Before I begin, I feel like I need to start off with a disclaimer: You do not need to enjoy the taste or smell of something to love it. Right? Think of every friend and family member you hold dear, whose essence you are very glad to not have distilled into a lip balm. Think of your favorite dog’s scent. You are fine, I would imagine, to not have it in lotion form? I say this because it is how I justify a very severe purchasing habit that revolves solely around packaging, one that more often than not results in products I don’t actually use.
1. Smith’s Rosebud Salve
If there’s one thing I have in common with at least 38 other flag designers, it’s a fondness for the combined colors red, white and blue. I suppose this is what led me to purchase my first tin of Smith’s Rosebud Salve. I was in high school, and I assume I found it at Sephora in those little bowls that distract you from how long you’ve been in line and magically bump your total up to at least $40 more than you thought it would be. I bought it purely for aesthetics (hipster Victorian, in retrospect); I thought it might look nice on my nightstand.
I hate the taste of rosebuds, as it turns out. Reminds me soap. The salve itself soothes chapped lips in moments of desperation but I dislike the oily constancy (though it’s great on cuticles, per one of the label’s suggested uses). Yet somehow, I’ve made sure to have one on every bedroom nightstand and work desk of mine ever since.
2. L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
You know how some people have resigned themselves to a life of burning the roofs of their mouths because they will never have the patience to wait until cheese pizza cools? In similar or not at all fashion, I have resigned myself to a life of travel size L’Occitane Shea Butter hand cream tubes that haunt my various purses and tote bags. I buy them often — usually at the airport, when I have time to wander to the fancier terminals (I love an airport L’Occitane. Want a free trip via your imagination to Aix-en-Provence before your flight to Tampa takes off? You’re welcome.) — and then I remember later how much I dislike the smell. I will probably get you one for a Christmas stocking at some point in our relationship if we’re friends. Take it as a compliment, I promise. It’s about the packaging.
3. Marvis Toothpaste
This purchase has nothing to do with teeth and everything to do with my completely unoriginal appreciation for 19th-century fonts. I was so embarrassed when I went to buy it; I felt like a sitcom’s antiquated depiction of a husband sent out on a tampon errand: checking over my shoulder to make sure no one was watching, padding it with other items at the cash register. It is so expensive. The good news is that no one’s allowed to use it, including myself, so I’ll never have to buy another tube.
4. Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap
Innocent accident here: Without looking at the price, I grabbed two bars of Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap. I was heavily influenced by the brand’s hinted promise that mere purchase of said soaps would turn my bathroom into a Scandinavian port, and thus my lifestyle would tilt to reflect the change in atmosphere, so as you can imagine, I didn’t realize how much I’d spent ($7.50 a pop from a small antique store in Rhode Island; you can buy them in packs of three for a slight discount on Amazon) until I was at the cash register and it was too late. I’d already zeroed in on my dream. They now decorate a shelf that holds a few towels.
5. Bag Balm
My mom used to use Bag Balm on her hands and I always found the tin charming. When I saw it later in life, I bought it, but it made everything greasy, so I only used it once. Some things are meant to stay sacred to a cow’s teats, as they say.
6. Aesop hand soap
I actually love this product (it makes washing your hands not just hygienic, but luxurious). Caveat is no one is allowed to use it in my bathroom because I don’t want to have to buy another bottle. I’ve heard a hack whispered ’round the Community of People Who Buy Stuff for the Packaging, which is to buy one and refill the bottle with cheaper liquid soap once you run out. But that seems a little excessive. I’d rather have this sit untouched forever on my sink and hide the ugly liquid soap in my medicine cabinet instead. Feels more authentic.
7. OGX Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner
Tale as old as time, really: the shampoo and conditioner I packed in my checked luggage exploded, so I bought this as a backup because it matched my vacation aesthetic. Made my hair kind of oily but I will say, it smelled amazing.
I don’t dislike macarons, I’d just rather have a doughnut. However, I buy them for the generally beautiful boxes they arrive in, which later serve as pretty storage containers for miscellaneous items.
9. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
I bought this book in an airport bookstore because I liked the cover (don’t judge me) back in 2005. It took me a year to finally crack it open, but I’m happy I did because, hello, it is by David Sedaris, who I’d yet to “discover” back then. Took me a while to get there, but I guess it ultimately paid dividends by lending a line to this story.
Obviously. I like the taste, but I have finally admitted to myself I don’t love the taste. I much prefer the crispy unflavored bubbles that come from Perrier’s glass bottle (an opinion that is only minimally packaging-related, which I know because I did an at-home-plastic-versus-glass-taste-test to see how idiotic I was being) or plain Polar Seltzer from a can.
…But I still keep LaCroix in my fridge because the cans are pretty.
11. Every bottle of alcohol ever, but particularly when it comes to wine
Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t and the host gets quietly upset with you for ignoring her (impressively) specific request in the name of your own selfish visual pursuits.
12. Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry Bars
Damn this meat bar’s beautiful illustration of the noble bison. It distracted me from reading the label — whose fault is that, really — and sent me instead into an “Ooo, cool” trance that made for a very hungry morning when I later glanced at the ingredients, noted the meat, did not like the sound of meat in the morning (which I am aware directly contradicts my standard bacon consumption; I’m a complicated being) and sentenced the bar, probably forever, to a life of purgatory in my desk drawer. It looks very nice every time I open it.
Ever the dedicated aesthete, I order these, sometimes, when the atmosphere of the evening and my outfit seems to call for it, but I hate the taste. It is like sipping rubbing alcohol, no matter how you shake it.
14. Cremo Shave Cream
The goddamn 19th-century font got me again (plus a Strategist review, sure). I thought it was good but not great given the strength of hair on my legs. Maybe it’s better on faces? Still, I love the tube.
15. Rodin Olio Lusso
I am still not so sure if I’m meant to be putting this on my face or what its true skin purpose is, but it does an excellent job looking beautiful and smelling like a Shakespeare poem.
Now it’s your turn. (Tell me I’m not alone.)
Collage by Emily Zirimis.