When Good Beauty Products Smell Bad – And Why We Should Use Them

My skin has never looked better, and I owe it all to a few big-gun products. The only thing? None of them smell good.

They say that your sense of smell is the strongest given its close link to memory.

Those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories; P50 suncream, freshly cut grass or the pervasive saltiness of the Irish Sea may come to mind. 

Our perception of what smells good and what smells bad is determined by way of context and the power of suggestion; as much as enjoying things that smell pleasant is a learned behaviour, so is enjoying things that do not.

Some scents may seem like they're collectively adored – lavender, rose, patchouli among others – but perhaps that is capitalism more so at play than anything, given that these scents are the lab-grown parfums pumped out by perfumeries every year. 

Given that the beauty world is filled with these scents and more, many of us with an interest in beauty have been forced to unlearn the very foundation of what product formulators and olfactory receptors have both been trying to tell me for a very long time, which is that good-smelling things are good for my skin. They're not.

More often than not, fragrance-filled products feature chemicals that are bad for the skin, sensitive skin even moreso. While the industry has recently touted the importance of fragrance-free formulas, I have undergone a new investigation – bad-smelling beauty. 

These are the products that have worked wonders for my skin, while also boasting the scent of jagged confusion. 

1. Biologique Recherche P50

I've spoken in-depth about my love for this rancid-smelling ointment before (TL;DR: it's not that bad) but what it has done for my skin speaks for itself. Clearer, fresher and brighter – this has become a staple of my nightly routine without fail.

Disclaimer: P50 lotion is a strong exfoliator and cleanser. Those looking to use it should start with the more sensitive option of P50W. 

2. Crème Elastine Marine

Another BR product – they commit to the cause, you love to see it – this moisturiser boasts a scent of low-tide mixed with dog food. It can be a struggle to use on hungover mornings but is a sensational product. 

I was recommended to use this by a professional and can confirm that is as kind to your skin as it is ruthless to your nostrils; soothing, healing, reducing inflammation, and smelling like old yoghurt for no longer than 20 seconds after application.

3. Sulphur Soap

Natural sulphur is known for its extraordinary benefits on acne-prone skin. A favourite of French women and easily found in pharmacies, the chemical is known to reduce the effects of acne and inflammation while also preventing them from resurfacing in the future.

Now, anyone who studied Chemistry in Leaving Cert will be acutely aware of the rotten-egg scent that accompanies sulphur. The same can be said with these products, albeit lessened. However, they do work.

Slap it on your back if you notice blemishes breaking out, you're welcome. 

4. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic 

Few products are found in the shelfies of the beauty elite more often that SkinCeutical's C E Ferulic acid, and for good reason. 

The combination of ferulic, pure vitamin C, and vitamin E enhances the skin's protection against environmental damage caused by free radicals, improves signs of ageing and photodamage, reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and brightens the complexion upon every use. 

It also stinks. Some have kindly described the scent as “metallic” while others go all out and describe it as "dirty hot dog water". Still, the people buy, because the complexion-revitalising benefits are impressive.

5. Peter Roth's Sulphur Mask

I've already spoken about the much-maligned egg scent of sulphur so I'll keep this quick. 

This medicated masque is made up of 10% Sulfur, purifying Kaolin and Bentonite Clays which dries, clears up and helps prevent acne. It's a big favourite amongst the Irish Tatler team, even though pungency reigns supreme. 

Use it the night before a big event, just be prepared to open a window. 

Main image by @skinceuticals_uki

READ MORE: A Dermatologist-Approved Skincare Routine For Acne-Prone Skin

READ MORE: The Hyaluronic Acid Product That's Replaced My Beloved The Ordinary Serum

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