Sultry Fragrances for a Scented Bath : My Financial Times Magazine Column

My March topic for the Financial Times Magazine is about pampering. In Sultry Fragrances for a Scented Bath, I share some of my favorite scents. This winter, I’ve been indulging in baths perfumed with Estée Lauder Youth Dew and Roger & Gallet Cologne. When I don’t have time for a proper relaxing bath, I spritz a bit of cologne into the shower to enjoy a fresh burst of citrus. It gives me a stronger jolt than a cup of coffee!


I treat myself to perfumed baths whenever I feel tired or simply in need of some pampering. It’s an indispensable indulgence and one of the most satisfying scented pleasures. To feel as if I’m floating on rose petals, I turn to Red Roses Bath Oil by Jo Malone (£52 for 200ml). It leaves skin soft and redolent of lemony tea roses. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse aux Papillons Dry Body Oil (£40 for 100ml) is perfumed with the sweetness of tuberose and linden blossom, and while it can be used instead of moisturising cream, in the bath it feels especially luscious. Please read the rest by clicking here.

What do you use whenever you crave some pampering?

Photography via FT.



  • theperfumeddandy: What a splendid indulgence.

    An American friend recently remarked that he’d come across some vintage Dioressence bath oil.

    I had no idea such a thing existed and have be entranced by the idea ever since.

    Can you imagine?

    The Dandy can and it’s a simply splendid fantasy…

    Yours ever

    The Perfumed Dandy March 12, 2013 at 7:28am Reply

    • Victoria: There used to be much more body and bath products in the perfume ranges, but today the choices are more limited. Dioressence bath oil sounds fantastic! March 12, 2013 at 10:29am Reply

    • annemariec: I thought I read somewhere that Dioressence started out as a bath oil, in 1969. Or am I making that up? You do see Dioressence bath oil on ebay from time to time, but I’ve never been tempted. March 12, 2013 at 5:55pm Reply

      • theperfumeddandy: Indeed, I believe that was my friend’s memory of his ma bathing in the Dior and then dabbing it behind the ears – as so many did with Youth Dew.

        Perhaps it was just in the US that Dioressence started this way as most everyone else I mention it to seems puzzled and disbelieving…

        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy. March 13, 2013 at 6:01am Reply

  • Anne K: Soaking in a warm scented tub is my favourite way to relax. I use many different bath salts. Eau d’Italie bath salts are among the best. March 12, 2013 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Mmmm, I didn’t try Eau d’Italie bath salts, but I’ve seen (and smelled them) at a perfume boutique. Very nice! March 12, 2013 at 10:31am Reply

  • Jenna: Lovely article! The idea of adding perfume to a bath sounds very interesting. Do you use pure parfum or edt? March 12, 2013 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Jenna, I use cologne or the EDT. I wouldn’t pour anything overly expensive into my bath, but a little really goes a long way. One drop of parfum is all you need, and if you use the EDT, 3-4 sprays should be enough. For cologne, I would be more generous though. It should be bracing and refreshing! March 12, 2013 at 10:34am Reply

      • Jenna: Thank you! I’ll have to try it.

        To answer your question, whenever I want to pamper myself, I get a massage. 😀 March 12, 2013 at 10:45am Reply

        • Victoria: I love massages too! I don’t get them as often as I would like to, but it’s such a treat. March 12, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

  • sara: i love your article!
    whenever i want to pamper myself, i use frederic malle fleur de cassie body butter. i got it as a gift and i save it for special occasions because it’s outrageously expensive and i can’t imagine spending that much myself. but whenever i want to feel like a queen, that’s what i use. funny, i don’t like fleur de cassie perfume that much, but the butter is to die for. March 12, 2013 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Sara! I have sampled some of Frederic Malle body products, and I agree, they are pure indulgence. The scents are excellent too. The only downside is the price. March 12, 2013 at 10:36am Reply

  • Jillie: What a brilliant idea! Although I’ve often put cologne in my bath, I’d never thought of anything stronger. And as it happens, I have an unused bottle of Youth Dew just waiting for something like this (I’ve never got around to actually wearing it). I will try it tonight – it will be just perfect for this bitterly cold weather. March 12, 2013 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Wearing Youth Dew straight is a bit much for me, but in a bath, it is ideal. And you only need two drops or so.

