It was 2001, I was 21 and I had just moved to Paris for the year to work at Radio France as an intern. I’d left my boyfriend behind in London and I was living on my own in a tiny studio apartment and I was nervous, desperately lonely yet wildly excited.
Three weeks in, I went to a fabulous jazz club called Le Bilboquet, with one of my new colleagues. She was older than me, incredibly self-assured and always wore dark red lipstick and a black silk shirt. She exuded Parisian sex appeal and embraced me as a friend, a gesture I really needed at that time.
That evening, we drank delicious red wine, listened to a grizzled old band playing the blues and talked about what I wanted to get out of my year abroad. But what I remember most about that evening is her scent. It was subtle but there was something warming, reassuring and inexplicably French about it. I plucked up the courage to ask her what it was.
To my surprise, she wasn't wearing some expensive EDP steeped in history, but Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse a body oil that you could buy in pretty much any pharmacy. I was still to learn that the French pharmacy was totally different from the type of thing you'd find in the UK. It was like a sweet shop for beauty addicts with an array of high-performing products.
I soon learned that body oil was an essential part of many French women's beauty routines . This specific one immediately became a part of mine and would forever represent Paris for me.
Everything about that smell represented someone who I wanted to be and something I wanted to feeLMy beautiful little road in the 7th arrondissement, Rue St Dominique was filled with tiny little book shops, boutiques and my favourite bakery in Paris. It was like a village in the middle of the city with the Eiffel Tower in view in the distance. The very next day I rushed to the little pharmacy there and without a second thought, handed over what seemed like quite a lot of money at the time, especially for an oil (it's £29.50 these days). But now I had my own bottle Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse.
Everything about it seemed so grown up. I massaged it into my whole body and the scent of orange blossom, magnolia and vanilla made me think of summer romances and the heat on my skin. I imagined that every beautiful Parisian woman that I encountered probably drenched herself in this stuff.
It turned out to be really useful too. It was a dry oil with a base of sweet almond oil, moisturising camellia oil, anti-wrinkle borage oil, soothing hazelnut oil, nourishing macadamia oil and repairing argan oil. I rubbed it on my dry legs, through the ends of my hair, placed it artfully on my neck when my boyfriend came to visit. Everything about that smell represented someone who I wanted to be and something that I wanted to feel.
When I returned to England I felt a profound sense of loss. The city had got under my skin and the UK (and my boyfriend as it turned out) seemed so dull and banal. For the best part of three years, I couldn’t bring myself to smell the Nuxe oil because the memories were too raw. I then went to Paris for the weekend with my mum and couldn't resist buying a few bottles. The love affair started again and for years it was my little secret.
Then the brand (like so many other great French pharmacy brands) arrived in the UK. I was married, working as a radio presenter and hadn't given Paris a thought in years... I was perusing M&S online and saw an image of that same golden bottle. Suddenly everyone from my mother-in-law to my work colleagues was wearing Nuxe. I felt robbed… I lost the love.
Then a few weeks ago I was sent a bottle of new Huile Prodigieuse Riche , the same oil, the same smell but now with added tsubaki oil, traditionally used in Japan and made from the camellia flower, which is rich in oleic acids and incredibly nourishing. I sprayed it on my body liberally and inhaled and suddenly I was there again, walking by the Seine, having coffees with Parisian friends. I was a 20-something young woman with hopes and dreams who aspired to be as sultry and self-assured as the women who swished past me each day. This time I was committed for life.
Smell is such an important sense and it’s quite incredible that a bottle of oil can be so inextricably linked with a place and a time in my life but it is and always will be and with my beauty hat on, it’s a damn good product too. Use the Huile Prodigieuse Riche as a face oil, all over your body, rub it into the ends of your hair, use it as a massage oil. It’s a product that can serve so many purposes and the fragrance is bound to transport you somewhere wonderful.
Buy Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Riche 100ml, £32.50
Beauty expert Nicola Bonn is founder of the Outspoken Beauty Podcast (see below). She will be live in conversation with GTG contributing experts, makeup artist Cher Webb and dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting on May 16th 2019, in London's Leicester Square. They'll be discussing how to get the skin glow. Tickets cost £91.20 with goodie bags worth £130. Sign up on Eventbrite .
Find Nicola Bonn's podcast Outspoken Beauty below and follow Nicola on Instagram @outspokenbeautynicola