The smell of dirty, unwashed hair is repellent. The smell of frolicking, freshly shampooed hair can also be overwhelming if the product is overscented, as many conditioners, ‘treatments’ and shampoos do tend to be these days. I find all the Pantenes, Luxes, the Doves and wimpy Timoteis quite often to be too much*. Sometimes these perfumed hair soaps eat the air all around them, destroying perfume in their wake. At other times, the ‘sillage’ is enough in itself, as individuals swish by, and you smile at the cozy, blowdried breeze from a mane that seems to be somehow emanating, as the bloodstream pulses under the skin, the person deeper within.

Today I used a special ‘men’s shampoo and conditioner set, ‘Clear’, that made my crummy barnet look slightly fuller; more wavy Mediterranean. I liked the visuals – the sweller texture; a ‘because it gives me confidence’ kind of sensation : even ten hours later I can tell my locks are giving good scent – I smell clean as old Lizzy. At the same time, the whole Clairol aurora makes me feel like an impostor. That I’m not wearing my hair, but that my hair is wearing me.

As perfume lovers, do you also consider these things; how scent and the shampoo and hair products you use will inevitably mix ? (I quickly realized this afternoon that there was no point being perfumed, the scent of this ‘scalp soap’ being so potent): or do you just bathe, in the overall general blend, twirling your haircurtain like Chewbacca in L’Oreal ?

*I miss the lemony citrus, grease-stripping Boots shampoos my mother used to use in the seventies……absolute bath time bliss.

So clean you could hear your hair squeak.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Hanamini

    Love the photos. The fruity, coconutty shampoos my daughters use make me gag. When I was commuting, the freshly washed, beautiful heads of hair made me both envious and move seats. My son uses Head ‘N Shoulders and I can live with that. Now I’m not commuting, I have greater control of what I’m surrounded by, and as for my daughters, I love them nevertheless. They no longer buy me coconut-scented candles, but I can’t ban the use of all their shampoos….only gently nudge them toward some Kerastase or similar. Or Head ‘N Shoulders.

  2. @makeuprecon

    Ok, those pictures killed me 😂
    I have this problem with dry shampoos. I only wash my hair every 3-4 days but in between, my roots sometimes need a bit of dry shampoo. Every single one I’ve tried has been a fragrance bomb. They choke me. I have to quickly spray and then run to a different part of the room to escape the cloud. As bad as the tropical fruit ones can be, the worst culprits are the the ones scented with lemon. I think it’s supposed to make you feel fresh, however, it ends up smelling like Lemon Pledge or floor cleaner. I really need to find an unscented one.

    • Hanamini

      Same here, but I can live with Batiste Heavenly Volume, it doesn’t smell of anything gaggy, just powder and hairspray. But I wonder what it’s doing to my lungs. I have a cousin who can’t be around any aerosols, she loses her voice and breath and breaks out in hives. It’s very dramatic—shows what these things can do! But I’ve been using Elnett and dry shampoo for decades…

    • I want the Lemon Pledge one !

      What’s it called ?

      • @makeuprecon

        Oscar Blandi dry shampoo, any of the three versions will do because they all smell the same. It’s supposed to be refreshing lemon verbena. I smell Pledge, just a noxious, artificial lemon.

        Since we’re already on a tangent here, I’ll continue with a dry shampoo recommendation: Redken Dry Shampoo Paste. It sounds like an oxymoron but it really works. You just rub a small amount between your fingers and then rub it into your roots. It works so quickly, I was really surprised. It also gives me a lot of volume. It doesn’t smell at all which is a huge plus. It’s not as quick or convenient as an aerosol, but works great.

      • I used dry shampoo in hospital because I couldn’t get to a shower – so it now has negative connotations for me. I love the water ritual of rinsing out the soap. I have always loved it.

  3. Robin

    Fun topic. I remember my head being in a cloud of Herbal Essence shampoo when I was in high school in the early seventies. We all were in the same cloud; it was the only way for a teenager’s hair to smell if you wanted to be really cool. (Now, Amouage Bracken comes very close, funnily enough.)

