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I’ve found some of the best perfumes at CVS over the years. Sometimes, I’d think I needed to order online from a site I wasn’t sure about to try a fragrance, only to find that CVS carried it. I remember making a late-night run to the drugstore because I needed to try YSL’s Opium. Department stores, Ulta, and Sephora near me were all out or had stopped carrying it.
CVS even had mini sizes of some perfumes to make it easier to try new scents without spending a ton.
Bottom Line Up Front
- Versace Bright Crystal Absolu
- Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
- Clinique Happy
- Britney Spears Fantasy
- Coty Sand & Sable
My Top Picks at a Glance
- Best overall: Versace Bright Crystal Absolu
- Best classic: YSL Opium or Dior Poison
- Best you probably won’t find (in person) anywhere else: Nina Ricci L’air Du Temps
- Best popular now: Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue
- Best budget: Britney Spears Fantasy or Coty Sand & Sable
- Best bright and happy: Lancome Miracle or Clinique Happy
- Best sweet floral: Dolce & Gabbana The One
- Best almost-unisex, but still firmly in the “perfume” category: Burberry Brit
- Best throw: Theirry Mugler Angel or Dior Poison
Advice for Shopping for Perfumes at CVS
Use Rewards and Memberships
If you’re already a member of the CVS rewards program, you know the value of ExtraBucks Rewards. (There’s a deal as of this writing where you can get $10.00 in ExtraBucks Rewards if you spend $25.00 on select fragrances.) With the CarePass membership, you can get free shipping on some fragrances.
Look for Mini Bottles and Travel Sizes
One of my favorite things about buying perfumes at CVS is the option to buy tiny bottles and rollerballs. I like to try as many perfumes as possible and rotate through them as my mood and the season’s change. I rarely finish a large bottle–even my favorites.
If I have to narrow my search to one perfume for $70.00+ I don’t really want to make a long-term commitment to, that takes some fun out of my life, you know?
Check the Inventory Online before You Go
Many of the best perfumes are at CVS, but they won’t all be in one place. Not all of the fragrances they have in-store are sold online. Check their inventory on the website before making a special trip to the drugstore to pick up the perfume you’ve got your eye on. It might save you the trip.
This collection of the best perfumes at CVS is based on:
- Perfumes I personally love
- Bestsellers now and in the past
The Best Perfumes at CVS
Here are the absolute best perfumes at CVS:
Versace Bright Crystal Absolu
I don’t know how many years I’ve loved the original version of this perfume, but now it and the more intense Absolu version are well-loved. Notes (found at Ulta because CVS doesn’t always have notes listed on their fragrances) include yuzu, iced accord, pomegranate, peony, magnolia, lotus flower, raspberry, acajou, vegetal amber, and musk.
- It lasts longer than the original.
- You can pay less at CVS than elsewhere, even without using rewards.
- Complex fragrance that works almost anywhere, anytime, though I think it’s best in warmer months.
- Even though it tends to stay on longer than the original Bright Crystal, I wouldn’t call its staying power impressive.
Here’s another light, summertime fragrance that has been popular for years. This is one of my go-to fragrances when I need something light, pretty, and inoffensive. It’s best in the spring and summer.
Notes include lemon, apple, cedar, bamboo, jasmine, rose, musk, and amber.
- You can wear it anywhere.
- Not too sweet or heavy on the florals–it’s just refreshing with a hint of musk.
- They sell a 6.7 oz. size online (not in stores, though).
- I wish it had a little more projection. It sits close to my skin, but this may not be true for everyone.
- You may have to use more sprays than other fragrances like I do, which means you may go through the whole bottle quickly.
Even though this one came out in 2000, something about it feels nostalgic. I wonder if it reminds me of a perfume my mom used to wear when I was a kid. This is an upbeat, spicy floral with a creamy base.
Notes include freesia, ginger, jasmine, orange, magnolia, pepper, musk, and amber.
- It does a beautiful job of combining the liveliness of ginger, freesia, orange, and pepper with the warmth and creaminess of magnolia, musk, jasmine, and amber.
