Eaux, Why Not: Clarins and Chanel

Portia’s post last week on Aromatics Elixir got me thinking about the Clarins eaux (because … Clinique and Clarins are two-syllable words beginning with c?) and I had a vague recollection there was a newish one that came out during the Plague and which I hadn’t tried.

I had a purchase to make at our dying mall with the sad Dillards, an old, cluttered space that always smells faintly of mildew, with few SAs and even fewer customers, but hey it’s got air conditioning and it represents a tenuous link to civilization, so off I went for a browse.

Back in the day I had a couple of friends who wore Clarins Eau Dynamisante as their signature scent.  I loved it on them, but it never seemed right on me. Clarins has released several eaux at this point, including the newest one from 2022, Eau Extraordinaire, that I’d missed. That’s the one I wanted to try – patchouli and ginger? Sign me up – but they didn’t have it (oh, sad Dillards, how you disappoint) so I spritzed the original and then tried Eau des Jardins.

Here’s their general blurbage about the eaux: “Mood-boosting treatment fragrance that hydrates, invigorates, and perfumes skin with aromatic essential oils … combines the aroma and skincare benefits of concentrated plant extracts to hydrate, invigorate, and perfume skin … revives inner strength and vitality … gentle, non-photosensitizing formula is suitable for all skin types…”  So, marketing-wise they fall between fragrance and skincare. Strength-wise, they fall between, say, cologne and a “regular” fragrance.

Eau Dynamisante was launched in 1987 (lemon, coriander, caraway, orange, petitgrain, rosemary, carnation, cardamom, thyme, patchouli.) It is sharp and herbaceous, and I can’t really think of anything similar. I was surprised by how much I liked it after all these years; maybe, like capers and arugula, I’ve acquired a taste for it. In its time it felt (to me, anyway) like a fragrance for people who “didn’t wear perfume,” but it’s got that 1980s heft to it, and yet it’s absolutely delightful in the heat. I may need a bottle.

Eau Ensoleillante was launched in 2007 and is apparently discontinued, which is too bad, because I remember it as a sunny citrus floral and I liked it very much. Notes are Sicilian mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit, chamomile, ylang-ylang, mimosa, carnation, linden blossom, tonka bean, patchouli, osmanthus.

Eau des Jardins was launched in 2010 (orange, grapefruit, cassis, bergamot, lemon, mint, rose, bay leaf, Virginia Cedar, musk, vetiver, patchouli.)  I tried it at Dillards and I … did not love it, despite the fact that the esteemed Sophie Labbe was the nose. It goes wrong on me in that ripe, watery way of some of the Hermes Jardins, so if you like those… it wasn’t a scrubber, though, and its lasting power was quite good.

I think they’re $65 retail for 100ml ($87 for a whopping 6.7oz!) and even less if you poke around online; in addition to the new Extraordinaire, there’s another one I haven’t tried. They have shower gels and other products as well.

Then, briefly: off to the Chanel counter to sniff the new No. 5  L’Eau in that little pebble bottle that’s been all over your Instagram feed. It is cute, although decidedly less enthralling in real life. I had a heck of a time getting the cap off, not sure why, maybe a design choice because it rests on its side? The nose behind this fragrance is Olivier Polge (notes are lime, aldehydes, orange, mandarin, bergamot, neroli, lemon, rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, cedar, musk, orris, vanilla). To me, it smells (from memory) like their 2016 version in the regular bottle (also by Polge) and the notes listed are veeery similar, although it’s allegedly different. Anyhow, like the 2016, the aldehydes are dialed way down for “modern” sensibilities, and it has whatever that Chanel voodoo is that tends to make even their lightest flankers smell like quality.  It’s a citrus floral woods cologne, but one that manages to hang around on your arm all day vs. a couple of hours.

I think this would be a great gift for someone (friend? Teenager?) who wanted to dip their toe into fragrance and wanted something “fancy” yet unobtrusive. But I’d get the classic Chanel bottle which is absolutely stunning, not this gimmicky thing – it’s not like it’s some cheaper travel/purse size, either, which might make sense.

Did/do you wear any of the Clarins eaux? Have you tried the Chanel?

images from the brands’ websites

  • rosarita says:

    Very late to the party here. I know nothing of the Clarins Eaux but I am intrigued by the combination perfume/skincare thing. And a perfume friend sent me a decant of Chanel No 5 L’Eau, which led to a bottle. I am loving it for summer.

