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A comical illustration of parody teenage perfume products, featuring: Gloop, Uh Oh Mademoiselles, Old Spent and moreThomas Dowse

How Lynx and Impulse smell to you, an actual adult

Will you ever find a person who makes you feel the depths of emotion that teenage body sprays do?

Ben Bryant

[DISCLAIMER] The reviews of the scents are wholly based on one person's memory. It isn't intended to provide serious analysis. If you wear the scents we aren't passing judgement. Seriously. The reviews aren't serious. Not at all. The science bit at the start is true tho. 

It’s fun to imagine that memories are like files on a computer, accessible on demand. Of course this is rarely true. Memory is often elusive, sometimes intrusive. With age comes the alarming discovery that our memories are baked into bits of our world forever, like little Horcruxes – only to ambush us years later.

Walking past someone who's wearing Lynx, for example, has the power to transport an otherwise well-adjusted adult to the teenage trauma of a playground wedgie and a spritz of CK One may still bring back a leg-quaking crush on a teacher.

Smell takes a more direct pathway than any other sense on its journey deep into the brain. Smells are processed right next to the sector that handles emotional processing and long-term memories – and this proximity is thought to contribute to the vivid associations we make between emotional memories and smells, according to Dr Andy Johnson, a cognitive psychology professor at Bournemouth University.

Dr Johnson and his team have carried out research that suggests we find it difficult to distinguish between aromas unless they are “dual-coded” with additional information like sights, sounds or emotions.

“An odour on its own, that has no known salience or importance, is difficult to remember,” he says. “But dual-coding memories with other stimuli can dramatically improve our ability to recall them.

“If you eat a particular fruit a lot, for example, you’ve dual-coded that visual information alongside the olfactory [smell-based] information,” he says.

We tend to recall events from adolescence and early adulthood better than at any other time in our life, according to an observation called the reminiscence bump. Teenage memories may also be more “emotionally driven”, according to Dr Johnson.

Taken together, these factors may help explain why nothing smells quite like being a teenager. 

Hold your nose for this extremely non-serious, totally unscientific account of the feelings you risk stirring if you disturb the scent bottles under your bed. 

A comical illustration of a perfume bottle in the shape of a toilet, Eau de toiletteThomas Dowse

Impulse

Then: a kind of atomisable candy you sprayed on your clothes. Now: extremely potent juju. Impulse has a smell so irresistibly entwined with early teenage years that it can commute anyone under-35 back to a period when they were cocooned in a happy, comforting life where everything was brighter and sweeter and somehow.... better? Impulse is basically a spray-on beta-blocker – with side effects that include drinking Malibu and googling pictures of Ryan Phillippe.

L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme 

There was definitely one boy at your school who tried to get laid by zhooshing himself with mail-order liquid pheromones from the Innovations catalogue. Somebody should have told him that L’Eau d’Issey was the real deal: a love potion with the ability to make anyone attractive.

A spritz of L’Eau d’Issey transformed you in the eyes of others, turning your awkward dance floor presence into a feverish tour de force of Big Dick Energy. Today, it is equally potent but as as a form of kryptonite, reinstating the regressive sexual politics of mid-Noughties 'superclubs' for as long as its aroma is allowed to circulate.

Old Spice

You were gifted this age 12 by a girl you invited to your birthday party but did not expect to turn up. You wore it once. Your mum said you smelled very nice. You burned your clothes and scrubbed Freud’s dank musk from your tainted limbs.

The promise of success – a comical illustration of a deodorant can filled with one million dollarsThomas Dowse

Body Shop White Musk 

Smelled kind of terrible, but a cheap and effective way to mask the smell of weed when layered over incense and corduroy. If you were a White Musk wearer, then this was you after you developed a west coast punk fixation but before you applied to study art in Falmouth. Any memories conjured by White Musk will be overlaid with the emotional response to your first whitey.

Davidoff Cool Water 

Nobody actually wore Cool Water. Its distinctive ads appeared regularly on MTV, and now it is sandwiched confusingly in your memories somewhere between Green Day and *NSYNC. 

Joop!

If you’re ever alone, choking and require assistance, then a quick blast of Joop! – the hot pink candy cane nauseant of teenage scents – will apparate you straight to the bathroom stalls of Walkabout, where you are emptying your stomach – flush with Snakebite – into the toilet bowl. Actually, the day you discovered you enjoyed olives is also the day that Joop!’s cloying bubblegum aroma first made you dry heave.

Paco Rabanne 1 Million

Just so nakedly, preposterously gauche that it could only have been made for teenagers, Paco Rabanne’s gem and ingot-shaped bottles promised to make you smell like… gold? A million dollars? (which, by the way, has anyone actually smelled a million dollars? My guess is kind of fusty and mothball-ish). The piece de resistance for pick-up artists, superfluous guest lists, and people who wear sunglasses in clubs.

A comical illustration showing a line-up of parody teenage perfumesThomas Dowse

Coco Mademoiselle

The only perfume with a name that actively condescends – rather than flatters – the wearer. There must be a Home Counties conspiracy to gift Mademoiselle to every pubescent daughter, attempting to lock them in an aromatic cycle of self-loathing and co-dependence forever. You may escape your helicopter parents, but you'll never escape the wistful smell of a thousand disused charm bracelets.

J’Adore 

Worn exclusively by girls dancing alone in their bedrooms to Destiny’s Child, J’Adore’s elegant bouquet was for teenagers desperate to grow up. Today, a liberal mist will help you grow down. It’s like smelling salts for anyone stuck in a disappointing hometown reunion who needs to revisit their bright-eyed, virginal enthusiasm for Revolution Bar.

Lynx 

The smell of Lynx has never truly left the back of your throat. Its lingering molecules are the only parts of you that have not regenerated since adolescence. It seems every one of us contains a cast of pure Lynx that will stand proud and horny long after our frail, mortal husk has withered away.