While colognes and perfumes are technically available for anyone to wear, they’re often grouped into men’s and women’s fragrances, respectively, and navigating past that binary can feel like crossing a boundary (even if it is an arbitrary one). But with scents like Le Labo’s Santal 33 and Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Baccarat Rouge 540 gaining widespread popularity among men, women and gender-nonconforming individuals alike, it’s clear that there are unisex fragrances with universal appeal.
What is gender-neutral fragrance?
“Fragrance began being marketed to the different sexes around the same time that blue was invented for boys and pink was invented for girls,” Boy Smells founder Matthew Herman explains. “The metropolitanization of America gave way to stronger role definitions between men and women and, as a result, the fragrance industry started marketing feminine and masculine traits in their perfumes and colognes.”
Since then, fragrances have been grouped into men’s and women’s categories, based on the notes perceived as masculine or feminine. “For example, perfumes for women tend to lean more floral or fruity, while colognes feature woody, warm notes,” explain Snif co-founders Phil Riportella and Bryan Edwards.
In response, brands like Boy Smells, Snif, Byredo and Malin + Goetz have offered gender-neutral scents from the start, inviting anyone to try out their unisex fragrances that are formulated without gender in mind. For these and other brands that have nixed gender labels, the fragrances highlight scents that embody both masculine and feminine elements.
“At Boy Smells, we believe both strength and vulnerability are needed to access your full sense of power,” Herman says. “We are all filled with complexities, contradictions and dualities and rather than compartmentalize these aspects of ourselves, we bring them together through master parfumerie techniques to create new scents for a new sense of identity.” The result is a diverse range of fragrances, with some floral and light and others woody and sophisticated, and many meeting in the middle.
And because our identities evolve, our fragrances should, too. “What is perceived as masculine today might not be perceived as such in the future,” says Jan Marques, the director of education and events at luxury fragrance at Maison Francis Kurkdjian. “Taste evolves with time and gender is part of the conversation. We notice that people don’t look at what’s written on the fragrance label anymore, they want to wear whatever makes them feel great.”
How to pick a gender-neutral fragrance
The bottom line is that “in reality, fragrance really has no gender. Scent is very personal, and you should wear what makes you happy regardless of if a brand markets it as masculine or feminine, perfume or cologne,” Riportella and Edwards say. It’s as simple as that.
Whether you need a new everyday fragrance, summer scent or something sexy for date night, we’ve got you covered with the 17 top unisex fragrance picks for 2022.
Best everyday unisex fragrances
$98 at Nordstrom
Herman says this is a perfect everyday fragrance thanks to its “combination of violet, smoky incense and birch that is a subtle, sophisticated and sleek version of our genderful values.”
$289 at Saks Fifth Avenue
Reviewers of this popular luxury fragrance consistently justify the price as its distinct blend of cardamom, iris, violet and amber exudes a warm and smoky scent that never fails to fetch compliments. It’s a modern classic that isn’t going anywhere.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity Gold Eau de Parfum & Maison Francis Kurkdjian Gentle Fluidity Silver Eau de Parfum
From $235 each at Nordstrom
“With gentle Fluidity Gold and Gentle Fluidity Silver, both are composed of the same 49 ingredients (for example, juniper berries, musk, coriander seeds, amber woods) but are distinct in their own olfactive identities, given the dosage of each component, hence surpassing the male-female dichotomy,” Marques explains. Gentle Fluidity Silver is clean and crisp, while Gentle Fluidity Gold reads warm and sweet, and both are equally enticing.
$135 at Bloomingdales
A unique fragrance that might not smell like much at all to the wearer, this fragrance centers around the Iso-E Super molecule that reacts with your own body chemistry, creating a personalized scent that mimics the reaction of pheromones. On its own, Iso-E super has a light, woody aroma reminiscent of sandalwood, which transforms based on the wearer.
$65 at Snif
“Sweet Ash is a low-key, earthy scent designed to be loved by everyone, every day,” Riportella and Edwards share. “It has a silky blend of moss, woods and fir balsam with hints of tonka and vanilla. This is our fan favorite, and is a frequent go-to for ourselves!” Shoppers can try Sweet Ash, like all of Snif’s fragrances, for seven days before committing to the scent — you only pay when you keep the full-size product, otherwise you can return it at no cost to you.
