Calvin Klein Beauty ~ perfume review

Calvin Klein Beauty advert with Diane Kruger

Between CK In2U, Euphoria and Secret Obsession, Calvin Klein presumably already had a modern fragrance for almost every (perfume-buying) woman on earth. But women over 40 were sadly lacking until the launch of Beauty, the latest Calvin Klein fragrance. The Calvin Klein brand, for anyone who has just arrived here from another planet, usually relies heavily on the "sex sells, and more sex sells more" theory of fragrance advertising, but for Beauty, they're clearly going for elegance: the commercial features actress Diane Kruger, fully clothed (in white, no less), talking about confidence, purity and wisdom.

Does the fragrance live up to the advertising? Well, yes, at least in the relative sense. Beauty is miles away from CK In2U (candied fruity floral), Euphoria (candied fruity vanilla cream oriental) or Secret Obsession (candied fruity hairspray oriental). There's less fruit, and less candy, although if you like fruit and candy you'll be happy to know there's a bit of each in the the top notes. After that, it's mostly a floral, straight up, although exactly what flowers make up the floral are hard to say. It's advertised as a "neo-lily" (calla lilies are featured in the advertising images), and jasmine is also listed in the notes, but whatever flowers might be in the mix have been aggressively smoothed over, in the modern style: if you have been testing any mainstream department store florals lately, you'll recognize the smell as "mainstream floral perfume". The base is a warm but clean woody musk, not too dark and not too light.

I don't know that I'd call it elegant, but it is pretty, and of course pretty is better than not pretty, right? We have, in fact, had several discussions here lately about whether or not "just pretty" is enough, although I might start by saying that the fragrances that started those conversations were, in all truth, considerably higher up on the pretty scale than Beauty. Beauty is not breathtakingly pretty, and it is not, I don't think, going to make any perfumistas anywhere swoon with delight. There is nothing really distinctive or interesting about it: it's just adequately pretty and wearable, and my sentiments are firmly with the reviewer on MakeupAlley who noted that "elegant and sophisticated shouldn't mean dull".1

Calvin Klein Beauty perfume bottle

Calvin Klein Beauty was developed by perfumer Sophie Labbé; it is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($50-85).


1. Although I should also note that she gave Beauty 4 stars out of 5.

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95 Comments

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  1. FragrantWitch says:

    Thanks for the review, Robin, and I agree. Its not the kind of fragrance I gravitate to but it smells like a ‘safe’ rendition. Kind of like an upscale restaurant’s handwash and complimentary lotion. Probably not what they were aiming for!

    • Robin says:

      It’s a problem: there is something about making the flowers this abstract and then adding a clean base that makes almost anything smell like a functional product.

      • ceelouise says:

        After smelling “Eva” by Eva Longoria on a scent strip in a magazine, I realized people must WANT to smell like functional products, or at least cheap fruity shampoo! Was excited to read this review, thank you!

        • Robin says:

          I have not yet smelled — or even seen! where is this stuff?? — the Eva fragrance, but I can believe it. And even some of the high end stuff smells like shampoo — Viktor & Rolf Eau Mega, for instance, could easily be shampoo.

          • Pimpinett says:

            Apparently people do – they’ve wanted to smell like laundry detergent for years, apparently. I don’t get it, but I’m obviously in the minority here.

      • ShoreDreamer says:

        40 years ago (I know, I know…) I used to wear “Rive Gauche” by Yves St. Laurent and I think “Beauty” is a dead-ringer for it. I like it anyway.

  2. jonr951 says:

    I really enjoyed Beauty. It is “just pretty”. But I like me some pretty over anything that is disastrous. I’ll get me the rollerball when ever it hits Macys or Sephora. It’s on the Calvin fragrance website. I hate to admit it but I do still much prefer the “candied fruity vanilla cream oriental” that is Euphoria over Beauty. It’s one of my favorites. I’m not very sophisticated am I? LOL : )

    • Tamara says:

      JON, who cares?
      Euphoria is big, lush and fragrant with dark fruits and cream!
      What’s not to love?
      I used to wear Contradiction too back in thah day, and to this plain, boring CK ‘Beauty’ I sing my own words to a lil’ diddy -”They try to make me buy this perfume and I say No,No No..” :P

      • sarahbeth says:

        The young woman who works behind the counter at the local video store (yes I still go to the local video store) wears Euphoria and she smells GREAT!

