Spritz it till you make it.
It's the comfort you feel as you're cocooned in vanilla; the clarity of mind that hits you with a whiff of clean musk; and the way cedarwood leaves you feeling as grounded as a centuries-old tree. While these scents evoke different feelings, they share one commonality: bringing about an air of aplomb. Of course, confidence comes from within — but spritzing on a fragrance that leaves you standing a little taller never hurts.
"There are different occasions when you want to add a little extra confidence," explains fragrance historian Jessica Murphuy. "A job interview is not the same as a performance, which is not the same as a second or third date — there are different types of confidence." As such, by leaning into the feel-good properties of fragrance, you can curate a perfect-for-you collection that's ready and waiting anytime you're seeking an added cloak of self-assurance.
"There's no one-size-fits-all prescription," Murphy continues. "It's important to stay true to your own taste, whatever that may be, because if you're wearing a fragrance that doesn't feel like you, it's going to distract you like a pair of shoes that don't fit right."
Once you find those fragrances that hit just right, you can select your spritz du jour with an intention that goes beyond just what smells good. "Fragrances are mood enhancers," says renowned perfumer Jérôme Epinette. "That's the real power of fragrance — it puts you in such a mood that you're ready to rock the world and just be ready for the day."
Allow the scents you already love to guide you as you browse the array of notes and hand-picked confidence-boosting perfumes ahead.
Cedarwood — Guerlain Rosa Palissandro Forte
"In aromachology, cedarwood is the wood that gives you confidence," says Delphine Jelk, in-house perfumer at Guerlain. "It's really linked to the symbol of the tree, which is very strong and powerful; it gets very old. It makes you feel like you really have your two feet on the ground. So with the power of this scent, it helps with self-confidence." Jelk developed Rosa Palissandro Forte to be a spicy rose that's grounded in a woody accord. "I wanted to do a rose that is really ungendered, and it's a spicy rose with rosewood along with patchouli and cedarwood."
Leather — Victoria Beckham Suite 302
"Most of my fragrances have a cocooning comfortable layer," says Epinette. "And I think that's what makes people confident when they wear that. It's like a big cloud around you, but you also feel great. It's like a haze around you." When creating Suite 302, he used leathery notes to add that soothing sensation along with texture and dimension. "Suite 302 has really unique top notes between the cherry, the saffron, et cetera, but then it goes to a more leathery, suede, and soft vanilla back that's just going to warm you up and make you feel good."
Warm and Woody — Hermès Terre d'Hermès Parfum
"Terre d'Hermès is just extraordinary, and there are two materials in there that are just incredibly correct," says Chandler Burr, fragrance expert and former New York Times scent critic. "I love the expression, 'If you're going to come, come correct.' And I think you can't come any more correct than Terre. One very important raw material in it is called Iso E Super. It is a terrific molecule and has the scent of a very clean but fresh, freshly sawn light wood, and it just structures fragrances beautifully. The other raw material is vetiver, which is the root of a tropical grass grown in Haiti. It's wonderfully organic, cool. — it's a tropical plant, but it smells cool as Colin Firth in a tailored suit."
Vanilla — Guerlain Vanille Planifolia Extrait 21
"Vanilla is quite universal and it helps you to feel enveloped and cared-for, and feel less nervous, less anxious," says Jelk. "And we know that because in breast milk, there is vanillin, this is a vanilla smell. Of course, it's very light. But it exists in breast milk, so in an unconscious way, this is a scent that feels like you're going back to your mother's arms."
Vanilla is at the heart of many fragrances at Guerlain. "It's really what makes all the fragrances I create very Guerlain," adds Jelk. "The most vanilla scent that I've made is the Extrait du Parfums, Vanilla Planifolia. It's a vanilla with all the facets from a natural vanilla bean, and at the same time, with this molecule that we call ethyl vanillin that really has this cake smell that we love."
