Youth Dew, strong and sexy at 60

Youth Dew, strong and sexy at 60

By Deborah Fulsang

“How could I get the American woman to buy her own perfume?” wondered Estée Lauder in her book, Estée: A Success Story (Random House, 1985).

That was the 1950s and the beauty icon had noticed that American women were being gifted perfume and not buying for themselves; they were using perfume more as decoration on their dressing tables than as scent for their person.
“I would not call it perfume,” decided Lauder, recalling her strategy. “I would call it Youth Dew. A bath oil that doubled as a skin perfume. That would be acceptable to buy because it was feminine, all-American, very girl-next-door to take baths…”

The beauty-minded entrepreneur also decided not to seal the cap of Youth Dew bottles, as was the style for French perfume at the time. That way when a woman sampled Youth Dew at the beauty counter, she was apt to get the addictive Oriental-smelling oil on her skin and she’d have it her hands all day, quietly convincing her of its excellence and of its necessity in her life.

That was 60 years ago. Today, the genius of Estée Lauder bears out. Youth Dew remains a strongly identifiable, sexy and successful scent. To offer up perfume as an unorthodox oil that seemed justifiable and less indulgent to a practical-minded post-war consumer. Brilliant. The oil formula also allowed Lauder to introduce a rich and opinionated scent to a market that was accustomed to lighter, prettier toilettes.

Tania Sanchez sums up Youth Dew’s significance in Perfumes: The Guide (Viking, 2008): “It’s the scent that put Lauder (and American fragrance) on the map,” she writes.

Youth Dew packs a perfume punch—in a good way of course. Bugarian roses, lavender and jonquil on top; a rich heart of jasmine, ylang-ylang, carnation and spice; and a luxurious lingering trail of wood, incense, amber and vanilla.

On the power of that punch, we are won over by another anecdote in Lauder’s book. She tells of how a customer, upon receiving a scented tester of Youth Dew with his bill (the New York department store Bonwit Teller had sent out the sample as a promotion) wrote angrily to the store. He complained that his wife, upon smelling Youth Dew on his blazer, was convinced that he had been engaging in an illicit affair.

Now that’s a marketing angle.

Bath Oil, $32 (30 ml); Eau de Parfum, $40 (67 ml); Body Satinée, $33 (150 ml); Perfumed Body Crème, $36 (200 ml); Body Powder, $35; Roll On Deodorant, $18;

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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.