- It’s a pretty, comfort scent but not a gourmand.
- Sleek, simple bottle
- This won’t be the case for everyone, but I was sad to find that the dry-down scent had a note that smelled like plain spaghetti noodles on my skin. I was all set to buy a large bottle after trying a sample.
Thierry Mugler Angel
I think this is one of the most beautiful scents ever created. Its projection and sillage can only be compared to 80s powerhouse perfumes. I hardly wear it because it was so popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I still have a bottle I’ll spritz every now and then. I worked in a mall, so Angel and its cocoa-patchouli goodness were everywhere, all the time.
Fragrantica has an extensive list of notes for Angel, but I noticed bergamot, jasmine, praline, cocoa, patchouli, sandalwood, caramel, vanilla, caraway, nutmeg, amber, and musk the most.
- It’s a cozy scent with enough personality to be a little sexy, too.
- It’s complex and enjoyable to experience from the first spritz to the drydown.
- If you didn’t work in a mall like me, but you were around in the early 2000s, it might bring back beautiful memories for you.
- It can be overpowering.
- Practically everyone will recognize it because it was so ubiquitous in the early 2000s.
- The bottle is star-shaped and you’ll probably love it or hate it.
Here’s a classic that lives up to its name. It’s a pretty fragrance that makes you feel like you’re standing in a field of flowers on a perfect spring day. Notes include rose, mandarin, lily, tuberose, marigold, orange flower, muguet, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, vetiver, and amber.
- Suitable for wearing anywhere–simple, romantic, and pretty.
- Not terribly expensive
- It really is beautiful, but it I don’t think it stands out all that much.
This popular scent has a special place in my heart because I got it when my daughter was born. Now all the earliest memories I have with her flood my brain whenever I wear this. I have a “drawerful of memories,” as I call it, full of perfumes anchored to special times in my life. I rarely wear those, but I will spray them every now and then for the nostalgia. This is one of them.
Brit’s a cozy scent that borders on unisex. Fragrantica’s list of notes includes almond, lime, pear, candied almond, sugar, peony, vanilla, tonka bean, amber, and mahogany.
- It’s well-blended to the point that I have difficulty picking out any specific notes. I think I sense the lime and a little sweetness, but most of what comes through for me is warmth and woods.
- It’s less expensive at CVS than at many other stores.
- It might come across as too masculine if you tend to like florals and sweet fragrances.
If you love sweet, youthful scents, this one’s for you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “cupcake accord” listed as a note outside this one. In addition to cupcake accord, notes include red lychee, golden quince, kiwi, jasmine, white chocolate orchid, musk, woods, and orris root.
- Perfect for people who love sweet perfumes that smell like baked goods
- Suitable for pre-teens and teens
- It feels very “young” to me, as all Britney’s fragrances do. I probably wouldn’t wear it at this stage in my life (or past my early 20s, maybe teens), and I’m not usually one to limit perfumes to age groups.
This is a light, pretty scent with a hint of musk. It’s a relatively straightforward floral (freesia, jasmine, and rose) with citrus kick (bergamot, grapefruit, and mandarin orange).
- Inoffensive–you can wear it anywhere
- Simple and clean, but not soapy
- May be too light for some preferences
- I can see how some people would consider it boring.
I had to grow into Shalimar, as gorgeous as it is and as much as I wanted to love it early in my perfume exploration. Woody-amber perfumes were right up my alley even then. When I first got it, it would sometimes trigger headaches for me. Sometimes I felt like the perfume was wearing me instead of the other way around.
It wasn’t until I was firmly in my 30s that I felt like I could pull it off, and it worked with me instead of against me. I always loved the scent of Shalimar and the history behind it. It was too much for me in my 20s, but it’s definitely worth a try if you’re interested, regardless of your age.
Notes include bergamot, lemon, cedar, iris, incense, vanilla, sandalwood, and amber.
- Vanilla without being sweet, thanks to the lemon note
- The story behind it makes it feel more romantic and exciting to wear, all at the same time.
