Thursday 7 April 2016

Estée Lauder's Scented Decadence

Those cautious steps into a room that you knew were out of bounds were often met with the scent of powder and perfume, along with an array of bottles and jars. Hanging heavily in the air you didn't know exactly what it was as a child, but when you rediscover those scents in adulthood the feeling can be startling. Regulations and reformulation mean that some of them have been lost forever. Fragrance free, paraben free, lanolin free, the list of changes since those early days is long. Obviously a lot of these were necessary but have we lost a window into the past? Not completely. I stumbled across my own time machine by accident a few weeks ago, and it's all thanks to Estée Lauder.

Part of my mother's daily routine has always been the dedicated application of her skincare. As a child I can remember the jar of Pond's Cream on her dressing table and the careful decanting of that precious elixir. There was a scent associated with the memory but I could never summon it up enough to smell it in my mind. I've bought Pond's Cream recently and there was no twinge of recognition, so I just accepted that it would be a lost memory. However, National Fragrance Day gave me the opportunity to mooch through the cupboards of Estée Lauder and what I found took me right back to my childhood.

In 1956 Estée Lauder launched Re-Nutriv which was a revolutionary new skincare, and it came with a price tag to match. It boasted "rare ingredients" and a "rare formula", which was very true since the recipe was kept locked away in a secure vault. So what was actually in this famous cream? Well, you had "Turtle Oil, Shark Oil, Royal Jelly, Silicone and Leichol, plus 20 additional ingredients". I know that some of these are now unethical and rightly banned, but that hasn't stopped Estée Lauder. They have recreated the original cream using the original recipe, but made substitutions where law demanded. Why bother recreating "old fashioned" technology when they have six newer variations which deliver more measured results? Simply because there is still a demand for that feeling which comes with familiarity. There are two creams, the original and a lightweight version, but they are worlds apart in texture and scent. What they share though is an overwhelming pang for the past and a feeling of pure decadence.

The original cream is a full on buttery affair and so has that oiliness within its scent. There's also a touch of that famous fifties "sticking plaster" which instantly transports you back. Nearly all creams of this period included rose, and that is the floral that you smell here, along with a coumarin style sweetness. The texture is thick and heavy, perfect for dry skin, and whilst it was interesting to experience I doubt I'll ever try it again. The lightweight cream is a whole different matter. You instantly get a banana caramel note but with a rose somewhere in the background. This cream also seems to have a lily of the valley buried inside, but the caramel keeps it subdued. Wearing this one was an absolute pleasure. It’s not exactly “lightweight”, but it’s no heavier than a standard cream.

The original Re-Nutriv creams are only available in selected stores but next time you find yourself near an Estée Lauder counter ask if they have it. Be warned though, it's made me start hankering for my old Meccano set!

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