On the Nose

Of all the senses, smell is perhaps the most personal. Affected by personal preferences and prejudices, influenced by memories and experiences, modified by personal chemistry: one person’s heavenly scent is another’s stink bomb. This is why it always troubled me that practically every green beauty review out there speaks of the smell of the products being reviewed in the most superlative of terms. Sure, smell is one of the big advantages of green beauty: instead of a chemical fragrance, natural products smell like the very precious ingredients that make them so effective. Still, this very naturalness can be a problem.Conventional skincare is manufactured to appeal to the broadest possible audience. This means that the scent of dirty products, even when strong, is all, but guaranteed to be inoffensive. Not so with green beauty. The purity of the ingredients means that every scent note remains strong and true to itself: a good thing, unless one happens to dislike that note. I learned my lesson the hard way early in my journey to green beauty. I had ordered the beloved, cult Facial Oil for Glowing Radiance from the  English brand Ila. It’s a beautifully-formulated oil with a few, carefully selected ingredients and every review I read, praised the oil both for its excellent performance and for its glorious smell, derived mainly from the essential oils of rose and sandalwood. I should note, that I quite like the smell of rose and that my favorite perfume is called Santal 33 (“santal” is “sandalwood” in French). So you can imagine my surprise and frustration when, upon taking the first whiff of the Ila oil, I realized that I could not bear its smell.

It’s  not even that the scent was objectively bad. It’s that it somehow hit the one olfactory note that inspires in me immediate hate. In fact, I found the smell so unpleasant, that, after giving the oil to my mother, I would struggle to be near her when she was using it. Since then, I have used a couple other products that contained these two ingredients and they, too, were difficult for me to bear (although due to a different combination of ingredients, I found their scents easier to tolerate. Inexplicably, I adore the Lurk Fragrances RSW 005, which happens to be a rose and sandalwood scent.

It is quite impossible to predict which natural fragrances might cause an unwelcome reaction except through trial and error (I recently discovered that although I adore the smell of jasmine, jasmine oil mixes with my personal chemistry to create a scent that can only be described as, well… fecal), which is why I cannot stress enough how important it is to test products before committing to a full size, rather than relying on reviews. Thankfully, although green beauty products are not yet available at too many brick-and-mortar shops, most online retailers offer excellent sample programs. All of these products are made with love, passion and care: it would be a shame for them to not be able to work their magic (and for you to have wasted what can often be quite a serious amount of money) simply because your nose decides to spite your face.

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