- If you don’t like vintage-style perfumes, this one may strike you as too “old.”
- It’s intense, but it won’t be as strong since CVS carries the EDT version, not the EDP you’ll find in most stores.
Chloe Love Story was popular for a while before it finally grew on me. Still, I’ve come to appreciate this white floral fragrance with all of its femininity and romance.
Now the most annoying thing about it is how I can’t get Taylor Swift’s song out of my head when I hear its name (but I do like it!). They are forever linked in my brain.
Notes include neroli, pear, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, orange blossom, rose, peach, black currant, musk, cedar, cashmirwood, and patchouli.
- Beautiful fresh, white floral scent
- Gorgeous bottle that’ll look at home on any vanity or counter
- Soft and pretty, perfect for warmer months of the year
- It’s a little sharp to my nose sometimes.
Ah, my first “grown-up” perfume that I bought with my own money while living on my own. As a high schooler, I’d smelled it in a magazine and vowed to have a whole bottle one day. In the meantime, I rubbed that page on my wrists until the fragrance was all gone. It is a floral masterpiece straight from heaven.
It’s complex, so I went to Fragrantica to check my nose against others’. Notes include orange blossom, peach, plum, neroli, Brazilian rosewood, mandarin orange, violet, tuberose, mimosa, gardenia, ylang-ylang, jasmine, black locust, carnation, red berries, black currant, cassia, rose, orchid, sandalwood, vanilla, woody notes, amber, tonka bean, musk, and cedar.
- It’s an exquisite blend of radiant florals, some fruit (for richness and depth, but it’s not a “fruity” fragrance), woods, warmth, and a dash of sweetness.
- It’s complex–like a journey on your wrist from bright first spritz to warm drydown.
- Overall, I’d call this a date night fragrance. I don’t recommend it for everyday wear if you are around a lot of people. If it’s just you, working from home or you don’t work in a crowded area (or with patients), enjoy!
Yves Saint-Laurent Opium
YSL’s Opium is a warm, spicy, creamy fragrance and one that I was ecstatic to find at CVS one night when it was on my list of must-try fragrances. It’s a fragrance for cold weather, and it first came on the scene in 1977. It’s rich, mysterious, and warm.
Notes include tangerine, plum, cloves, coriander, carnation, lily-of-the-valley, rose, myrrh, jasmine, opoponax, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, and patchouli.
- It’s spicy and creamy, perfect for fall and winter.
- It’s a classic but not one that’s overdone.
- Sadly, it gave me a migraine, so if you’re prone to those, use this one with caution.
- It might be too strong during the warm months, so using it year-round might be out of the question.
Here’s another clean white floral from Estee Lauder. It makes me think of fresh laundry in a field of flowers, under the warm sun and a big blue sky. It smells like happiness and hope, with a twist of that “clean” 90s vibe, since it came out in 1995.
Notes include white lily, violet leaves, green accents, black lilac, white peony, Karo-karounde blossoms, Baie rose, pink rose, jasmine, sandalwood, and patchouli.
- It’s light, fresh, feminine, and floral.
- It can lift your spirits.
- Good for most occasions
- It may smell too soapy, sharp, or green for some people.
- Some might consider it boring.
I love this complex, peppery fragrance that’s a little of everything in a compact, weighty gold package. It’s a warm floral with a lot going on. When you first spray this on, it almost feels fizzy (that’s the pepper) and bright. It calms down to something more powdery, warm, and soft, but not at all old-fashioned.
- Decent projection
- Sexy and edgy, but not too much for daily wear
- There might be too much going on for people who like more straightforward fragrances. It’s hard to pick out notes here.
It felt like Marc Jacobs Daisy was an instant hit as soon as it hit the market. It’s a soft fruity-floral that doesn’t lean too youthful to be wildly appealing to a wide range of ages. Notes include violet leaf (which is more green than powdery), grapefruit, strawberry, violet (which does smell powdery), gardenia, jasmine, musk, white woods, and vanilla. In other words, it’s a crowd-pleasing scent.
