The eternal fragrance of bath products triggers memories from long ago. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The eternal fragrance of bath products triggers memories from long ago. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Bath product fragrances are full of memories

A Costco-size bottle of Neutrogena Rainbath takes the author back to the carefree days of seventh grade

“Why did you buy this giant bottle of Rainbath?” my husband asked, holding up the iconic container of Neutrogena shower gel.

“I don’t know exactly,” I admitted. “It seemed like a good idea when I was at Costco.”

“This is what we used to give my grandma for Christmas.”

“Well that explains it,” I said flippantly, “I too am named Mrs. Bardsley. We must have a thing for Neutrogena.”

But the more that I reflected upon my impulse purchase, the more I realized the true reason for why I had bought it. “It reminds me of seventh grade church camp,” I said 10 minutes later. “Our cabin counselor brought some.”

“Brought what?”

“Rainbath shower gel.” I pointed to the bottle. “Aren’t you paying attention?”

“I am,” he said. “But I thought we were finished talking about shower gel.”

“I could talk about nostalgic bath products for hours,” I declared. I wasn’t exaggerating.

Close your eyes and picture the forgotten bottles of the past. The original green Clairol Herbal Essence with the woman on the label with flowers in her hair… The brown Vidal Sassoon products with the cherry almond scent… Avon powder puffs… Perma Soft shampoo… The old bottles of Prell that Christie Brinkley used to advertise…

If I breathe in, I can smell them all. Not at the same time, of course. I’m weird, but I’m not that weird. (My husband might disagree.) For me, when I think about those old scent memories, I feel safe and happy, like I’m 12 years old again. Forget about the mortgage and parenting teenagers. I have no work deadlines or laundry to fold. I’m just a girl taking a bath who’s not responsible for paying the hot water bill.

“Rainbath was so expensive when I was little,” I told my husband. “That’s why it was a special treat to have access to it at church camp.”

“It’s also why we used to give it to grandma as a Christmas present,” he said. “How much did you pay for it at Costco?”

“Eighteen dollars and forty-nine cents,” I said. “But this bottle will last us forever. The cost has gone way down.”

It’s still a lot of money to pay for soap, but not that much when you consider you’re also paying for a memory. Every morning when I suds up in the shower, I figure it’s worth it. The only problem is, now I smell like my husband’s grandma.

Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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