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Bain de Soleil Orange Gelée is one of this summer’s many hard-to-find products that we considered including in our megaguide to avoiding supply-chain-related shopping headaches. But unfortunately, its shortage is a lot more permanent than the ones we have been seeing affected by COVID and the related production and shipping holdups. Bain de Soleil products, including the long-beloved Orange Gelée, were discontinued by their parent company Bayer in 2019 — RIP.
You are not alone in feeling painfully nostalgic for this product that can now only be found at crazy markups on eBay. No, it didn’t actually protect you from the sun with its paltry SPF 4, but according to its fans like Real Housewife Dorinda Medley — who in 2018 spoke about buying the stuff in bulk — the magic came from its emollient-rich formula that left you glistening and reeking of vacation skin. Literally reeking: The warm scent was a defining draw of the product. After much searching, we haven’t been able to find a single product that encompasses the aroma, moisture, and glowiness that you got from Bain de Soleil (with SPF protection that will actually keep you from burning, too). But thanks to the Cut’s beauty director Kathleen Hou, we did find a trio of products that each conjure the iconic lotion in its own specific way; combine all three, and you just might have yourself a modern-day dupe.
“If you prefer Bain de Soleil nostalgia with actual sun protection, a new brand from an unlikely source — Poolside FM, an internet radio station — has created a sunscreen with very ’80s branding that reminds me of Bain de Soleil’s in a way,” says Hou. The SPF-30 mineral sunscreen is called Vacation and bills itself as the “best-smelling sunscreen,” with notes of coconut and hints of swimsuit Lycra. In addition to its broad-spectrum sun protection, Vacation is paraben-free, reef-friendly, and highly moisturizing thanks to coconut oil, niacinamide, and vitamin E.
To get that St. Tropez level of baked-ness that made Bain de Soleil famous, but with the addition of SPF 30, Hou recommends this Australian Gold spray, which works like a liquid bronzer so you look like you have a rich tan even before you go in the sun; just douse yourself with the stuff the usual 15 minutes before sun exposure, and the nonpermanent color will subtly disappear later once you hit the pool or shower. The shimmer from the bronzer, as well as the tint, is very subtle, it should be noted; no glitter or George Hamilton effects here (and it washes right off, so you don’t have to worry about self-tanner-type stains and mistakes). Also, for whatever it’s worth, some reviewers have noted that the formula seems to repel mosquitos.
As noted above, yes, much of Bain de Soleil’s cult status came from its intoxicating scent. But you heard it here first: It’s not the only brand that’s managed to bottle the smell of sun and sand and exotic flowers all at once. As Hou pointed out: “While getting into the fragrance business, Michael Kors talked about how his signature scent was always a little (or a lot) inspired by Bain de Soleil. He’s never said it directly, but his Eau de Parfum smells very, very close to it.” It’s a light enough scent that you can spritz it over your bathing suit without worrying that it’ll knock out the people sitting a few towels down.
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