sweetness subsides

Warming up on the skin, it reveals a pleasant heart of rose, ginger and peach, with warm musks and cedarwood at the base that are far more sophisticated than the scent’s name and packaging suggests. Not that we’re complaining about the packaging: the pink teddy bear bottle is a miniature piece of pop art in itself, and a nod to designer Jeremy Scott’s cheeky signature style.Buy now £39, Theperfumeshop.com

Price comparison

Medeau origin, 50ml

Best: For feeling serene

Despite what many people think, perfume isn’t just about smelling attractive or pretty to others. It can also tap into our emotions on a deeper level, allowing us to de-stress and reset. This is one such perfume, with a beautiful, fresh-floral bouquet inspired by the English countryside – think elderflower, cyclamen and cedarwood.

We found this was perfect to spritz on come 4pm when we were feeling a bit frazzled after our sixth Zoom call of the day. What’s more, all of the ingredients are EWG-approved and mainly natural or bioidentical, while the bottles are 95 per cent recyclable.Buy now £85, Medeaufragrances.com

4160 Tuesdays both sides of clouds, 15ml

Best: For sunny and rainy days

Lots of 4160 Tuesdays scents have a boho 1970s vibe to them, and this latest offering is no exception. Described as a “floral citrus chypre with a light gourmand touch” it’s a tribute to the legendary Joni Mitchell whose track “Both Sides Now” will be forever associated with Love Actually and Emma Thompson posh sobbing over a Christmas necklace that will never be hers (seriously, no piece of jewellery that ugly is worth crying over).

We’d take this beguiling concoction over that hideous necklace any day with sunny, slightly sweet accords offset by richer, slightly moodier base notes. The brand also do a sunnier version of this scent “Fluffy Lemon Top” but we prefer this slightly more melancholic incarnation, like we prefer the odd rainy day after a week of relentless sunshine.Buy now £50, 4160tuesdays.com

2787 Barcelona wandervogel, 87ml

Best: For those with the travel bug

Not everyone is a fan of citruses for summer – that’s fine. This gloriously fresh, sprightly scent works just as well, and is ideal for anyone who loves getting out in nature (even if travel options are limited at the moment). Once spritzed on, it wastes no time in announcing itself – with a sharp bite of Morrocan mint, given added warmth with fennel and musks. If you don’t feel like wearing perfumes that are too heavy, especially first thing in the morning, this is light and sharp enough to get your brain in gear for the day.Buy now £155, Harveynichols.com

Maison Crivelli osmanthe kodoshan, 100ml

Best: For a summery evening scent

If you like your summer scents with a good dash of smoky depth, this latest creation from quirky fragrance house Maison Crivelli is just the ticket. While it’s definitely light and wearable – perfect for the warmer months – the star of the show is osmanthe. This rich, earthy vegetal note is neither masculine nor feminine but a totally addictive character all of its own, heightened by Sichuan pepper oil, together with black tea and tobacco absolutes. Anyone looking to invest in a signature scent that really stands out should snap this up.Buy now £170, Harveynichols.com

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