A Step-By-Step Guide to Choosing Your Signature Summer Scent

What does summer smell like to you? The salty sea air? Fresh, farmer’s market finds? Sunscreen? For me, it’s a blend of all these nostalgic, warm-weather scents. If you close your eyes, you can probably transport yourself back to summers past with just a whiff.

That’s because the part of your brain that processes memory is adjacent to the part that processes smell. If you take this a step further, you can hack this cognitive process by intentionally creating scent cues for yourself. Wearing a specific perfume to work, for example, will signal to your brain that it’s time to buckle down. (There’s a productivity hack the hustle-culture bros won’t tell you.)

Babba Rivera headshot.

How to Find Your Signature Summer Scent

As a self-professed reset obsessive, I do everything in my power to make every season (or era, if you will) feel brand new. This means switching up my daily routines, like my wardrobe, skincare, and my scent. When I feel a new season or vibe calling, I find a scent that matches it. And nothing pleases me more than switching over to my summer scents. I gravitate toward vanilla, and because I’m a summer baby, all the best summer fragrances make my rotation.

But with new boutique scent brands emerging daily—fighting with the classics for a place in my summer scent tapestry—I get overwhelmed by choice. To sift through the finely scented mist, I tapped Ines Guien, VP of Operations at Dossier, to help us pick the best summer fragrances.

Guien’s ultimate guidance? “Don’t be afraid to experiment!” Fragrance should be fun—just like summer!

Ines Guien

Ines Guien

Ines Guien is the Vice President Of Global Operations at Dossier Perfumes. Prior to that, Guien was the Business Development Coordinator at Le Labo Fragrances.

Perfume on nightstand.

What are the best scents for summer?

“I think everyone wants to be a more playful, lighter version of themselves in the summer months,” says Guien. The best summer fragrances embody this more carefree version—the one whose mind is on maximizing beach time, not managing mental lists.

From fun, flirty florals to sweet summer scents, there’s a signature fragrance for everyone. Even if you gravitate toward earthier, heavier scent profiles that thrive in the winter, Guien affirms: there’s a fragrance for you. “If you prefer deeper ‘winter’ scents, there’s nothing that says you can’t wear them year round!”

Making Sense of Scent Notes

It all begins with understanding scent notes. “The top notes are the initial scents you smell when you first apply. The middle notes or the heart notes, appear once the top notes have evaporated and last for several hours. Finally, the base notes are those final scents you smell and are the most long-lasting. Base notes provide depth and richness and help anchor the top and middle notes.”

For summer scents, look for lighter top notes balanced with earthier or richer base notes. “Once you understand these notes, you can choose fragrances that complement each other.” This will also help you as you experiment with layering scents.

Odette Annable

Some tried and true notes are consistent throughout many of the best summer fragrances, says Guien. “Most people tend to prefer lighter, fruitier, and sunny scents for summer to match the season,” she says. “They also gravitate toward fragrances with prominent notes of vanilla during the warmer months. We’ve also seen a resurgence in popularity of fruity and gourmand scents.”

Specific summer 2024 fragrance trends influence the summer scents du jour. “Over the past two years or so, we’ve seen genderless fragrances explode in popularity. Consumers no longer want to be bound by gendered scents when it comes to their perfumes.”

Mary Ralph makeup.

Tips for Finding Your Summer Fragrance

Summer scents should be personal. They should reflect your own intentions for the season. And you should be excited to spritz your skin in the morning. To figure out what scents fit you best, check for common ingredients in your favorite fragrances. My ideal situation is smelling like a bonfire and s’mores. That explains why all my summer scents contain vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, and something woody.

Experiment With Layering

Another way to create a new—or new-ish—summer scent is through layering. “Layering fragrances is a great way to create a signature scent that is unique to you,” says Guien. “The easiest way to layer scents is to mix complementary notes. For example, combine floral with fruity scents or a woody scent with a spicy one to create a complex and interesting scent.”

Pro-tip: like with skincare, go from lightest to heaviest. “Apply your fragrances lightest to strongest to ensure the fragrances blend well and last all day.”

Read the Label

“No matter your budget or scent preferences, always look for fragrances that are made with quality ingredients and follow the strictest guidelines,” says Guien. “At Dossier, we make all of our perfumes in Grasse, France with only the highest-quality ingredients. We also follow strict U.S. and U.E. guidelines to ensure our products are ethical, sustainable, and most importantly non-toxic.”

Perfumes on dresser

The Best Summer Fragrances for 2024

The main scent families include Amber, Aquatic, Aromatic, Citrus, Floral, Fougère, Fruity, Gourmand, Green, Musky, Powdery, Spicy, and Woody. Ahead, discover the best summer fragrances for every scent type—and let’s find your signature summer scent.


This evocative scent family is rich and spicy. Are you after a sensual, warm fragrance? Look for notes of amber, spices, resins, and woods. For summer, these are often mixed with vanilla and bright fruit extracts


Dive into this immersive scent family. Just because aquatic scents are watery and fresh, don’t mistake them for boring. They’re refreshing and intense—perfect for summer days at the beach, pool, or on a boat (manifesting).


Herbaceous and fresh, this plant-powered scent family contains notes of basil, chamomile, lavender, mint, mugwort, peppermint, rosemary, sage, star anise, and thyme. They’re grassy and telluric, and in the summer, often sweet and romantic.


Summer is the season for citrus. Drench yourself in these invigorating citrus scents all summer long to feel fun, fresh, and flirty.


Florals never go out of style. For summer, think light florals like jasmine, tuberose, orange blossom, and white rose. Prepare to be in bloom.

Fougère (Fresh)

Fougère or fresh perfumes are barely there, but they make all the difference. Perfect for summer minimalists, they’re clean and fresh, making your skin smell bright and energetic.


Peak season fruit in a bottle. These naturally sourced sweet scents are never saccharine—they’re always juicy and alluring.

Gourmand (Sweet)

Gourmand comes from the French for “glutton.” Indulge in these rich, sweet, food-inspired scents. Pro tip: I like to balance these with something earthy or spicy.


Waking up to the sound of the lawnmower? Nay. But the smell? Sign me up. Sharp and vegetal, they are fresh, light, and cool as a cucumber.


A subset of the amber family, musks are warm and rich scents inspired by our natural smell. They add a layer of personalization and sophistication to any fragrance you pair it with.


Like clean linens and baby powder or immersive scents like musk and iris, powdery scents are more of an effect than a particular note. It’s an all-encompassing scent family that often combines intense floral notes with unexpected hints of musk, vanilla, and amber. When paired with ambery, spicy, or woody scents, they create a heady combination.


Sharp, adventurous, and warm, spicy scents are great for summer—in light doses. I especially like them for adventures like city days and spontaneous nights. Find scents that blend spice with sweetness and fresh, natural notes.


Summer bonfires are the best bonfires. So, of course, the woody scent can translate to the warmer months, too. Instead of evoking a fireplace, they feel like sitting by a fire pit or taking in the fresh forest air. Instead of winter woods like Santal and Hinoki, gravitate to Matcha and Blonde woods for the summer.

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