When It Comes to Fragrances, Is Bigger Better?

Published in: Fragrance, Just For Fun

Bigger fragrances?

Not bigger as in bolder scents, but bigger as in fragrance packaging. In 1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a mix of perfumes and other household products causes an ordinary suburban housewife to shrink down to just a few inches in size (whee!). Today, it’s the other way around, with perfume bottles shrinking on fragrance counters worldwide.


Increasingly for fragrances, it’s a small world, with smaller and smaller options like rollerballs, fragrance sticks and mini-bottles (1 oz. or less) for sale. The economy has something to do with it — smaller bottles generally cost less than bigger ones do and contain less product — but shrinking bottles don’t necessarily mean better values, at least not in terms of price per ounce.

A small (CUTE!) 1 oz. bottle of Gwen’s Harajuku Lovers fragrance, for instance, costs $45 at Sephora, but if you don’t go through fragrances very quickly, that may not be a bad deal. Of course, if the same scent came in a bottle the size of a Coke can (12 oz.), we’d be talking about a whopping $540 instead.

Are shrinking fragrance bottles a win-win for consumers and beauty companies alike?

“Smaller sizes are a great way for consumers to get a taste of what’s new or to remember a loved, favorite scent,” explains Karen Grant, Vice President and Global Industry Analyst at The NPD Group. “This could be not only a thoughtful option, but a budget-friendly one for gift giving.”

When it comes to fragrance packaging, is bigger always better?

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Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. For iPhone owners with a nose for news, Givaudan just launched iPerfumer, a new app on the iPhone app store (open in iTunes). No. 1: it’s free (yay!). They call it a “personal fragrance consultant in your pocket,” and it lets users create a scent profile and get fragrance recommendations by rating various scents. Personalized recommendations are broken down by category — “top rated,” “recommended” and “new launches.” The app maintains a giant database of fragrances and has a search tool, too.


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So far, 41 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Joslyn says:

    I prefer the free samples you get at Sephora… they actually last a decent amount and then its time to find a new scent to play with. If I really fell in love with one, I would consider buying, but not for anything over $50. Its too dang expensive!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joslyn,

      That’s one great thing about Sephora — they’re pretty good about handing samples out.

      Have you sniffed anything good lately?

    • Nikhai says:

      omg! I never knew Sephora gave out perfume samples. Thank you for the info. I have been so scared to buy perfumes because I am picky, and I tend to jump from one scent to another. I am glad to hear that they give out samples that will last me at least a week till I really feel like the perfume is the right one for me.
      .-= Nikhai’s last blog post… Technorati =-.

      • Joslyn says:

        haha I like to get samples of everything!! Even if they aren’t offering (like the 3 free samples you get with your online order…just ask an employee there and they will make you one!) I was obsessed with Marc Jacobs Rain splash but it was sold out for sooo long, they only had a tester so I ask for a couple samples of it and it lasted me the winter! haha guess im a cheapie, but I would rather splurge on skin care products! My latest sent is Tocca Brigitte.

  2. Raven says:

    Heyyah Karen!
    I’m more one for maybe 3 oz. Bottles, myself. Probably cuz I have a short attention span and only like a fragren e for so long, and then I move onto somthing else, but I think 1 oz. is a little too petite fo me to mist myself in a cloud of delicous glamour twice a day. I like Guess by Marcianos 3 oz. bottle.
    Have a great day!

    • Karen says:

      You are too cute. I’m all about the 2X a day “delicious glamour” as well. 😀 What other scents have you been loving lately in addition to the Guess one? I’ve been all about Tocca’s Bianca and Bobbi Brown Beach.

  3. Marce says:

    At the counter we always recommend to get the big size, but not just from the sales point of view, but also because it really is a better value. For example, two 30ml perfumes will cost more than a 100ml fragrance, so why not just go ahead and splurge on something that will last longer? It’s expensive but it’ll last you a long time! And if you want to try something out, test it or ask for samples instead of getting the small sizes. 😀
    .-= Marce’s last blog post… Haul: MAC & Something Else + An Apology =-.

  4. candace says:

    i like the little ones bc i like to switch it up every season. i just got the pink peace perfume from victorias secret and its like 1.7 oz for 24 bucks on base and 29 in the mall and it smells awesome! it takes me awhile to go thru perfume
    .-= candace’s last blog post… taco salad. =-.

  5. knownever says:

    I’m a fan of anything portable so small and especially solid perfumes are fine by me. however, the price has to match the tiny size.
    .-= knownever’s last blog post… Sebastian Junger’s, War: Hemingway alive and well =-.

  6. Tiffany says:

    I like smaller ones! It’s not a better value for a bigger size if you never finish the bottle, lol 🙂

  7. Trisha says:

    In a way, I think it’s good that perfumes come in smaller packaging. I may like a scent, but not for my whole life. Most perfumes last forever with me since I definitely don’t use them every day.

    Then again, there’s that fear that the smaller the packaging, the more each ounce of perfume costs. It’s like the companies just do it to make more money.
    .-= Trisha’s last blog post… Giveaway: RAW Minerals Active Veil =-.

