Stinky Cremes: The Odor of Authenticity

The New York Times: “Among skin-care enthusiasts, Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 has a formidable reputation for its exfoliating powers — and an extremely stinky aroma. Formulated decades ago, the French toner contains a hyperspecific blend of lactic acid, onion extract and plankton that loyalists swear will clear up acne and render your skin silky smooth. If you can withstand the assault on your nose, that is.” Danuta Mieloch of Rescue Spas comments: “It’s highly addictive because it helps to achieve healthy, glowing skin. You sort of can’t live without it …Women go to extremes to maintain their skin. A little smell — it’s a small price to pay.”

“P50 is not the only classic beauty product causing a (literal) stink. SkinCeutical’s brightening and firming C E Ferulic serum has a noticeable ‘metallic smell,’ says the New York dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. ‘One of my patients told me it smells like dirty hot dog water’ … The phenomenon represents a sharp departure from fragranced creams and serums from other luxury purveyors … that leave behind a richly perfumed trail with every application. Yet not masking the au naturale aroma of ingredients lends a certain air of authenticity.”

Dr. Amy Wechsler, a New York dermatologist and psychiatrist, comments: “The thinking is that if something stings and smells bad, then it must be doing something … People associate medicine with a bad smell and bitter taste; so with skin care, they think there must be some really active ingredients in there … it’s like, ‘Oooh it’s supposed to smell bad,’ and it feels even more secret and special.”


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