What Perfume Should I Wear with My Makeup? A Guide to Scent Pairings for Different Makeup Looks

Published in: Fragrance, Makeup Tips/How To

Written by Ari

Today Ari of Scents of Self shares some potential perfume pairings for popular makeup looks.

Well, look at you, Miss Thang. Whether you’re working a smoky eye or rocking a red lip, your fine self is looking flawless (thanks to Karen’s incredible makeup tips). All that remains is a few spritzes of a fabulous perfume. Now, this perfume must do more than simply smell good. A great perfume should be the finishing touch to your look, creating an aura that matches your makeup. It should add to your sex appeal when you’re looking slinkier than Halle Berry, or create a sense of romance when you’re having an ultra-feminine, Keira-Knightley-in-her-latest-period-piece moment. Here are a few suggestions for perfumes that lend themselves to a particular makeup style; please feel free to mix and match.

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Smoky Eyes

Your kohl-rimmed eyes already whisper, “Come hither”. Now take your game to the next level with a sexy scent that says, “Hey, Angelina Jolie, this isn’t amateur hour.”

  1. Bvlgari Black ($74). Speaking of Ms. Jolie, this is rumored to be her signature scent. With notes of leather, musk, black tea, and vanilla, Black is what a dominatrix would wear to a very grown-up tea party.
  2. Dior Hypnotic Poison ($68). From the name to the deep red bottle to the sultry blend of jasmine, vanilla, and musk, Hypnotic Poison was designed to hypnotize, Biggie-style.
  3. Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur ($140). Spicy, ambery perfection. Musc Ravageur achieves what so many men do not: comes on strong, but turns cuddly by the end of the night.

Red Lips and Liner


Photo by Weglet

Red lips and a flick of liquid liner recall the glamorous stars of 1940’s Old Hollywood. Classic perfumes of the same era will complement your vintage vibe.

  1. Chanel No. 5 ($60). Golden, powdery goodness. A beautiful classic worthy of its 90-year legacy. If it was good enough for Marilyn, it’s good enough for you.
  2. Guerlain Shalimar ($56). A smoky vanilla created in 1925, Shalimar is perfect for those who love sweet scents but want something a little more sophisticated than Pink Sugar.
  3. Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose, $130. If your look is more inspired by Katy Perry and Dita Von Teese than Old Hollywood, you might enjoy this more modern blend of rose and violet. Lipstick Rose smells just like a Chanel lipstick, and feels retro in a gorgeously kitschy way.

Wild Child

Your delightfully outrageous makeup leads others to suspect that you are none other than the secret love child of Lady Gaga and David Bowie. (Don’t worry, I won’t tell.) To you, makeup is less about finding the right foundation for your skintone and more about drawing a huge lightening bolt across your face. Make the Gaga-Bowie family proud with the most unusual, creative scents the perfume world has to offer.

  1. CB I Hate Perfume Black March ($80). The house of CB I Hate Perfume is run by the same man behind the Demeter fragrances, a brand famous for bottling the most bizarre of smells (Glue, Crayon, Lobster, etc.) Black March smells like damp earth, so realistic that you expect to see earthworms wriggling around.
  2. Bond No 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory ($150). Named for the artist who lived a strange and surreal life, Andy Warhol Silver Factory features a prominent incense note with a metallic edge.
  3. Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman (about $100). With notes of black hemlock, violet and cedar, Ormonde Woman feels like being lost in a vast, forbidding forest late at night. But in a good way.

Office Chic

Thanks to a delightful gender double standard, women must be cautious about what perfume they wear to their workplace. Nothing too sexy, or you may suddenly find yourself the office hoochie who’s sleeping with the boss and his secretary, Janice. Elegant, sophisticated scents are a good match for your neutral-but-polished makeup.

