Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Scent of Nivea Cream: Nostalgic Remembrances in a Blue Tin

Who can forget the classic blue tin of Nivea Cream? Half the fun of using the unctuous, thick-pasted cream on wherever there was a graze or scratch or burn (or just for cosmetic purposes), was the smell. A scent so full of good-humoured herbal sweet comfort, nothing really sinister could come your way. Or so we thought, as kids. Stumbling upon what really made up that memorable aroma, many people's long and arduous quest, is precious and we're happy it to share it on Perfume Shrine:

"Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Even blindfolded, there’s no mistaking it: the fragrance of NIVEA. Its discreet perfume oil is considered one of the classic fragrances for skin cream. Because very few synthetic aroma chemicals were available in the early 20th century, the NIVEA fragrance consists largely of essential oils. Contributors to its flowery bouquet include lily of the valley, rose, violet, lilac and lavender, with orange and lemon fruit essences rounding out the fragrance. And incidentally: the secret original formula for the perfume oil used in NIVEA cream has changed very little after all these years."

Might we hereby note that neither violet, nor lilac, nor lily of the valley yield an adequate enough essential oil for anything even remotely resembling mass production, but we realise that an official admission on using even some aromachemicals is far-fetched. You'll have to content with having the scent notes delineated for you for the classic Nivea cream in the blue tin though: It's the stuff unforgettable scent memories are built on...

Photo collage of vintage Nivea cream ads via oranges & apples
Quote from Always Inspiring via M.K.Krydd (thanks!)


  1. I do remember it! It's the European equivalent of the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion (if you are of a certain age) or Hawaiian Tropic (if you're a slightly younger version of a certain age.) In other words, one sniff and you're back at the beach, in a time when no one worried all that much about sun damage. And the empty tins were great for sorting small objects.

  2. Anonymous13:30

    I love Nivea. It was and still is, always around. My grandmother and mother used it, and I have come full circle and use it as well on me and my children.
    The smell is inimitable. thank you for mentioning that icon.

  3. Fiordiligi14:37

    My mother used it, and she had the most gorgeous skin: "soap and water and Nivea."

    Did you know that Guerlain used to make a "creme Nivea" too?

    Lovely, nostalgic piece - thank you!

  4. Nivea and that wonderful smell. I remember rubbing the thick cream on my dry ashy legs as a kid. I could confidently leave the house knowing that my legs would not detract...but my hair was a different story! ;~)

  5. Anonymous16:23

    I've always loved the aroma of Nivea and wished I could buy a perfume like it. I think I've sort of found one - Shiseido's Energising Fragrance. I'm not sure what notes it has in it, but there is a rosiness coupled with citrus, and then it is rounded off with a sweet wood base. Very comforting, and not at all energising for me!

  6. Anonymous17:35

    Dear E,

    This was the go-to creme for my mother all her life and she still always has a pot among her toiletries. She used it on us to protect our noses and cheeks against the harsh, dry winter wind. Now she slathers my boys' cheeks and noses with it when they go off to play in the snow, much to the boys' annoyance.

    Thank you for the memories and the lovely vintage ads,


  7. Rappleyea19:06

    What a wonderful walk down memory lane! And so apropos coming as it did on the day I received my decant of Le Labo Patchouli 24, which I love because it reminds me of the smell of ichthammol, aka "brown salve".

    Thanks, E.!

  8. P,

    I hadn't thought of the sunscreen connection, to be honest, maybe due to the lavender. But there's something about it, isn't there, interesting!
    I love the tins, their blue is a vivid dark shade, if that makes any sense.

  9. B,

    makes perfect sense!! Why abandond an old stand-by when it works? *message to companies discontinuing stuff right and left*

  10. D,

    some of those old recipes have a lot of sound reasoning behind them, in fact. Older people I recall using Nivea as a sunscreen, despite its lack of SPF. And curiously enough I can vouch that it works; a spotty application in a pinch once left me with places of completely white (i.e. I mean natural-toned, non tan) skin, where the Nivea was layed on thick.

    Got your mail, just read it, need to reply back!! :-D

  11. TFC,

    using on legs must be a great way to combat dryness.
    I have heard of hairdressers, now that you mention it, rubbing a tiny dot of Nivea and then massaging through the ends of the hair to make it frizz-free and shiny. Sort of a DIY Brylcreem.

    It's a salve for heels, knees and elbows at our home. Works a treat.

  12. Jillie,

    wow, great info! So Nivea scent in perfume form = Energising Fragrance by Shiseido? Noting that one down!! Thanks!

    Yeah, isn't it weird how they claim odd things in product endorsements sometimes? Like how lavender is supposed to be soporific, when in fact a decent, good grade lavender essential oil is so very pinching the nose and rather camphoraceous in scent, therefore not leaving me (at least) to sleep but making me notice it.

  13. Natalia,

    thanks for sharing!
    Little boys wouldn't be little boys if they didn't fret when mothers and grandmothers attempted to slather on things on them, would they? They will fondly remember the efforts though when they grow up (and show off good skin to prove it).

  14. Rappleya,

    wow, have absolutely no idea what "brown salve" is but now I'm curious!
    Care to tell me a bit more?

    There are odd connections between cosmetics, flavours and fragrances and it's always fun to explore, I guess.

  15. Rappleyea18:32

    Read this:


    It's a drawing salve with some antibiotic properties. My mother used it on us kids for everything from splinters to wounds. I still use it in the winter on the painful splits in my fingers that I get from the cold and dry. It seems to be the only thing that both stops the pain and heals them.

    A lot of horse people use it as well for various veterinary reasons.

  16. Mimi G05:16

    I love Nivea but I love Nivea Soft Cream even more. It's fabulous and I must have gone through dozens of tubes and jars of Nivea Soft . Beautiful scent.

  17. R,

    a ha, thank you! I didn't know. Makes sense!

  18. M,

    it impresses me how we do all have collective memories of the Nivea products. It's something of a rite of passage I guess. And when something works....

  19. Eva H.22:08

    I love the scent of Nivea cream. I used to use it until I started looking at ingredients and realized it was based on petrolatum.....in that ragard: why shouldn´t they admit to aromachemicals? The cream isn´t natural to begin with... :o)

  20. Anonymous14:32

    Petroleum AND PEG-40 💔 Because of that, three generations of my family buying Nivea ends with me 💔 Gotta protect my health and my family’s health


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