Best cheap perfume for women 2022: Fresh, fruity and musky fragrances

Perfume is a harmless little life luxury – unless you develop a penchant for Chanel No5 that is. And as with most beauty buys, from mascara to tinted moisturiser, we tend to think that the more expensive the product, the better it is.

But what if we told you that scents from the Great British high-street and supermarkets were just as impressive, not only in price but also in staying power? Or that we’ve often received more compliments wearing budget perfumes than some flashy label fragrance? If you’re intrigued you may want to keep reading…

Firstly though, a quick lesson in the different fragrance types: there are four different strengths – eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne and eau fraiche. The former is generally the most expensive as it contains the highest amount of perfume oil (between 10 and 20 per cent), which in turn means you can expect it to stay on for upwards of eight hours.

That’s not to say it’s better than others, though. For example, someone who likes a very light fragrance would be much better suited to an eau fraiche over an eau de parfum. And those who like to have a signature scent will probably be best off with an eau de toilette if a parfum seems out of budget.

And on that note it’s back to the topic at hand. We’ve rounded up our favourite budget scents from the likes of Zara, Boots, Allsaints and Aldi to show you that a decent perfume doesn’t have to cost the earth.

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How we tested

Perfume is a very subjective beauty product. Unlike anti-ageing creams or even foundation, there’re no visible results when spritzing away, so it really does come down to personal preference on scent. But, longevity and strength of smell are important too, so whether you’re a fresh and fruity lover, or prefer a more subtle and sexy musk, our tester has something for everyone.

The best cheap perfumes for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Zara fashionably London: £15.99, Zara.com
  • Best standout scent – Allsaints leather skies: £49, Allsaints.com
  • Best designer dupe – Aldi ladies’ myrrh and tonka: £6.99, Aldi.com
  • Best sweet scent – Scentology floriental mandarin: £5.99, Boots.com
  • Best for on the go – Next cashmere: £10, Next.co.uk
  • Best fruity fragrance – Aoura love rush: £15.99, Boots.com
  • Best for holidays – So…? Ibiza dreams body mist: £5, Tesco.com
  • Best fresh scent – River Island goodnight fleur: £16, Riverisland.com
  • Best bottle – Marks and Spencer Santorini days: £15, Marksandspencer.com
  • Best vegan musk – The Body Shop white musk: £16, Thebodyshop.com
  • Best budget buy – Soap & Glory smoothie star body mist: Was £4.95 now £3.71, Boots.com
  • Best elegant fragrance – Bespoke woman mandarin praline and white flowers: £9.99, Superdrug.com

Zara fashionably London

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Size: 40ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

Created by famous perfumer Jo Malone CBE, founder of namesake brand Jo Malone and more recently Jo Loves, we expected big things from the outset and we weren’t disappointed. The scent isn’t one you can easily describe, but with bergamot, rose and musk it’s equally sweet as it is sexy and would suit any gender.

Although our tester spritzed this away multiple times throughout the day, almost obsessively, the scent does last all day and lingers on hair and clothing for much longer too. It’s also available in a larger 70ml size (£25.99, Zara.com), a travel safe 10ml size (£5.99, Zara.com) and can even be bought as part of the Zara X Jo Malone collector set, which includes all eight city named fragrances (£119, Zara.com).

Allsaints leather skies

Best: Standout scent

Rating: 10/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

More on the masculine side of scents, this genderless fragance instantly smacks of olibanum (frankincense), leather and black sandalwood, hence the name. And again, although it lasts all day, it’s quite moreish once you start spraying. At 100ml it is on the larger side, so if the price initially threw you off, don’t worry as you’re definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck. There are five other unisex scents in the Allsaints range, along with the addition of two new candles as well, so even if you’re on the lookout for something a little more fruity, you’re sure to find it.

Aldi ladies’ Myrrh & Tonka

Best: Designer dupe

Rating: 7/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

Aldi’s perfumes are somewhat famous amongst savvy shoppers, known for duping very popular and much more expensive scents. And No.40 has been often linked to Jo Malone’s myrrh and tonka cologne intense (£135, Jomalone.co.uk).

Of course, at under £7, Aldi has come through again with this impressive budget buy, and the bottle alone is quite beautiful. It’s a very distinctive smell, which took our tester back to being a kid and opening up a box of liquorice allsorts. And again, as it’s an eau de parfum it lingers for a great amount of time on the skin, and even longer on textile surfaces.

It is currently out of stock but we’re in touch with the supermarket to find out when the scent will be back.

Scentology floriental mandarin

Best: Sweet scent

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

For anyone with a sweet tooth, and a sweet nose, this Scentology option is for you. For those who hate any sickly sweetness then stay well away for this scent is like inhaling a sweet shop.

Scentology fragrances look much more expensive than they really are, with a sleek minimalist bottle anyone would be happy with. But, of course, the smell is what it’s really all about. Mandarin, clementine, bergamot and pink pepper sit as the top notes, jasmine and rose as the heart and finally sandalwood, tonka bean and vanilla make up the base. And we think it’s that vanilla that we owe this sugar like smell to. Another one that lasts incredibly well, and is now on sale for an even better price, you can’t go too far wrong.

Next cashmere

Best: For on the go

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 300ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

This miniature bottle is quite adorable. Much larger than your actual travel fragrances, this 30ml scent is the perfect handbag essential for an on the go freshen up and can even be taken in carry-on luggage for flights. The perfume itself is actually very soft and subtle, with a really clean smell that our tester couldn’t help but associate with baby powder, in a lovely way. Bergamot and freesia sit alongside rose, musk and incense in a delicate blend that manages to showcase each ingredient without one overpowering the other. So, if anyone’s on the look out for a classic everyday go-to, this may be the one for you.