  • alityke says:

    I’m a completionist but Clarins helped me break the habit. I had all the Clarins Eau but only really enjoy Eau Dynamisante. It’s a chypre & I’ve worn it since it was released. I had all the others but sold them as I actively disliked them. Yay completionist habit broken! Yet in 2022 I wanted a dumb grab that wasn’t intrusive to wear whilst DH was having chemo & surgeries. I tested Clarins Eau Extraordinaire at Boots & bought a small bottle immediately with my Boots points. Eau Extraordinaire is herbal green & was perfect for that hellish year. I sold it in my last clear out though. It smelt of fear & stress by then.
    As for the Chanel No 5 L’Eau in the square bottle, I sold it as I have other, better perfumes in that style.

    • Musette says:

      Good grief! Glad it was there to help you through that hellish year, though!

    • March says:

      Oh, I am glad it helped you through that hellish year — although, yes, it makes total sense that it would not be a scent you’d want to wear any longer! You’re making me want to hunt down some Extraordinaire though.

  • Musette says:

    That Chanel voodoo… it’s pretty fab!
    Haven’t tried any Clarins scents in ages! The Dyno/Dyna sounds interesting, though – next time I’m somewhere they are, I’ll try it.

    Sad about Dillards going downhill but so many big retailers are going the way of the dodo – it’s sad. I remember the tragedy of Henri Bendel and I Magnin (the Boul Mich stores)… so sad. Barneys’ demise (their own fault – but still) was heartbreaking.


    • March says:

      I know, it really bums me out! I’m used to having those lovely oases (is that a word?) around and that is no longer the case. I bet you’d like Dynamisante.

    • rosarita says:

      And the loss of Marshall Field in Chicago is tragic. All the privately owned department stores that went before the big chains.

  • Dina C. says:

    I haven’t tried the Clarins eaux, but they sound enticing. Our local Macy’s is just as lame as your Dillard’s so I don’t hold out a lot of hope for them having the full range. I love Chanel, but I don’t think I’ve tried the L’eau since it first came out. This is the time of summer when I’m loving colognes and light spritzes every day. Thanks March.

  • AnnieA says:

    I have a bottle of Clarins red bottle as I call it on the fridge for hot summer days. With luck we will have some.

  • cinnamon says:

    No and no. Like you I had a friend who wore ED and it was great on her. But that never made me go ‘oh, I need to try this’. I have a really nice face tint (supposedly full of good skincare stuff) in a bottle like the No 5. I guess the next time I’m in town I should have a go at these … or I could go to TKMaxx … or look at the fancy jewellery shop instead.

  • Maya says:

    I had forgotten about Eau Dynamisante. I remember I liked it and may just get a bottle. It would be nice if they still had the old red bottle that is in your picture, but the new one is, at least, still red.

  • Rina says:

    I LOVE Dynamisante! It is my summer scent along with the deodorant and bath gel/lotion. They used to have a Basil Patchouli home scent that’s disco’d but I never got to smell it. I’m meh on No.5 but did get the red bottle, because, red!

    • March says:

      Ooooh, you have the whole set! I saw those when I was googling, I’d not noticed them before. That red bottle is stunning, I’ve been wanting one even though I don’t love the fragrance lol.

  • Kathleen says:

    I have Chanel No 5 L’Eau in the original bottle and it is nice; however, I much prefer No 5 EDP. A SA in Toronto airport Chanel boutique showed me the new L’Eau bottle, I didn’t love the look but it felt good in the hand, very hefty glass for the small bottle. I loved No 5 Eau Premiere, I wish Chanel would bring that back. I missed out on the Clarins, I like the idea of fragrance and skincare.

    • Dina C. says:

      I’d love to find a bottle of the original version of Eau Premiere. That was good stuff!

    • March says:

      Eau Premiere is lovely, I have a bottle of that. Next time you’re near a Clarins counter, give Dynamisante in the red bottle a spritz, you might like it! It’s very refreshing.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Tom,
    I remember Eau Dynamisante from friends wearing it but can’t remember wearing it myself. Funnily, we all call it Dynamist, like dynamite.
    I like the new CHANEL No5 L’Eau bottle. It reminds me of the Bulgari 25ml travels that I adore.
    Portia xx

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I tried L’Eau when it came out. I saw absolutely no relation to no 5. One could tell that Eau Premiere was no 5’s fraternal twin. This L’Eau bottle might be cute but I am not interested in buying a cute bottle with a perfume I dislike. Currently, I am on a perfume no buy, so testing perfume is out. I want to enjoy what I have at the moment.

    • March says:

      Enjoying what you already have is smart — let’s face it, many (most?) of us have more fragrance than we’ll use in this lifetime. I have Eau Premiere and love it.

  • Tom says:

    My usual reaction to Eaux is “eau dear” unto “eau he77 no”. But Uncler Serge surprised me, sooo..

    Then you mentioned the dreaded Hermès jardin de melonball and I was gone..

    • March says:

      Well next time you’re near a Clarins counter give a spritz of Dynamisante in the red bottle, they always have that one. I think you’d like it!