4 Products My Nose Hates But My Skin Loves

You know it’s good when you'll suffer the smell for the results.
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Sarah C.
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You know it’s good when you'll suffer the smell for the results.

I’m gonna say something that might shock you. Are you sitting down? OK, here goes: not all beauty products smell good. Some of them actually smell pretty weird, like these four. 

skin care products with weird smells

Naturally, I decided to write a piece where I have to smell these over and over again as I try to figure out just what bothers me about each one. I’m smart.

So why am I writing about weird-smelling products, you ask? Shh, this isn’t a dialogue. I’m getting there, gosh!

Make no mistake--I love these products. Each one is so well-formulated and effective that I have no choice but to put up with their olfactory weirdness; no looking (or sniffing) for a better-scented alternative, no settling for inferior dupes. It’s a small price to pay for product excellence, after all. And, hey, they don’t necessarily smell bad to everyone. You might actually enjoy them. 

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream

skin care products with weird smells

A classic for a reason (our lovely Hannah is a fan!), you’ve likely heard of this makeup artist fave already. Rumor has it that Arden (her actual name was Florence Nightingale Graham) whipped up the first version as a healing ointment for her prized racehorses, which probably explains why she wasn’t overly concerned with the application experience. One might charitably call the scent “medicinal.” One might less charitably call it “motor oil mixed with cut grass and flavored with bug spray.” But gosh darn if this stuff doesn’t heal chapped lips like nothing else--including similar favorites like Vaseline, Paw Paw Ointment, and Nipple Balm.

You can slather it on dry cuticles or elbows, rashes or cuts, anything dry, peeling, or burned. I’ve even used it over moisturizer to seal in hydration overnight. I keep one tube within arm’s reach of my bed for nighttime lip dryness (ugh, the worst), and one tube in my purse for all other emollient emergencies. There is an unscented version, but I’m afraid it won’t work as well as the original. And besides, I’m used to that gasoline/mowed lawn smell by now. I’ve decided it builds character.

Caudalie Beauty Elixir

skin care products with weird smells

I’m a face spray addict. I have permanently parched skin and an inexplicable penchant for testing the limits of what my purse can carry, so I’ve used ‘em all. Thus far nothing has come close to the complexion-brightening glow and instant hydration relief I get from this little glass bottle. (Grab the travel size, which is portable and far less wallet-bruising.) It’s also great for setting makeup and quickly combatting any overenthusiastic powder mishaps. This French skin care brand draws inspiration--and ingredients--from antioxidant-rich grapes, so you’d think a nice whiff of vino would make sense, but no such luck. It’s sort of herbal-scented; reminds me of a health food store. God, I hate health food store smell.

Eve Lom Cleanser

skin care products with weird smells

I definitely feel like some people would be into the scent of this cleanser, and it’s admittedly difficult to put my finger on what exactly turns me off about it. It’s a rich aroma, almost spicy? Let’s see, it’s got chamomile, eucalyptus, hops, and clove oils—AH, there we go. Chamomile and clove. Yup. Sleepy time tea mixed with pretentious art student. Despite that, and despite the fact that it looks a little like flu-season snot, it’s an unbelievably good cleanser. I mean, Vogue pronounced it "possibly the best cleanser in the world." 

Every time I treat my face to this cleansing balm, my skin feels soft, supple, and hydrated. Usually I feel the need to moisturize immediately after I wash my face, but this little beauty actually buys me some dawdling time. It may seem prohibitively expensive, but you only need the teensiest amount for your whole face. My 3.3 ounces has lasted over six months, which I think works out to a pretty reasonable spend.

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm

skin care products with weird smells

I’ve been having torrid love affairs with a few Clarins standouts for years, but one of my die-hards is their Beauty Flash Balm. I mean, what a fantastic name, right? Is it a superhero? Is it some kind of laser in a tube? WTF does it do? I’ll tell you, friend: it makes you GORGEOUS. 

The only drawback is the decidedly old-lady fragrance. I’ve been sitting here huffing this tube for much longer than I’d care to admit (the things I do for beauty writing!), and that’s the only way I can think to describe the scent: old lady, albeit a very chic and classy one. It's sort of powdery yet spicy. Clarins says you can use it as a mask, but I wouldn’t recommend that: this is another pricey product and wiping it off after 15 minutes isn’t exactly frugal. However, it does shine as a primer (Lisa Eldridge explains how in this tutorial) and/or highlighter. Tap a tiny bit onto cheekbones for instant dewiness, or smooth a thin layer onto décolletage to mimic a slightly sweaty post-sex glow.

Your turn. What crazy-awesome products do you hate smelling? I can’t be the only weirdo who just grimaces and bears it.