Bath & Body: 31 posts

Vietnamese Green Oil, DIY Colognes and Other Cool Delights

The second part of my refreshing scents series focuses on non-alcoholic and DIY options. Some people prefer to skip alcohol during hot days, and I’m often asked for inexpensive solutions. Experimenting with scents during summer is fun, but when the temperature rises above 35C, the idea of putting on perfume becomes unappealing.

I instead reach for oils from Vietnam or Thailand, especially Dầu Gió Xanh Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. This popular Vietnamese oil is used for headaches, muscle pains, etc, but I also find it effective on hot days when my head feels heavy. The scent is spicy and incense-like, but it’s unexpectedly refreshing. The oil was created in 1935 by a German chemist, Wilhelm Hauffman, for a Singaporean trading house J Lea & Co. Hauffman was perfecting the extraction of chlorophyll, which gave the oil its color, while the other main ingredients included menthol, methyl salicylate and eucalyptus oil

Green Oil became a household favorite in Vietnam once it was introduced in the 1960s. On the other hand, its Art Deco-styled bottle and vivid hue would be familiar not just to those who grew up in Vietnam and other Asian countries, but also the former Soviet ones. During my childhood in Ukraine, medicated oils and Cao Sao Vàng (Golden Star Balm) were considered as nothing short of panacea.

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The Simple Magic of a Soap Bar

For many people around the world soap is the only scented product they’d use. Fine fragrances are out of their reach. I remember my grandmother Dasha using strawberry-perfumed soap to scent her clothes and linens. Dasha was frugal, and she wouldn’t dream of spending money on anything but the most basic clothes and accessories. A fragrant soap bar, however, was her only indulgence.

When I began my perfumery training, soap projects attracted me because I imagined that my creations would delight someone like Dasha–a person reluctant to spend money but who enjoyed scents. Eventually I too became a soap lover and whenever I traveled, I first visited local pharmacies and markets to see what kind of detergents people used. These days I have a special soap basket loaded with soaps from around the world. They reflect local tastes and traditions, such as the birch tar soap from Siberia, rice and turmeric soap from Thailand or pomegranate scented soap from Iran. The little bars of fat, solidified by being treated with lye, delight me as much as fine perfumes.

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Chanel No 5 Body Cream : Between Silk Sheets with Marilyn Monroe

“I know what we need. We need a bed, and we need white silk sheets – they must be silk. Frank Sinatra records, and Dom Pérignon champagne.” When the young photographer Douglas Kirkland arrived to photograph Marilyn Monroe for Look Magazine, he had no idea what to expect when meeting a mega star. Least of all did he expect silk sheets and champagne. In his book, With Marilyn: An Evening/1961, he described the photo shoot and shares the images he took. I can’t think of another photographer who captured better Monroe’s vulnerability and sensuality. It’s almost paradoxical. Even in the moments when she looks surrendered, she’s in control.

Monroe was known to say that she wore to bed nothing but a few drops of Chanel No 5. Although I’ve known this for a long time, I always found it hard to associate No 5 and Monroe. No 5, though elegant and beautiful, struck me as uptight and austere. Monroe, with her voluptuous beauty, fragility and intensity, somehow seemed to belong to another universe.

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Vetiver Mist

Forest Essentials is an Indian beauty brand inspired by Ayurvedic treatments. It has a collection of skincare, creams, lotions, soaps, body mists and perfumes. I can’t comment on the Ayurvedic authenticity of its formulations, but the scents–jasmine, sandalwood and rose, turmeric, vetiver, narcissus–are beautiful. I like that they are based on the Indian perfume palette, and using these products is one of those small pleasures that make a day better.

One of my favorites from Forest Essentials is its simplest–Vetiver Spring Water, which is a vetiver hydrosol. It can be used as a facial toner, body mist or even a middle-of-the-day, pick-me-up spritz. Vetiver is soothing for the skin, and while it can be used on all skin types, it’s especially beneficial for oily skin. It’s also known for its regenerative properties, which is why vetiver extracts are often used in formulations designed to treat scars and acne.

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The Simple Miracle of a Soap Bar

Ever since I made my own scented soap as a perfumery trainee, I’ve been fascinated by the transformation that happens when oils and lye come together. How could such simple materials produce a shiny white bar? And how could the addition of aromatic essences transform an ordinary soap into a small luxury? This is the topic of my recent FT magazine column, Artisanal Scented Soaps.

I talk about my favorite fragrant soaps from brands like Marius Fabre, Claus Porto and Santa Maria Novella.

When exploring artisanal soapmakers, I would be remiss not to include one of Florence’s treasures, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This venerable institution was founded by Dominican friars around 1221 as an infirmary for the monks. Eventually it began producing a range of balms and medicines for the general public. Today, Santa Maria Novella is a cosmetic and perfume house reputed for its simple but elegant formulas.One such example is its iris-scented soap Sapone Fior d’Iris. The fragrance is of iris roots and it lasts on the skin well after a shower, making this soap a perfect companion to an iris perfume like Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Colonia Iris or Chanel 28 La Pausa. To read the full article, please click here.

What is your favorite scented soap?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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