In my early teens, I fell in love with a fragrance for the first time. I had, of course, stolen spritzes from my mom’s stash and spent babysitting money on the mini Gap scents housed in cute, colorful aluminum tubes, but those were just flirtations compared with how I felt about… Ralph by Ralph Lauren. I laugh now, given how absolutely 2000s the scent was, down to its bright turquoise and glass bottle and the apple floral juice inside, but I cherished the samples the kind women at Marshall Field’s would dole out when I got the courage to ask, and felt extremely grown up and chic at my homecoming dance with a little dab behind each ear. When I smell it now, I’m instantly transported back to my 14-year-old self—and it’s so much fun to reunite with her.
The fragrance world in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s was very different from today. You found out about new scents at the department store fragrance counter, in magazines or from stopping someone on the street, not from Perfume Tok or a niche brand.
Some of these Y2K scents have enjoyed continuous popularity since their early days, while others have faded with the years. Maybe you have fond memories of one, were always curious about another or you’ve written them off as dated, and maybe you’ve never given them a sniff at all. But just like “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely” by Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera or “Suga Suga” by Baby Bash, these new millennium fragrances are always worth a revisit—and pair perfectly with the low-rise revival. Ahead, the best Y2K fragrances that still hold up today.
Juicy Couture Eau de Parfum
Originally conceived as the scent Barbie would wear if she were an IRL person and not, well, plastic, the first Juicy Couture fragrance is a kaleidoscopic fruity white floral with notes of green apple and mandarin at the top, blooming into a rich tuberose heart and fading to a pretty, sweet-but-not heavy base of vanilla and woods—perfect for transitioning from a busy day as the president or a veterinarian to a night on the town with Ken and Skipper. The fragrance was launched in 2006 and became nearly as popular as the brand’s signature colorful sweatsuits, even winning a FiFi Fragrance of the Year award. The OG Juicy scent was quickly overshadowed by its neon pink sister Viva La Juicy ($86), which is equally yummy, but it manages to feel as lush and lovely in 2023 as it did nearly 20 years earlier. After all, Barbie is forever.
One whiff of Miracle sent me reeling back in time to 2002, when this peppery, spicy warm floral was the queen of the magazine scent strip. Despite the instant flashback to my teen years, Miracle doesn’t smell dated. Lancôme isn’t the kind of fragrance house that jumps on trends; instead, they prefer to nurture a few hero scents over the years, and Miracle was their Y2K offering, hitting department store counters right at the beginning of the new millennium. Much like the pink juice inside, the scent is cheerful and vibrant, opening with a sparkling lychee note before bursting into a pink pepper and ginger heart.
Ralph Lauren Romance
Your mom probably wore it. You should wear it, too. Since its launch in 1998, Romance has been a megaseller—and for good reason. It’s just pretty, a light, glimmering watery floral. Sometimes you just want to wear something nice, something you don’t have to fuss over, and Romance is right there, ready to wrap its loving arms around you.
Glow by Jennifer Lopez
The scent that started it all. While Elizabeth Taylor kicked off the celebrity fragrance genre with her voluptuous White Diamonds ($25), Jennifer Lopez’s 2002 release Glow really changed the game. The scent was intended to smell like freshly showered skin with a soapy sexiness thanks to notes of neroli and powdery musk. There wouldn’t be a Glossier You without Glow, that’s for sure. Glow also spawned a perfume empire for Lopez, not to mention a bevy of flankers. Miami Glow ($25) is worth tracking down, as is the crystalline floral Still ($23).
Curious by Britney Spears
Speaking of celebrity scents, we’d be remiss not to mention the legendary Miss Britney Spears’ first foray into the perfume world, the apple-magnolia white floral Curious. The commercial was iconic. The bottle, with its turquoise blue glass and pink atomizer, was instantly recognizable. Her follow-up scent, Fantasy, may have been the bigger seller, but Curious is the one that feels more modern today.
She’s the grande dame of Y2K perfumery, a legend in her own right. Dior’s iconic J’Adore, with that skinny-necked gold bottle, was never intended to be a trend; she was Tommy Girl all grown up. (The scents were both formulated by top perfumer Calice Becker.) J’Adore is the kind of timeless fresh, fruity floral that feels appropriate on anyone, anytime. You can wear it to a wedding, you can wear it to work, you can wear it for a trip to Target.
Marc Jacobs Diasy
Chances are you wore Daisy in high school and probably still have a bottle in a box or a closet somewhere. It’s time to dust off those cute plastic daisies and experience it again, because this adorable floral musk has proven to be one of Marc Jacobs’s most successful launches ever, spawning a whole garden of flankers like Daisy Dream ($95). The strawberry and violet top notes sparkle youthfully, fading into a base of pale woods and musk.
I’m not talking about the baby pink Chance Eau de Tendre ($76), the more popular flanker to this 2003 scent that is commonly mistaken for the original. The first Chance was intended to be a “younger sibling” to Coco Mademoiselle ($94) and retains some of the same DNA, though Chance features zesty pink pepper and fresh fruit notes at the top.
Elizabeth Arden Green Tea
Pro tip: Spritz this 1999 scent on on a steamy hot day and try not to feel soothed and refreshed. Green Tea was formulated by legendary perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and is a zippy and zesty fresh citrus that smells like you feel after drinking a McDonald’s Sprite. (IYKYK.)