Spicy Rose — Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin
"I love rose fragrances; it's my core taste," says Snyder. For an evening event like a talk she's giving, Snyder will reach for a spicy rose for a little more drama, like this one from Serge Lutens. "For occasions when I'm seeking confidence, I move towards those spicier and crisper roses, and a little further away from the gourmand roses or the powdery roses. They have other purposes."
Grounded Citrus — Rare Beauty Find Comfort
Epinette also created Find Comfort for Rare Beauty. "It's a bold fragrance — woody, sparking on top," he says. "It's very juicy, funny, makes you smile. And then you enter into that violet, suede, patchouli, vetiver, earthy [layer]. But again, there's always a layer of cocooning, [with a] musky sweetness that's just going to envelop you."
Mint and Geranium — État Libre d'Orange You or Someone Like You
A creation of his own, Burr dreamed up this scent for État Libre d'Orange perfumer Caroline Sabas. "I'm a New Yorker, but I moved to L.A. several years ago, and I wanted to create a fragrance that would be worn in L.A.," says Burr. "There is quite a lot of mint in You or Someone Like You for that specific reason. Mint and geranium. Because, again, both of those are so correct, clear, clear as a day with no clouds, deep blue sky, and a sharp, stark, beautiful clarity of looking out from the hills in Hollywood all the way to downtown on the left, and all the way to the Pacific Ocean, to the right. It just cuts across the horizon."
Patchouli — Les Indémodables Patchouli Noisette
"Patchouli is due for yet another comeback," says Snyder. "It's always been out there but I think it gets dismissed. There's a perception that it's a very 'hippie' note, but if you already know that you do like earthy notes, you could really get grounded with patchouli for a different kind of confidence." Patchouli Noisette is her go-to. "It's a hazelnut patchouli," says Snyder. "It has the earthiness and a little gourmand touch, but it still feels very strong in a confident way, not a loud way."
Clean Musk — Diptyque L'Eau Papier
"If someone already knows they love skin scents, like a clean musk, they may choose a white musk that's a little more polished, like a perfect white shirt or a jacket," says Snyder. "Diptyque has a fairly recent new white musk called L'eau Papier inspired by paper. That's a nice, crisp, clean white musk." It features a blend of mimosa plus accords of blonde wood and rice steam.
Patchouli Vanilla — Guerlain Tobacco Honey
Aromacologists can use an MRI to see what happens in your brain when you smell certain ingredients, and Jelk explains that smelling patchouli activates parts of the brain associated with self-confidence. "Patchouli gives so much sexiness in fragrances, and maybe that sexiness and self-confidence are linked because if you feel sexy, you feel confident," she adds. Expect to see a patchouli-forward scent from Guerlain in the coming months. But in the meantime, Jelk notes that Tobacco Honey is a fabulous option. "There is tobacco, honey, vanilla, and patchouli," she says of the scent, which instantly became an InStyle beauty editor favorite when it debuted in September.
Vanilla and Caramel — Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum
Sol de Janeiro's signature Bum Bum scent inspired a craze for sweet yet sophisticated gourmands. Warm notes of vanilla and caramel allow this fragrance to provide a confidence-yielding sense of comfort. "Sol de Janeiro is that gourmand vanilla that's overly edible, overly sweet, but sophisticated," says Epinette, who worked on the scent. "More and more, fragrances are adding that overly gourmand back. So out of all of them, Bum Bum would be my favorite because I think that was the beginning of the, I would say, their success story."
Geranium — Frédéric Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur
While this scent has "for men" in the name, it can be worn by anyone. "Nobody who knows anything about fragrance should pay any attention to the marketing-based gendering of fragrance," says Burr. "You should wear what you like." This scent features mint, geranium, musk, and sandalwood. "Geranium is absolutely correct. It's always in good taste; all of these [ingredients] are," he says. "They're wearable anywhere, anytime and present you as clear and no-nonsense. It's like wearing the most tasteful fragrance that you could imagine."
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