Curating my affordable vanilla fragrance collection









A sweet floral-infused vanilla fragrance: Rihanna’s Nude

Rihanna’s Nude was one of my first perfume purchases during COVID. The initial blast can be a little strong — you get that floral vanilla orchid with a hint of fruity guava. Still, it dries down to such a classy scent, kind of a your-skin-but-better woody, musky, sweet smell. If you’re looking for a cheap, long-lasting vanilla scent, the lasting power here is decent — Nude gives me around six hours with good sillage. 

Katy Perry Meow

A fruity vanilla fragrance: Katy Perry’s Meow

You might have noticed that there are quite a few celebrity fragrances here. What can I say? Generic perfumes have mainstream appeal for a reason. I had doubts when I impulsively bought Katy Perry’s Meow. Katy Perry’s line definitely doesn’t get as much love as Britney Spears’ or Ariana Grande’s. And it’s true, the lasting power in Meow isn’t great — it quickly dissipates after two or three hours. But I love the smell. It’s such a doable sweet, a subtly creamy vanilla that’s grounded by a pear note. Like melted vanilla ice cream, if you’re looking for a succinct description. The purple cat perfume bottle design is cute, too, though it won’t be your thing if you’re partial to sleek Chanel designs.

Ariana Grande Sweet Like Candy

A super sweet vanilla fragrance: Ariana Grande’s Sweet Like Candy

Ariana Grande fragrances can be a hit or miss. Cloud is one of my all-time favorites. Sweet Like Candy is…an acquired taste. It gives me that dose of tart berry vanilla sweetness when I want it, though it can be cloying when oversprayed. (Like most Ari perfumes, it lasts loooong.) Personally, I don’t think it’s safe to buy this scent before you smell it, but it’s cheap enough that you won’t be so regretful over your purchase. 

Bare Vanilla and Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere

A true vanilla fragrance: Victoria’s Secret Bare Vanilla / Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere

Bare Vanilla is a vanilla body mist, so it won’t last long, but as it comes in a huge bottle for $10, I don’t mind using it to top my more expensive perfumes. It’s a cozy buttercream frosting on a sheet cake scent. It can get cloying and has a synthetic vibe, so you have to love sweet fragrances to get on board with it. To my nose, it’s a dupe of Philosophy’s Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere — the first scent I picked up during my vanilla perfume journey. It’s lighter than Fresh Cream Warm Cashmere, so I think it’s even more wearable. Plus, it’s half the price for 10 times more volume!

Victoria's Secret Heavely

A sexy, woody vanilla fragrance: Victoria’s Secret Heavenly

Fine, this is technically a mist — the Heavenly perfume runs much more expensive, but the mist is a watered-down version of it with so-so staying power and great sillage. This is one of my mom’s signature scents, so I actually feel weird wearing it. It’s still great, though! It reminds me of Rihanna Nude with its woody and musky notes, but it’s less fruity and more powdery. It’s a flirty and inoffensive smell — a safe blind buy in mist form.

Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit

An everyday vanilla fragrance: Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit

This was a random $5 ($3?) T.J. Maxx buy that ended up being my signature scent for over a year. Rollerballs aren’t great for projection, but I wanted a nice skin scent. It’s a linear smell that’s exactly what it sounds like — basic citrusy and gourmand goodness. It brings back memories of sitting on the train to visit my ex. 

Zara Femme

A cozy floral vanilla fragrance: Zara Femme

Here’s a perfume for when you really want to ball on a budget. The 30 ml bottle costs $9.90, and you’ll usually be able to find Femme for cheaper in a bundle or in rollerball form! It’s a cozy, linear scent with peony, vanilla, and musk. The peony and musk are strong, and it reminds me of the Asian green oil my parents use for body aches — in the best way possible, of course. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Armani Si: Armani Si was a love at first sniff for me. People say that it smells like vanilla in the drydown, and indeed it has vanilla in its base notes. To my nose, it’s more of a clean floral and black currant smell. You can pick it up online and at Costco for around $40 to $50 even though it retails for much more money.  
  • Minajesty: Minajesty is a great fruity scent that’s not sickly sweet, though it leans on the youthful side. The bright pink hair on the bottle is so extra, but hey, it’s Nicki Minaj! The juice is more subdued than its kitschy vessel might suggest. I get Viva La Juicy Rose vibes — it’s a citrusy, floral scent that’s grounded by musk and vanilla in the base notes. 
  • Burberry Brit: I receive Burberry Brit as a 10 ml travel-size bottle from a fragrance subscription. It’s a very pretty, easy-going scent, grounded by a nutty, creamy pistachio note. I think it’s a safe bet for work or school since it’s an eau de toilette that’s not too heavy. 

That’s the extent of my budget-friendly vanilla fragrances…for now. I hope that anyone who wants to smell like a baked good discovers good finds here!




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