Run Away!

Like others on here, especially Tom, I like to explore the “cheap stuff” occasionally for fun scents and hidden gems. I found myself wandering our newish Five Below store in town, which is sort of like a dollar store only everything’s $5 or less, and it’s kitchier and more fun vs. bare-bones and practical. Less cheap groceries, more glitter-covered notebooks and lava lamps. My girls loved that place as tweens, and I have fond memories of spending time in there with giddy teenagers while they picked things out for themselves or friends’ birthdays.


I realized there was a shelf of fragrances so I got to sniffing, setting myself the challenge of trying to find one that I’d wear if I had to, and write a post about it. Clearly some of them were copycat fragrances (a bottle resembling Britney Midnight Fantasy, etc.) and at least one box mentioned it was a dupe of some frag from Victoria’s Secret … and oh, they were terrible, and not in an interesting way. I found myself getting weirdly enraged, standing there. They made Bath & Body Works scents look like Chanel. It was a hot, depressing mess, although you could argue that I got what I deserved, sniffing a $5 dupe of Aquolina Pink Sugar. I mean, what did I expect? I went home and stuck my nose in some Serge Lutens samples and wondered if the degree to which those things offended me meant I was secretly becoming some kind of snob.


I was disabused of that notion when I got a big hug from the 20-something kid of a friend who, as it turned out, smelled great. I thought it was either aftershave or cologne and of course I had to ask. As I went into detective mode, it turned out that my nose was roughly armpit-height on him and what I was smelling was his deodorant. Cue the embarrassed chuckle (parents, they’re the worst, amirite?!?) I assured him that his deodorant was working for him and please send me a text telling me what it was. Which is how I discovered Old Spice Lavender Wilderness (hey, at least it wasn’t Axe, or Bod!) I could definitely smell the lavender which is not generally a note I like in fragrance, although I love the smell of the plant, it’s drought tolerant and everywhere here. This was very lavender-forward with a hint of musk. I’m not going to buy it because I don’t want my deodorant competing with my fragrance, but you could do a lot worse to the people close enough to smell you.

Then I was at the gym and got a whiff of the woman walking past me in the locker room. Her hair was damp, she was fully dressed but freshly showered, and I was guessing her delightful scent was some sort of bath/body product – lotion, maybe. I asked her about it in a way that I hoped wasn’t too weirdly intrusive and she … looked a bit sheepish. She practically apologized as she pulled a bottle of Calgon Hawaiian Ginger mist out of her backpack.

Well, Calgon – take me awaaaaay! Remember that tag line? (If you’re as old as I am, probably!) I used to say it as a joke, but to the best of my knowledge I’d never dabbled in a Calgon scent; I’m remembering a lot of Jean Nate from neighbors’ bathrooms as a kid, but that’s it.

On their website ( hahaha!) it says “For over 70 years, Calgon has been dedicated to creating uniquely exhilarating bath and body experiences that stimulate the senses, restore the spirit and take you on a special, fragrant journey to the place you want to be.” There’s the usual array of bath products for each scent: bubble bath, shower gel, bath bombs, etc.

A quick search on Amazon unearthed the assorted scent options for purchase, although it turns out I can buy it right up the street at the CVS. The online reviews were so interesting – clearly a lot of people have very fond memories of these scents. Lots of “my mom wore this” or “I remember this growing up, this was my first perfume” etc. etc. LOTS of nostalgia for something called Morning Glory, which kept getting described as “fresh” so I’m imagining maybe a precursor to all the Clean Laundry scents of the, what, early 2000s?

The Hawaiian Ginger is recognizably “ginger” in the way that it would be if, say, Bath & Body Works did a ginger (and maybe they have.) It had a “good smelling body product” vibe rather than haute parfumerie, and that’s fine, not everything needs to be Guerlain. It’s less sweet than you’d expect, a little peppery, some ginger, a wisp of musk, some faint generic floral backdrop. It’s a nice post-shower scent, which is how I plan to deploy it in the evenings, during our too-long, too-cold winter which will be here all too soon.

Now, my next post is going to be quality niche perfume, in case you’re wondering whether I’m capable of writing about such a thing. In the meantime, though, is there a bath/body product that throws you into a fit of nostalgia that you’d actually wear today and enjoy? What’s a favorite cheap & cheerful scent in your lineup, if you have one?

  • Love this post, which has inspired me to be bolder and accost fragrant strangers!

  • alityke says:

    My cheapies are Spanish Agua du Colonias. Specially the Alvarez Gomez Concentrada. I’m still working my way through a 500ml bottle of Eau de Missions, it was a steal at £7.99 from TKMaxx.
    Calgon is the trade name of a product that treats limescale in washing machines in the UK. Not to be confused with the US body products range

    • March says:

      That is HILARIOUS about Calgon. The things we learn! (another thing I learned was one of the cheapies Portia mentioned is also the name of some viking tribe or thereabouts). That Alvarez Gomez sounds delightful and they have a ton of similar options on Amazon US.

  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    I used to wear that Calgon scent back when I was dating in college, and did end up with a husband (now 34 years together) so there may be something to it…

  • Musette says:

    (that Perfumista card o’ mine is hanging by a thread, mostly in tatters)…. I have to admit, when I want to attract a MAYUN, I slide right past the Malles, the Amouages, etc… and head straight to Jean Nate’ body splash and some Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen/spray. Seriously. Highbrow/lowbrow/nobrow.. they all seem to love it! Huh.
    That ginger Calgon sounds pretty comfy! I think I’ll try it!!