      I assume that you got as much snow as we did. Today is a perfect day for something warming and rich. March 12, 2013 at 11:28am Reply

      • Jillie: We were lucky – the heavy snow just missed us, but fell not so far from here. My Parisienne friend was coming to London today, but only got as far as Paris station and found all the Eurostars cancelled and then spent 3 hours trying to get home to the suburbs. She told me that Brussels is just as bad!

        Yes, I just couldn’t seem to find the right mood for wearing my Youth Dew, but it will be heavenly in my bath. March 12, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: A 5 minute walk to a nearby store turned into some extreme winter sport adventure today. Needless to say, I didn’t go anywhere and worked from home! March 12, 2013 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Geneviève: Myself I like to use the EDT of Shalimar and Stella by Stella McCartney (one spray only and it makes a beautiful smell in the bathroom).

    But, while we are talking about bath, oil and other things like that, as a tea freak I recommend to put fresh oolong tea (a natural floral one like the Si Ji Chun, or a high Mountain oolong) into your bath and you’ll feel like you are in a garden of flowers.

    The scent is delicate, and the skin smells so lovely afterwards. It even seems that it’s good for your skin. To me it’s such a treat, and it is as much as to put perfume in my bath!!! I’ve learned that from Chinese and Taiwanese friends and I simply love it. A couple of weeks later, I heard that again in the tea lounge where now I work. 🙂 March 12, 2013 at 11:39am Reply

    • NeenaJ: Can’t wait to try oolong in my bath, now! I expect jasmine would also be lovely in the summer. March 12, 2013 at 2:28pm Reply

      • Geneviève: Actually it is, but to me the tea really should be naturally perfumed with jasmine flowers (instead of putting a simile jasmine flavor) because my skin reacts. And always take green, oolong not too oxided or white tea (not Black) if you don’t want to look tanned 😛 So black tea is really prohibited ! But all the others works perfectly! March 12, 2013 at 2:59pm Reply

        • Austenfan: Good to know that black tea wouldn’t work. I would love a Lapsang Souchong bath. I find it to be one of the most relaxing smells in the world. March 12, 2013 at 5:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: The tea bath idea sounds just heavenly, but I’m curious how you make it–do you put infused tea and how much for a tub full of water? March 12, 2013 at 3:23pm Reply

      • Geneviève: Actually, the best is really oolong tea because it’s rolled in small «beads» (sorry my english is not the best) and when it opens in the bath it spreads into big leaves (often in groups on a «branch») so it’s really easy to pick up after your bath!

        I personally put about 2 and a half tea spoons of the rolled tea leaves into my bath and wait for it to open. Then I go in the bath with the leaves. After the bath I am able to pick them up with my hands. But if you are using tea leaves that are cutted you might need a strainer.

        I know that in taiwan, in some touristic places they put already infused tea ! My friend went to a hotel where you can actually shower into oolong tea or green tea!!! March 12, 2013 at 3:43pm Reply

        • Geneviève: I also have to had that with this quantity you’ll might feel like you are in a lake because you’ll see plenty of big tea leaves floating all around you! It might not be appealing for everybody but I LOVE IT! It’s so calming! March 12, 2013 at 3:48pm Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you so much, Geneviève! I will definitely try it next time I take a bath. March 12, 2013 at 4:27pm Reply

        • Victoria: I can imagine that large leaves would be easy enough to pick out. I know that tea is great for skin, and my mom always keeps frozen green tea in the freezer for days when she feels that her skin needs a boost. I sometimes save a bit of tea from my morning cup to rinse my face (as a kind of toner). My skin loves that. If I weren’t so forgetful, I would do it every day.

          A green tea shower sounds amazing! March 12, 2013 at 4:27pm Reply

          • Geneviève: Oh, by the way my boyfriend suggested to put the leaves into our old silk stockings (you know the old ones you want to throw out :p) ! March 12, 2013 at 10:53pm Reply

            • Victoria: That’s a brilliant idea! Maybe, not as romantic as when you’re surrounded by large, unfolding leaves, but quite practical. 🙂 March 13, 2013 at 10:59am Reply

  • george: I like the idea of this but I also like bubbles: I think i’ll be buying some unscented bubble bath in the future to try this out. Youth Dew sounds like in might too be fun in this format but I’d never buy a bottle because way back in nineties when I last properly smelled it (though I think I’ve smelled it on someone in the street since) it just smelled like rancid cola and like a lot of Estee Lauder classics (like Azuree) a bit too bottom heavy.
    Talking about scentless products, I know Chanel has started to do a scentless body lotion for use with les exclusifs but people have been also commenting on its suitability for use with other non chanel scents too; is that (and its use and its adaptability) something you or Susanna might consider posting on? March 12, 2013 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll have to give it a try, but I’m a bit skeptical about the cream. Wouldn’t any decent unscented moisturizer work just as well? I suppose, we would need to compare side by side.

