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15 tips to slash costs and sniff out bargains
Whether for Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s or anniversaries, fragrances can be an easy gift. Provided it’s legit, Dior’s still Dior whether bought in Harrods or Asda – it’s only the price that changes – so here’s our guide to ensuring the best deal.
We’ve 15 quick tips ‘n’ tricks to help you bag smellies for less, but ALWAYS double-check prices before buying, as they change frequently and new sales come up all the time.
15 cheap perfume tips, including…
- Perfume codes and vouchers
- Top prices for fragrance gifts
- Top 10 smell-alike perfumes
- Uncover hidden Amazon deals
- Buying online’s often cheapest
- Know your perfume
- Track prices online to check bargains
- Take advantage of points promos
- Slash scent costs with codes and vouchersTo help you cut costs, we’ve blagged three separate codes for three major online retailers that each stock a wide range of fragrances and gift sets. As there are very few exclusions, codes like these are good for bagging hard-to-come-by discounts on top-end expensive brands such as Chanel and Dior among others, as well as popular celebrity fragrances from the likes of Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes and Britney Spears.The Fragrance Shop – 15% offUntil 11.59pm on Sat 21 Dec, you can get 20% off at The Fragrance Shop* online when you enter the MSE Blagged code MSE15 at the checkout. There are a few excluded brands – such as Creed, GHD and Babyliss – but it’s valid on almost everything else site-wide – from Ted Baker to Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Paco Rabanne and Gucci – including some top designer fragrances that are rarely discounted.You can collect in store for £1.99 or standard delivery’s £2.99. The cut-off for standard delivery in time for Christmas is 8pm on Fri 20 Dec. Next-day delivery’s £3.99. See full T&Cs* on The Fragrance Shop’s site.Perfume Direct – 10% off
You can get 10% off all orders at Perfume Direct* online when you enter the MSE Blagged code MONEY10 at the checkout – this is an ongoing offer with no specific end date, and there’s no minimum spend. Delivery’s £2.99 or free if you’re spending £50 or more. Order by 3pm on Thu 19 Dec to get delivery before Christmas Day.The Perfume Shop – 10% offYou can get 10% off at The Perfume Shop* online and in stores until 12pm midday on Tue 24 Dec. When shopping online, enter the MSE Blagged code MSEOFFER19 at the checkout. In store, show the bar code (below) at the till when paying. The discount’s not valid on top of other offers, and it excludes gift cards, gift bags/boxes and charity products – but can be used on all other full-price items.Standard delivery’s free, but you must order by 8pm on Thu 19 Dec for delivery by Christmas Day, or you can collect in store for free until Mon 23 Dec. Next-day delivery’s £3.99
- Top deals on popular fragrancesTo give an idea of current prices, we’ve picked a selection of popular fragrances and listed below the cheapest we could find them online when we checked on Tue 17 Dec. As always, do your own checks and compare prices – using the codes above if you can – to ensure the best deal.
- Emporio Armani ‘Diamonds’ EDP 50ml* – £29.99 at Boots. Next cheapest, £33 at The Fragrance Shop.
- Gucci ‘Guilty Black’ EDT 50ml* – £29.99 at The Perfume Shop. Next cheapest, £32 at Superdrug.
- Emporio Armani ‘She’ EDP 100ml* – £31 at Superdrug. Next cheapest, £39.50 at The Fragrance Shop.
- Gucci ‘Bamboo’ EDT 50ml – £33.99 at Fragrance Direct. Next cheapest, £40 for EDP at Superdrug.
- Dolce & Gabanna ‘The One’ EDP 40ml – £39.75 All Beauty. Next cheapest, £59.99 at Fragrance Direct.
- Marc Jacobs Daisy EDT 50ml – £43.99 at Fragrance Direct. Next cheapest, £43.92 at Allbeauty.
- Yves Saint Laurent ‘Mon Paris’ EDT 50ml* – £36 at Amazon and at Boots.
- Viktor & Rolf Flower Bomb EDP 50ml – £61.95 at Parfumdreams. Next cheapest, £66 at Boots.
