|Photo by JaneArt, 1962, modified & color-corrected by B. Ross, 2024
So, the Skin Bracer saga continues. On Badger and Blade the gents are claiming that the current version of Skin Bracer is "weaker" with "more alcohol" and "more menthol" than the version from just ten years ago. There is still speculation that it is discontinued, although some recent comments have firmed up the notion that Colgate-Palmolive are still manufacturing and distributing it. So, some relief on that front.
When it comes to reformulations, there are two ways to think of them. Let's use the above picture of the girl(s) in the water as a reference. Some men think of reformulations as taking the largest girl, stripping her of most or all color, and fuzzing her out by removing information from the image. You could start small (the girl on the bottom right) and wind up big (top left) and have a big blob of a scent that in no way resembles the beauty that once was. Most men think of reformulations like this, as the fine-tuning of their favorite fragrances being undone, until all that is left is the basic shape of what was.
The second way to think of it is as the literal interpretation of the above image. You start with the big, beautiful image of a girl in water and you reformulate her "down" to the smallest girl. All of the notes and accords are still there, but smaller in concentration and in part, contributing less to the pyramid and the performance. Eventually you wind up with a mini version of what was once a grand fragrance, overtaken by the useless white space of excess alcohol and water. The fragrance that once lasted twelve hours and had a beautiful progression now lasts two hours, and on your ride to work you must focus like a laser to notice each little evolutionary stage, an exercise in frustration.
This ironically tends to be how aftershaves are reformulated, while proper EDTs and colognes are subject to the first method. Aftershaves begin with less information, with their scent being at the lowest concentration (somewhere between 1% and 10% of the formula, and it varies between products), and thus the act of stripping them down even further is only possible if you attenuate everything. In the case of Skin Bracer, the starting point was likely around 10% or perhaps as much as 12%, and since 1940 it has crept down to around 3%. The bottle I bought back in 2010 or 2011 smelled like it was roughly 10%, and I would occasionally use it as a cologne, which actually worked!
The bottle I purchased much more recently did smell a bit weaker to me, and I believe a reformulation took place, but it was a reformulation "down" from what it was, not an actual changing of the scent. Colgate-Palmolive decided it wanted to spend less on formula annually, and so acted to stretch the fragrance oil across more bottles, thus reducing the amount used in each, probably by several percentage points. What the exact strength difference is would be impossible to know, but my nose senses it's significant, with the tenacity of the newer formula only lasting about ten minutes before becoming naked menthol and little else. I could never substitute Skin Bracer for an EDT now.
So while I would cast doubt on claims that it is discontinued, I agree with the idea that SB has been tampered with. Is money the only reason, or are there others? I tend to think that products like this, which have been around forever and appeal mostly to men over sixty, are simply becoming culturally obsolete. The powdery and slightly sweet profile of this type of fragrance is pleasant to a nose of any age, but the cheap image and dated olfactory aesthetic make it a tough sell. I'd wager that women under fifty aren't super enthusiastic about it, although the crap that many women are wearing these days makes them unsuitable critics in my opinion. Skin Bracer is great, but its days are numbered.