At its core, beauty is a field for problem-solvers, conundrum-fixers and people-pleasers. If there's a product-related gripe people are talking about, chances are someone in the industry is on it, busy at work developing an innovative solution. That's certainly the case in the fragrance realm — case in point: perfume oils emerging as the simple fix for pretty much any complaint you've ever heard (or thought yourself) about a scent.
Annoyed by perfume that's too overpowering, or that seems to never last long enough? What about ones that dry out or sensitize skin, are annoying to travel with or are simply too damn expensive? There's a perfume oil for that — and chances are, it's going to totally change your relationship to wearable scent.
"A perfume oil is pure parfum blended with a fragrance-free carrier oil, like coconut or sweet almond oil. They're the most concentrated way to experience fragrances," Rosie Jane Johnston, the founder of By Rosie Jane, tells Fashionista. "Eau de parfums are beautiful, but they're blended with alcohol; you spray them and let them sit for a minute to let that alcohol dissipate. Perfume oil is straight-up and smells amazing."
Brianna Arps, the founder of fragrance brand Moodeaux, is also a huge fan of the category: "They're the scent in all its essence, minus the typical dilution we see with other formats."
Johnston calls oil "a very personal way to apply perfume," noting that because they're applied directly to skin, that contact can impact the way the scent wears and evolves. "The smell is driven by the warmth of your body, and it quietly grows," she says.
This is a sentiment echoed by Frances Shoemack, the founder of natural perfume brand Abel. "Because you apply it directly to the skin rather than spraying, the scent comes forth immediately and the alcohol doesn't need to evaporate," she says. "It's a really intimate and personal way to scent, which I adore."
Compared with mist-on formulas, perfume oils have more staying power, according to Arps. "[They] melt into and condition the skin, making them the ultimate primer and layering tool," she says. "If you're someone who wants to smell great all day long without constantly reapplying your fragrance, oil-based perfumes are the way to go. They're highly concentrated and 'stick' to the skin, forming a moisturizing barrier that helps it retain scent."
Although they can of course be worn by anyone, experts often recommend oil-based fragrances for those with especially dry or sensitive skin, because they don't contain alcohol, which can be drying or irritating in some cases. Moodeaux, for one, relies on a mix of apricot kernel, grape seed and meadowfoam seed oils as the base for its oil fragrance blends; each of those ingredients carries skin-care benefits with it, as well as serving as a vehicle for scent.
These types of fragrance formats also tend to be ultra-customizable, which, as Johnston explains, is "an amazing way to make your own unique perfume."
"I always recommend layering two different mediums of perfume — like a perfume oil with eau de parfum or a body oil with a roll-on perfume," she says. "It layers the skin application with more of a mist effect."
And then there's the fact that perfume oils are easy to use, often coming in minuscule, highly-portable sizes because they're so potent and concentrated: rollerball pens, diminutive vials or medicine-dropper dispensers. This makes them ideal for travel, as well as for toting around throughout the day for touch-ups. (Not that you'll be as likely to need them.) Their compactness also means that perfume oils tend to be far less expensive than spray-on versions. But don't let the small stature fool you: A tiny bit of oil tends to go a long way — remember, they're ultra-concentrated, so these babies still pack plenty of uses.
Ahead, we've rounded up 18 oil-based fragrances to suit just about any olfactive preference. Keep scrolling to see (and shop) them all.
Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.