From reading reviews of Estée Lauder Youth Dew on MakeupAlley, it seems that everyone’s grandmother wore Youth Dew. If you don’t know Youth Dew, you might find this strange. After all, the name “Youth Dew” sounds like it’s best suited for adolescents. If you do know Youth Dew, you know that it smells viciously balsamic, almost like sweet motor oil — not a scent you might associate with cookies, knitting, and other traditionally grandmotherly pursuits.
My mother’s mother wore Youth Dew, too. Grandma Jean kept a small bottle of the bath oil on a shelf in the bathroom of her mobile home in an adults-only trailer park outside of Anaheim, California. When we visited her each summer, we could stand on her porch and see the fireworks at Disneyland. My grandfather, cigarette and can of beer in hand, tended his orchids in the tiny greenhouse in the driveway while my grandmother played on the organ the only songs she knew: “Spanish Eyes” and “Please Release Me”. Her bottle of Youth Dew bath oil had a gold foil label that was worn where it wrapped around the edges of the ridged front, and to me it was an emblem of adulthood, along with lipstick and the click of high heels.
Lauder cannily introduced Youth Dew in 1953 as a bath oil, knowing that women who expected men to buy perfume for them would feel more comfortable buying bath oil for themselves. Once the bath oil was selling well, Lauder introduced an Eau de Parfum. Basenotes lists Youth Dew’s top notes as “spicy notes”, orange, bergamot, peach, and aldehydes; its heart as clove, rose, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, and orchid; and its base as amber, tolu, patchouli, benzoin, and vanilla.
Reading these notes gives the impression of a spicy, fruity floral with a sweet dry down, but Youth Dew comes on with an aggressive resinous punch and little obvious fruit. As the scent calms, clove and cinnamon appear. Eventually amber and vanilla emerge, and the scent becomes less chewy, but still as warm and enveloping as a down comforter. Youth Dew reminds me of Estée Lauder Cinnabar, but it’s tougher and — even though it’s at least 25 years older — edgier. Youth Dew is immediately identifiable, like Guerlain Shalimar or Thierry Mugler Angel, and has equally devastating sillage. Spritz with caution.
If you think about it, it makes sense that our grandmothers were fans of Youth Dew. When Youth Dew came out, my grandmother was 32 years old, just the age when her daughter was in school and she had time to think about herself. She worked during the war and saw herself as more than a dependent, White Shoulders-wearing wife and mother. Glamorous women of her generation, including Wallis Simpson, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, and Dolores Del Rio, wore Youth Dew. (Madonna supposedly wears it today.) The real surprise is that my grandmother and so many others remained faithful to Youth Dew over the years.
Estée Lauder Youth Dew is available in department stores that carry Estée Lauder cosmetics and at esteelauder. A 45-ml bottle of Eau de Parfum is $22.50. A 30-ml bottle of bath oil is also $22.50. The Youth Dew Sumptuous Favorites gift set shown above includes Eau de Parfum Spray, Body Satinée, Perfumed Dusting Powder and Bath Oil for $45.
See also: Jessica's review of Youth Dew Body Creme.