      With Youth Dew, even if you put a scented ball of cotton into the bath, it will be enough! The perfume is so rich. March 12, 2013 at 3:27pm Reply

  • Dominic: I usually bath myself in oils, my skin doesn’t like bubbles as they dry it out too much. I love Fenjal bath oil, it’s lovely, creamy woody smell pampers and moisturises the skin.
    I love Polish brand that makes natural cosmetics (face and body products), it’s called Pat&Rub and their relaxing line with coconut and lemongrass is so irresistable, especially body scrub with lots of antural oils and sugar spoils your skin and senses.
    Sometimes I also put some unscented natural base oil and add a few drops of e.g. lavender oil. However I’m tempted to try and spray some perfume into such a bath like you recommend. March 12, 2013 at 1:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I saw Pat&Rub products at my local Polish store, and now I have a good reason to return and try something. Thank you for mentioning it. They had a body scrub as well as some moisturizing lotions. March 12, 2013 at 3:28pm Reply

      • Dominic: Do you really have them in your store? I usually have to buy them when go home or ask my parents to go to Sephora and buy them for me when they’re coming over to UK. This is so worth trying, scrubs, body oils, butters and face creams are fabulous. Anyway, give it a try and I hope you’ll love it. March 12, 2013 at 3:57pm Reply

        • Victoria: The shop has an odd mix of things–from alcoholic drinks to pastries to cosmetics. When you mentioned Pat & Rub, I remembered the name. It was a couple of months ago, and when I asked the store clerk, she just said that they were “najlepsze kosmetyki naturalne.” I didn’t buy anything then, but now, I’m anxious to return and see if they still have them. They didn’t have the whole range, just a couple of items. March 12, 2013 at 4:22pm Reply

          • Dominic: That’s great they’ve had them. They’re not only natural but ecological too, the woman behind them and the founder is Kinga Rusin, Polish journalist. There are over 100 of their products so i realise there were only a few in that shop. Take a look at their website, it’s in English too They even have natural candles and stuff for kids. Worth trying, I use their face cream for over a year (3rd tube) and I’m not gonna stop. It might be interesting for you to test sth and compare it to many other products you’ve used so far March 12, 2013 at 4:42pm Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you again for mentioning! If the snow didn’t make the roads all but impassable, I would have ventured out today to look for it. 🙂 March 12, 2013 at 6:34pm Reply

  • elvanui: Congratulations on the article, Victoria! I enjoyed it very much.
    Lush is my guilty pleasure in the tub, I indulge myself in those heavily scented bathbombs time to time, but I also like Angel bath gel (or whatever is that called), it is a subtle way to wear such a potent fragrance, and a heavenly ritual (chocolate recommended though).
    I also like to add some cinnamon and clove-heavy drops of Eau Lente and Trumper’s Bay Rum to a hot oily bath whenever I’m cold after a long day of running erreands in town. When I am preparing for something romantic, I usually add Bulgarian Rose oil to the bath salt before putting it in the tub. I love pure essential oils as well, my favourites are cedarwood and vanilla, mixed 1:2.
    Oh by the way, dear Victoria, is there any chance that one of Your former articles (the one in Red magazine) will be available online? I’m dying to read it but I could not get the magazine here.
    Have a nice day,
    e. March 12, 2013 at 1:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! Your mention of Angel bath gel reminded me of a friend who swears by a chocolate hair mask. She mixes henna, coco powder, melted chocolate and an egg yolk. I haven’t tried it, but she has the most beautiful locks (and she’s a natural redhead, so henna is a good shade for her).

      I’ve put all of my pieces published elsewhere onto a single page, so if you click on individual links, you can read the articles:
      Hope that you like it! March 12, 2013 at 4:11pm Reply

      • elvanui: Thank You!! I’ve enjoyed them all:).
        I have heard about a brunette dusting chocolate powder into the hair mask she used regularly (our hairdresser told me about it) , I don’t know however if that helped or her hair was just nice and shiny anyway:).
        I prefer my chocolate in the mug to accompany a scented bath though:). Partly because I am blonde:)… March 14, 2013 at 1:51am Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 I thought that I might as well organize things a bit.

