Growing up, the bottles of body sprays, lotions, butters, and eau de toilettes that lined my bathroom vanity were far sweeter than a dessert-filled episode of The Great British Baking Show. My rotation typically included the latest cloyingly saccharine launch from Bath & Body Works; Britney Spears’s Fantasy (or Curious); a pure-sugar scent that, not surprisingly, was called Pink Sugar; and anything else my collection of glossy magazines like Seventeen, CosmoGirl, and Teen Vogue was advertising. If it smelled like a frosted bakehouse cookie with sprinkles or the Cinnabon stand at the mall, I was—without a doubt—wearing it.
I’ll always love unapologetically sweet scents, but now, my tastes have graduated to fragrance blends that are warm and woodsy or grounded with spices, leathers, or classic florals. That said, signature sweet notes like vanilla are often at the heart of my all-time-favorite perfumes. They’re just far less overpowering. Being a beauty editor and all, I always have an overflowing stock of perfumes, so I decided to start a little experiment earlier this year. Instead of sticking to my normal trajectory of signature fragrances, I went on a perfume-wearing spree, if you will, in which I wore a different scent every day for about of month, taking note of which formulas I liked best and which blends won me the most questions, comments, and compliments. In review, I noticed something intriguing: The top 12 scents all had a common, not-so-secret ingredient, vanilla (a result that very much proved my hypothesis that vanilla is still relevant post–seventh grade and outside the kitchen).
Below, I’m sharing the top 12 fragrances I’m currently obsessed with and which never failed to earn me compliments from strangers and loved ones alike. Keep scrolling! The best vanilla perfumes lie just ahead.