- Light and inoffensive
- All ages love it because it’s not too youthful or mature.
- Adorable bottle
- Might not have enough projection for some preferences
- Doesn’t last all day
- Some people will probably consider it too generic or worn by too many people.
This is one of the most sparkling, beautiful vanilla scents I have ever encountered. The sweetness of the vanilla is balanced by peach, jasmine, and amber.
- It lasts (I smelled it on my scarf weeks or months after I wore it).
- It’s vanilla, but not cloyingly sticky-sweet.
- The bottle is beautiful.
- It’s complex and balanced enough to be worn year-round.
- It’s a little pricy.
- It might be too sharp for some noses. There’s something about the top notes I feel could trigger headaches in some people. Still, so far, it hasn’t pushed me over the edge into headache territory.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be without this one. My mom got it as a gift and as soon as I sampled it, I knew I had to have a bottle. I’ve had one in my collection ever since. There are very few perfumes that can encourage feelings of joy the way this one can. It’s just sunny and, well, Happy.
It smells almost linear, but there are quite a few notes: orange, red grapefruit, magnolia, lily, morning-dew orchid, honeysuckle, and lily of the valley.
- Optimistic, happy fragrance
- Straightforward citrus, florals, and musk
- It was everywhere in the 90s and 00s, and it’s still fairly popular today. It may not be for you if you like to smell different from everyone else.
- Simple bottle.
- Not a complex fragrance.
I tried this 80s powerhouse fragrance and loved the delicious, spicy grape scent. But wow, was it potent! There’s more complexity to this perfume than most sites acknowledge, so back to Fragrantica I went for the full story (I knew I smelled plums and jammy berries!).
Notes include plum, berries, coriander, anise, Brazilian rosewood, incense, tuberose, honey, cinnamon, opoponax, carnation, jasmine, African orange flower, rose, vanilla, amber, sandalwood, musk, heliotrope, vetiver, and Virginia cedar.
- That iconic deep purple bottle that’s shaped like an apple
- It’s seductive and heady, perfect for date nights
- Pro-level projection and sillage
- Gorgeous blend of florals, fruit, spice, honey, musk, and ambery warmth.
- Please don’t wear this to work. Or in an elevator. (It’s lovely, but it’s just intense.)
- May cause headaches
This lovely fragrance has been around since 1948 and has a vintage vibe. It’s floral, powder, aldehydes, spice, musk, and woods. It’s definitely a feminine scent that you probably won’t find too many other people in your circle wearing.
Fun fact: This is the perfume Clarice Starling wore in Silence of the Lambs.
Notes include carnation, aldehydes, rose, jasmine, sandalwood, amber, violet, orris root, ylang-ylang, cedar, vetiver, musk, and spices. The powdery notes come from carnation (which is most prominent), violet, and orris root.
- No one else is likely to be wearing it
- Beautiful and feminine in a vintage way, thanks to the spice and powder of carnation and other notes
- Some people may find it too old-fashioned to enjoy
- Doesn’t last all day
I’m so happy you can still find Sand & Sable at CVS. I discovered this white floral gem in my mom’s perfume collection when I was 14. I sprayed a little, and the scent lingered on my leather jacket for weeks. I was in love, even in the winter, but it really shines in the spring and summer. It’s light and feels like summer without any obvious beachy notes like coconut.
Notes include gardenia, jasmine, peach, tuberose, and green notes. Something about it smells warm, but I don’t see solar notes mentioned.
- Gorgeous white floral with warmth
- Appeals to a range of age groups
- May seem too sharp or shallow to some noses
- Not especially complex
I’ve only tried this once, on a whim, several years ago. I don’t remember much about it, but I’d heard so many good things about it; that’s what prompted me to try it.
Notes are rose, jonquil, lavender, jasmine, muguet, spices, moss, vetiver, and patchouli. It’s another one of those robust, spicy florals that can bring back fond memories for generations of women and men because it’s been around for over 50 years.
- It’s been around for over 50 years, which means it’s got staying power, some level of mass appeal, and can evoke fond memories in groups of people.