    • Robin says:

      Agree with who cares! Wear what you like — the point of reviewing fragrances is NOT to make people feel like they shouldn’t like what they like. And personally I like Secret Obsession over Beauty, and I think that can only mean I like trashy more than elegant, LOL…

      • Tamara says:

        Robin,’ trashy’ is it’s own kind of good! :D

        • Robin says:

          So true!!

        • promiseevans says:

          That is what I keep telling myself since I just caved and bought a fabulously cute but trashy perfume (unsniffed, unfortunately because I could never find a sample anywhere) today.

          • damselfly says:

            “fabulously cute but trashy” sounds fun…I’m wondering what it is :)

          • OperaFan says:

            Oh, do tell! How trashy are we talking about?

      • ceelouise says:

        Eternity was one of my first perfumes; still has lots of memories.

        • Daisy says:

          Mine too….I still have some! Sure it can be big, loud and screechy (see the Perfume Guide) but then sometimes, so can I !! ;-)

          • ceelouise says:

            I don’t mind loud. I’m against the snobbism that perfumistas have: the more subtle the perfumes you like, the more sophisticated is your nose. Of course, I wouldn’t wear loud to the office.

          • Tamara says:

            Ceelouise, I get what your saying-I’m a sillage slut and love it<3
            I roll around in my fragrance bed and muss up my hair,I wear perfume for myself because it gives me pleasure. Whether it's soft and comforting or vibrant and bright, I wear it all.

            Oooo except Avignon! Yikes. ;)

    • promiseevans says:

      I own Euphoria and Obsession, and still occasionally wear them both. There….. I said it!!!

      All my other perfumes in my collection have turned their backs to me and are snarling in disgust, as if I’m airing the family’s dirty laundry out for the whole community to see. I swear, Bois D’Iris looks as if she may just jump from the top shelf…lol.

    • Flora says:

      Even I like Euphoria, and I have never been a fan of the Calvin Klein perfume line. Something about it is just more interesting than the others, and it’s probably the first one since Obsession that’s not too pale and polite (or just plain harsh and awful like the hideous CK Summer 2009 version) for my taste. It has presence and it’s distinctive.

      I have not tried Beauty yet but I think I already know what it smells like – about a hundred other “safe” perfumes!

    • SmokeyToes says:

      Jon-perfume is all about what makes you happy and what you like, to each his own I say…… :)

      My aunt wears White Shoulders and it smells great on her. It’s instant headache for me but it works for her!

    • Merlin says:

      A very late comment: Euphoria was the first perfume I ever chose myself, and came long before my present perfume obsession. Though perfume was not much part of my life, I tried the tester and – euphoria – Quite seriously, I couldn’t think of a better word to describe the way it made me feel! It took a few years to finish the 50mls as I only wore perfume on occasion. I didn’t buy more because it had no tenacity on me. Perhaps the heart or dry down was just much softer and I didnt detect it – but no one else did either!

  3. RusticDove says:

    Oh well, I was hoping against hope that this would at least be pretty in an interesting way because I love that bottle. But then again, maybe I’m jaded. I just watched a really funny Katie Puckrik video where she tries Secretions Magnifiques for the first time and has a melt down from the horror of it all – maybe simply pretty is underrated. LOL

    • Tiara says:

      I saw that one too! There certainly is something to be said for pretty vs. industrial waste or even crabbing in Chesapeake Bay.

      • mals86 says:

        Gosh, that was funny… I was watching her dab it on, and dab it on, and dab it on, and I knew sooner or later it would actually hit her.

        Kind of like when your kid falls down, and the longer the time between impact and wail, the worse the wail.

        • Daisy says:

          hahaha I know! she was dabbing and dabbing and the back of my throat started doing that pre-gag lurching thing just watching her…..

    • Robin says:

      RusticDove, try it and let me know, maybe you’ll find it more interesting than I did!

    • ami says:

      Rustic, yeah, pretty and simple bottle, nice simple juice with the simple name ‘beauty’ = will be a big hit for Xmas for sure….

  4. APassionateJourney says:

    I think I’m turning into an old Biddy! A Male old biddy, that is! I bought this. Yup, me! It’s a Beauty :). It’s very heavy, though!

