Story Time: Four Scents That Give Me Those Things Called Memories Friday 17 August, 2012
The scents of four beauty products—Bath & Body Works Plumeria Body Lotion, Alterna Hemp Organics Repair Treatment Conditioner, Exclamation perfume and anything Biolage—take me back to my youth, from the 80s through to the late 90s.
While I was editing Fear No Beauty contributor Jillian Gordon’s summer beauty must-haves, I could distinctly smell the scent of Hempz Original Herbal Moisturizer—even though I haven’t touched the stuff in over five years. But I remember how unusual the fragrance is, and how it immediately connected with me…and apparently, many others. And it got me to thinking: What are the product fragrances that most trigger my memories? Parsing through it all, I immediately thought of the following four products that’s scent stuck with me all these years.
You could say I’ve been submerged in the business of beauty since the tender age of 10. That’s when I had my first perm. My mom and I would travel to Simi Valley, and we’d both have our tendrils tied up in teeny-tiny curlers, doused in putrid-smelling chemicals and then covered in a plastic hair cap. We’d both cook under the dryer, my mom gossiping with the hairstylist, me reading my latest The Baby-sitter’s Club book. This went on for years—though my book-reading picks evolved. And though I know the perm solution’s chemical scent seared my nose hairs, I can’t quite recall it’s wretched stench strictly off of memory. Perhaps that’s because my stylist always used Biolage haircare products, which have the most nose-friendly scent known to humankind. It’s floral yet sweet and fresh-smelling, and it lingers just long enough. As the years progressed and the product line has multiplied, skewed and morphed, Biolage has kept its original scent, so I am constantly being taken back to my youth whenever I lather up with the stuff.
Though I haven’t put nose to this scent in eons, I have fond, fond memories of Exclamation, so I must include it. The white bottle with the glaring black exclamation point housed my first perfume, and I doused myself in the stuff on the daily—probably to the point of !!!!! (Exclamations.) The fragrance was introduced in 1988, right around the time I wore Body Glove, Hypercolor and those silly BK British Knights high-tops with three different color socks on each foot. Yeah—I was the arbiter of cool. (Thank the heavens taste evolves, right?) And I was even cooler because of Exclamation, which blends amber, apricot, peach and sandalwood—and was oh-so-very ladylike. I love that the product description says it’s “made with the causual woman in mind.” I’d rephrase that to say, “Made with the geeky, gangly, bespectacled and very orthodontically-challenged girl in mind.” Yep. Fond memories.
When you’re a kid living in a ticky-tacky house in suburbia, there’s not much else to do than cruise the local mall. Contempo Casuals was a frequent hangout, and when Bath & Body Works came onto the scene, it became one too. All of the store’s tester lotions and potions beckoned; how could you not try each one…at the same time? When my mom would pick me up, I’m pretty certain I reeked of plants and fruits and flowers that never should be smelled together. But, when just using one scent (and not blending 20 onto two full arms and possibly an ankle), these fragrances defined a culture of teenage mall rats, and my scent became Plumeria, which blends peach, melon, cassis, plumeria flower and even musk. I was convinced that its sweet aroma called all the boys to the yard. Decades later, Bath & Body Works Midnight Pomegranate has become my new favored lotion and hand sanitizer scent. But every time I catch a whiff of Plumeria (and, just like in my teens, I still slather on the tester when I’m at the B&BW store), I think of my days wandering through the mall food court, hoping to score some digits from the Hot Dog on a Stick guy.
Like a lot of students, I worked my way through college—sometimes at multiple jobs. One steady stream of greenbacks came from Dellaria Salon in Boston. I was the salon receptionist—that smiling, young girl who scheduled everyone perfectly, but also took the brunt of all clients’ rage. (Why is it that clients blame the receptionist for a bad dye job? Displaced anger much?) Though I took a lot of client abuse, my job had its perks: free cuts and color, and free Alterna products. My Alterna product of choice: Hemp with Organics Repair Treatment Conditioner. I can’t remember the scent exactly as I type—wish I could—but two years ago I stumbled across it again, snatched it up, and was instantly taken back to being 20, young, a little reckless and very in love…not with my receptionist job, but with my then boyfriend, now husband. And who doesn’t love to get lost in those types of memories?
What beauty product scents trigger your memories?