    • March says:

      Pretty sure I wear the same Hawaiian Tropic suncreen (mine’s probably higher SPF lol). It smells GREAT, that tropical smell, and it’s reasonably moisturizing on my arms and legs.

  • Kathleen says:

    I love Maja body lotion and soap, both very affordable and beautiful scent. I also love Victoria Secret Heavenly body products and perfume; however, it is no longer as cheap as it used to be.

    • Musette says:

      I have (and love) VS Love, which I smelled on a lady at the Fedex counter – and then a Dear Li’l Missy gave me some – and the rest is histoire!
      I think a lot of cheap and cheerful smells … fun!

    • March says:

      Ooooh, Maja, I know that exact smell. I’ve had the soap on occasion. I should pick one up.

  • SpringPansy says:

    What a great post–I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the comments. I like the way Old Spice smells and think I will also check out the variations next time I’m at the store, along with any Calgon I can find.

    Currently, I like the cheap and cheerful Kirkland (Costco brand) body wash in citrus. And for days when I’m feeling like a “fun” fragrance, my Outremer Cola.

    • March says:

      I love a good, cheap body wash! Trader Joe’s has a new citrus … something I keep meaning to try, when I use up their other one (which I really like the smell of, it makes me think of baby aspirin in a good way)

    • SpringPansy says:

      And adding C.O. Bigelow Lemon Body Lotion. Smells like real lemon and has a nice light texture.

  • Tara+Mc says:

    The Old Spice stuff is pretty wearable, I always pick up the Fiji as a travel deodorant when I go to the beach

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I just remember when my drug stores just had Curve and the aerosol knock offs of things like Clinique Happy. But Bath and Body Works just came on the scene and their stuff used to be affordable. I still enjoy Clinique Happy though.

    • March says:

      I feel like BBW used to have better deals? Boy it’s been awhile since I’ve been in one, though.

      • Eldarwen22 says:

        They did have better deals and some better products way back when. But I only go for some of their candles though.

  • Koyel says:

    I loved this post. Before my now-husband and I started dating, we were friends, and sometimes we would hug. He’s almost a foot taller than I am, so my nose is also armpit-height on him. I remember how much I loved the smell of his armpits, and how finally, one day, months into thinking his armpits smelled great (but long before we had started dating), I took a deeeeeep sniff and told him how much I enjoyed the smell. He thought I was super weird, but clearly not too weird to date and then marry 🙂

    • March says:

      Hahahaha! Do you think the smell was “him” or his deodorant / antiperspirant? There’s a lot of research into body scent attraction and pheromones in relationships, I 100% believe it. Everyone I’ve been in a serious relationship with, I was attracted to their body smell.

      • Koyel says:

        Oh, it was absolutely him PLUS his deodorant. I’ve tried his deodorant myself, and it’s nice enough, but not special. On the other hand, his pits don’t always smell so good that I take deep sniffs. (Clearly I’ve done rigorous control testing.) But I’m totally with you about body scent attraction and pheromones in relationships!

  • Dina C. says:

    My son, 26, loves that line of Old Spice deodorants and body wash gels. He’s tried Swagger, Captain, Bear, Wolf, and many other varieties. We joke about their crazy names, but the good folks at Old Spice are spending the $$$ to get good smelling aroma chemicals. Even my daughter used their deodorant for a while. Maybe she still does. As for Calgon, yes! Growing up, we used to have a cardboard box of Calgon powdered water softener, and we’d sprinkle a bit in the bath. It smelled nice and turned the water slightly blue. My favorite cheapie used to be Revlon Jontue. It’s a light tuberose floral. Thanks for the memories, March!

    • March says:

      Oh, that is good to know! I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, wasn’t the original Old Spice Luca Turin approved? My dad wore it so I’m not impartial in my fondness for it … maybe I’ll try one of the others that’s not lavender, they did sound nice. I feel a little sad that my mom wasn’t a bath products person, I’d have loved that as a kid.

  • cinnamon says:

    I lived for a period with people whose older teenage son wore Axe deodorant. Just no. Why, why, why would you do that when there are many other much less awful things out there for cheap? It is unfathomable. I don’t think we have anything but pound shops. They are good for clear storage boxes or lots of candy/chips for a young person’s party. The cheap things in my fragrance wardrobe … the cologne from Marks & Spencer that’s a summer staple and cost, I think, £10 or £15; the Tumeric latte thing from Lush which was around £30. I guess I don’t have much in the way of cheap and cheerful. My mother used one of the Calgons in the bath. Can’t for the life of me recall which one. But, I remember a green box.

    • March says:

      I definitely have had some run ins with Axe (not from my kids, thank goodness) and I decided it was for teen boys trying unsuccessfully to hide their own B.O. Glad I explained Five Below, I did wonder if it was a U.S. thing. There’s a dollar store nearby that I went to a LOT when I first moved here for basic stuff that I needed and hadn’t moved across the country. I still find useful things there.

  • Maya says:

    I’ve enjoyed some cheap and cheerful and usually have something or other in that category around the house. Nothing wrong with being a perfume snob either. My daughter once called me “a fussy perfumista” and somewhat proudly stated that she is “a perfume snob.” lol. It really doesn’t matter – we all love fragrances.

  • Portia says:

    LOVE a great smelling bargain March. Just grabbed some of that Wilderness deodorant for giving to the blokes. I think they’ll love it.
    Nostalgic bathroom scents? Norsca and Badedas. Now I want them back in my life.
    Portia x

  • Tom says:

    Well I love the “cheap and cheerful” and natter on about them ad nauseum. But Oy Vey you saw something that proudly announced itself as a cheap knockoff of Aquolina Pink Sugar and you tried it? Brave lady..