Clean, non-toxic perfumesShare on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

If you’ve shopped for cosmetics recently, you know clean beauty has taken the industry by storm.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the term, but, for beauty moguls out there, “clean” typically means a product is made without certain potentially harmful ingredients, like parabens, formaldehyde, talc, and fragrance.

If you take a hard look at most of the beauty products you own, you’ll likely find that almost all of them has the word fragrance or perfume listed on its ingredients list. So where does that leave perfumes and fragrances?

Trade magazine BusinessWire reports that, between 2019 and 2023, the clean fragrance industry is projected to grow by $1.39 billion. This shows that consumers are looking for transparent fragrances made with minimal ingredients.

Read on to find out what constitutes a clean perfume, plus which scents you should try this year.

The International Fragrance Association lists 2,947 possible fragrance ingredients, almost all contain hundreds of chemicals, most of them synthetic.

According to research, some fragrances can trigger adverse health effects such as migraines, respiratory issues, and skin problems, among others. Many traditional fragrances also contain phthalates, which a 2016 study found may cause birth defects in males.

Because fragrance is a controversial ingredient, you may be surprised to learn that clean fragrances exist and smell just as good as their synthetic alternatives.

You may have noticed that, on most perfume labels, the ingredients are just water, alcohol and “fragrance.” This is because companies can classify these as “trade secrets,” so the FDA can’t require a company to list the exact ingredients that comprise their scents. This is good for brands, but not so good for consumers who want to know what they’re putting on their bodies.

So what is a clean or non-toxic fragrance? “[They’re scents with] ingredients that will not cause skin or photo-sensitivity,” says Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist.

But keep in mind that even plant-based fragrances (also known as essential oils) may cause a reaction even though they’re natural.

Skin sensitivity is very personal, and just because you’re not sensitized to a particular ingredient today, it doesn’t mean you won’t be tomorrow.

Overall, you’re aiming for perfumes that are sulfate-free, phthalate-free, paraben-free, and made with organic ingredients that are typically kinder to your skin.

Thankfully, most clean fragrance brands will clearly list all their ingredients.

The clean fragrances here are transparent about their ingredients: they’re all made without sulfates, parabens, and phthalates. Plus, they’re vegan and cruelty-free.

Additionally, many of the brands are also hypoallergenic and use eco-friendly ingredients and packaging.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$80
  • $$$ = over $80

Skylar Salt Air Eau de Toilette

Price: $$

Skylar uses eco-friendly ingredients to create hypoallergenic scents that are made five-free, meaning there are no parabens, phthalates, SLS, synthetic dyes, or animal-derived ingredients.

This scent evokes the easy, light-hearted smell of summer and time spent at the beach with notes of warm sand, coconut, sea minerals, and jasmine.

Ellis Brooklyn Sweet Eau de Parfum

Price: $$$

Ellis Brooklyn Sweet has top notes of pear, ambrette, and bergamot, and dry notes of marshmallow, white amber, and cashmere. The blend results in a scent that smells just like your favorite treat.

Reviewers say the perfume is simple, light, and charming, yet it’s elevated, mature, and even unisex. Some also add that this scent is not long-lasting.

Rosie By Rosie Jane Eau de Parfum

Price: $$

According to the brand, Rosie was inspired by “meditation and naked skin,” and it was designed to feel like “sleeping in your birthday suit.” It has notes of rose, musk, and vanilla and the fragrance intensifies with the warmth of the body.

Reviewers describe this scent as soft and cozy and that it’s perfect for people who don’t generally like strong-smelling perfume.

Reviewers also note that it seems like the fragrance has changed recently. So, if you’re loyal to this perfume, you may want to smell it before ordering it again.

Lake & Skye Echo Lake Eau de Parfum

Price: $$$

Lake & Skye’s Echo Lake is 100% free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. The scent blends woody and floral notes, and it has hints of bergamot, juniper, and sandalwood, resulting in a unisex perfume. It’s also blended using organic sugarcane alcohol.

Fans of this perfume describe it as fresh and subtle, with a powdery, clean smell. Though, some also mention that the scent fades faster than other brands.

PHLUR Hanami

Price: $$$

Hanami is a minimalist, warm scent with notes of fig, white florals, sandalwood, and hazelnut. The ingredients are sustainably sourced and hypoallergenic.

Reviewers call this a light scent that works well for all occasions. As a bonus, PHLUR is a certified B-Corp company, so it upholds a rigorous set of environmental standards. Some reviewers note that, while this scent is light and clean, it doesn’t have a lot of staying power.

Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt Perfume Oil

Price: $$

Perfect for lovers of earthy, woody scents, Bois de Balincourt has gorgeous notes of amber wood, vetiver, and warm sandalwood.

Reviewers describe this scent as warm, with a subtle note of cinnamon or vanilla. Perfume oils like this one are typically made from a base of oil instead of alcohol, making them notoriously long-lasting.

The 7 Virtues Vetiver Elemi Eau de Parfum

Price: $$

If you like to smell like you just came back from a walk in the woods, then this scent is for you. It has notes of greens, herbs, vetiver, and a hint of geranium — and most reviewers say it’s unisex.

One reviewer commented, “There’s something very mature, kind of ethereal, and simple about this scent.” While reviewers mention that this scent is long-lasting, some think it smells more like cologne than perfume.

Good Chemistry Queen Bee

Price: $

Clean fragrances don’t have to break the bank. This affordable fragrance from Target has notes of black currant, peony, and amber for a luxe floral and fruity scent.

Reviewers described the fragrance as a warm, cheerful scent that is easy to apply, though some also say this scent fades quickly.

Heretic Dirty Lemon Eau de Parfum

Price: $$$

Heretic is known for their high-end, clean fragrances that last. Dirty Lemon is a popular scent with notes of lemon peel extract, bergamot, and sandalwood.

Reviewers love that this scent improves after it dries, and that it changes depending on who’s wearing it.

Clean Classic Warm Cotton Eau de Parfum

Price: $$

A clean, floral scent that smells a bit like laundry drying in the sun, this fragrance has notes of citrus, orange flowers, amber, musk and more.

Reviewers say this scent smells like freshly bathed skin or laundry out of the dryer. This has more of a clean soap smell than a typical perfume scent.

Deciding on which scent of perfume is right for you is a personal choice. However, it’s always a good idea to pick a clean fragrance made without phthalates and other potentially harmful ingredients.

If you’re not sure what a certain ingredient listed on your perfume is, you can find out more information about any cosmetic ingredient on the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.


Grace Gallagher is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her words have appeared in Brit + Co, Greatist, The Sunday Edit, and BARE Magazine. All of her work can be found atwww.gracelgallagher.com.