  8. Liz G. says:

    My favorites I like to buy in a larger size (at least 1.7 oz) because I know I will use them. But I have a short attention span on a lot of fragrances so smaller is better, less pain on the credit card. I like the samples companies give out because then I can try new scents without committing. but sometimes the 1oz size seems too small. And I definitely don’t care for rollerballs or really tiny sizes, I’d rather just go with a free sample. So I guess you could say I’m a fragrance psycho since I can’t seem to make up my mind!

  9. JillyB says:

    I like to have a variety of sizes so I can buy depending on what I really like. If I know I’ll use it a lot I’ll spend more on a bigger size. Today at Ulta I bought a rollerball of Jessica Simpson Fancy that was cheaper, but I knew it would be all I’d want.

  10. Shannon says:

    I think it definitely depends on how often you wear perfume, and how many different types of perfume you use. I personally don’t like to buy in large bottles because I don’t go through them quickly enough. However, my grandma only buys one type of perfume and she wears it every.single.day. If I had a signature scent, and actually remembered to apply perfume daily, I would totally splurge on a big bottle of the stuff (I’m coming to it… I’m tempted to buy big bottles of Fragonard’s “Miranda” and “Diamante” and just wear those two fragrances for the rest of my life, in the summer and winter, respectively).

    Another reason I wouldn’t buy in large quantities unless I wore the fragrance daily: as perfume ages (and is exposed to heat/light), it’s scent can change.

  11. Courtney says:

    Id say smaller to travel with. Speaking of fragrance.. someone has on the most foul smelling perfume in my office that it is really making me sick. Its like a sweet vomit smell thats driving me crazy! ARGH “I’m dying ova heeha”
    .-= Courtney’s last blog post… I cant breathe… =-.

  12. Phyrra says:

    Aww, I wish they had that app for my G1 Android. I didn’t like the iphone so I went with the g1 for the google integration and haven’t looked back.

    I’m a fan of affordable and I tend to switch up what I’m wearing, so smaller, more affordable fragrances appeal to me.
    .-= Phyrra’s last blog post… Indie Spotlight: An Exclusive with Evil Shades =-.

  13. maguire says:

    psst… i found the harajuku lovers perfume on clearance at walgreen’s for $11!

  14. gio says:

    I don’t wear fragrances often and I get easy bored of them, so I usually ask for the sample sizes at my local store and they last me for ages. If I find something that I really really like, then I go ahead and splurge on the big size, as long as the price is reasonable.
    .-= gio’s last blog post… Product Review: Senna Brow Definer =-.

  15. Jen says:

    It takes me a looong time to get through a bottle of perfume. I forget to wear some every day. I like mini bottles. I just bought the Sephora Eau Girl scent sampler, and the mini bottles are teh cute!

  16. pinksoysauce says:

    I was just thinking about this, lol. Do perfumes spoil over time? I’m debating between a Hermes Eau Des Merveilles 1.7 oz and a 3.3 oz. The 3.3 oz. is a better value, but I don’t know how fast I’ll use it up, and if it will spoil if kept too long.

  17. Nina says:

    If its a brand ive used forever then I get big bottles. If its a brand I want to try out then the smaller the better!

    Samples are a great way to try out scents. I also like the sampler sets/coffrets!

  18. I actually have only 2 favorite perfumes so I like having a big bottle of those. My Escada Magnetism has 75ml, and Givenchy Ange ou Demon has 100ml (Givenchy was $120 O_o, it’s so damn expensive here in Croatia! ).

    Also, I’m not the type of person who carries perfumes in her bag. I just never think of that because these 2 last on me for *hours*. 🙂

    But, if I do want some change, I have few sample sizes of different perfumes like Joop!, Chanel Allure etc. and I like to use something from those. And they’re also perfect to carry them in the bag too. 🙂
    .-= Beauty addict’s last blog post… Beauty review: L’Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate =-.

  19. Rae says:

    I’m all for small perfumes… but I think the price should be small, too! I’m very much noncommittal when it comes to scents — I practically live off samples, be them freebies from counters, decants from Sephora, or samples from sites like The Perfumed Court!

    Plus, smallness = cuteness 😉
    .-= Rae’s last blog post… Burt’s Bees does Lip Smackers, for the hipsters and the grown-ups. =-.

  20. Marian says:

    I prefer to purchase perfume in smaller sizes since I am a collector and have about 300 fragrances. Large bottles for me are a waste. I’d probably never finish the fragrance and it would go bad.
    However……the price should reflect the diminished size. For instance, I’m noticing quite a few fragrances being offered in rollerball purse size bottles, which is great for me….but the price is outrageous for the amount of product you get! Not only do you get less product for the money, but you don’t get the pretty bottle either!

  21. marisol says:

    I like the smaller bottles since I get bored quickly with the scent. I have about 10 perfumes in rotation right now. If I really like the scent (like D&G Light Blue) then I’ll get the bigger one since I know that I will use it up. When I went to Sephora last week, I got 3 perfume samples which I often just throw in my make up bag and use them when I feel I need a perfume touch up.

    I am gonna check out that app. Thanks for the heads up.
    .-= marisol’s last blog post… Disappointed… =-.

