Why the Best Beauty Products Should Smell the Worst

From sulfur to salad dressing, it’s OK if your beauty routine stinks.

By Annie Walton Doyle

Flickr/   zinniazimminy

All those lotions and potions in your bathroom cabinet should smell good, right? Actually, wrong. As any skincare aficionado will tell you, lots of times the rule of thumb is the stinkier the product, the better it works.

Be very suspicious of any beauty product that smells too pretty. Put simply: Good ingredients tend to be quite potent in their aroma, while artificially added scents can irritate the skin and dilute many of the product’s benefits.

If your beauty routine is on the rank side, you’re probably doing something right. Here are some of the worst — or best — offenders.

Biologique Recherche’s Masque Vivant

Smells like: Yeast

If you live in the U.K. or Australia, you’ll likely have heard of Marmite and the Aussie version, Vegemite. These yeast-based spreads smell like an explosion in a brewery mixed with five tons of salt, but they’re actually quite delicious when eaten with lots of butter on toast. Biologique Recherche’s face mask looks and smells exactly like that.

Far from making it unusable, it should actually be a staple in your routine. If you’re having issues with acne, inflammation, clogged pores, or dullness, 10 minutes using the Masque Vivant will sort you out. Make sure you thoroughly wash your face afterwards to fully remove that yummy Marmite/Vegemite smell.

Heritage’s Rosewater Vinegar

Smells like: Salad dressing

The clue is in the name with this one — but even so, I was shocked at the salad-dressing scent of this toner. I’ve used other Heritage facial mists and each was as delightful as the last.

The Rosewater Vinegar is the ugly duckling of the range, but in terms of actual skin benefits it’s by far the most effective. It gently exfoliates the skin’s surface, making everything look smoother and more luminous. You might smell like a salad afterwards, but it’s worth it.

Drunk Elephant’s C Firma Day Serum

Smells like: Boiled hot dogs

Vitamin C is a miracle ingredient for age prevention in skincare. It tackles all the common issues people associate with aging — lack of firmness, changes in skin texture, dullness, sagging, and all that unfortunate stuff.

The problem is that potent vitamin C products tend to smell, quite simply, like meat. The Drunk Elephant C Firma Day Serum is one of the best vitamin C products on the market — just be prepared to smell like hot dog water afterwards.

Sunday Riley’s U.F.O.

Smells like: Pizza

One thing I love about Sunday Riley as a brand is its dedication to avoiding artificial fragrances. However, this does tend to mean the products have a distinctive aroma, and the facial oils are amongst the worst offenders.

The U.F.O. (or Ultraclarifying Facial Oil) has a distinctive pizza scent — like sticking your nose into a tub of dried oregano and taking a deep whiff. Great for boosting hydration and making your skin glow, it’s also a great (albeit accidental) decongestant.

Skinceuticals’ CE Ferulic Serum

Smells like: More meat

Surprise, surprise — another vitamin C serum makes the list thanks to its skin brightening powers and awesome ability to fade scarring. However, in addition to smelling like meat, this one also has a slight metallic aroma to it, as well.

Reviewers have described it as smelling similar to “baked ham,” “hot dogs,” and “sliced deli chicken.” As one fan of the age-defying product wrote, “Great results, but the smell!!!”

Peter Thomas Roth’s Therapeutic Sulfur Mask

Smells like: Rotten eggs

You can pretty much tell by the name that this mask is not going to smell pretty. Sulfur (otherwise known as “the rotten egg scent”) is one of this mask’s main ingredients, so it’s no surprise that your face will smell like farts when you wear this one.

Nonetheless, if you suffer from painful, hormonal acne, sulfur is a main skincare ingredient that actually makes a visible difference, helping to unclog pores and smooth skin.

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