body wash

Scent sucker revisited

While I am traveling for the next few days my very good friend Sarah Brown will be your guest host. Sarah blogged at Que Sera Sera for over ten years but currently writes at her Tumblr, Damn Gina.


In a past guest post, I mentioned my weakness for scents. The best part of that was all the emails I got after, where people shared their favorite scents with me and we wrote back and forth and talked about nostalgia and beloved bath products and what exactly vetiver smells like anyway (best answer: “sort of like a waiting room to a fancy spa where people used to be allowed to smoke but not anymore?”). I get pretty fickle with my scents, but there are some I always circle back to, so I thought I’d share my favorites with you, my fellow nose people. I had no idea we were quite so legion.

(Also, this list is going to make me sound way more chi chi than I am. Please know that I shop solely at Old Navy to support my scent habits.)


Crabtree & Evelyn Jojoba Oil body wash: I first received this as a Christmas gift when I was in high school, and I don’t know if I connect it with a simpler time or what, it’s not like high school was that simple or comforting, but for 20 years straight just a whiff of this is so relaxing to me. It smells a bit of the sea without that sneezy “sea salt” scent you find in cheap candles.
Fresh Nectarine Milk bar soap: This is solely an autumn/winter smell for me. It’s a very warm, sweet, clean smell but seems too strong for the hotter months. A bar of this is pretty pricey at $14, so I like to buy it and keep it in my underwear drawer for months before I ever use it. I feel like I’m getting more bang for my buck that way. 

Molton Brown Coco de Mer (original): The original version of this was the perfect summer body wash. It smelled almost like an adult version of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, if that makes sense. Just very light and wholesome and clean. But then they went and messed with the formula a few months ago and changed it to “Coco & Sandalwood” and now it smells like a guy that will not leave you alone in a nightclub, like you ever go to a nightclub, are they even still called that. There’s been a huge backlash online (in the rich person scent community, I guess?) and people are upset about it but the world will keep turning and in the meantime you can buy a bottle of the original on eBay if you’re a sucker who will pay $30. Of course I did.

Olive oil bath gel from Spain: This amazing stuff whose official name I forget, but it was probably like “Olive Oil Bath Gel.” I found it in a tiny shop in Seville where we also bought a leg of jamón. Spain is great that way, that you can buy an entire dry-cured leg of ham to eat on for weeks AND the nicest bath gel in the world and it’s only like €4 but once you use it up you can never have it again because you live half a world away.

Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis cologne: I originally bought this for my husband, and he wore it all summer long and I spent the entire summer with my head buried in his neck. Then I started wearing it myself and sleeping with the bottle and it’s not weird, things are fine. It kind of smells beachy? Like you spent all day at a beach, but not a lame touristy beach, maybe like some secret cove where Daniel Craig would take Rachel Weisz and then later he’d shower before dinner and put on a crinkly button-down shirt and this is how he would smell. Kind of like that.

c. Booth lavender mineral bath soak: I love lavender, but I’m picky about it. I find a lavender I love and it immediately gets discontinued, story of my life played out on tiny violins. This one is great, not too sharp but not too much vanilla added. Why does everyone add vanilla to lavender? Let it speak for itself. I am starting to sound a little crazy here, aren’t I. I found this at like Kmart. It was $9.

Mrs. Meyers Bluebell: I wish they made this as a shower gel and room spray and candle because I want my life to smell like it from April to July. Instead I settle for my counters and my hands.

The Sanctuary Spa foaming bath soak: This is from the UK, but you can sometimes find it at Target here in the US. The first time I visited London, our flight arrived at 6 am and I didn’t sleep at all on the plane, and my friends and I made each other stay awake all day until bedtime so we could fight the jet lag. We sort of cheated by having dinner at 7 pm and then going back to the hotel for bed at 8, but I managed to fight it off for thirty minutes longer by buying a tiny bottle of this at Boots and having a bubble bath. I remember the hotel bathroom window looked out over all these rooftops in the June barely-dusk, and as I sank into the tub, my brain coughed up Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins in his terrible Cockney accent saying “On the rooftops of London… Cor, what a sight!” I realize how embarrassing this is, but that’s the truth. Anyway, this stuff smells amazing.

CB I Hate Perfume Russian Caravan Tea: If you are ever in Williamsburg Brooklyn and can go to the CB I Hate Perfume store, do it. Christopher Brosius is a magician. He has all these tiny bottles of smells he’s captured, like Wet Mitten and Wet New York Pavement and Wet London Pavement, which of course smell distinctly different and there is still wonder left in the world. I own a lot of his creations, both as perfumes and room sprays, but this one is my long-standing favorite. To me, it smells like when I was very small, and my parents were getting ready to have guests over in the summer, so the house was all freshly vacuumed and dusted and the sunlight was streaming in. I don’t know what it would smell like to you, but you should find out.

Caldrea Palmarossa Wild Mint linen & room spray (discontinued): This made my house smell like I was richer and less worried than I am, which is not at all and very. Of course then they discontinued it.

The Body Shop Milk Bath circa 2000 (discontinued): My holy grail of smells. I bought this entire range from the Body Shop before Christmas 2000, bubble bath and shower gel and body lotion, and had I known it was just a limited holiday release I would have bought cartons of it all. Instead I hung on to the last few drops of the bottle for like nine years, doling it out only for what I thought might be very special occasions like some sad Miss Havisham. No other product that claims to be milk-scented has ever done the trick, even subsequent milk-scented stuff from Body Shop itself. See you at the crossroads, friend.