The 15 Best Light Perfumes to Live in This Summer

A subtle scent is perfect for the season.

A perfume bottle on a white countertop with shadows of leaves behind it
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our fabrics, our moods, and, most importantly, our perfumes lighten up for summer, taking on brighter, airier qualities better suited for warmth and sunshine. Unlike fabrics, however, the best light fragrances aren't always easy to find. Light fragrances are generally fresh or watery, and may include seasonal notes like coconut or rose.

Perfume expert, historian, and author of The Story of Perfume Élisabeth de Feydeau adds that although the elements of any perfume are complex, lighter perfumes often contain notes like citrus, orange blossom, and white musk. "It is necessary to work more on the top notes, which are more volatile, and the heart notes to give this airy impression," she says. "It's very personal because what I consider light, another person will find very heavy."

As a rule of thumb, avoid opulent and dense elements such as tuberose, spicy rose, oud, sandalwood, and animal notes because they densify fragrances, making them heavy regardless of their top notes.

If you're ready to switch your winter perfume to summer-ready fragrances, read on for the lightest, brightest perfumes on the market, each of which has been tested (and loved!) by an expert or editor.

Best Light Perfumes

Diptyque's L'Eau Papier on a bookshelf in front of books

Diptyque's L'Eau Papier looks stunning on my book shelf, and it smells just like a library.

(Image credit: Gabrielle Ulubay)

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How Long do Light Perfumes Last?

In terms of staying power, de Feydeau admits that light perfumes don't always last as long as heavy options like musk and oud. "They are not made to last and persist," she says. "They have raw materials in their composition that are ethereal and airy, therefore volatile."

Therefore, if you're opting for a light fragrance, stow a travel-sized bottle in your bag so you can reapply throughout the day. You can also spray your hair and clothing, where fragrance will linger longer than it might on your skin.

Meet the Expert

Élisabeth de Feydeau
Élisabeth de Feydeau

Élisabeth de Feydeau is a French historian and writer who specializes in perfume. A recipient of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award, she is renowned in her field, having taught at the Versailles "School of Fragrances" and worked with the likes of Chanel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Guerlain, and more. She has also written books about fragrance, the most recent of which is The Story of Perfume.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at