Elisa on summer favorites
Here in the US, we tend to fight the heat with cold – in the South, that means the AC is always blasting and there’s as much ice in your glass as there is tea. When I lived in Houston, I’d routinely leave a restaurant with goose bumps all over my body, and for a moment, the 100-degree heat outside would feel delicious.
Elsewhere, though – in India, along the equator – people often fight fire with fire, drinking hot tea and eating foods so spicy your scalp prickles with sweat, thus tripping the body’s internal cooling mechanisms.
I prefer the American method when it comes to food and beverage (I’ll be drinking iced coffee until the first snow). But when it comes to perfume, both strategies appeal. Some days I reach for crisp, refreshing colognes, but other days, I crave notes like musk, incense, and narcotic flowers that bloom and billow in the heat.
Cold Perfumes for Summer
Wearing Philosykos, the quintessential fig fragrance, you naturally get all the suggestions of lying under a shade tree – green leaves, sweet wood, milky sap. But there’s something in the fig materials that also reminds me of air conditioning chemicals, so a spray of this on a hot day is like a subliminal stroll past the vents of a swamp cooler.
Smell Bent St. Tropez Dispenser
With both coconut and aloe vera, St. Tropez Dispenser is practically hydrating. This fun sunscreen scent transports you poolside; it smells perhaps a little cheaper than Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess, but is no less charming for its cheapness. (Also pretty great layered with Philosykos.)
Another wonder from Diptyque, Oyedo is the strangest citrus scent I know, focused on a piercing, acid-green lime note. There’s enough mint in the formula that it actually feels tingly on skin.
Paco Rabanne Metal
Powdery, dry iris has a cooling effect similar to pressing your hand against marble. This beautiful green chypre mixes iris with hyacinth, rose, and peppery lily of the valley to form a kind of unofficial flanker to Chanel No. 19 – but I prefer Metal. Will make you feel like a rich woman who never sweats.
Real tuberose stems have a menthol facet, which is usually represented as a subtle, cool-green thread in soliflores. Tubéreuse Criminelle puts this facet front and center: the sinus-clearing top notes smell like IcyHot muscle cream. If you can get through this aggressive stage, it morphs into a gorgeous tropical floral with the clove note of Juicy Fruit gum.
Hot Perfumes for Summer
In the desert Southwest where I grew up, it’s not unusual for the extreme heat to play tricks on your eyes, the highway ahead in the distance appearing to wave and shimmer. L’Air du Desert Morocain reminds me of those road-trip mirages: heat, dust, and sweetly toxic petroleum fumes.
My appreciation for Narciso Rodriguez for Her grows every year, perhaps because it keeps smelling better compared to new mainstream launches. You’d think it’s a bit heavy for summer, but to me it just glows: the orange blossom smells caramelized and the musky patchouli smolders like hot coals.
Elizabeth & James Nirvana Black
The darker half of a duet launched in 2013, Nirvana Black is simple but sophisticated and not at all tween (Elizabeth & James is a fashion line designed by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen). Just three notes are listed: violet, sandalwood, and vanilla. It’s as effortlessly sexy as smudged eyeliner, and feels more expensive than it is.
Sweet Redemption is a drop-dead stunning floriental that holds bitter orange flower and sweet resins including benzoin and myrrh in perfect balance for hours. It’s the color of an island sunset, my ultimate fantasy beach vacation scent.
Clearly, white florals with an oriental touch–incense, vanilla, sweet woods–are a summer go-to for me. The appropriately named Lust is full of oily jasmine absolute and a sexy suggestion of melted honey, like Annick Goutal Songes’s trashy cousin. As hot, loud, and metallic as amp feedback.
What are your favorite scents for summer, and do you prefer to battle the weather or go with it? And if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, what are your scent strategies for warming up?
Photography by Bois de Jasmin, a nap with a view, Jaisalmer, India