11 Nostalgia-Scented Beauty Products That Aren't Perfume

All the best scents and flavors of the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s without any of the calories or body glitter.
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Bryce
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All the best scents and flavors of the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s without any of the calories or body glitter.

I'm a total sucker for nostalgia. I mean, you cannot even begin to imagine the degree to which I love collecting strange lip balms from the '90s, jewelry from my grandmother's costume stash circa 1973, and Julia Child cookbooks. And if there's one thing on this Earth that has the ability to transport me back in time to perfect, carefree days of yesteryear (I've been dying for an excuse to use the word "yesteryear," so thank God for this article), it's smells. 

You know what I mean, I'm sure, because we've all had that moment where we're walking by a bakery and the smell of fresh bread or cookies wafts out, and we're suddenly transported in a fraction of a second to baking cookies for a class bake sale or some other equally fond memory. 

Anyway, I'm older and more aware of my cholesterol now (ugh, #adulting), so I'm channeling all my desires for nostalgia smells into non-edibles. Namely, beauty products — and not even perfumes!

Tinte Cream Soda Flavored Vintage Lip Gloss Slider Tin

I have mega-fond memories of going to delis with a variety of old lady relatives of mine and having a sandwich and a half-glass of cream soda (my grandmother never let me have a whole one). It was always disgustingly sweet and vanilla-ish and everything that my childhood could've ever asked for. I don't drink much in the way of soda these days, but the scent and flavor are still EXTREMELY appealing to me. $14 here, and it looks really old timey, too.

$14, and it looks really old-timey, too.

$14, and it looks really old-timey, too.

Pai-Shau Supreme Revitalizing Mask

Have you ever smelled the Pai-Shau haircare line before? I mean, the stuff works really well and is free of all the weird and gross chemicals that destroy hair, but by far the most important selling point of their line is that every single product smells like getting close to a really well-dressed dude in 2004, without having to actually touch him, know him, speak to him, or take a pregnancy test. Earthy, woodsy, European, and all that jazz. 

Their hair mask is pricey at $43, but your hair ends up really nice without having to make even a single minute of small talk.

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Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In Conditioner

Ouidad's leave-in doesn't smell a damn thing like a fancy dude from a decade ago, but it does smell vaguely like late '90s Thierry Mugler and Donna Karan fragrances had a lovechild and created a curl-enhancing formula as a result. 

I wear this stuff almost every single day during the summer because, first and foremost, my Jewish hair appreciates all the moisture it can get in these humid times, and also because the scent is sort of mild and lingers gently throughout the day, reminding me that I should've studied harder in college. It lasts a really long time because you don't need more than a quarter size amount for even pretty adventurous curls.

Aveeno Active Naturals Absolutely Ageless Restorative Night Cream 

From fourth to seventh grades, I made a PB&J sandwich every single day. I didn't care if it was the weekend or a weekday or a class trip or anything in between — that sandwich was the most important part of 12:15ish for me, and it was delish every single time. 

My jam of choice was blackberry, and the new Aveeno Absolutely Ageless skincare collection has the faint smell of three years of the best sandwiches of my life. Also, it's cheapish and easy to travel with, and I'm into that. 

Jergens Moisturizer

Am I the only one who remembers everything in the '90s being cherry-almond scented and/or flavored? Cakes, cookies, weird variations of tiramisu, that sorely-missed Vidal Sassoon shampoo line that only exists in my heart now, and Jergens body lotion. 

Jergens still makes their cherry-almond lotion for those like myself who refuse to let go. It's a sort of perfect guest-bathroom fixture, too, because it's non-greasy and you'll reliably know that your guests will smell like a dessert you would've loved to eat in eighth grade when they emerge from your toilet. That's how I feel, anyway. Warning: it may elicit memories of MTV videos full of Moschino clothes.

Kaffe Cosmetics Kona Coffee Facial Scrub

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First, enjoy a good laugh at my expense, because my face is literally covered in kona coffee, and while I may look entirely ridiculous, I smell like the most heavenly coffee shop on this planet, thanks in no small part to the organic Hawaiian grinds being basically up my nostrils. 

So, I feel like it's my duty right now to share with you that I'm pretty pregnant, and while technically women are allowed to have a cup of coffee a day during their pregnancies, actual caffeine just isn't jiving well with my digestive system these days. I still long for the fresh latte scent I've loved every morning for countless years, though, so I've been getting really hot and heavy with this scrub. It's paraben-free so I have zero guilt using a ton of it in the shower each morning, and it tricks me into thinking I'm experiencing a real coffee on some level.

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Bath & Body Works Sun-Ripened Raspberry Shower Gel

Apparently, someone who really wants me to be a happy human over at the Bath & Body Works headquarters totally gets my nostalgia feels, so they brought back the iconic Sun Ripened Raspberry line and a few others. (I wrote about that important news here because it changed the course of my summer, and my mom's summer too.) I mean, I bought an entire set and filled her master bathroom with it all so I'd be guaranteed to have a full 1999 experience every time I visited her home. So far so good. 

Also, related/unrelated news: stocking a Caboodles with anything made by Bath & Body Works is officially the best way to live.

Also, yes, I did take this photo from my mom's balcony.

Also, yes, I did take this photo from my mom's balcony.

Softsoap Summer Breeze Moisturizing Body Wash

Have you even seen this Softsoap body wash? I mean, forget about how it smells like a 90s cucumber-scented everything experience. Just look at that packaging! If you're thinking that the bottle looks like a spin off of a shirt Dave Coulier would've worn on an early-'90s Full House episode, ding ding ding, we have exactly the same thoughts. 

It's also just a cheap, non-drying way to feel like you're showering at a decent hotel spa in 1995. 

Dove Advanced Care Caring Coconut Antiperspirant

OK, this is going to be the weirdest one on the list, but does anyone else remember drinking Malibu in college and thinking that it was a totally good idea? I've always loved Dove for keeping my pits silky-smooth and dry, but my love for their deo collection has reached entirely new levels now that I know their Caring Coconut version actually smells like a dead ringer for a Malibu-infused cocktail. 

Yes, I really wear this every day, and yes, my husband has commented on me smelling "like the beach." 

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Demeter Gin & Tonic Happily Foaming Bath & Shower Gel 

Cocktails needn't be limited to your armpits. Can we just high-five the chemistry team over at Demeter for creating a gin-and-tonic-scented body wash? A little of this stuff on a Saturday night makes me feel like I've missed out on 100% of nothing my unpregnant friends are up to, and fully pleased with my Netflix and popcorn based decisions.

Garnier Whole Blends Repairing Shampoo Honey Treasures

The scent of this shampoo is the grand finale here because this stuff smells like dunking my head directly into a cup of super-sweet honey tea at my grandmother's kitchen table. It's also paraben-free, which is cool, but I can't even begin to tell you how perfectly the scent matches an actual jar of high-end honey. I mean, we all know that many scented products come close but don't actually match the real deal; this one nails it and makes my entire head happy, because it also does a super job of hydrating and leaving my curlyish waves bouncy and happy. 

  • Which product scents immediately send you back? 
  • Am I the only one who wants her armpits to smell like college? 
  • Anyone else pregnant and on the coffee struggle bus?