The languor of sun drenched holidays by the beach, the sea lapping at your feet, tan legs seemingly going for miles against realism (that is the effect of a bit of golden glow for you!), an intriguing book, dog-eared and lying loose on your bare belly button... all these things naturally induce scented thoughts associated with this kind of lazy pastime. The creamy, tropically floral or more edible nuance of suntan lotions and tanning oils reinforces the experience as only sensory experiences that do not engage our rational mind can. Is it any wonder that my sun-dazed mind is buzzing around them like a greedy insect hovering over the golden pollen of a ripe flower? I don't necessarily claim laurels of originality, we all -people with an interest in smells I mean- think of this subject on those occasions, I guess. And is it any wonder that fragrance de croisière remains a popular market trend? There are surely many of us out there, more than initially thought of.
|by George Marks, via Getty Images|
Much as the reference seems universal, not all suntan lotions and potions are created equal nevertheless. The divide can be cultural: The all American scent of Coppertone is heavy in coconut lactones (such as gamma-Nonalactone), milky-smelling, rich, sometimes overwhelming even, to this Med-born nose. The European equivalent of Ambre Solaire is rich in salicylates, ylang-ylang naturally occurring floral components that translate as tropically floral, sweet, inviting, rather gardenia-leaning. Bain de Soleil is another old brand in the same vein. A suntan product can be ~predictably enough~ exotically laced, as Les Polysianes by Klorane or the Hei-Poa sun oil line attest: Tahitian tiare (the local gardenia steeped in sandalwood & mainly; coconut oil) is at the heart of their creamy, South Isles evocative bouquet, sometimes containing wine lactone or massoia lactone, which have a lighter, creamy coconut odor. Hawaian Tropic is poised somewhere in between: tiare and thicker coconut flesh in some sort of equal balance.
A cursory Google search before embarking on my own holidays while preparing this post a while ago revealed vintage brands I hadn't even heard of before; with funny-sounding names, such as Skol, Gaby, Tartan, Diana or QT, or with outright functional ones such as the 1970s billboard material Sea & Ski products.
|yup, that's Renee Russo in 1976 via pzrservices blog, click to enlarge|
The transition from tanning product for the body to actual fine perfume can be subtle or bolder, according to who makes it. The perfumers at old-guard Guerlain, for instance, were inspired by the isles "sous le vent" (which also inspired the classical Sous le Vent by Guerlain perfume) as well as their popular cosmetic tan line, the famous Terracotta, for the Terracotta Eau Sous le Vent fragrance mist and its accompanying Huile de Voyager dry oil; these products can compliment your sunscreen to give an illusion of old style tanning preparations now that the sun is frowned upon and we all slather ourselves with SPF 50+. Lys Soleia in the Aqua Alegoria line is Guerlain's newest interpretation of the sun tan lotion European floralcy in all its lily-laced spiciness, while the older Terracotta Voile d'Ete is carnation-spicy and fiery like the sunniest days spent under the Antibes blue skies.
A most refined version is met by parfums Hermes, a vanguard of the "not trying too hard" school of thought; Vanille Galante in the boutique-only Hermessences line is redolent of the vanillic-spicy facets of lily, while Santal Massoia in the same posh line utilizes the lactonic facets of fig leaf and classic sandalwood to render the ambience of beach holidays with a winking helping of suntan lotion in the distance. An unapologetic, no-holds-barred approach in all its coconut & vanilla calorific indulgence on the other hand is Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Vanille Coco: Coppertone till you beg to be released.
Cosmetic line Nuxe had no choice but to follow their super-popular (with celebrities and mere mortals alike) golden-flecked Huile Prodigieuse beautifying oil with a similarly fragranced, dedicated perfume product (L'Eau Prodigieuse); the recreation of holidays at the flick of a sprayer! Nars Monoï Body Glow II also has this suntan lotion scent in its core, a mixture of coconut and Tahitian gardenia that is decidedly tropical.
Bobbi Brown created her Beach fragrance to give a compatible scent to what she felt would go well with her tawny, bronzed makeup collections; the fragrance became a long-lasting cult deservingly, recreating the familiar Coppertone association under a gloomier, more East Coast sky.
|photo borrowed from blogdorfgoodman blog|
Dior is a similar example: Though Dior's Dune perfume didn't begin its long career as a suntan evocative scent, but rather a demure, monastic yard by the seafront reminiscent perfume for the 1990s with the bracken hint of broom, it soon expanded its main accord into Dior Sweet Sun (an alcohol-free version of a sun-dried, warm biscuit scent that is close to tanning products in the line with a peachy-apricoty nuance) and of course the alcohol-free flanker Dune Sun, to capitalize on the success of the summery evocative name. They have since launched Escale aux Marquises as another "warm sun and tiare" fragrance, now that the above mentioned lighter concentrations have been discontinued, albeit with different aesthetic results.
|via pzrservices blog|
Some tanning products have an amber-like sweetness to them, like toasted biscuits, with a slight gingerbread warmth. Lancaster's (another cosmetics line, this time famous for its tanning preparations since the 1960s) ambery Aquasun fragrance is a good substitute of beach holidays in a bottle; the drydown reminds me of the intensity of sunscreen on my skin after I have sat under the intense sun of Sardinia for a while and before leaping into the sea, in a frog-like leap, exhausted by the heat. Obsession for Women by Calvin Klein also reminds me a bit of sun-warmed skin, possibly the evocation of a sun-watched tryst.
Celebrities haven't been immune to the trend: I'm only citing Jennifer Lopez and her Miami Glow with its cute havaianas flip-flops on the neck and its tropical suntan feel of a scent because celebrity perfumes isn't a field I consider myself proficient in, for better or for worse. This one is good enough to wear without any guilt nevertheless.
If you prefer oils, Monyette Paris is a cult reference, girlish and floral with coconut overtones, while their more recent Coquette Tropique is somewhat airier, though it is rather too sweet for my personal taste. Sage Onyx by the same jewelry line designer who makes the trinkets is darker, ambery, with the coconut hidden under the suntan and famously made popular by Kate Beckinsale who pronounced it her husband-luring charm. And if you appreciate a sense of humor, the fragrance library over at Demeter (brain child of perfumer Christopher Brosius) stocks Suntan Lotion fragrance spray; what's more overtly obvious than that?
There are probably hundreds of suntan products that smell delicious enough and accompanying perfumes and scented oils recreating that holiday touch; do YOU have a favorite one?
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Beauty and the Beachy; beachy fragrances for every style & taste, The Scent of Nivea cream: nostalgic blue-tin reminiscences