Clean Perfume, which you can find on cleanbeauty.com, is an American company founded in 2003 by Randi Shinder. I’ve never personally been one to want simply to smell of any type of cleaning agent, so as these fragrances were originally inspired by the simple beauty in a bar of fragrant soap, I was never interested. But the company has branched out a wee bit, to say the least. They have created well over 70 different blends over the years, and you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with the company’s philosophies, which are centered around sustainability and safety.
I somehow found myself in possession of a cute little travel collection of six fragrances from their reserve collection, which was pretty easy to find here in Japan as this is a brand that definitely appeals to the Japanese fragrance aesthetic (which I find, generally, a little boring – outside of the sphere of woods like Hinoki, anyway).
The original Clean fragrance, titled simply “Clean” was the first in a successful series of admittedly and delightfully unpretentious scents that celebrate pleasant aromas such as freshly-showered skin, fresh laundry, and crisp cotton t-shirts. Nothing remotely skanky, but I do like a dash of some sort of snack in my fragrances, I must admit.
Anyway, let’s dig into these goodies. I believe there are a total of 15 fragrances in the Clean Reserve collection, which is a line featuring ethically sourced, sustainable, farm-to-fragrance ingredients. I only have six, which came sold together as a set. The ones I don’t have are Velvet Flora, Terra Woods, Solar Bloom, Smoked Vetiver, Skin, Radiant Nectar, Lush Fleur, Amber Saffron, and Acqua Neroli. The ones I have for review in this post are Blond Rose, Citron Fig, Rain, Sel Santal, Sueded Oud, and Warm Cotton, and these ones did come out earliest – in 2016. I guess if they released more, the collection is doing well. The most recent launch was Lush Fleur in 2021. I’ll give you my ranking at the end of the video, but note that I haven’t had a chance to test the performance on these, and with the little sniffing I have done, cannot speak to development over time, either. All six of these fragrances are marked as unisex, which means they probably won’t be either very floral or very fougère – a good thing for yours truly.
Warm cotton is a floral aldehyde scent that is relaxing and comforting. It was conceived in the laundry dryer and delivered right onto your skin. No bloody birthing debris, for those who don’t like minerally metallic smells. If you’re looking to squish your snoz into freshly laundered sheets at a high-end hotel, this will be up your alley.
- aldehydes, ginger, water accord,
- mint green, pepper, floral accord,
- musk, incense, vetiver
Water accord? What the heck is that? And why isn’t benzoin listed? I do believe the balsamic sweet resin that is benzoin is used here, with a light touch, at the base. Benzoin has a comforting quality that draws you in. Perhaps this is the incense referred to here? Maybe. In any case, this fragrance is pleasant to my nose. The person I see wearing this is less into perfume and more into smelling fresh and clean. Personally, I would prefer something like this in candle form, but I might consider spritzing my pillows with it before taking a nap. I do find it more “damp and cool” than “dry and warm,” however. It is bright, though. Thank you, aldehydes. It’s clean. It’s pure. It’s refreshing. It’s Tide brand laundry detergent – sharp, aquatic, and green – with a splash of splendor, and to some – a handful of headache. Not much sexy, but lots of cozy, and pretty photorealistic, if I’m being honest.
Blonde Rose by Clean is a Floral Woody Musk fragrance.
- aldehydes, water notes,
- rose, peony, jasmine,
- musk, sandalwood, cedar
Water notes? I wonder what they are thinking of there? I thought I was going to like this one based on the based notes alone, but I don’t know if it’s the aldehydes or those so-called water notes, but this fragrance is a pass for me. It’s a clean scent with a backing of synthetic, woody rose, but more musky aldehydes and than anything else. It starts off both dewy and crisp and then quickly turns into something more rooty and vegetal – maybe celery and tomato leaves. I also detect a glass ashtray that has been emptied and wiped out with Kleenex dipped in baby oil, but not thoroughly cleaned. As it is a warm wood aroma with musky undertones, they’re probably a lot of an ingredient called Vertofix in here. As a result it might last longer than some of the others.
Next we have a subtly and revitalizing citrus fragrance called Citron Fig. I am a huge lover of fig in fragrance so had high hopes for this one.
- fig, ginger, lemon oil,
- cardamom, mandarin, mint, copaiba,
- sandalwood, cedar wood, musk
There both ginger and cardamom in here, which I admit give this interest – a slightly nutty and mildly spicy dimension. However, the lemon facet is slightly sharp and a la bug spray, if you know what I mean – or citronella candle, perhaps – making it undeserving of a “reserve” title in its name. On the other hand, the fig is succulent, when you make the effort to detect it, and the whole concoction gives me radiantly happy vibes, and I do imagine that the mosquitos back in Canada might take less of an interest in my flesh should I douse myself with this stuff. (I’m headed there next week!) I’d have to keep respraying, though, as neither lemon nor fig have a reputation for longevity.
Sueded Oud is a woody floral musk fragrance, which has not even the slightest trace of oud in it, in my opinion. I do rather enjoy the note list, though.
