What is that scent
September 27, 2010 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Over last couple of years I have noticed an increasing number of people (male & female) wearing a particular scent. It doesn't smell like standard perfume or aftershave. It has a kind of herby / healthy scent maybe even a touch medicinal.

It kind of reminds me of health food shops.

Maybe it's some kind of essential oil or deo-odorant rather than scent?

Any idea what it could be?

bI know this is a bit of a weird question but I really like it whatever it is and want to get some and I'm sure someone knows what I'm talking about.
posted by mairuzu to Shopping (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing patchouli. A friend of mine wears it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:20 PM on September 27, 2010

Are you familiar with patchouli?

It might be that.
I've smelled an increase in its usage (unfortunately).
posted by Seamus at 12:21 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Could it be tea tree oil? It's included in different body washes and soaps and even essential oils, normally to help with acne. It definitely has a "medicinal" smell to it. You could probably find a sample to sniff at The Body Shop.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:23 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Barring that, there's always Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (aka BPAL). Some of their scents have patchouli, and I think I know more guys than girls who wear their stuff.

Warning: Imps are addictive. I speak from painful, wonderful-smelling experience. If you order from them, don't say I didn't warn you.
posted by Heretical at 12:24 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Warning re: BPAL, it will be completely impossible to identify any of their scents by description alone unless you are a particular genius with reverse-engineering scents. I'm a guy that wears their stuff but they have hundreds of oils with clever but 100% origin-obscuring names.)
posted by mykescipark at 12:28 PM on September 27, 2010

I am guessing either patchouli or tea tree oil.
posted by proj at 12:29 PM on September 27, 2010

I've noticed this, and, to me, there's some almond in there.
posted by jgirl at 12:35 PM on September 27, 2010

Patchouli's been around for ages and I don't think there's been an upswing in it, but tea tree oil seems to have become trendy in the last few years. It has a strong smell--using just a drop of it and lots of water leaves the towel smelling pungent (I think it's mostly horrible, but I also hate eucalyptus, mint, and lavender). If you drop by Trader Joe's, you can smell it in their bath and kitchen section.
posted by wintersweet at 12:40 PM on September 27, 2010

Tea tree oil has a very distinctive sharp scent, one that seems to me to be immediately noticeable in a room. The sharpness gets my attention in the same way a strong mint or menthol smell would.

Patchouli is equally noticeable, but not as sharp. Whereas tea tree oil is insistent but doesn't overpower everything else (like the loudest guy in the room, but you can still hear other people talk), patchouli -- to my nose -- beats all other smells into submission (the auditory equivalent would be a small army of jackhammers). The smell, to me, is earthier than tea tree oil, with a bit of mustiness to it.

These are both noticeable scents, and both seem to be having a resurgence of sorts lately in some circles. But they're not at all alike. Maybe this will help you tell the difference.

(Also a plea of sorts, if it's patchouli, and you're considering getting some, let me say: don't. Please don't. I find it to be among the world's most offensive smells. And I actively avoid anyone who's even dabbled in it. At the very least, know that there are people who will avoid you like the plague if you've got patchouli on. Tea tree oil doesn't thrill me either, but I can tolerate it.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:48 PM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Are these people athletic? Could it be something like Tiger Balm? It has a very unusual (but quite pleasant) scent that is does have a bit of a medicinal side to it.
posted by quin at 12:54 PM on September 27, 2010

Health food shops always smell like Nag Champa to me.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:01 PM on September 27, 2010

Lavender is another possibility. You might want to head to a health food store and sniff all of their essential oil testers - if you don't find the exact smell, write down a couple things it smells close to, and someone might be able to figure it out from there.

(Don't wear essential oils straight on the skin, though, they're too harsh. You can mix a few drops into shampoo or lotion.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:09 PM on September 27, 2010

If the people you're talking about are hippies, or the sorts of white people who have dreadlocks, it might be patchouli. But if you were running in those circles, you'd know what patchouli smelled like - it's far from a new thing. And if you had suddenly started hanging out with hippies, you'd have mentioned that.

I'll also vote for tea tree oil, though I don't know that it's really used much as a deliberate scent (as opposed to using it as an ingredient in skincare products with the added benefit of having a certain scent). Tiger balm, too - though I associate the camphor scent of tiger balm with old people and medicine, sort of like Vick's Vapo-Rub. Not with perfume.