- Versace ‘Bright Crystal’ EDT 200ml* – £70 at Superdrug. Next cheapest, £79.99 at Amazon.
- Top 10 smell-alike perfumesSmell-alikes are the own-brand fragrances you can find in many high street stores and supermarkets. While not direct copies, they do tend to smell similar to the big designer brands – often they a similar name and even similar packaging too – but, crucially, they normally cost a fraction of the price.Of course, some may sniff at receiving smell-alikes as a gift – often the posh brand is part of the present – so this could be more suitable if you’re buying for yourself, where the ‘snob’ value is less of an issue. It’s also worth noting, some say the smell-alikes are weaker than posh smellies, so you may need to squirt more often.Though considering how much cheaper they are, we reckon they’re worth a try.The MSE Perfume Smell-alike TestIn December 2018, for a bit of fun we carried out a (non-scientific) blind smell test with 20 members of the MSE team. We pitted 12 expensive perfumes against each of their much cheaper alternatives, and amazingly, in nine cases, our testers actually preferred the smell of the lower-cost option.You can find the results from each comparison below, ranked in order starting with the most convincing smell-alike and ending with the least. Our percentage score’s based on how many testers either couldn’t tell a difference or said they preferred the cheap one. Prices were correct on Tue 17 Dec 2019.While a year old now, we think the results are still worth sharing – as the principle still applies that a cheap imitation sometimes smells just as good as a much pricier designer scent. Though a few that we tested, including last year’s top pick from Primark, were not currently available when we last checked.1. Primark ‘Pomegranate & Black Tea’ (not currently avail) vs Jo Malone ‘Pomegranate Noir’. SCORE: 80% Primark ‘Pomegranate & Black Tea’ EDP, 100ml, £8 at Primark stores – if you can find it Jo Malone ‘Pomegranate Noir’ cologne, 100ml, £98 at John Lewis, SelfridgesOur blind smell test found that 16 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only four preferred Jo Malone.2. M&S ‘New York’* vs Chanel ‘Allure’. SCORE: 75%
M&S ‘New York’ EDT, 100ml, £18 (or 25ml, £8.50) at M&S Chanel ‘Allure’ EDP, 100ml, £112.50 at The Fragrance ShopOur blind smell test found that 15 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only five preferred Chanel.3. Zara ‘Black Amber’ vs D&G ‘The One’. SCORE: 65%
Zara ‘Black Amber’ EDT, 100ml, £9.99 at Zara online & in stores D&G ‘The One’ EDP, 100ml, £56.15 at allbeauty.comOur blind smell test found that 13 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only seven preferred Dolce & Gabbana.4. M&S ‘Azure Breeze’* vs D&G ‘Light Blue’. SCORE: 65%
M&S ‘Azure Breeze’ EDT, 100ml, £16 (or 25ml, £8.50) at M&S D&G ‘Light Blue’ EDT, 100ml, £49.35 at allbeauty.comOur blind smell test found that 13 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only seven preferred Dolce & Gabbana.5. Next ‘Just Pink’* vs Ralph Lauren ‘Romance’. SCORE: 60%
Next ‘Just Pink’ EDP, 100ml, £14 (or 10ml, £4) at Next Ralph Lauren ‘Romance’ EDP, 100ml, £59.95 at Beauty BaseOur blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Ralph Lauren.6. Next ‘Flowers’* vs Marc Jacobs ‘Daisy’. SCORE: 60% Next ‘Flowers’ EDP, 100ml, £16 (10ml, £4) at Next Marc Jacobs ‘Daisy’ EDT, 100ml, £47.95 at Perfume Price Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Marc Jacobs.7. Superdrug ‘Exotic’* vs YSL ‘Black Opium’. SCORE: 60%
Superdrug ‘Exotic’ body mist, 100ml, £2.66 at Superdrug
YSL ‘Black Opium’ EDP, 90ml, £70.95 at Parfumdreams
Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Yves Saint Laurent.8. Zara ‘Black Peony’ vs Viktor & Rolf ‘Flowerbomb’. SCORE: 60%