          I’m with you–I see chocolate mostly as food! I don’t even care for it in perfume that much, except for Arquiste Anima Dulcis or fragrances where it’s used as a subtle accent. March 14, 2013 at 1:57pm Reply

  • nettie: “To feel as if I’m floating on rose petals, I turn to Red Roses Bath Oil by Jo Malone. ”

    Gosh, sounds wonderful! 🙂 March 12, 2013 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s fun! I’m not a big fan of Red Roses in the cologne form, but the bath oil is fantastic. March 12, 2013 at 4:12pm Reply

  • Lila: Facials are about the only pampering I allow myself with the occasional massage and mani/pedi. I don’t indulge in baths but all of these ideas sound wonderful! Unscented bubbles?! And I love the idea of using perfume in bath water. There are certain scents that I adore but I find overwhelming when I wear them full strength. SLs Santal Majuscule is one of those. A bath soak with that scent would be heavenly! Oh dear, I just realized that I now have a reason to purchase scents I wouldn’t have normally! March 12, 2013 at 2:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 You can also experiment with the small samples you have on hand and don’t know what to do with. I haven’t tried Santal Majuscule in my bath yet, but I imagine that it would amazing (and since it’s so potent, one spray would be enough). March 12, 2013 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Emily: It seems like the perfumed-bath trick would be a good way to use up samples of scents that I like well enough but for whatever reason don’t care to wear. I’d imagine those little vials hold just enough for this use.

    Loved the FT article — Youth Dew bath oil is one of my favorite treats, especially when it’s followed up with the matching dusting powder. I’m also a sucker for tropical-floral bath products, especially frangipani and tuberose. It’s impossible *not* to relax when you can imagine yourself on a sunny tropical island. March 12, 2013 at 2:38pm Reply

    • Geneviève: Oh! That’s such a great idea! I have so many samples at home ! Thank you for the suggestion! March 12, 2013 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s exactly how I feel! The moment I’m surrounded by the tropical scents, I’m instantly more relaxed and rejuvenated. Maybe that’s why I love tuberose and jasmine scents so much (I associate them with the warm weather places).

      You really need so little perfume, so for me, small samples are just enough. March 12, 2013 at 4:15pm Reply

  • Lila: I took your suggestion and spritzed my shower with some L’Artisan Seville A L’Aube. That WAS a fun treat. I’m feeling a tad under the weather today and I needed a pick-me-up. Fracas was my perfume choice today. Something about it sounded comforting/healing. For some reason, Fracas does not overwhelm me. Go figure. 🙂 March 12, 2013 at 3:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Doesn’t it feel great! 🙂 I’m so happy that you’ve tried it and liked the effect.

      I can understand what you mean about Fracas. Some people have very strong reactions to tuberose, but for me, it’s such a comforting, alluring scent. March 12, 2013 at 4:17pm Reply

  • Merlin: I don’t bath all that much because showers are quicker and more functional. The times that would probably be good to soak in a bath I end up feeling too tired/lethargic to bother running it!

    Still, I have done some experimenting: so far the most disappointing has been a holiday body shop one. No matter how much I put in there was not much smell and not much bubbles.

    As for ones I like very much, there is the classic Badedas (awesome smell and awesome bubbles) and another is by an English brand called Naked which is no longer available where I live:( I started using their stuff because they don’t experiment on animals – but its also made of mostly natural ingredients and (for this kind of thing) is really well priced. Unfortunately my supply is dwindling! March 12, 2013 at 3:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: I remember Badedas too and the dark green bottle it came in. You made me want to try it again.

      Body Shop used to have a great peach shower gel, but the last time I tried it at the store, it smelled so strong and artificial that I wouldn’t want to put it on my skin. Perhaps, it would have been more mellow when diluted in water. March 12, 2013 at 4:31pm Reply

      • Merlin: The only one I tried was Candied Ginger and I got it half price so I probably shouldn’t complain! Thing is it smelled so wonderful, warm and rich in the bottle that it got my expectations up:) March 12, 2013 at 5:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: Apparently, the shower gel scents are formulated with the understanding that a customer will sniff them in the bottle first. So, sometimes the scent is even better experienced that way! Perhaps, that was the case with Candied Ginger. March 12, 2013 at 6:33pm Reply

  • annemariec: A former editor of Australian Vogue, Kirstie Clements, has just published a book, and she tells a great story of upending a bottle of Youth Dew bath oil over the jacket of a former boyfriend. Years later she made Estee Lauder herself laugh with that story. Then Mrs Lauder whipped out a lipstick from her handbag and insisted it would be better on Kirstie than she lippie she was wearing. Apparently that was one of Mrs Lauder’s favorite tricks.

