Congratulations, human woman. The holidays are over and you now own 15 pounds of scented bath and beauty products, courtesy of coworkers, step-cousins, and all your favorite members of your partner’s extended family. How will you decide which candles and glittery bar soaps to toss under your bathroom sink, and which ones to donate and/or quietly spirit away to the nearest radioactive waste facility? This guide will help you sort through the pile and keep only the ones that won’t destroy your olfactory glands.
From best to worst:
1) Eucalyptus & Lavender Combo
Usually in the form of: bath oils or salts
- Coworkers (especially the ones who work under you)
- Extremely perceptive friends
- Your therapist
Should you keep it: The person who got you this gift is too shy to say it so I will: everyone around you is concerned about your stress level. Take a day off, throw your phone in a river if you have to and take a goddamned bubble bath. Absorb the good vibes into your pores and write a thank-you card for this intervention in a jar.
Usually in the form of: a fancy artisanal bar soap in a handmade label
Smells like: the sexy TV version of a high school beach trip
- Your handsome crush
- Your childhood best friend’s professor dad
- A cleverly disguised merman
Should you keep it: Nothing says “I weighed all my options and somehow, this scented gift seemed like the best I could do” more than a sandalwood-scented beauty product. Treasure this gift until the handsome, beachy substance is depleted or you finally break up with the person who bought it for you.
3) Midnight Kiss (or similar)
Usually in the form of: Body lotion, perfume, or massage oil
Smells like: Nyquil
- That one aunt who says “oh, that’s…young” whenever you tell her anything about your life (yet constantly presses you for more details every time you see her)
- Your high school friend who really likes horses
- Your teenage cousin, upon her first unsupervised visit to a Victoria’s Secret
Should you keep it: The person who purchased this product for you probably thinks you’re a savvy young woman leading a deceptively exciting life — the kind of person for whom actual midnight kisses are par for the course. OR they think you’re a boring nerd who needs to get laid ASAP. Regardless, keep this lotion and let it clutter up your bathroom for sentimental reasons and dry skin emergencies.
4) Seaweed / Sea Salt / Witch Hazel / Coconut Oil Combo
Usually in the form of: an expensive, extremely hydrating, and surprisingly foul-smelling facial moisturizer.
Smells like: a dream about your own death
- Your mom
- Your best friend
- Your wealthy benefactor(’s personal assistant who does all his holiday shopping for him)
Should you keep it: A four-ounce bottle of this product is more expensive than a month of your rent, so yes, you should definitely keep it. Apply it to your face in increments too small to improve your complexion so you can make this gift last until next year.
5) Pumpkin Spice
Usually in the form of: A candle in a glass jar with no lid and a 75% off sticker covering up a huge chunk of the label
Smells like: stale Halloween candy
- That aunt who never liked you anyway
- Your deadbeat college boyfriend
Should you keep it: Don’t lie to yourself — the person who gave you this candle doesn’t care about you. This gift either sat in their closet for a year, or was scooped out of the discount aisle at a Ross five minutes before you unwrapped it. Don’t let this person or their shitty candle take up space in your heart or your closet.
Usually in the form of: any form. Any at all. Lotions, soaps, candles, and perfumes — if it can be scented, there is a vanilla Woman Gift version of it.
Smells like: poisoned cookie
- Your male boss
- Your new partner’s mom
Should you keep it: Vanilla-scented products are the base-level “I barely know you or barely tolerate you” Woman Gift. To help minimize your growing supply of generic vanilla products, keep this gift in a conspicuous place in your bathroom, after just one usage. Never throw it away. Bury it with you.
7) Extremely Vanilla
Usually in the form of: body mist
Smells like: check engine light
- Your divorced dad who has not yet remarried
- Your valentine in 2003
Should you keep it: please don’t, if for no other reason than because it’s an enormous fire hazard.
8) Cherry Blossom
Usually in the form of: a thick, goopy lotion that never spreads on evenly.
Smells like: glow-stick juice & melted Pop-Ice
- The great-aunt who knows you “used to” watch anime
- Your middle school best friend whose big sister works at Bath and Body Works
Should you keep it: Cherry Blossom scented gifts should not be unleashed from their bottles, lest they corrupt the land and destroy the soil.
It’s easy to judge these thoughtless gifters burdening you with vanilla-scented nonsense, but getting gifts is hard. Someday you might be the one frantically grabbing last-minute armfuls of Twilight Dewdrop cuticle cream. The next time you’re purchasing a scented gift for a woman you only sort-of know, remember: the thought behind a gift matters, but so does the lingering stench that gift leaves behind.
In all seriousness, if you’re looking for a place to donate unwanted scented Hello, Human Woman-style gifts, tons of organizations in your community can make use of all that Black Currant Seaweed body butter. Do the most good by passing on big groups like the Salvation Army and instead, connecting with shelters and community resources in your city. You can get rid of some bathroom clutter and make somebody else’s day — just make sure everything you donate is pristine and unopened.