Inexpensive shower products without strong smells?

Dear Beauty Brains,

As a longtime organic consumer and chemophobe who has recently begun to see through the hype and deceptive marketing associated with "natural" products, your show has emboldened me to experiment with some "regular" shampoos, conditioners, and body washes from several leading brands. While side-by-side comparison has shown most of them to be far more effective than the "natural" products I'm trying to replace, every one of them has a smell like candy with the intensity and subtlety of a tabloid headline.

Why do you think this is?

Are the companies using cheap fragrances to save money, instead of oil extracts or other "natural" fragrances? Are they catering to the demand of consumers who enjoy fragrances of this kind and intensity? Are the fragrances meant to last all day and be noticed by others? Do the active ingredients which make these products more effective than "natural" products have unpleasant odors which can only be masked by using overly strong fragrances?

Finally, are there reasonably priced and effective products which don't have such an overwhelming smell, and how might I find them (short of smelling every product in the store)?

Mark from NY


  • Hi Mark. Companies tend to use fragrances that have broad consumer appeal. We used to spend a LOT of money testing fragrances to ensure they were very appealing in our products. Of course, that doesn't mean it will appeal to EVERYONE. Sounds like you might not be the target audience. BTW, fragrance is one of the most expensive ingredients in many products so it's not a case of companies just being cheap.
  • Try Vanicream products from
  • edited August 2017
    I'm sensitive to strong fragrances. I tend to use fragrance free, unscented, or barely detectable body care products, especially since I don't want them to complete with my perfume. For body wash I use Olay Age Defy. I can barely smell it. It's the only body wash that actually has a nice lather without drying out my skin or leaving it greasy. Cerave Hydrating Body Wash and Cetaphil Restoraderm Body Wash are both great options. If you want a clear/not creamy body wash then Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser is an option. I like Eucerin lotions, but Cetaphil Restoraderm and Cerave lotions are great too. It's tricky to find fragrance free hand cream, but Eucerin and Cerave have them. I actually prefer GoldBond Healing Hand Cream, which has a very light fragrance. For face wash, I love Olay Sensitive Foaming and Cerave Foaming, which are both fragrance free. I need foaming cleansers, since they actually remove makeup/oil without drying my skin out and they don't leave an oily film on my skin. Some of the fragrance free body care products aimed at sensitive skin actually irritate me. These products are great. I have my favorites, but I can use any of these without issues.
Sign In or Register to comment.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!