Aoura love rush

Best: Fruity fragrance

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

This perfume smacks of blackcurrant, there’s no mistaking it. And with a deep pink bottle to match, the fruit was clearly the inspiration for this scent. Amber, vanilla, bergamot and pear are all mixed in there too, but the berry really is the star of the show.

Aurora may not be a perfume brand already on your radar, but for long-lasting fragrances in a range of scents that also don’t break the bank, it really should be. Again, like most of the perfumes in this round-up it’s vegan and cruelty free, and it also comes in a body mist for anyone after a less intense spritz (£9.99, Boots.com).

So…? Ibiza dreams body mist

Best: For holidays

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 200ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

The clue is in the name with this one, but with fruity, floral notes and a gentle non-overpowering scent, this body mist will be coming on our next holiday with us. Sweet red apple, raspberry and pear have been combined with violet, peony and orchid, for an English garden scent that instantly uplifts you once sprayed. But, as it’s a body mist, it is quite light, so you will need to spritz a couple of times throughout the day if you want it to last.

Luckily, priced at just a fiver, you can spray away without breaking the bank and the bottle is also recyclable. We also used it as a room spray on cushions and bed linen and it smells just as good on upholstery as it does on your skin. But please do note there is alcohol in the ingredient list so don’t spritz on anything that could stain.

River Island goodnight fleur

Best: Fresh scent

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de toilette

Known for fashion over fragrances, River Island could be easily missed when thinking about high street perfume options, but that might be about to change…

Throughout a month of testing thick and heavy scents the high street staple’s good night fleur gave a burst of freshness that was long overdue. Very sweet, yet in a delicate way, the light scent comes from a blend of mandarin, sweet orange, jasmine and rose, mixed with pink pepper and sandalwood for an added punch. As an eau de toilette it doesn’t last quite as long as some of the stronger options, but that worked in its favour keeping it light and airy. And the ombre effect bottle is quite a lovely bonus.

Marks and Spencer Santorini days

Best: Bottle

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

We know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – or a perfume by its bottle – but when it’s likely to sit on your bathroom shelf for a good few months, it’s hard not to. And this Marks and Spencer perfume wins hands down on the best bottle design, looking much more expensive than £15.

As for the scent, we were equally impressed. Inspired by the Greek island the citrus smell is a blend of mandarin and bergamot with basil, olive, iris and cedar. So if you can’t quite get a holiday in this year, this may be the next best thing. Similar to The Body Shop option, 85 per cent of ingredients are from natural origin and the fragrance is also vegan. Again, as an eau de parfum it does have a great staying power and can happily grace the bathroom cabinet while you go about your day smelling like you’ve just walked through an orange grove.

The Body Shop white musk

Best: Vegan musk

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 30ml
  • Type: Eau de toilette

The Body Shop white musk is another scent that stands apart from the classic fruit or floral competitors. Designed to calm and empower whoever wears it, the subtle smell actually does exactly that, no matter how sceptical our tester was at first over the claim.

Made from 95 per cent naturally derived ingredients, and encapsulated inside a bottle of 42 per cent recycled glass, The Body Shop is continually looking for ways to improve its environmental footprint. And, of course, the musk scent is vegan, another plus. As an eau de toilette, it’s much lighter than some of the other options and is a great spring/ summer fragrance. But the bottle is just a bit heavier than the same sized Next option (£10, Next.co.uk) meaning we’d probably still opt for the latter to travel with.

Soap & Glory smoothie star body mist

Best: Budget buy

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 110ml
  • Type: Body mist

Yes, even in a cheap perfume round-up we can still find a budget buy, and at under £4 it’s hard not to be impressed. Soap & Glory may have featured heavily in your school gym bag, but for a quick and easy freshen up that can be thrown into a gym bag or desk drawers it should not be so quickly discarded.

With almond and vanilla as the hero scents, it’s light, airy and sweet enough to be spritzed around without giving any sort of overpowering headache. Of course, as a body mist, it needs to be reapplied throughout the day for a continuous fragrance, but if you’re looking for a bargain then this is hard to beat.

Bespoke woman mandarin praline and white flowers

Best: Elegant fragrance

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 100ml
  • Type: Eau de parfum

The name of this scent is quite a mouthful. And, although “woman” is in the title, we’d argue that this is another strong contender for a genderless option. An elegant smell is difficult to picture, but once you get a whiff of this you’ll know what we mean. Gentle white flowers mix with apple, mandarin and hazelnut for a subtly fruity fragrance that just smells clean. Imagine the kind of woman you’d spot at a lunch meeting in a perfectly put together outfit or, walking into a fancy office, the type with orchids on the reception desk, and they both probably smell like this. And, at under a tenner, no one can complain about that.

The verdict: Cheap perfumes

The decision for best overall perfume for this round-up was incredibly tough, with both Zara and Allsaints neck and neck for our tester. So, it had to come down to the number of compliments received when wearing it, and Zara’s fashionably London gained a rather impressive amount which meant it just nicked the top spot away from the rather sexy Allsaints leather skies. But, we will definitely be wearing both as our regular go-to’s from this day onwards.

For fruit or floral fragrance fans there is quite the range from the blackcurrant scent of Aoura love rush to the So…? Ibiza dreams body mist. And for anyone looking for something to really give them a boost of confidence then the Bespoke woman mandarin praline and white flowers or Marks and Spencer Santorini days is hard to beat. But, will all options under £50, you can’t go too wrong with any of these purse-friendly perfumes.

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