To some, it’s literally just soap – but to beauty editor Lucy Partington, it’s become something of an obsession.
I don’t know what it is. I can’t put my finger on why I just really love it. There’s just something so satisfying about having a bottle of posh hand soap take pride of place in my bathroom.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a mansion (far from it, actually) and I definitely don’t have more money than sense, but I think it’s more about the way I’m perceived by people who come round to my flat.
In some ways it’s akin to the way I judge a restaurant, a hair salon, or a nail shop on its choice of hand wash. In fact, there’s a hairdressers in London I’ve been to a few times that has Aesop soap and hand cream, and to me, it’s a sign that that place takes pride in itself, that the owner cares about the image being projected.
It’s the same in my home: I might be stuck in a tiny middle floor London flat which means I can’t add little touches that make stark white walls feel more homely, nor can I change the colour of them, and technically I’m not allowed to burn candles or put pictures on the walls, but I can add a hint of personality in my choice of soap.
It’s an extravagant thing, I know that. To some it’s probably pointless. After all, what’s the real difference between a bottle of Molton Brown and a bottle of blue Carex that’s always on offer in Wilko? Both clean hands effectively, both get rid germs (which is very much needed these days) and – crucially – both end up being washed down the sink.
But I think it just makes me feel like I’ve got my shit together. Like I’m not blagging my way through life plagued with imposter syndrome, that instead I’m a Very Responsible Adult who, despite what’s on the exterior, does actually care about the little things that nobody else probably notices.
What’s better is that I know it’s not just me. My best friend treated herself to some Aesop soap when she bought her first house, my sister regularly invests in it, and when I pitched this feature it was met with nods of agreement from the rest of the beauty team. In fact, it sparked an entire conversation, and some members of the wider Stylist team were on my wavelength, too.
So since I’m officially not alone in my weird obsession, here are my favourite soaps that are 100% worth treating yourself to. I promise you won’t regret it and the compliments you’ll get from future house guests will make it so worth it.
Dior Lucky Liquid Hand Soap
OK, so imagine the chicest of all hand soaps and I promise this delight from Dior is ten times more chic than that. I love everything about it, from the bottle and the branding to the colour and the scent, which not only lingers on hands (but it’s not overpowering at all) but it also fills the bathroom for hours on end. Truly one of the best, and I only wish I could afford a lifetime supply.
Miller Harris Tea Tonique Hand Wash
Tea Tonique is one of Miller Harris’ most iconic scents, so when I learnt there was a hand wash version I was so happy. It’s such an uplifting scent, and its eco-credientials made me love it even more: the bottle is made from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic and it’s also free of sulphates, meaning it won’t dry hands out, something that’s especially important to me during the winter.
Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash
The soap that started the obsession. Not only does this smell incredible, but it also packed with finely-milled pumice that exfoliate hands and gently sloughs away any dead skin with every wash. When you’ve tried it once you’ll never want to use anything else.
Penhaligon's The Favourite Body & Hand Soap
The newest addition to my ever-growing collection and I already know I’m not going to want it to run out. I love Penhaligon’s as a brand, though – not just because my mum’s signature scent is from there – but also because it’s so quintessentially British. This soap smells just as good as its fragrance counterpart; it’s a bit floral with a musky and green edge, it’s beautiful. I love it.
Byredo Suede Hand Soap
Expensive, yes, but a bottle of this is a mark of true sophistication. Byredo’s Suede soap has notes of bergamot and pear and a base of amber and velvet plum. It actually smells so good that I wish the brand would make it as an actual fragrance. It looks so chic, too.
Le Labo Hand Soap
There’s just something about having Le Labo in your bathroom that feels so extra. It’s such an effortlessly cool brand and I like to think that it makes me cool by association. Its warming scent is inspired by Japanese Buddhist temples.
Molton Brown Orange & Bergamot Fine Liquid Hand Wash
Molton Brown is genuinely once of my favourite brands when it comes to shower gel and hand soap. There’s an impressive choice of scents and they all linger on skin, too. This one is super fresh and zesty with notes of orange, bergamot and neroli.
The Body Shop Spa of The World Tahitian Tiaré Hand WashOK, so while this may be cheapest of the bunch, it’s a relatively new discovery and one of my new favourites. It smells insane (and the scent really lasts on hands) thanks to the combination of sweet, tropical coconut oil and creamy tiaré blossom.
Images: courtesy of brands
Lucy Partington is Stylist’s beauty editor. She’s obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she’ll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.