Film and TV

Bathtime = Mealtime? Appetizing Personal Care Products

This post is not about eating and drinking in the bathroom. There is no shame is sipping a glass of wine during a luxurious bubble bath or taking advantage of a mounted television a swanky hotel's powder room to snack on some cheetos while watching Deadliest Catch and tweaking your eyeliner. What does trouble me, however, is the idea of chowing down on my facial cleanser, chugging my shampoo, or taking of quick slug of my body wash. Perhaps not as spiritually disturbing as eating children, but potentially more hazardous to my own health?

In the past, I imagine, the only people who were tempted to eat personal care products were 1) legitimately starving and 2) suffering from bizarre eating disorders such as pica. Thank God, I am neither. Yet each time I stroll through the health & beauty aisle of CVS, my stomach rumbles. Window-shopping at Bath & Body Work's makes me want to embark on a full-on dessert binge. And sometimes, after sampling some lotion at a department store, my first thought is: "This might be good on toast."

What the hell is wrong with me? Well, lots of things, but in this case, I'm pointing the finger elsewhere and asking, "Why must so many personal care products be modeled after foods?"

Yes, I understand that grapefruit-scented body oil is lovely and that it's fun to use "pink lemonade" perfume. Also, there's nothing new or terribly strange about actually using certain foods as beauty products. It is reasonable that if people like the smell of fruit or mint or spices they would wish for this aroma to be replicated in a personal care item.

I think, however, a line has been crossed. (I'm using the passive voice to defer assigning responsibility as it's unclear to me whether consumer demand or corporate creativity is fueling production.) Last year, a colleague of mine posted on facebook something about taking a shower after a long, tiring day, smelling her body wash, liking the smell, and then almost almost eating it. You can chalk up this mishap to her extreme fatigue, but the fact that multiple people then responded, empathizing with her experience and even admitting to "tasting" their own hair gels, shampoo, lotions, lip glosses, suggests something is rotten in the world of beauty products. And ironically what's rotten is that things smell and look too damn appealing.

And given The New York Times covered this phenomenon a few weeks ago, I know I'm certainly not the first person to call attention to this issue. The author of the Times piece seems more optimistic, however, than me, concluding with a food scientist's claim, "A blood-orange body wash or blueberry moisturizer is not going to spur cravings...the way that passing by a bakery might make you want a baguette."

I disagree, not only in light of my own experiences but also those anecdotally related to me by friends in person and on facebook. Lathering my locks with birthday cake shampoo actually does make me want to run to a bakery and grab some buttercream confection.

Readers, do you find yourself getting hungry in the shower? Do you have the urge to snack on your lipstick? Let me know in the comments.

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Joanna O'Leary