Zara ‘Black Peony’ EDT, 100ml £9.99, (or 10ml, £3.99), at Zara online
Viktor & Rolf ‘Flowerbomb’ EDP, 100ml, £88.75 at Feel Unique
Our blind smell test found that 12 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only eight preferred Viktor & Rolf.9. Zara ‘Rose’ vs Dior ‘J’adore’. SCORE: 55%
Zara ‘Rose’ EDT, 90ml, £9.99 (or 12ml, £3.99) at Zara online & in stores
Dior ‘J’adore’ EDP, 100ml, £102 at Boots
Our blind smell test found that 11 out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Only nine preferred Dior.10. Zara ‘Gold’ vs Paco Rabanne ‘Lady Million’. SCORE: 45%
Zara ‘Gold’ EDP, 100ml, £12.99 at Zara in stores only
Paco Rabanne ‘Lady Million’ EDP, 80ml, £56.95 at Perfume Click
Our blind smell test found that nine out of 20 people either couldn’t tell a difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. Interestingly in this case, 11 of our testers actually did prefer the smell of the more expensive Paco Rabanne.11. Primark ‘Mandarin & Basil’ (not currently avail) vs Jo Malone ‘Lime Basil & Mandarin’. SCORE: 45%
Primark ‘Mandarin & Basil’ EDP, 100ml, £8 (or 20ml, £3) in stores only – if you can find it
Jo Malone ‘Lime Basil & Mandarin’ cologne, 100ml, £98 at John Lewis, Selfridges
Our blind smell test found that nine out of 20 people either couldn’t tell a difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume.So again, in this case 11 of our testers actually did prefer the smell of the much more expensive Jo Malone.12. Lidl ‘Suddenly Madame Glamour’ vs Chanel ‘Coco Mademoiselle’. SCORE: 35%
Lidl ‘Suddenly Madame Glamour’ EDP, 50ml, £3.99 in stores only
Chanel ‘Coco Mademoiselle’ EDP, 50ml, £79 at Boots, John Lewis, Debenhams
Our blind smell test found that only seven out of 20 people either couldn’t tell any difference or preferred the CHEAPER perfume. So in this case, 13 preferred the smell of the far more expensive Chanel perfume.See the Smell-alikes & high-end make-up alternatives discussions for even more.We must say a quick thank you to The Perfume Shop for sending us some samples, which meant we didn’t have to go out and buy all these for our test!
- Buying online’s often cheapestThe internet’s usually the cheapest option when purchasing aftershave, perfume, eau de cologne and eau de toilette. Rather than keeping pricey shopfronts with fancy displays to draw you in and make you spend, they simply pile it high in warehouses and sell it cheap.So don’t be sucked in by smooth sales patter and gleaming window displays when you’re on the high street. When comparing prices online and in store, don’t forget to note down the size of the bottle, and what you’re buying, eg, eau de toilette/parfum.
- Get up to 50% off fragrances at Boots, Superdrug & more.If you go to Boots* in store and online, there’s currently up to 50% off a limited selection of fragrances. If you order online, you can collect in store for free or delivery’s £3.50 (free if you’re spending £45 or more).We’ve seen similar discounts at Superdrug* and Debenhams*, among others. One place you might not immediately think of for perfume is Wilko*, which in the past has had some cracking deals on scents.However, you should always do a price comparison online before you buy as, even at the reduced prices, some are still cheaper elsewhere.
- Uncover up to 70% off hidden Amazon bargainsAmazon often has a selection of top-brand perfumes with up to 70% off, yet they tend to be buried among the many thousands of products in its wider beauty and fragrances department.Here’s a link you can use to go straight to what’s currently available in its regularly updated page of up to 70% off fragrances*. Of course, don’t assume Amazon will be cheapest – you should still do your own checks to make sure it’s the cheapest price around.