    • Robin says:

      It is a little heavy, although not so much so as Euphoria or Secret Obsession. But Calvin Klein does not seem to go for sheer, that’s for sure!

      And this is *not* an old biddy scent ;-)

  5. violetnoir says:

    I spritzed this on the other day at the mall, and it smelled like chemicals on my skin.

    What a disappointment…but not a surprise.

    Hugs!

    • Robin says:

      It really doesn’t smell like any “real” flowers were used at all — so if they were, it was a waste.

  6. Ari says:

    Didn’t have high hopes for this, and I’m also sort of tired of Diane Kruger being held up as The Epitome of Beauty (see: Helen of Troy, casting). Wake me up when our definition of beauty expands past white and blonde.

    • Robin says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in anything so didn’t know she was being held up as such. She’s kind of a good fit with the fragrance though!

      • jonr951 says:

        U didn’t watch Inglorious Bastards Robin?! Great movie! She played a glamorous movie star. I think she’s a very attractive woman. I was 13 when Troy came out and I was in awe of how beautiful I thought she was. I couldn’t believe it! The movie was blah but man was she a stunner! : )

        • Ari says:

          I never did see Inglorious Bastards, but I heard it was very good. I do agree that she’s very attractive, I just don’t see much of a difference between her and any other of the many, many blonde celebrities out there.

        • Robin says:

          I have a low tolerance for some kinds of movie violence so have never seen anything by Tarantino. I did hear Inglorious Basterds was good though.

          • AnnS says:

            You should watch his Jackie Brown movie from the late 90s, which is based on an Elmore Leonard book. It is fantastic – a little bit of blood from a gunshot, but no gore fest.

          • Tamara says:

            Oh I love Jackie Brown sooo much!
            She’s a bad ass and I actually love Tarantino movies, me and my hubby watched Pulp Fiction when it was in theaters and loved it ever since- I’m weird like that.
            Weirder still- I own Grindhouse and went to see it on my birthday when it came out! I know I’m sick and wrong but I just dig Quentin’s style. :P

          • AnnS says:

            Tamara – this is waay after the fact, but I love Planet Terror and my hubbie & I just went to see Machete for an early 10 year anniversary date. I like Tarantino, but I love Rodriguez more!

    • Tamara says:

      AMEN Ari!

      We’ll be sleeping for a looong time!

      • Ari says:

        Perhaps I should have rephrased that, I guess I was practically asking to be comatose :P

        • miss kitty v. says:

          Or you were just hopeful! :)

          • Daisy says:

            **snort**

  7. Evonna says:

    Hello! Diane Kruger was the model for the Giorgio Armani Aqua Di Gio way back when (dating myself here). She sported the wet slicked back hair and no make-up. (I’d venture long before her elegant stage.)

    • Tamara says:

      THAT was her??????? I guess she likes these perfume gigs.

    • Robin says:
      • alotofscents says:

        Sigh, it is Angelina Jolie I have my bisexual fantasies about-too me she hung the sun, moon and stars when it comes to beauty. That bone structure! She’s got bones like Sophia Loren-very distinctive. Having just read her biography, she should front a perfume called, “Cutting Edge”, or “Heroin Dreams” or even, “J’aime Inappropriate” or something, maybe even “Hide Your Husband”. Well at least she’s changed…
        You know what would be funny, if Beauty one a lot of awards, like Euphoria (which I love). Oh Oh, I can see it coming now, get ready for the confusion.

        • Robin says:

          Perfumes don’t win awards for being distinctive or interesting, so don’t see why Beauty shouldn’t win any!

      • Rappleyea says:

        Her face has that hard, plastic look that so many stars and models have now from plastic surgery. Too bad…

  8. Jill says:

    I have an appreciation for “pretty”, but I think I will pass on this! Did you see the bottle in person, Robin? It looks very weighty to me in that close-up picture.

    • wondermelmo says:

      The bottle IS as weighty as it looks. OK, so the juice won’t blow anyone’s mind, but I do lovety love the bottle.

      • Robin says:

        Thanks Wondermelmo, because I have not seen it in person.

      • Jill says:

        Thanks for the info! I love weighty perfume bottles!

        • Tama says:

          Get yourself some of that Hilary Duff stuff – awesome bottle.

  9. RuthW says:

    Ha ha ha, after reading everyone’s comments I will not be trying this fragrance but I DO want to wear a trashy, over-the-top candied oriental to bed tonight!

