Why I Don't Scrimp On Hand Soap
In my mid-twenties, when I was a poorly-paid assistant editor at Redbook in New York, I earned extra cash by working for a friend’s catering business, prepping tea sandwiches and serving glasses of champagne for swanky bridal and baby showers on the Upper East Side. And while the gorgeous apartments where those parties took place were undoubtedly stuffed with priceless art and antiques, what I remember most about them is the hand soap.
Before those catering gigs, I’d given little thought to liquid soap. In the tiny bathroom of our cramped East 83rd Street apartment, my three roommates and I probably washed up with Dial or Softsoap—or maybe something from Bath & Body Works if we’d gotten it as a birthday present. But these Park Avenue apartments had hand soaps with luxe packaging, gorgeous scents and foreign-sounding names like Molton Brown, Antica Farmacista and Santa Maria Novella. To me, they epitomized grownup good taste and, unlike the art and antiques, were an indulgence I could occasionally afford.
And therein began my obsession. For years after that, my go-to hand soap was Molton Brown Thai Vert. But then the company changed the name to Lime & Patchouli and altered the scent subtly, and, well, it's just not the same. The upside to this breakup was that I discovered dozens of other amazing soap scents and I now rotate them through my bathrooms and kitchen as the seasons (or my moods) change. Sure, luxe liquid soap is no Jeff Koons original—or prewar apartment on Park Avenue. But for mere $25 or so, as my 20-something-self discovered, it's still super-chic. Here, a few of my favorites.
Nest Grapefruit Liquid Hand Soap, a zesty, refreshing blend (think lemonade spiked with vodka) that’s perfect for summertime sudsing—and Nest Bamboo Liquid Hand Soap, which smells like fresh, dewy leaves, and everyone, everywhere likes.
Claus Porto Liquid Soap in Ilyria (Honeysuckle) is a feminine floral that manages to be robust without becoming cloying. It's perfect in a powder room. I also love Red Poppy, but it seems to be sold out everywhere at the moment.
Savon de Marseille Extra Pur Liquid Soap comes in nearly a dozen divine scents, and its clean, minimalist, oversized glass vessel works with nearly any décor, making them excellent hostess gifts. If I had to choose favorites? Fleur D'Oranger (Orange Blossom) and Figue (Fig).
Diptique Softening Hand Soap smells faintly like lavender and is elegant in an understated way. Like the soap version of a French woman in Breton stripes, skinny jeans and an Hermes Evelyne bag.
Aesop’s Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash is spiked with ground pumice and boasts a fresh, subtle scent, making it especially boy-friendly. I see it in a laundry room (where stinky sports clothes get tossed) or at a wet bar in a man cave.
Yes to Grapefruit Basil Hand Soap is in my kitchen right now. This tangy, clean scent is the perfect antidote to garlic and onions, which seem to be the base of every dinner I make. Plus, its clean white bottle, punctuated with juicy pops of color, looks way more expensive than $4 (no, that's not a typo). And, at that price, you can grab the whole seven-scent collection sans guilt.