    I haven’t really found the shampoos I use now to have overwhelming scents, so I don’t think about it one way or the other. I like turning my head and catching a whiff of fragrance from my hair, but I don’t get that from my usual green apple Head and Shoulders. But I invariably spray or dab my fragrance on the back of my neck at the hairline for the same effect. Very nice in cooler weather with something like Bois des Iles, in the summer with Annick Goutal Neroli or Guerlain AA Mandarine Basilic or Chanel 1957. Anything, really. It does go a long way to maximize the effect — for my own pleasure — of anything I wear.

    • Lovely. I am liking the sound of the green apple Head N Shoulders. I think apple can be lovely in a shampoo context. I have decided it is the conditioner here that is the culprit : I have woken up still too aware of it but am looking fresh out of bed tousled. Oh what is a bit to do ?

    • My sister also uses Mandarine Basilic that way, incidentally.

  4. Tara C

    I avoid heavily perfumed hair products. Wouldn’t want anything to clash with my perfume.

  5. I have used the same shampoo and conditioner for a very long time so I don’t smell it on myself anymore, whereas I don’t use the same perfume 2 days in a row so my nose won’t “tune it out.” The ends of my hair usually get some of the perfume that I spray on my neck and clothes anyway.

  6. Asian hair products are particularly heavily scented. Shampoos & conditioners from Thailand, Malaysia, SKorea, Indonesia, India, and Japan are often sold here in Nepal. The Dove shampoo & conditioner from Thailand
    I bought for my nephews has the classic iris/vetiver/lily scent but is nuclear strength.
    There were some noxiously overscented hair products in the US in the 70s & 80s. “Agree” was a citrus/basil/mint/patchouli/oakmoss/white musk bomb that had sillage measured in light years and lasted for weeks. A ridiculously named line of hair products called “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific” that promised loads of compliments but didn’t deliver was aloso popular. It was a bubblegummy (ginger & vanilla?) sage & chamomile thing. Who could forget the piney white musk of Wella balsam or the chamomile\golden musk of Breck shampoo? Faberge Organics Wheat Germ and Honey was my favorite then, quite sunny and herbal with rosemary, sage, nettle, wheat germ, neroli, ylang ylang, and sweet orange.
    Because I bleach my hair platinum (must be glamorous, even in the Himalayas), I use Olaplex produsts. I love the realistic pomegranate/blood orange scent! Smells like a posh spa.

    • This is a veritable Greatest Hits of shampoo : I love it. Agree is/was also sold in Japan. I have sniffed it many a time and even considered buying it but worried about how it would progress..

      I LOVE balsams and how they were soft and almost pulpy in texture.

      • Revlon Aquamarine had the basil note with the same oakmoss/patchouli base that Agree had. Aquamarine started as a perfume and was extended into a haircare line. Most of the Charlie fragrances had that same basil/oakmoss/patchouli combo too. Funny how you recall scents from childhood. Bibi the budding perfumista was limited to sniffing whatever was at the drugstore then, but she made do!

  7. They say hair holds perfume better than skin does. I love Timbuktu by L’Artisan sprayed into my hair.

  8. Hanamini

    I’m definitely going to try the Redken dry paste recommendation by @makeuprecon, that sounds great—and Agree, if that’s available anywhere. In the meantime, my Klorane shampoos (all of them nice but particularly a dark brown one with quinine, for thinning hair, wouldn’t you know—I probably just have sour grapes about all the great hair swinging about in clouds of coconut) give me the feeling of a proper treatment while shampooing, but don’t subsequently interfere with the perfumes.

  9. I use a Rene Furterer shampoo and a Kerastase Aura Botanica (natural line) hair mask, neither of which leave my hair too heavily fragranced. Just a light aura. I never want anything competing with my fragrance of choice.
    Some shampoos I have smelt are just far too chemically toxic and nauseating. I prefer not to leave that type of sillage.

    These images kept me chuckling.

  10. This is an interesting video by a man who claims to have stopped using shampoo over five years ago.

    I won’t be joining him.

    One of my most recent and unexpected shampoo experiences: a German bar soap shampoo called “Klar” with Argan Oil and Fig. It is gentle, lathers up quickly, it’s delightfully scented, and cleans hair effectively without residue.

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