  10. Joe says:

    Women over 40? But the spokesmodel is just barely 34…? From the photo I would have guessed she was about 26.

    Let’s play this This Or That? game: For a pretty, mainstream floral, would you rather wear CK Beauty or Guerlain Idylle?

    The bottle is really pretty nice looking.

    • Joe says:

      Oh, and I should mention that in addition to Idylle, a couple of “just pretty” floral scents that I really enjoy smelling are Parfums d’Empire 3 Fleurs and i Profumi di Firenze Caterina de’ Medici.

      • Robin says:

        Here’s the thing about 3 Fleurs — I would agree with Angie’s review that 3 Fleurs is just missing something. Still, it is beautifully done & the materials are good. It did not make me swoon, but I would call it more than “adequately pretty”, and I can see someone, somewhere swooning over it.

        (I can’t remember the iPF one, sorry!)

      • Rappleyea says:

        Now you make me want to try PdE’s 3 Fleurs as I like that brand and I also like “pretty”.

    • Robin says:

      Idylle is, IMHO, both prettier and better done, and it has some verve to it. I’d way rather wear Idylle.

      • Robin says:

        And adding: also guessing that Guerlain is spending more on the materials for Idylle than CK is on Beauty. Actually, if CK is spending more, they should be pissed because they got less for their $.

        • Joe says:

          I agree that Idylle smells like it has quality ingredients, and not that prices necessarily reflect cost of materials at all, but I didn’t realize until I looked it up just now that the Beauty is two-thirds the price of Idylle.

    • APassionateJourney says:

      I’d go with Beauty, Joe. Idyelle smells like Lovely by SJP which smells like Narciso Rodriguez (Or did Lovely come out first? Can’t recall if Narciso came out in 04′ or 06′)

  11. VanMorrisonFan says:

    Not sure if I like this fragrance, but I like the classy presentation and marketing. Why is so much depiction of women in the media so trashy and slu**ty? Jennifer Aniston advertised her perfume by taking all her clothes off. Granted, a towel and her hands covered most of her…but still. Is that what has to be done to sell something?

    Carole King had the top selling album by a female artist (“Tapestry”) and she didn’t have to take any of her clothes off or dress like a sl*t to sell it. Then Madonna came along (she’s replaced Carole King) and had to sl*t everything up, so to speak.

    • Joe says:

      I know what you’re saying, but I think Brigitte Bardot and Raquel Welch (and Jayne Mansfield and… and… and…) were sl*tting things up long before Madonna came along. :)

      • RuthW says:

        Jean Harlow was known for NOT wearing any undergarments under her slinky bias cut dresses in her films.
        That accusation has also been leveled at Marlene Dietrich (Blue Angel) as well as quite a few other stars of the 1930′s.

    • Robin says:

      Yeah, gotta agree with Joe: Madonna didn’t invent the idea of using sex to sell, far from it. Don’t forget that Cher & Carole King were contemporaries…

    • Rappleyea says:

      I blame the patriarchy… ;-)

      • Ari says:

        I LOVE WHEN SOMEONE BUSTS OUT THAT WORD. Yes, yes, a million times yes. It doesn’t even make any damn sense for perfume ads to feature semi-clad women, since I’m sure the vast majority of perfume sales are by women. Just another example of how “the male gaze” is given precedence even in situations that don’t really call for it.

        • Rappleyea says:

          “the male gaze” – great phrase and how true! You don’t even want to get me started on this subject as I’m old enough to have burned bras.

        • Robin says:

          But I think it makes perfect sense…after all, many, many women buy perfume just to catch a man. They presumably want to identify with the sexy, scantily clad woman in the ad.

          (of course, you can blame the patriarchy for that too)

  12. Nina says:

    My daughter emailed me for a list of floral perfumes that would suit her friend as a birthday gift. I suggested several, including Beauty, which I said was ‘a pretty floral, not terribly exciting, but very wearable’. So I’m deeply relieved to see your opinion was the same! (This was the one my daughter picked, btw – the friend loved it.) In the pretty floral category, I preferred Love, Chloe, but I don’t that’s in wide distribution at the moment.

    • Robin says:

      So glad her friend loved it! I haven’t smelled Love, Chloe yet — not sure if it’s in the US yet or not.