  1. Chanel No. 19 ($90). No. 19 was released at the end of Coco Chanel’s life, and it is a fascinating portrait of a woman who scraped her way to the top. Its green topnotes politely suggest that you are not to be messed with, and its note of iris speaks to the luxury you’ll be living in after your next promotion.
  2. Chanel Cristalle ($70). Cristalle captures the sparkle of dew on a patch of sweet-smelling grass. This is about as good as “sophisticated” can smell.
  3. Stella McCartney Stella ($50). The cleanest rose in all of perfumery, no mustiness here. Stella feels professional in that hair-pulled-severely-back kind of way.

No-makeup makeup

On those days when your makeup routine consists of Chapstick, a strong perfume can feel too loud or overdramatic. Fresh, clean fragrances work well with the natural look.

  1. Fresh Sugar ($75). I love this one. With notes of sugar and lemon, Sugar smells like the lemonade booth that you ran during the summer as a kid. I frequently have to remind myself not to drink this.
  2. Chanel 28 La Pausa ($200). The most delicate, stunning iris scent I’ve ever encountered. Liquid sunshine on a cold morning. If the $200 price tag doesn’t appeal to you, Prada Infusion d’Iris ($56) is a more powdery alternative.
  3. Marc Jacobs Rain ($65). As refreshing as a sudden summer rainstorm, Rain is the last word in “clean” fragrances. It even captures a bit of the melancholy of rainy weather.

Written by Ari

This post was written by fragrance and beauty blogger Ari of Scents of Self. A chemical engineering freshman at John Hopkins University, she’s loved makeup as far back as she can remember. At this very moment, she just might be watching the new Star Trek movie for the twenty-third time.

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  1. Jen says:

    That was a fun read! Great tips, thank you!

  2. sheshines says:

    Nice post, I erally enjoyed reading it…I quess I am a Smokey Eye girl, actually that is true :), because I can’t live without my Hypnotic Poison by Dior (do dark and spicey, sexy and intriguing in the same time)
    .-= sheshines’s last blog post… MAC Spring Look: Fresh Green =-.

  3. Estella Iris says:

    That was SUCH a creative post! I definately have a couple of new fragrances to try as well. :D

  4. Jane says:

    Ari- Thanks for such a fun post! Those are perfect scents for the looks! I would add Balmain Ivoire to the Office Chic look, and Guerlain Apres l’Ondee & Etro Heliotrope to the No Make-Up Make-Up :)

    Btw, I loved your review of Guerlain Jicky on Scents of Self (bookmarked!) which I read 2 weeks ago after testing Jicky edt myself. I also fell in love…which is interesting as I’ve tried it on and off for years with no love. Then *bam* true love. I have ended up with a bottle of the edp but I think I need the edt as well. Thank you!

  5. Vonvon says:

    Thanks for such an interesting and informative post. The tips are very useful.
    .-= Vonvon’s last blog post… EOTDs/FOTDs: Neutral Smoky & Neutral Brown (Almost Nude) From theBalm Shady Lady Palette =-.

  6. Keener says:

    Awesome post. It reminds me that I don’t know a whole lot about fragrances and should take a whiff of what is out there. I’ve got three fragrances, Ralph Lauren’s Romance, YSL’s Paris, and Hermes’ Kelly Calache. I’m sure my three says something about my personality…

    Thanks again, I’m definitely going to take some of you suggestions and try them out soon.

    • Ari says:

      Thanks so much, Keener! Sounds like you’ve got a taste for florals and rose notes. I think you would love Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose- it has a similar vibe to Paris.

  7. rachel says:

    never thought about pairing my perfume to my make up look. makes perfect sense! thanks for showing me the way!

  8. Lisa S. says:

    Oooo I’ve been getting into fragrance more and more lately. I just ordered some samples of Tilda Swinton Like This from Lucky Scent the other day and have a serious jones for Nuit de Tubereuse Eau de Parfum by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
    Be very afraid for your wallet if you start getting into fragrance, some of this stuff is scorchingly EXPENSIVE.

