I tossed up whether to include the word ‘sexy’ in the title because it seemed faintly ridiculous to marry up a quality – people are sexy, not things or single elements – with something you can buy in a bottle.
I stand by the title. Few things convey sexiness in the beauty sphere as thoroughly as perfume. Like sex appeal, scent is neither seen nor easy to explain. It’s a miasma, an ungraspable cloud that encircles someone – and, crucially, if you like it, it invites you to get close, rendering perfume the best buyable conduit for sexiness out there.
So what does a sexy perfume smell like? Certainly not girlish. There’s no room for mucking around here. You don’t want some whispery floral hinting that you might be suggestible. Sexy perfumes tell you there’s a spirited vixen at the core, a woman who knows her mind and is unabashed in having a saucier side.
These, to my nose, say that //
Trish McEvoy 100 / There’s a lot going on here, with a whoosh of incense and blackberry rounded out with lychee and leather and rose. If I want to feel powerful and a bit of a virago, I reach for this one.
Charlotte Tilbury Scent of a Dream / Take the Trish scent down a notch and add a bit of powdery softness and warmth, and you get this.
Chanel Cuir Russie / Created by perfumer Earnest Beaux in 1927, this is not one if you’re after understated; it’s a riot of leather and woodiness, and takes some character to pull of, but it is extremely intriguing, so if you think you can take it on, give it a whirl.
Aerin Evening Rose D’Or / I know I said florals didn’t do the job and that this rose, lychee, blackberry confection should therefore be ruled out, but I wanted to include an option for those of you wanting something sexy in less of a guns blazing fashion. It’s sweet, but has tones, so says more than just ‘I’m nice and smell clean.’
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady / Patchouli, rose, cinnamon, and sandalwood join forces resulting in one of the most cult perfumes on the market. This is properly sexy of the no holds barred variety.
Sarah Jessica Parker Stash / Many of the perfumes I’ve listed are quite spendy, but not this cracker – it’s currently £24 at amazon (I’ve linked to it on the name – it’s an affiliate link, FYI). I am a longstanding fan of Stash and its musky, leathery notes. When I met SJP at the launch, she said she wanted it to make you feel like you were going to grab a glass of red wine, slick on some eyeliner, and have a flirt. Mission accomplished IMHO.
Ex Idolo Love & Crime / There’s a fair heft of sugary baking smells in here – think cinnamon, mandarin, and cocoa – but folded into the arms of pink pepper and mandarin, the sum total is a perfume that unquestionably stands out and is ever so moreish.
Joan Collins Timeless Beauty I Am Woman / If Joan Collins can’t make a sexy, womanly fragrance, I don’t know who can. This is a triumph of a scent that I’ve worn for years whenever I want to feel a bit more Joan (which is oddly often – Joan’s character Alexis in Dynasty has become a byword for sexy and tough among my friends).
Serge Lutens Veilleur de Nuit / I am deeply sorry to include this because it’s insanely expensive, but I love love love this boozy, chocolatey blend and crack it out on extremely special occasions when I want to smell exceedingly appealing. When I went to interview Channing Tatum, I thought I’d go in hard and pour it on me, which was a mistake – the liquid is coloured and the white cashmere jumper I’d carefully selected was stained by it, so don’t do that. Instead, dab, economically.