- Know your perfume from your eau de cologneThe perfume industry’s big business, so there are lots of types to choose from. Yet don’t confuse perfume with the weaker eau de toilette or eau de cologne, as you may find it’s a false economy.As a rough guide, the main tiers of fragrance type are below, ranging from weakest (generally cheapest) to strongest (priciest):
- Splash and aftershave
Low perfume essence at about 1-7%.
- Eau de cologne
Again, lowish perfume essence, at about 2-6%.
- Eau de toilette
Also sometimes known as cologne, contains slightly more perfume essence at about 5-15% (typically about 10%).
- Eau de parfum and perfume
Also called perfume extract, these are top of the range at roughly 10-20% essence (typically about 15%).
- Splash and aftershave
- Check if a perfume’s really a bargain using online price trackersMost of us know just because a retailer lists a perfume as ‘on offer’, it doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Yet the trouble has been sorting awesome offers from pants promos.To help, there are sites that chart products’ price histories to show if the item’s ‘was’ price is realistic. You can also set up alerts that will land in your inbox when your favourite items drop in price.
- MySupermarket is handy for tracking high street perfume prices, as it now includes Boots and Superdrug as well as the six big stores. Just search for an item, then on its page, scroll down and you’ll often see a chart of the stores’ average prices for that item over the last year. Results can be fascinating.
2. CamelCamelCamel lets you enter your desired price for items on Amazon (where prices tend to yo-yo) and fires off an email when Amazon hits it. Simply pop an item’s URL into it, and enter the maximum price you want to cough up. You’ll then get an email when the price falls to that amount or lower.3. ZeeZaw works in a similar way. Just sign up, create a list with the max price you want to pay for Amazon items, and you receive emails when the price drops.
- Unboxed perfumes are even cheaperSome internet retailers, including eBay*, sell testers and unboxed perfume or aftershave at an even cheaper price. You could also find unwanted perfume that may only have been sprayed a few times. While at first this may not seem like a good idea for a prezzie, it’s easy to turn around…Tie a ribbon around it!Buy an unboxed scent, then simply buy a nice-looking gift box for a pound or two and pack it in that – or even just tie a nice ribbon around it.The money saved on buying the perfume should more than cover it. It’ll look as if you’ve made an extra-special effort (rather than an extra cheap effort!)
- Don’t forget your local pound shopDiscount stores and pound shops are also worth a look if you don’t mind experimenting. One forumite reports finding a cache of 99p bargains in their local:Granted some aren’t to my taste but I have four that are looovely. They’re actually eau de parfum rather than toilette which is a bonus! The boxes look quite cheap but my local store always has one out to try.
- It can be worth ordering from the USA couple of large-scale US sites deliver to the UK and can be competitive, though don’t forget to factor any extra delivery fees and charges into the price as these can add a chunk. Big ones to try include Strawberrynet and PerfumeEmporium.com. Read How safe are these sites? above before buying.It’s worth noting that if you’re ordering items from overseas, you may have to pay extra tax so always check this first – find more info on the HMRC website.(Please note: We’re talking about the US-based PerfumeEmporium.com, NOT the UK-based Theperfumeemporium.co.uk, which went bust in 2010. They are unrelated sites and PerfumeEmporium.com is still running.)
- Check if you can grab cashback on topOnce you’ve found the cheapest retailer for your scent, you may be able to get additional cashback by purchasing it via a cashback site. See the Top Cashback Sites guide for full info on how the system works, plus full safety help.
- Take advantage of points promos running at BootsBoots* has a hefty fragrance department and often runs points promotions. These can sometimes help undercut online retailers, especially for newer or more costly perfumes.Boots also sometimes runs triple Advantage Card points events – sign up to the free weekly email to get a heads-up when these events are on. For more info on making the most of your Boots’ Advantage Card, see the Loyalty Points Boosting guide, and see the Boots Deals page for the latest discounts.
- Scout out extra gifts before you buyParticularly around Christmas and New Year, shops may offer extra gifts with the perfume, so make sure you check for any ‘free gift’ deals before buying.Plus it may also be cheaper to buy a gift set rather than the fragrance on its own, so factor this in.Some stores like Superdrug even offer search tools to help you sniff out ‘free’ gift offers* and gift sets* within your budget.