- incense oil, blue cypress, birch wood, red pimento, honeysuckle,
- temple oud, night blooming jasmine, white magnolia, fir balsam, Sarcocaulon Mossamedens (Bushman’s Candle),
- soft suede, gold patchouli, black amber, praline, skin musk, olibanum tears
Olibanum tears? Temple oud? Good lingo, I’ll admit. Lots of fun stuff in this juice. Bushman Candle is apparently a thorny bush with an aromatic sticky sap. Tres interessant, no? I was indeed hoping for at least a hint of oud here, but actually, I’m not disappointed with the smell of this one. It’s soft and somewhat jammy, but airy. It’s also sticky – sticky like a light, sweet syrup of some sort. Suede is a good word to describe this fragrance because it’s a little sensual and creamy and skin-like and cozy. There’s a hot and dry smokiness to it that tempers the sweetness. The smoke isn’t heavy; there’s a floral breeze bottled in here to blow anything heavy away. Even though the notes would suggest this is more for cold weather, this is so pumped up with air that it will do well in warmer and even humid weather, I feel. I would imagine this one is good for layering, too.
Someone on Fragrantica suggested that this fragrance reminded them of Ard Al Zaafaran’s Dirham, which I own (owned, I should say; the bottle broke so I cannot really compare!) I suspect that Dirham has that strong Middle Eastern quality that Suede Oud lacks. Another thing several people have written is that this fragrance is a diet “by the Fireplace”. I disagree. I do understand where people are coming from with the “diet” concept, but to me, there is not enough tar or resin or sweetness in this scent for that comparison to be valid.
In line with the Clean ethos, there is nothing animalic here, so don’t be put off by the word “oud” if you are an anti-skank perfume person. Sueded Oud needed real oud to get a higher score from me. Even though it is designed for the mass consumer more than the fragrance connoisseur, I do like it. It has a flash of forest, a dash of desert, and a waft of incense.
Rain is an aromatic aquatic released in – you guessed it – 2016. According to fragrantica, the notes in this one are really simply – bergamot, white flowers, and patchouli. The brand website, however, lists the following:
- bergamot, cucumber, waterlily,
- white flowers, cyclamen, muguet,
- patchouli, rainforest, vetiver, clean musks
Again, I love these evocative terms that come up. Rainforest? The entire rainforest as a note? I would say the marketing team is most successful in conjuring up a scent profile! Pure, simultaneously fresh and warm, and also exotic, perhaps? Dewy plants and flowers native to the Amazon, you think? Indeed yes. The opening is fresh, mossy, citrusy, and somewhat soapy, but later, this morphs into a detergent of sorts, and not perhaps in the best way. It’s ultimately another clean and inoffensive scent. Nothing to write home about in my opinion, though I do like the wet branches and moss effect provided by the patchouli, atop which has been poured some warm cucumber juice. That sounds pukey but it’s pleasant. Apparently, this fragrance was designed as an upgrade to a discontinued fragrance of the same name in the main line. There are several fragrances out there that bear the same Rain, by the way, and the one that I recommend is from Demeter. It’s evocative of rain in a similar way to this but is much more affordable.
And here is the last one – Sel Santal. Yes, a 2016 launch that obviously evokes the smell of salt and sandalwood. It was inspired by the textures of sun-bleached driftwood.
- Mandarin leaves, bergamot, nutmeg tonic,
- iris, salted fig, violet, hazelnut cream,
- sandalwood, amber, styrax, rose musk
Nutmeg tonic, eh? Again, well done! There is indeed a dash or herbal spices in here and it does feel like a gin tonic, too. The styrax adds depth to the scent. Hazelnut cream is also listed, but I think the creaminess is more likely to come from the sandalwood, or whatever fake compound is being used to emulate natural sandalwood, which is very expensive. Yes, this is a deep, woody fragrance that combines fruity and salty sea notes with sandalwood and amber. What immediately came to mind for me in theory was Le Labo’s Santal 33, but in practice it reminds me more of Zara’s New York. I mean of course – it’s a sandalwood fragrance, and Santal 33 has become the standard, I feel. Sel Santal has pickle juice and plastic in it, making it far sharper than Santal 33, and even greener. But to be clear, neither Zara nor Clean have surpassed Le Labo in the battle of the sandalwood scents. But, when you consider how much Le Labo fragrances cost… On the other hand, if you are simply looking for a Santal 33 dupe, you might consider looking elsewhere. I think both more affordable and more similar fragrances can be found. Sel Santal is different enough. But yes, pickle juice and sandalwood is accurate to my mind. I either dislike it or love it. I haven’t decided.
Here is my rating. I disliked is Blond Rose. I wouldn’t wear it. Least loved is Warm Cotton, then Rain. Both are too shower-like and fleeting for me, but I would spray them. Citron Fig is number three because I like the fresh but faded fig vibe. Second is Sel Santal, because despite the sharp and salty plastic pickles, I do love me some sandalwood. Even though there is a distinct lack of oud in Sueded Oud, it’s definitely an easy pick and is my top choice of the six.
Not important for some of you, but I must admit I am a fan of the packaging. It’s appropriately minimalistic and the wood-textured caps add a nice touch. The regular clean fare of packaging is not nearly as attractive. Based on my little experience and on reviews I’ve read, these fragrances don’t last more than a few hours. I would find that acceptable for cheapie fragrances, but Clean Reserve fragrances come with mainstream designer price tags – we are talking about 1USD per 1ml here. If longevity were three times better, I might consider these good value, but as it is, no. That does not mean that other fragrances from the company do not perform well, however. I hear that Radiant Nectar performs better. Overall, these fragrances are in the “nice,” fresh-out-of-the-shower, office-friendly-because-they-have-next-to-no-sillage category. They are inoffensive, pleasant, very unisex, but not particularly original.
Have you tried this line from Clean Beauty? Which is your favourite?