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PHLUR Missing Person
Courtesy of Phlur

Does this perfume really smell like the person you’re missing?

We asked everyone at the Dazed office whether the viral Tiktok perfume, Phlur’s Missing Person, actually smells like someone they love – this is what they said

Can a perfume recreate the smell of the person you are missing? TikTok thinks so. Earlier this year, users on the app went wild over a fragrance that they said evokes the scent of someone that you love or miss. So much so that the hashtag now has over 4M views. At the time the perfume in question – Phlur’s Missing Person – was only available in the US. But this week it finally arrived in the UK and we here at Dazed HQ had the chance to test it out for ourselves.  

Missing Person is described by the brand’s creative director Chriselle Lim as an “addictive fragrance – like the lingering scent of your lover’s skin left on their t-shirt or a pillowcase. It’s evocative but strangely familiar. It will warm your skin and heal your soul.” The perfume blends a top note of “skin musk” with bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood and neroli blossom for a warm scent that is sometimes floral, sometimes musky.   

The internet hype for the fragrance started when Rachel Rigler reviewed it on TikTok in March and then had her boyfriend give his reactions as well. Calling Missing Person the “most interesting perfume I have ever smelled in my life”, Rigler says she can’t even begin to describe the feelings it gives her. “It smells like the feeling of being in love and it’s very familiar.” She then filmed her boyfriend who upon smelling the fragrance for the first time said, “that’s bizarre… it smells like you… fresh out of the shower… in a robe.”

Things really kicked off though when make-up artist Mikayla Nogueira bought a bottle in response to seeing Rigler’s video and posted her own reaction to her 13.4 million followers. “That is fucking crazy,” she says. “I don’t know how to explain this, it smells like a person that you love and that you miss,” she continues as she starts tearing up. Five hours later the perfume was completely sold out and racked up a waiting list of over 200,000 customers desperate to try it for themselves.  

Since then TikTok has been flooded with reviews for the scent. Hayley Pham said memories of family gatherings came flooding back when she smelled it, including being hugged by her aunts and cigarette smoke. TikTok user @tik.tok.tina was brought to tears. “Why is this making me emotional?” she asks. “You know when you’re cuddling with someone that you really love and you’re nestled up in their chest and you look up at them – it smells like that.”

So what’s the verdict from the office? My first reaction to Missing Person was that it smells like someone wearing a strong perfume who has just smoked several cigarettes. It reminds me a lot of Celine’s ‘Nightclubbing’ and also my Godmother. The fragrance smelled different on almost everyone who tested it and everyone had a different reaction to it as well, with responses split.

Our contributing features writer Halima said the fragrance smelled exactly like her mum. Florence, the project manager at Nowness, had a similar familial response, saying it reminded her of her sister’s perfume. Others, however, were less convinced. Our senior editor Dominique thought it smelled like fresh laundry, but said that it didn’t remind her of anyone, while AnOther’s social editor George also named linen as the smell. Sophie, brand partnerships director, said it didn’t remind her of anyone but it did evoke the feeling of home for her – comforting, like getting a hug.

Opinion was mixed over whether the fragrance was feminine or masculine. Several people described the scent as floral, with Nowness’s video editor Harry throwing in baby wipes. Baby powder was another offered suggestion. Many, however, felt it was quite a masculine scent. Culture coordinator Eddie described the fragrance as smelling like books but in a “sexy, male” way. Jess, project manager, said gasoline. 

Producer Sam did say it reminded him of someone he is missing, as did digital director Harry, who added that the scent was musky and flowery, likening it to his granddad’s old house. Director of communications Sophie smelt nothing at all (maybe she is missing herself?)

Overall, it was a split verdict. Half the office described the fragrance as smelling like cigarettes, while the other half thought it was fresh and laundered. Several did feel it evoked a specific person or memory but just as many were left a bit baffled. Some thought it was very floral and feminine, while others felt it was masculine and musky. 

So, why is Missing Person provoking so many emotions in people on and off TikTok? My best guess is that it has combined the scent of cigarettes, perfume and fresh laundry which when blended smells like clothing worn by someone. For people who have a loved one who smokes, a fabulous aunt who loads up on the Chanel No 5 and Marlborough Lights, for example, the scent will recall someone specific. Those who don’t might be more drawn to the laundry smell and think of the clothing they spend most time nestled up in – a boyfriend or girlfriend. The only way to truly know is to try it yourself.