    • Ari says:

      Lisa, I’d love to get your opinion on Like This! I’m intrigued by the sound of those pumpkin notes. And ain’t that the truth! My wallet and I are no longer on speaking terms :O
      .-= Ari’s last blog post… Welcome, MBB readers! =-.

  9. Sylvie says:

    I don’t understand. Why would anyone want a perfume that makes them smell like soil?

    • Lisa S. says:

      Well, I haven’t actually smelled this particular fragrance, but from what I understand it’s not so much dirt as a foresty-earthy smell like a garden just before spring really gets going. I find I’m so intrigued by smells like this.

    • Ari says:

      You’d be surprised, Sylvie! My friends who garden are crazy about the smell of dirt.
      .-= Ari’s last blog post… Welcome, MBB readers! =-.

  10. lexi says:

    This was an awesome post. I have been paying more attention to perfumes lately and I really want to find and smell Malle’s Lipstick Rose. I really love the way Chanel lipsticks smell and I wouldn’t mind smelling like one.

  11. Glosslizard says:

    Great post! :) I love fragrances, and I’ve put a couple of these on my list to sample! Thanks!

  12. Hyzenthlay says:

    Hahaha! I love it :) As I read through the post, I kept thinking “no, that’s not me . . . no, that’s not me” and then I hit the “‘no makeup’ makeup” (which is, I guess, the best fit for me out of the given options). And then I KNEW it was right, because Fresh Sugar Lemon, and Marc Jacobs Rain are my daily scents, while Prada Infusion d’Iris is my “special day” scent. Good calls!!!

    • Ari says:

      Thank you so much!!! Wow, hit the nail right on the head there! :) Have you tried the new Prada L’Eau Ambree? It reminds me a lot of Infusion d’Iris, but a little fancier. Maybe it can be your “extra-special day” scent!
      .-= Ari’s last blog post… Welcome, MBB readers! =-.

  13. Stef says:

    What a great post! I do this everyday without really realizing it. I also add my clothes into the mix of influencing what I’m going to spray. But my clothes are influenced by makeup too (it all starts with makeup!)

    You did a fabulous job of picking scents to go with the styles, well done!
    .-= Stef’s last blog post… Welcome to the wonderful world of Smell Bent =-.

  14. Trinidad says:

    I think that channel chance goes with everything! It’s my new favorite!
    .-= Trinidad’s last blog post… What’s on (Sample) Sale! 6-18 =-.

  15. Hokkyokusei says:

    Love this post! I try to match my scents to my look on a daily basis. Great recommendations too, although I have to admit.. you’ve seriously peaked my interest on the (CB) dirt scented perfume. I’m almost 100% convinced I could rock that. lol

  16. Ada says:

    You really love Chanel

  17. SueSays says:

    Wear a floral perfume with a floral dress!

  18. Kim says:

    I love this post! Definitely added a few to my “to sniff” list.
    .-= Kim’s last blog post… Hi Fi Cosmetics =-.

  19. amy says:

    Great tips for mixing and matching makeup and fragrance. I usually just wear whatever the mood suits me but you also added some goodies for me to try out sometime.
    .-= amy’s last blog post… Mermaid in the Shade NOTD Sephora OPI Nail Lacquer Mermaid to Order =-.

  20. knownever says:

    I love this article. I love strange perfumes and the scents you recommended for a wild child look sound worth checking out.
    .-= knownever’s last blog post… Summer Lipstick =-.

  21. kate says:

    i love that smokey eye look….i think i’ve seen it before. do you know if it’s an ad for something? i’d love a tutorial of it!!!!!!

  22. I am both a smokey eye and a red lipstick kind of girl. The suggestions for red lipstick are exactly the fragrances I love when wearing red lipstick. Vintage, sophisticated, a little sexy & femme fatale. For the smokey eye, I wear Midnight Poison as opposed to Hypnotic, but I figure it’s in the same vein.

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