I use calendula deodorant which has a scent somewhat like what you describe. Could it maybe be that? Tom's Of Maine makes it, and a lot of my friends use it as well. It's unisex, and not necessarily associated with any particular subculture (though obviously Tom's Of Maine markets itself to a certain crunchy/tree-hugging/latte-swilling demographic).
posted by Sara C. at 1:10 PM on September 27, 2010

I have also been smelling more people wearing a simple sandalwood scent lately.
posted by Seamus at 1:11 PM on September 27, 2010

it's burt's bee's deodorant.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with Seamus - I've notice a lot more sandalwood the last few years.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:20 PM on September 27, 2010

I smelled something just like this in our mail area the other day. This was definitely not tea tree oil or patchouli. It was more citrus-y, almost like a Swiss medicinal preparation.
posted by Mertonian at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2010

I'm guessing Bay leaf oil, which is in a lot of perfumes and aftershaves.
posted by np312 at 1:31 PM on September 27, 2010

I could be a Dr. Bronner product. Like their classic liquid soap?
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:45 PM on September 27, 2010

Reading your description, my first idea was Aveda products. I have a couple of friends who either use Aveda shampoo or get their hair cut at Aveda salons, and it's a really distinctive fresh, herbal smell.
posted by coppermoss at 2:04 PM on September 27, 2010

I really doubt it is Dr. Bronner's soap. I use that daily and have never noticed any residual smell.

I agree it is probably tea tree oil, which is in many products these days. Patchouli is not that likely because you didn't use the words "sweaty" or "nasty" in your question.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:11 PM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

My guess is Carmex. I can identify a whiff of Carmex from several feet away, and it matches your description.
posted by ErikaB at 4:24 PM on September 27, 2010

Sandalwood doesn't smell medicine-y but patchouli does. I'd guess it's patchouli.
posted by patheral at 4:32 PM on September 27, 2010

I've been noticing a lot of women in my office wearing scents with a note of patchouli lately. I wouldn't describe it as medicine-like, though. It's a very earthy, herbally smell. Kind of like fresh dirt. In fact, Demeter's "Dirt" fragrance seems to be largely patchouli-based.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2010

Here is another vote for Aveda products. They definitely have a clean, herbal scent that is potent but not (to my nose) too pungent or offensive (like patchouli is).
posted by apricot at 6:10 PM on September 27, 2010

Patchouli is certainly a possibility, but it's a VERY strong and distinctive scent you might already be familiar with, or might have described a bit differently.

It's possible you're smelling folks wearing Aveda products, which all have quite herbal scents and are fairly popular.

And if you live near a Lush store, you could be smelling their products, particularly their Karma- or Olive Branch-scented items, which are popular with both women and men.

I've also sometimes noticed people wearing a light clove-light scent. Usually when I ask them about it, they say they're not wearing perfume or any other scented products, just natural shampoo/lotion/deodorant.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:49 PM on September 27, 2010

I am that person you are smelling: it's my soap. I use Lush and it works pretty good. Many Lush soap items have the sort of scent you describe, and they are all over now (here=Chicago) and big department store have a whole mini store of the stuff in em, so that would be my guess.
posted by zenon at 7:16 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

It might be eucalyptus essential oil.
posted by overglow at 10:20 PM on September 27, 2010

it's definitely not patchouli. i would say that the people who are wearing it are a bit older (mid-late 30s) than the age group that wear patchouli.

thinking about it, i'd be surprised if it was a deodorant or soap as it smells quite strong (i.e. i noiticed it on a waiter and someone standing in front of me at a gig).

it's a very natural smell (herby like rosemary(?)) and i've just remembered that it smells a bit like Ecover clothes washing liquid (but I'm pretty sure it's not that - unless people are using far too much of it....)
posted by mairuzu at 11:30 PM on September 27, 2010

If it's a strong, herby, rosemaryish scent that you can smell on your waiter or someone standing in front of you, my money's on Aveda shampoo.
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:16 AM on September 28, 2010

I believe you if you say it's not patchouli, but wanted to mention that the people I've been smelling it on lately are 40's-50's.

Lavender always hits me as very herbal and can be strong enough to smell from a ways away. Also, I've seen several laundry detergents and dryer sheets scented with lavender recently.

I may have to try Aveda shampoo. It sounds like it has a nice fragrance. I like for my hair to smell good!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:33 AM on September 28, 2010

what a shame we can't send smell clips to each other - i'm now going to have to work my way round the shops finding all these products to sniff.
posted by mairuzu at 3:03 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can't you just ask somebody who's wearing it?
posted by Ted Maul at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2011

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