  22. Rachel says:

    i want the best deal i can get on a perfume so that means buying the bigger bottle. i do not usually buy expensive perfume; i’ll ask for it for christmas or my birthday or something. but if im going to buy a fragrance i make sure that i am in love with the actual sent and not the brand or bottle.

  23. Claxers says:

    Hi Everyone,
    I was up at stupid a clock this morning(6.10am) so decided to spend time constructively on here lol
    I wear perfume every day without fail, I wish I could afford big bottles!
    All my faves are running low at the moment as I have been off work with a back injury for 7 months and can’t buy all my products :-(.
    I love Calvin Kline Euphoria and Stella sheer and would love to have the shower gel and body lotion to match but they are so expensive. I do have category’s for perfumes ( how sad) like every day, special, reminiscent and oddly enough some for when I am sick lol
    I think I need help
    Is there a Perfumes anonymous ? lol

    Hope you all have a great weekend when it gets here or there seeing as you are over in the fab USA ect

    .-= Claxers’s last blog post… A new start, a new me (hopefully) =-.

  24. Stef says:

    I love perfume, but I don’t wear a lot of it, so big bottles are a waste for me. It’s a shame because I’ll get beautiful big bottles of perfume for Xmas or birthdays, and they just don’t get used.

  25. Nikhai says:

    omg! I never knew Sephora gave out perfume samples. Thank you for the info. I have been so scared to buy perfumes because I am picky, and I tend to jump from one scent to another. I am glad to hear that they give out samples that will last me at least a week till I really feel like the perfume is the right one for me.

  26. Nikhai says:


    I prefer the smaller bottles. I feel like the small amount of perfume is better for me so if I ever get bored of it, I won’t feel compelled to have to wait and finish the big bottle before changing scents.
    .-= Nikhai’s last blog post… Technorati =-.

  27. Kim says:

    I love the rollerball format and it’s nice to see so many prestige/designer fragrances available that way. 🙂 Your larger sizes are always your best value (per ounce). All the cost is in the packaging, the filling, the shipping – and the marketing! The actual “juice” isn’t driving it. Like everyone else has said, the larger sizes are great if it’s a fragrance you love and will use a lot. For something seasonal or that you’re not sure of, it’s better to spend extra per ounce on a small size rather than having it sit on your dresser for 10 years! 🙂

  28. Scientific Housewife says:

    What an interesting app! I just try all the perfumes at Ulta or Sephora til I find one I like 🙂

  29. Christina says:

    I buy the biggest bottle for my everyday perfume (Viva La Juicy) and the smaller bottles for most other perfumes.

  30. Lorraine says:

    I have SO many different kinds of perfumes….it’s horrible. Because of that, I really prefer the smaller bottles. Sephora’s evil $16-$25 rollerball perfume section is just that – EVIL. I was tempted to buy three bottles last week. And those rollerball perfumes last forever! I have Trish McEvoy purse size rollerball perfumes that are still going strong…..two years later.

    My “signature scent” would be Gucci Envy Me, but I really love all kinds of perfume. [Sadly, my Gucci is 3 sprays away from an empty bottle]

    I rotate about 3-4 perfumes on my dresser every three weeks. For example, I have Versace’s Woman, YSL’s Parisienne, L’Occitane’s Bergamot perfume, and my new Marc Jacobs’ Daisy (courtesy of Sephora!) on my dresser now. Sigh. I could talk about perfume forever. I love reading all of the comments on this thread!
    .-= Lorraine’s last blog post… Before my adieu…. =-.

  31. DJ says:

    I prefer bigger bottles or else I feel like I have to use it sparingly and or every other week so it will last.

  32. Swati Chaparala says:

    I think it depends. If I like a scent and would even consider a re-buy, then definitely would want it available in a big bottle. I like that philosophy’s Amazing Grace is a 2 oz. and also the only perfume I’ve ever bought twice. I do LOVE trying new perfumes, though, so I order online at Sephora whenever possible because of the free samples. Now, I’m totally into men’s cologne and how it smells on a woman so samples are perfect!

  33. Christina says:

    Oh my goodness, I LOVED that movie when I was a kid! Thank you for reminding me about it, because no one else seems to remember!

    I always hoped I, too, would shrink as an adult so I could live in a Barbie house. I don’t think that was the point of the movie.

  34. Kitsune Fire says:

    I never spend more then $30.00 for a bottle of fragrances X_x; to expensive just for a fancy bottle of liquid that can go bad after a few years, I usually wait to buy big bottles of fragrances I want a few years later when the price goes down, if I really like the scent, especially if I know Im gonna use it often I’ll get a big bottle, but if its just a scent that I know I’ll use every now and then, I’d get a smaller bottle. for instance, I love Love love the Harajuku Wicked style version of Baby, I do have a bottle with the cute chibi doll sitting on my dresser as we speak and the scent is something I’d love to use everyday so I managed to get my hands on a tester bottle that is 3.4 oz on ebay =P especially since I heard the wicked style series is a limited edition. my suggestion is, if your favorite scent is about to discontinue buy more then one bottle like atleast 2 of them. if its something you’ll use every now and then, I’d suggest getting 2 middle sized bottles

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