I’m a bit of a nostalgia junkie. Not a day goes by that I don’t look to the past in some way. Although I’d consider myself a casual visitor, I can certainly see why people stay indefinitely, especially when the past seems brighter than the future. One of my biggest nostalgia triggers (besides long talks with my mum or older sister) is scent. I even wrote about this phenomenon back when I was a beauty editor. Basically, it’s a scientific fact that our sense of smell is directly connected to the brain’s pleasure centre.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m growing older or more sentimental but I love to revisit the beauty products I remember from childhood. I was obviously far too young to actually use them, but for me, it’s the stuff my mum and older sister wore that evoke the best smells and stories. Like the tale my mum told me of my grandmother (who I never had the pleasure of meeting) who could only afford one perfume and it was Chanel No. 5. That resulted in my own mother loving it, probably because it reminds her of her mum. Then there’s Nivea cream’s slightly medicinal scent that never fails to put me right back into our family bathroom, as I watch my mum in wonder while she smoothes it onto her face. She also instilled in me a love of rosewater. From a young age I can recall bottles of the stuff in the bathroom and kitchen. Nowadays, I like to use it as a purely sensorial act.
Perhaps my oldest and fondest memories are of our family going to Chinatown to eat and shop. My mum would always buy lots of beeswax soap in rose (big surprise), sandalwood and jasmine. She used to use it on me at bath time and I remember the soaps emitting the most exotic scents, which I came to love as an adult. Sandalwood is one of my top smells for sure.
As I got older and used to sneak into my sister’s room to “explore”, I remember being so fascinated by these tiny powdery pastel-coloured pearls that smelled like fancy soap. Now I know they were Guerlain, but I can easily recall how curious I was about them and what they were used for.
There are so many more things I could talk about that evoke longing for a more innocent time but these are probably the most significant as I have them at the ready.
What beauty smells are you nostalgic for?