- Important! Make sure you shop safelyWhatever you’re buying, including perfume, there are always two main risks: either it’s a dodgy company, or it’s a legit company that has financial problems and goes bust.
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- Growing Fragrant Herbs | Fragrances and Perfumes
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A Guide to Perfume Types
Shopping for new perfume can be overwhelming with all of the scents available. Not only are there countless scents available, there are also different fragrance concentrations. Underneath the name of the perfume on a bottle will normally be the fragrance concentration. A fragrance concentration refers to the strength that a fragrance has. Perfumes with a higher fragrance concentration contain more perfume oils and less alcohol. Fragrance concentrations are broken into categories including parfum, eau de parum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne, and eau fraiche.
Parfum, also known as extrait de parfum or pure perfume, has the highest fragrance concentration. Parfum will contain anywhere from 15% to 40% fragrance however concentration is generally between 20% to 30% for most parfums. Of all scents, parfums last the longest; usually six to eight hours. Parfum generally also commands the highest price of all the fragrance types due to the high concentration of fragrance. People with sensitive skin may do better with parfums as they have far less alcohol than other fragrance types and therefore are not as likely to dry out the skin.
Eau de Parfum
After parfum, eau de parfum (EDP) has the next highest concentration of fragrance. Eau de parfum generally has a fragrance concentration of between 15% and 20%. On average, eau de parfum will last for four to five hours. It is also generally less expensive that parfum and while it does have a higher concentration of alcohol than parfum, it is better for sensitive skin than other fragrance types. Eau de parfum is one of the most common fragrance types and is suitable for everyday wear.
Eau de Toilette
Eau de toilette (EDT) has a fragrance concentration of between 5% and 15%. It is cheaper than eau de parfum and is one of the most popular types of fragrance available. EDT fragrance will normally last for two to three hours. Eau de toilette is considered by some to be for daywear while eau de parfum is considered nightwear. The term eau de toilette came from the French term “faire sa toilette” which means getting ready.
Eau de Cologne
Eau de cologne, or EDC, has a much lower concentration of fragrance than the above types of perfume. EDC generally has a 2% to 4% percent concentration of fragrance and a high concentration of alcohol. It is cheaper than other types of fragrance however the scent generally only lasts for up to two hours. EDC generally comes in bigger bottles and more of the fragrance needs to be used. Originally eau de cologne referred to a traditional recipe that used herb and citrus notes with little anchoring with base notes.
Eau fraiche is similar to eau de cologne in that the scent will generally last for up to two hours. Eau fraiche has an even lower concentration of fragrance than eau de cologne, normally only 1% to 3%. While eau fraiche has a low fragrance concentration, it does not contain a high amount of alcohol. Along with the fragrance, the remainder of eau fraiche is mostly water.
Along with the types of perfume listed above, there are mists, aftershaves, and other types of fragrances available. Higher end fragrances can cost a significant amount of money so doing research beforehand will ensure that you get the type of fragrance you are looking for. Along with fragrance types there are also fragrance notes which determine the final scent. With all of the types and scents available, shopping for perfume is not always easy but it is possible.
Additional Resources on Fragrance Types
- Common Sense: 6 Basic Fragrance Types – An article that discusses the different types of fragrance notes including floral, oriental, and citrus.
- Types of Perfume: Finding The Right Fragrance – Information on the different types of perfume and finding the right one to suit your needs.
- Fragrance Defined – Information on how parfum, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and cologne all differ from one another.
- Perfume or Eau de Toilette? What’s the Difference? – Information on what makes perfume and eau de toilette differ.
- Perfume Basenotes – A website dedicated to all the different basenotes that can be used to create perfume products.
- IFRA Standards – The set of standards for safe use of fragrance ingredients from the International Fragrance Association.
- How Perfume Works – An in-depth guide to how perfume works as well as how it is created.
- Latest News – Find the latest perfume news from the American Society of Perfumers.
- What’s Your Signature Scent? – Take this quiz from Ladies’ Home Journal to find your perfect scent.