    But you know, I’m skeptical about the idea that women used not to buy perfume for themselves. Let’s not believe it just because Estee Lauder said it. Of course the dominant practice was that women would wait for their men to give them their Arpege or No 5 or Shalimar, and wept a few tears if they did not. But there have always been strong independent women – Lauder herself for instance – capable of organising their own lives and buying their own stuff, assuming they had a little money to spare.

    And I wonder how many doing husbands bought Bandit or Habanita for their passive wives back in the suburbs? March 12, 2013 at 6:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Mrs. Lauder told many stories, and some of them are definitely inventions, but the bit about women not buying perfume for themselves doesn’t come only from her. There is some interesting research into the shopping habits for luxury products throughout different time periods, and it used to be that women treated perfume much differently than they do today. Because it was luxurious and non-essential, it was meant to be given as a gift (but not necessarily by a man in their lives). But of course, it doesn’t mean that all women universally behaved this way, especially as the society started changing dramatically in the post WWII era. I bet that Lauder could sense that as well and use it to her advantage as she launched Youth Dew. March 12, 2013 at 6:31pm Reply

      • annemariec: It’s a complex topic isn’t it, and Lauder is a complex figure. I read an interview with her where she claimed that even while running her business she would be home for her children every afternoon when they got home from school. At first I admired this but then I began to wonder how true it was. Could she really have run a business that way? Maybe it was partly true, but she made much of it because she wanted her customers to think of her that way, as a successful woman who would still put family ahead of career.

        I do unreservedly admire how consistently Lauder put quality products in the hands of generations of women. Her ideal customer was and still is probably the woman juggling work and family and trying to look after her own needs as well. Wanting a little bit of glamour. She said that her products were high quality but a little bit would go a long way so they were good value for money.

        Sarah Jessica Parker remembers her own mother saving up for her once-yearly purchase of White Linen. Lauder had probably worked out that there was a lot of money to be made if you could engender brand loyalty and persuade women like SJP’s mother to part with their little bit of hard-earned cash, time after time, on that signature perfume or dashing shade of lipstick! March 13, 2013 at 3:39am Reply

        • Victoria: I have a Newsday article from 1995, in which her son Leonard Lauder said that he would come home from school “to find a hot lunch
          waiting – cooked by his mother, still in her hat. I’d get grilled lamb chops, grilled fish or spinach mashed into baked potatoes… She felt her food was better than the housekeepers, Leonard says.” Who knows! The way things were done back then was different. My grandmother, a career woman in her own right, would come home to cook lunch for her kids and husband every day. Then she would return to work. Of course, it does help that she lived close enough to her office, but it was the way many women juggled work and family back then. March 13, 2013 at 11:08am Reply

  • solanace: I’m glad you shared these ideas in your column, these scented baths are amazing, and now more people will indulge. As a side note, I think I told you I made your sels de vétiver for Cristmas. Now my sister in law is raving about it, which is particularly great because she just moved alone to another city, and these little rituals can be very comforting. 🙂 March 12, 2013 at 7:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so glad that she enjoyed the bath salts! Thank you for letting me know. It’s such an easy way to indulge yourself, and sometimes just taking 15 minutes to relax in a bath is enough to feel rejuvenated. It’s fun to experiment too! March 13, 2013 at 10:57am Reply

  • Vanessa: Congratulations on your latest FT piece!

    I would love to try out your scented bath suggestions, but sadly, owing to the vagaries of my Edwardian plumbing, I only enjoy hot water of sufficient temperature to run a bath once every month or so, which may or may not coincide with my having time for a leisurely wallow. Upgrading the boiler is a top priority when money permits, then it will be scented soaks all the way!

    Oh, and in the old house I do remember loving Jo Malone Dark Amber & Ginger Lily bath oil in particular. March 13, 2013 at 11:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, V! I’ve lived for several years in an apartment with only a shower, and I really missed running a bath. I’ve experimented with splashing a bit of perfume on the wall in the shower (on the back wall, where it wouldn’t be washed away too quickly) for an energizing boost. Citrus scents worked best in that context!

      I had a few little samples of Jo Malone’s bath oils, and Dark Amber & Ginger Lily was among them. I liked it very much. March 13, 2013 at 11:59am Reply

  • emercycrite: Molton Brown’s Heavenly Gingerlily Moisture Bath & Shower is pretty epic. March 17, 2013 at 7:43am Reply

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