- This amber/spicy floral category seems to be overlooked in more recent perfume launches, so it’s worth trying if those are the scents you gravitate toward.
- It’s inexpensive.
- It could be over-the-top for some occasions (like work).
- It’s not as easy to get your hands on as it used to be, but CVS still carries it along with a few department stores and the Estee Lauder site.
If the 90s were a perfume, they’d be Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers. That bright, cheerful box alone is enough to make it stand out, but the fragrance’s composition can also bring out your optimistic side.
Think lemon, orange, bergamot, peach, melon, Brazilian rosewood, rose, jasmine, orris root, sandalwood, musk, amber, cedar, and oakmoss.
It’s sunny with a sweet side.
- It’s uplifting.
- If you grew up in the 90s, it’ll bring back memories.
- It’s light enough to wear all the time, perfect for summer, but there’s musk and woods to balance it out.
- It may come across as screechy or dated to some noses.
- Can be too strong at first
I overlooked this one for so long until I finally caved and tried the travel size. It’s not “me” so it won’t be my signature scent, but I do like wearing it with a soft sweater in the winter when all I have to do is cuddle up with a good book.
Notes include apricot blossom, rose, lilac, iris, peach, amber, sandalwood, musk, and vanilla.
Some notes stand out more than others, depending on the day, but I can smell them all.
- It’s a comforting scent that can be cozy and/or sexy simultaneously.
- Sprayed lightly, it could be an everyday scent. However, it’s also romantic enough for date night.
- Sometimes I get whiffs that almost remind me of cigarette smoke; it’s not exactly off-putting, pronounced, or “bad” as much as it is just weird.
- It may smell a little dated.
I discovered this one when I really wanted Narciso Rodriguez for Her but didn’t have the budget for it. This one is definitely a dupe, and I think it may even be more powerful.
The strongest notes to me are the woods, citrus, musk, and patchouli, but there’s supposedly lavender, orchid, apple, and narcissus in it, too.
- Smells fizzy and like blush pink, if blush pink had a smell (a little sophisticated, sexy, fun, and feminine without being too girly)
- Very good dupe for a more expensive perfume
- Dries down to an unappealing scent on me sometimes and makes me feel–and smell–like I need a shower.
If you like cotton candy scents, this is the one for you. It’s sweet, sweet, sweet, but layerable because it’s not complex at all. I used to wear it with Bath & Body Works’ Cherry Blossom body spray to add a bit of tartness to the sweetness.
- It’s sweet, but not sickeningly so (at least to me)
- Easy to layer with other fragrances for your own custom blend
- It really is just cotton candy in a bottle
- It may feel too youthful to be worn on its own to most women over 25 (if you love it, though, no judgment–it is a delicious scent!)
Conclusion: Should You Buy CVS Perfumes?
Definitely consider buying the best perfumes at CVS. There’s an excellent chance you’ll save money if you go there instead of a department store. My first recommendation to try is Versace Bright Crystal Absolu. It’s a little of everything–fruit, floral, musk, warmth–but not overpowering or overdone. It’s casual and romantic, appropriate for everyday wear, yet still good for a date.
There are incentives to buy at CVS that make it worthwhile even if the listed price isn’t the cheapest. My only complaint (it’s mild): They don’t make it easy to try the scents before you buy.
Question: Does CVS sell fake product?
Answer: I’m pretty confident CVS perfumes are the real thing. I’ve never had a reason to question my purchases from there. ABC shared some tips on how to spot a fake perfume, if you’re curious.
Question: Is CVS cheaper than Walmart?
Answer: I recommend always comparing the perfume you want between both stores and then factoring in any discounts you may have. However, it looks like Walmart’s cheaper than CVS at first glance.
Question: Can you return opened perfume?
Answer: CVS has a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on beauty purchases, so returning an opened perfume shouldn’t be an issue.
Question: Are CVS prices high?
Answer: They’re not exceptionally high. Where perfumes are concerned, you can often save quite a bit. Still, I recommend checking the pricing at other stores before purchasing.