My first encounter with an overpriced soap was at a store in the West Village around the time I moved into my first apartment in New York City. I was drawn in, innocently enough, by the smell of grapefruit and bergamot rind, wafting over the summer stench of trash, sweat, and subway. Once inside, I washed my hands at a concrete and brass trough, and fell in love. I left the store with a hand wash that cost as much as I'd spent on two weeks of groceries and an enormous amount of guilt (I briefly considered doing a 180 to return it). But once home, I carefully tucked it into the cabinet of a sink I shared with four roommates in a six-floor walkup, using it only on 'special occasions,' as part of my ritual before Saturday night plans or when I needed an aromatic boost.
Before long, I began noticing that fancy restaurants in New York could be cleanly divided into those that provided Aesop, and those that provided every other soap. I quickly made my allegiance, as Jonah and I fell into a schtick. Upon returning from the bathroom, he or I would say, "You know how I know this restaurant is good?" and the other would finish, "Aesop??" then promptly excuse themself to go wash their hands with the sudsy equivalent of ambrosia. Bonus points if it was the version that contains milled pumice (not an #ad, just a fan of subtle exfoliation in restaurant washrooms).
The thing about overpriced soaps is that, in the realm of luxury goods, a super-fancy soap isn't that expensive. An Aesop soap is $39—highway robbery when you compare that to a generic soap—but SoftSoap doesn't make me feel like little birds are washing my hands to get me ready for a ball. I'm game for any product that turns a daily chore into a special moment. It's a luxury item I was able to splurge on even with a starting salary in one of the world's most expensive cities—and one I continue to swear by.
In a rental apartment, a nice soap has that much more of a dramatic effect. I love my current apartment, but our cramped bathroom is the exception. Still, when I have friends over, they'll return from using the bathroom commenting on the fantastic-smelling soap (a successful distraction from the mystery mildew smell emanating from the wall and the eternally buzzing light fixture).
To this day, I maintain that that initial soap purchase, one of my first-ever salaried purchases, shaped my shopping style. I rarely buy anything online, choosing instead to touch it, hold it, and see if it elicits a feeling in person, or on sale (strategic stalking for price drops aside). I'd rather spend a little more money on something I love than something that's a bargain or convenient. As a result, I have a very minimal beauty routine—I only have about five products at any given moment—which allows me to splurge on the items that feel like a true treat each time I use them (like this moisturizer, and this serum). And, I have some really, really nice soaps. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash ($39)
2. Golda Sphere Soap ($18)
4. Le Labo Soap ($48)
5. Savon Liquide Marseille in Rose ($28)
6. Further Soap ($25)
7. Byredo Suede Soap ($35), for on-the-go hygiene
8. Gem Soap ($8)
10. Confetti Soap ($14)
11. Binu Binu Black Charcoal Soap ($18)