Rihanna elicits strong reactions. The multi-hyphenate finds fans in followers and fellow celebrities alike (Billie Eilish recently proclaimed Rihanna to be the hottest person to exist, ever, for example). With her brand of carefree cool, RiRi knows exactly who she is. But even more than her style choices and designs, beauty statements, and even her personal life, it seems that the aspect of RiRi that prompts one of the most visceral (and immediate) reactions is her scent.
If you need some evidence, YouTube supplies compilations of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Lil Nas X, Cardi B, and Ryan Seacrest effusing over just how good Rihanna smells, with more than one likening it to heaven. Though those reactions may be, in part, attributed to her own Fenty Eau de Perfume, Rihanna’s signature scent is actually Love, Don’t Be Shy from KILIAN Paris—and it’s inspired by a decidedly chic dessert.
Related: The Best Fragrances of 2023
Meet Our Expert
Calice Becker is a VP perfumer at Givaudan and the director of Givaudan’s Perfumery School.
Nicole Mancini is senior perfumer at Givaudan.
All About KILIAN Love, Don’t Be Shy
Love, Don’t Be Shy was dreamed up by perfumer Calice Becker as part of a multi-scent opus about falling in love. As part of this series, Becker developed a scent that drew on Guimauves, a classic Parisian candy that she likens to a high-end marshmallow, the treat defined by confectionary sugar and orange flower water. “Once I saw the recipe that my grandmother used to make this candy, I was fascinated that on the one hand it was simple, but on the other, it was extremely complex,” says Becker. “To create something really refined, you have to go into the minor, minor detail,” she says. “I think that is a beauty of luxury. It doesn’t mean expensive; it really means attention to detail where nothing is done without dutiful care.”
Along with notes of sugar and orange blossom, Becker relied on florals like peony, rose, and honeysuckle to create a nondescript airiness, along with amber for sophistication. The fragrance fits well into the current landscape, with a July 2023 consumer trend report from Spate citing an increase in search volume around floral and amber top notes.
Givaudan senior perfumer Nicole Mancini notes that many of the most cultish fragrances have these sort of back-driven formulas, with the scent’s power and identity born of the back notes. “They’re different from the normal perfume construction, avant-garde in their simplicity,” says Mancini. “There’s a feeling of well-being and comfort in these aromas that people are gravitating towards: Think warm, long-lasting, musky, gourmand, woody or amber mixed with some kind of floral like orange blossom or violet,” she says.
Becker adds that Love, Don’t Be Shy has a way of building on itself, making multiple olfactory entrances through its quiet, thoughtful notes. “It’s easy to understand—this type of love at first sight—but it keeps talking to you,” she says. “Suddenly, it’s not so obvious, which makes you want to go back.”
Why Is Everyone So Obsessed With How Rihanna Smells?
It's perhaps that perceived effortlessness and mystery that makes Love, Don't Be Shy the ideal perfume pick for Rihanna. "It's interesting—she's not the only person who wears this fragrance, but she's the only person we hear about," says Mancini. "Love, Don't Be Shy is an addictive gourmand with a beautiful floralcy and a touch of freshness on top," says Mancini. "It seems to be the perfect combination for Rihanna." Though she certainly doesn't shy away from the public eye (she has her hands and brands in several front-facing industries), there's always a sense that Rihanna is one step ahead—that she knows something you don't.
Then there's the science of it all. "It seems to complement her body chemistry extremely well, which is why it smells so divine," says Mancini. "We are all made up of different body chemistries, so the same perfume smells differently on everybody. A person's diet, skin type, and skin pH impact the way a perfume wears." Mancini cites the sweetness factor as part of the fragrance's irresistible draw, particularly when it's worn so well.
What Are Some Alternatives to Love, Don’t Be Shy?
For a similarly sweet scent, Mancini recommends reaching for Prada Paradoxe, I Want Choo Forever from Jimmy Choo, Tom Ford's Soleil de Feu, or Miu Miu Fleur De Lait. "You can also try Bath & Body Works Fall in Bloom to get a similar vibe for an accessible price," she adds.
And if your goal is a Rihanna-approved scent, there's always Fenty. Fenty Eau de Parfum is a warm, musky floral featuring magnolia, tangerine, and Bulgarian rose. It's also entirely comprised of middle or "heart" notes, a unique choice that makes for a bold and long-lasting fragrance. Considering that RiRi designed the scent with herself in mind, it's safe to say she'll support the spritz.
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