  13. 50_Roses says:

    I sniffed this on a card the other day, as I was out of skin space for testing. My nose was a little tired, but I thought it was perfectly pleasant. At least it isn’t an overly sweetened fruit salad/Kool-Aid/air freshener mishmash.

  14. Tama says:

    I just think it’s funny how many perfumes use flowers that don’t have a smell in their marketing. Maybe they don’t want a smell associated with the fragrance so we won’t get confused when we can’t figure out what flower it does smell like.

    I’m tired – did that make sense? lol

    • Robin says:

      It really is comical — poppies, calla lilies, etc etc. I guess they want you to think “flower” but not “that smelly flower my grandmother used to wear”. Do think you could do something fun with the concept of “neo lily” (Hermes Vanille Galante, for one), but this isn’t all that fun.

  15. Minnie says:

    I saw an ad for this in “Real Simple” right after an ad for PureDKNY, and I thought that they must be in direct competition with one another. I have smelled neither on skin, but these days “just pretty” is the last thing I am interested in when it comes to fragrance, so I am not in the market for that. Even from an objective stand-point they both seem watered-down.

    • Robin says:

      They do look the same — but they’re actually after different markets. DKNY is after the eco-conscious market, CK, I think, is just more generally after a (somewhat) older woman who is perhaps thinking of fragrance as something other than man-bait.

  16. Owen says:

    I only smelled this by the bottle, not on skin. I would agree that it is for an older audience. it is a very little bit candied, but mostly elegant.

    I didn’t smell any vanilla in euphoria. My cousin got married in may this year and the bride wore euphoria, I thought it was J’Adore Dior, they smell stikingly similar (to me). but obviously J’Adore has more glamour.

    CKIN2U smells of honey to me, a friend wears it for college though it disappears in twenty minutes.

    while we’re on the subject of Calvin Klein, I bought CKIN2U heat for men last year £30. I never thought I’d go through 100ml of it. but that also disappears in the space of half an hour, so I did go through most of it in that summer. My uncle ened up buying it from me for £5 lol with about 40ml left.

  17. Nile Goddess says:

    Doesn’t the bottle look like the one from Idol D’Armani?

    Anyway, I GIVE UP. This autumn I am going to wear Dolce & Gabbana Femme, their very first fragrance, golden juice with red stopper (the same bottle was used for Light Blue later, only with frosted glass and light blue stopper).

    It is elegant, grown up, bold extravagant and sexy.
    It is also a bit old, but I just can’t wear this cheap industrial new juice and not feel I’ve thrown good money out of the window.

    Review of Dolce & Gabbana Femme, anyone? :-)

    • Robin says:

      It does, sort of, but haven’t seen them both together.

      I have never smelled D&G Femme!

    • Owen says:

      yes it does!!
      the cap is the same at any rate.
      Idole has a round bottle but still, they have a resemblance.

  18. Rappleyea says:

    Interesting review, Robin. You are the queen of damning with faint praise. What worries me about the proliferation of scents like this is all of the people who will never know or experience the multi-faceted beauty of real jasmine or rose, or sandalwood or frankincense, etc. It’s one thing to make an informed choice about your scent, but quite another to have no choice because your world is circumscribed to a narrow palette of chemicals.

    • Robin says:

      Yeah, but sadly, the modern woman apparently does not want the multi-faceted beauty of rose & jasmine! I’m thinking of how many people call Joy an old lady fragrance — maybe I’m being too simplistic though.

      • Rappleyea says:

        You may be right, but I’m worried about all of the people who have never had the chance to smell Joy because there’s no room for it on Macy’s (or Sephora’s or….) shelves. Surely, not all or even most would call it ‘old lady’?

        • Robin says:

          Who knows…your guess is as good as mine!

  19. kelly234 says:

    I am one of those perfumistas who have worked in the industry for 20 years and I happen to really like Beauty, It ‘s a great change from all the fragrances that smell like candy or fruit. It smells likes a woman should, sensual and warm, the dry down is amazing and it stays on. However, believe me everyones nose is different, what some people love, I would not spray on me if to save my life!

    • Robin says:

      Exactly: to each his own. Glad you love Beauty!

  20. Scentsate says:

    I think it smells pretty animalic at first. Not really in a good way though. Then it becomes generic. I don’t think the gap was bridged very well there.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting. I didn’t find it animalic at all.

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