I stepped out of the shower a changed woman – a worse woman, but changed nonetheless. The iconic lines from Wicked played in my head: "Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game." Yes, I had just cleaned myself with Xbox-branded body wash.
In early June, Xbox announced a new addition to its product line. It was neither a game, nor a new game console. Instead, Microsoft’s flagship console lent its neon-green branding to a series of beauty products from Lynx, better known as Axe in the United States. Right now, the line is three products: body spray, deodorant, and a three-in-one shower gel designed for your face, body, and hair. Naturally, these products are being marketed at gamers – and inspired by – gamers.
“We see Xbox fans achieve incredible things every day and we wanted to celebrate that elevated skill, passion, and determination by creating something truly special. Now, powering up can be as simple as a quick spray before you head out the door," Xbox Australia and New Zealand business lead Tania Chee said in a press release.
People in Australia and New Zealand are the only ones able to purchase the products at the moment. An Xbox ANZ representative told VICE that it has no plans for a wider release of the line, but offered to send me the product to try out. Desperate to know what the Xbox shower gel's top notes of "makrut lime" and "winter lemon" smelled like, I agreed. (Since the company couldn’t send the aerosol products through international mail, this review is only for the shower gel.)
The shower gel arrived on my doorstep earlier this week is. It was, as advertised, bright green. Bright green is ubiquitous with the Xbox brand, but it doesn't necessarily make for an approachable body wash, since it’s most reminiscent of nuclear waste. Still, I was immediately compelled to try it out in the shower. I poured a sensible amount into my hands and applied it to my hair first. The nauseatingly verdant gel quickly transformed into a white foam, and then the smell hit me: a musty mixture of spice, citrus, and sweetness, like your traditional Axe body spray topped off with lime. (They weren't lying about those lime top notes.)
I braced myself for what I was about to do next: apply this three-in-one product to my face. See, I have a skincare routine. My sensitive skin requires care – I use a low-pH cleanser that's close my skin's normal pH level because it's gentle and keeps my skin hydrated. Next, I move on to serums, sunscreen, and moisturisers, which switch depending on the day. I don't necessarily know exactly what all these things do, but what I'm trying to say is this: I was scared to apply something that's also marketed as shampoo to my face. And yet, I did.
As it turns out, applying this product to my face was a problem, but not for what it did to my skin. (My skin was fine, just a bit drier than normal before moisturiser.) If the smell was overwhelming before, I can safely describe it as debilitating when applied to my face. On my first inhale, I began coughing uncontrollably. Have you ever smoked out your house while cooking chili peppers? It's like that, but with makrut lime, lemon, and the alcohol-based spice scent distinct to Axe and Lynx products.
By my third day, however, I had stopped coughing at the application. Instead, I was just sneezing once.
The smell is, by far, the worst part of Xbox’s body wash – a reality I have faced each day this week. But, to be honest, I don't particularly enjoy the way my hair feels, either. I didn't condition my hair after the first use (something I don’t normally need to do) and I had to contend with a knotted, straw mess of hair.
I asked Michelle Wong, an Australian-based chemistry PhD of a science of beauty blog called Lab Muffin, for the science behind my experience with the Xbox product. "Body washes, face washes, and shampoo all contain surfactants for the cleaning action, and all tend to be at an acidic pH," Wong said in an email. "But outside of that, they generally have other ingredients too, specific to their function."
Wong said that face washes typically include "humectants like glycerin" that's used to keep the skin moist. Emollients like oils are common, too, to moisture the skin and replace oils that a cleanser washes away. Fatty alcohols and silicones are often found in shampoos as conditioning agents as a way to "compensate for harsh cleaning," she said.
"This product doesn't have any of these in large quantities (sodium laureth sulfate is a surfactant, cocamide MEA is a foam booster, and sodium chloride thickens the product), so while it may be OK if your skin isn't particularly prone to dryness or dehydration, and your hair doesn't need conditioning (e.g. if your hair is short, so oils from your scalp can condition all of it easily), it's not as well-formulated as a product specifically for skin or hair."
Since my experiment, the scent has followed me around as if I lived and worked in a high school locker room. Thankfully, my husband is the only one who's commented on my new smell. Our small, unvented bathroom is stained with the notes of Xbox, a gamer's paradise. (Or not.)
This article originally appeared on VICE US.