$290 at Saks Fifth Avenue
One of three fine fragrances in House of Bo’s debut genderless collection, each inspired by founder Bernardo Möller’s Mexican heritage, Espiritu is a floral woody scent. Established nose Rodrigo Flores-Roux used Mexican oakwood — the type of tree that surrounded Möller’s childhood home — as a base note for this clean and organic yet leathery and warm fragrance.
Best unisex fragrances for summer
$185 at Farfetch
Created by perfumer Alexis Dadier for Off-White’s first genderless beauty and fragrance collection, Solution No. 1 is an easygoing woody fragrance with patchouli and vetiver at its base, seaweed and sand accord at its heart and bergamot and clary sage at the top.
$95 at Malin + Goetz
A floral-forward unisex perfume, this fragrance harnesses the freshness of cut stems, rather than the flowers themselves. The base notes of musk, cedar and vetiver help ground the brighter floral notes of mandarin leaves and hyacinth.
$65 at Snif
“Our special edition scent, Strawberry Moon, bottles the feeling of a Saturday spent poolside,” Snif’s co-founders say. “Inspired by the Goodtime Hotel in South Beach Miami, it’s for anyone who wants an amazing fragrance that lasts all day and night.” Perfect for summertime, the scent features a blend of jasmine, leather, iris and saffron. “It’s been flying off the (virtual) shelf having sold out three times in under 48 hours,” says Riportella and Edwards. “But don’t worry, we’re making sure we’re re-stocked for the summer!” It’s currently available for pre-order on Snif’s website.
From $196 at Bloomingdales
Citrusy and sweet, Sundazed is a standout summer fragrance in Byredo’s extensive unisex fragrance portfolio. Top notes of mandarin and lemon give a brightness to the middle notes of jasmine and neroli, and sweet base notes of musk and cotton candy.
From $130 at Bloomingdales
Acqua di Parma’s genderless fragrances capture the brand’s Italian heritage with aromas evocative of the Mediterranean. This unisex cologne boasts a vibrant scent created from pink berries and black pepper that play with notes of lemon and bergamot, along with base notes of cedarwood and musk.
From $125 at Elorea
This small-batch fragrance brand is inspired by the founders’ Korean culture and each of its four scents is a nod to the elements. For Water, citrus and white botanicals create a fresh scent that evokes a day by the sea.
Best unisex fragrances for date night
From $325 at Nordstrom
“For a date night, I would go with a fragrance that makes you feel confident, regardless of what is traditionally perceived as either more feminine or masculine,” Marques says, suggesting Baccarat Rouge 540. The viral fragrance — the hashtag #baccaratrouge540 has 121 million views on TikTok — became wildly popular thanks to its delicious mix of amber, floral and woody notes.
$98 at Boy Smells
Suede, saffron and patchouli add warmth to this alluring fragrance that’s Herman’s pick for date night. It’s “super yummy and sexy with the right amount of mysteriousness,” he says. “A good scent for piquing interest.”
$198 at Costa Brazil
This earthy and aromatic scent is Costa Brazil’s first foray into fragrance and honors the brand’s dedication to sustainability and celebration of the beauty of the Amazon. It is made to smell like a Brazilian forest — specifically the natural Breu resin found in the Amazon — with a musky base and floral, zesty top notes.
$250 at Bloomingdales
Kilian’s unisex colognes and perfumes range from scents inspired by founder Kilian Henessy’s lineage as the heir to the French cognac company to the Rihanna-approved Love Don’t Be Shy. Its latest addition is this citrusy yet seductive fragrance with notes of cedarwood, rosemary and green mandarin.
$142 at Harrods
Led by Julian Bedel, Argentinian fragrance house Fueguia 1833 utilizes natural and biodegradable ingredients for rich fragrances that capture the essence of their ingredients. Among its 110 unisex perfumes, Biblioteca de Babel is a spicy, woody fragrance that is warm and inviting, with notes of cedar, mahogany and cinnamon. The label’s newest launch, Rosa de la Patagonia, boasts a similar allure, but with rose and oud.