Sunday, June 10, 2012


Sometime in the past year I stopped wearing perfume, ever. I've always been a serial monogamist with scents, but in the past few years the perfumes I chose became lighter and lighter until I realised that the En Passant I sprayed every morning was only noticeable, and only to me, for about four minutes. And I'm not really the kind of person that carries their perfume round for re-spritzing throughout the day. I also watched the excellent BBC4 three-part series on the perfume industry, which showed the perfume business to be equal parts sublime and ridiculous. Watching the segment about the focus groups and marketing behind a new *Rock n' Roll* Tommy Hilfiger perfume launch was painful in its epic lameness. I kept hearing Malcolm McLaren's voice in my head repeating, 'Ever get the feeling you're being swindled?' And then there were the true noses, the tip of the top - it was absolutely fascinating stuff featuring Jean Claude Ellena of Hermes, Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume, the French school for perfumers Givaudon and the house of Guerlain. You can watch some, but not all of the series on Youtube still.

I had always gone for niche perfumes - of course - I would fit so cosily into one of those focus group categories it makes me mad! The industry or the marketing wasn't what made me stop wearing perfume though. It was a physical reaction, maybe hormonal? I found that when smelling perfume I could detect something unpleasant about it, and began to find the whole concept of spraying something really expensive on yourself that has no other function than masking your natural smell with a different, more mutually accepted as pleasant one decidedly odd. Don't worry, I didn't stop washing and revel in being really stinky - the best human smell is definitely a freshly washed human! But I found that any perfume, as lovely as it is, and even something like a perfumed deodorant or a scented candle just started to smell like cheap air freshener to me. Weird.

So I went on a quest for gorgeous smelling creams and lotions - so I can still be uplifted by the scent, but feel I'm doing my skin some good as well. After a few months and some hits and misses, not aided by the fact that I hate body lotion that feels cloying or stays on the surface of the skin, I found some things I really love.

First up is from Aesop - I think when in the UK this is probably a summer-only choice as I find most of their products are more suitable for warm weather/climate. At the moment I'm using Geranium Leaf body wash and the scrub and I bought myself a massive flask of Rejuvenate Intensive Body Balm. To me it has the most delightful scent: Tangerine Rind, Vanilla and Sandalwood - just so good. It smells sort of warm but soft, then with a little kick of the tangerine coming through. And it sinks right into your skin despite being really moisturising and containing macadamia, sweet almond and coconut oils and shea butter. (I also really like Aesop's Newsletter.)

The other range that I'm - to be fair - totally obsessed with is Diptyque's Art of Body Care line. Yes, I'm aware it has all that fancy background story and that when you buy a product it comes with a book of whimsical copywriting about how each product is inspired by a different exotic location. But I didn't know that until after I bought the Baume Genereux for hands, which has apricot kernel and argan oil in it. It's also really rich and nourishing, but soaks in straight away and smells really clean and comforting. Every product in the range smells different, but seems somehow related by smell, which is a pretty clever feat I reckon.

At the moment I'm also using Kiehl's Amino Acid shampoo and conditioner, which has that coconut smell, but like real fresh coconut, not how it normally smells in products. Oh, and Decleor Neroli Essential Night Balm (made of 100% natural ingredients) - I don't use it either at night or on my face, but as a lip/cuticle balm and all round pick-me-up - sometimes I just smell it when I'm in a particularly offensive tube carriage or put some on my wrists. Actually that is probably the closest to what I'd call my perfume now.

What are your favourite smelling lotions and potions?


Camille said...

I get you when it comes to the weird fakeness of perfume! I'm really selective since I grew up with a father who gets aweful headaches from most perfumes, and had a sign in his office warning his coworkers of this fact. Really!

I recently ordered OLO's sample pack off Summerland since I really like the company's philosophy as well as the one scent I already have from them.
Otherwise, Dr. Hauschka's Normalising Oil smells wonderful, and I'm a big fan of Burt's Bees' carrot spray with sandalwood. I've started washing my hair with simple Dove bar soap, and I really like how classically 'clean' I now smell!
The documentary series sound really interesting, I'll have to have a look for myself!

Sneaky Magpie said...

My all time favorite is Dyptique's Figs, I find it so fresh and delicious I have been using it for years.

A recent body cream discovery (by being given a sample at Space NK shop) is NK's Brighton, it does smell of sophisticated seaside, it's fresh, breezy and slightly manly.

Allie said...

My current "signature scent" is Baiser Vole by Cartier. It's all lily, which I like. I don't like when I can't figure out the ingredients to a perfume and it just smells like generic perfume. Maybe I just don't have a mature sense of smell :)

lola is beauty said...

Camille - I think I'm turning into one of those people who needs a sign like that - oops.

Sneaky Magpie and Allie - I think it probably is just the alcohol that's in perfume that I've become sensitive too - or something else in it, rather than in an oil or lotion. I also like single note perfumes - En Passant is mostly lilac, but it's so light it's almost not there!

Anonymous said...

After many years of wearing complex and costly scents, nowadays I am unable to give up a relatively inexpensive one by a small artisan from the South of France, it's Patchouli from Bleujaune:

Emma said...

I wear Melograno, by Santa Maria Novella, which basically smells of soap. Not only does it make me feel neat and tidy - it actually encourages virtuous behaviour on my part! That's what I like most about perfume, the way it secretly and subtly alters the way I live.

I also use Aesop's geranium products - and I love Neal's Yard's geranium & orange soap.

Anonymous said...

This sort of makes me sad because I love perfume, & you've got some lovely ones, but I do understand. I wish Aesop were easier to find in my city.

lola is beauty said...

Mia - must smell this when we next meet. x

Emma - I think I remember liking Melograno. I wish I had a perfume that made me behave virtuously!

Occhineri - Don't worry, I love perfume too - but it's like I've become allergic to it though!

random cat said...

i stopped wearing anything when i got out of 'boys have to like it' teenage years. i just like the smell of clean. but my mum still has this little bottle (very little) from about 20 yrs ago that looks like perfume and the only thing that says on it is moshus. she wears it on special occasions. it's literally an oil and it smells divine, that's the only scent that i love and i still wear it when i go for a visit. i know it sounds weird that it's 20 yrs old, but i swear it's still perfect.
i have no idea what it is and now when you google moshus you get weird answers. and the only thing my mom remembers is that dad gave a looooot of money for it.
if only i could persuade her to give it to me...

Bardotty said...

I've alwats liked Korres products which are free of nasties and since getting pregnant have also been using REN with great results.

This is the low down on perfumes for me, Artemissia is simply my fragrance nirvana, although again, since having a baby I don't put on perfume as much.