Columns Addicted: The Significance of Scented Hand Soap

Addicted: The Significance of Scented Hand Soap

11/26/16 12:31:01 (21 comments)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

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Considering how many times a day I wash my hands and how often my hands pass before my nose, I have often pondered the significance of wisely choosing my hand soap. And as a fragrance addict I have used some pretty incredible-smelling hand soaps over the years such that on more than one occasion I've actually suggested...

Smell my fingers ecard

I know that suggestion has lewd overtones, but how many times have you used a washing liquid that smelled so amazing you just felt compelled to share it with someone? And likewise, how many times have you used a hand soap in a public restroom or shop that lingered in a most regrettable way? I imagine we ALL have memories of soaps from school restrooms - the industrial pink cleanser, anyone?

Industrial hand soap

Late last year, Crabtree & Evelyn were kind enough to send samples of their Lavender products and among them was the lavender bath and shower gel. It smelled so wonderful that I decided to take it out of my shower and place it next to my bathroom sink. If I had kept the Lavender gel in my shower, and considering how often I rotate my choice of bar and liquid soaps, then I would rarely have the pleasure of experiencing the wonderful aroma. However, I reasoned, if I moved the product to my sink then I could experience the aroma numerous times throughout the day!

Crabtree & Evelyn Lavender Products

I've done this with many a wonderful shower gel (especially those from Yves Rocher). And such is the depth of thought I regularly dedicate to various dimensions of scent in my life.

If you're like me, you've likely passed a good 30 minutes standing in a supermarket sniffing various containers of hand soap and you likely have some strong preferences as to what you prefer and what you avoid. Considering how many variations there are these days on not just hand soap but dishwashing liquid and hand sanitizers as well, I know that the aroma of our hands is big business.

Shopping mall favorite Bath & Body Works offers over 30 varieties of scented liquid hand soap. My hands down favorite (pun intended) is the fresh, green aroma of Rainkissed Leaves. I first sniffed this one at a friend's house and so loved the aroma that I actually volunteered to cut vegetables for a salad just so I had an excuse to wash my hands.

Rainkissed leaves hand soap

The name pretty much says it all - wet, green leaves with the merest hint of light sweet white florals like jasmine and lily of the valley. At $6.50 USD for an 8.75 fl. oz. pump, this is a green-lover's holy grail of hand soap. Other winners include Sweet Pea, Golden Autumn Day (citrus and woods) and Cookies for Santa (sugar cookies!)

Mrs. Meyers, found at most supermarkets and stores such as Target, offers some pretty wonderful aromas at fantastic prices. The thing is, none of them really smell like their namesakes so it's best to spend some time sniffing.

Mrs Meyers Radish Soap

Case in point, I fell hard for the Radish aroma, a surprisingly sweet, crisp vegetal aroma (think of the aromas of a summer vegetable garden) that I never in a million years would have chosen based on the name alone. At $3.99 USD for 12.5 fl. oz, Mrs. Meyers' hand soaps are a super bargain! Other aromas include bluebell, honeysuckle, rhubarb, parsley and Iowa pine. Their basil is my second favorite from the line.

J.R. Watkins, another Target find, surprised me with a creamy Coconut hand soap with accents of honey and peach. This brand has been around for almost 150 years, a pre-cursor to brands like Avon, and at one point Watkins was making everything from gentleman's cologne to sewing machine oil! The Coconut aroma was so addictive that I also bought the matching shower gel! This is another bargain find at $4.99 USD for 11 fl oz.

JR Watkins Coconut Hand Soap

At the other end of the spectrum is my proclivity to hover around the bath and body aisle at stores like TJ/TK Maxx and Marshalls. They regularly offer a wide range of products, although some are of dubious quality. That's one thing about hand soaps, I prefer mine without parabens, and that can claim to NOT be tested on animals. Luckily I discovered two fantastic products.

Dr. Bronner's Hemp Almond soap

Of course I had seen and heard about Dr. Bronners products but I had never actually tried one. I found a bottle at a great discount price (although I'm happy to say that the regular retail prices are completely affordable; 16ozs is about $10 USD). I absolutely love the subtly-scented almond soap, although it's not strictly a product marketed for hands, and find it to be incredibly moisturizing. According to Dr. Bronner's devotees, this stuff can be used for just about anything; I've read that some people even use it as toothpaste!

 

Aesop Reverence Hand Wash

The other fantastic find was Aesop's Reverence exfoliating hand wash. I typically can't afford Aesop so I was really excited to finally be able to use one of their products...even if it was only hand wash! The wonderful aroma of bergamot, petitgrain and vetiver reminds me of a classic eau de cologne while the fine grain exfoliant helps remove dirt and dead skin. Reverence is perfect for use after gardening or painting. But at $39 USD for 17 ozs (mine was $16 USD on sale at Marshall's), Reverence might be a little too luxurious of a purchase for some.

Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand & Body Wash

And last but not least, while on a trans-Pacific flight to Japan some years back I discovered Aveda's Rosemary Mint Hand & Body wash. True story: I became so addicted to the calming aroma that, knowing the same product would be present on my return flight, I actually bought a small travel container to pump the hand wash into from the dispenser in the airplane restroom! At $21 USD for 8.5 ozs, this is one of the pricier hand soaps among today's choices, but it's fantastic for dry, itchy hands, especially in cold winter weather!

How about you? Are you as picky about what you wash your hands with? Any recommendations for great-smelling products? Leave a comment below!

Image of the author

 

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

Managing Editor & Columnist

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison’s journalism in the fragrance industry has appeared in international print and online publications such as PlayboyMen’s JournalMen’s Health and the New York Times. Marlen is also a regular contributor to BeautyAlmanac.com and works as a graduate professor, thesis advisor and faculty supervisor for MA programs in TESOL, Education, Writing and Literature. Learn more about Marlen by visiting www.MarlenHarrison.com.

 



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Fragaria
Fragaria

CO Bigelow Lime and Corriander hand soap is my favorite. It used to be sold at Bath and Body Works, but now must be purchased on line in my area. Do give this a try if you love FRESH. Man o man o mannnn this stuff is a treat. This I wish...was a perfume... I find a good lime like this incredibly appealing.
Dr. Bronner's is something I've had around forever. I've always known you could use this to brush your teeth but have never really the need to until ONE DAY. I was at my son's visiting and forgot toothpaste. I knew he had some but just thought....well WHY NOT try this? Don't...just don't...never do it. This is my advice.
Now for a shampoo, it's delightful! I thought I'd give it a try because it MUST clean alright. I use mousse and a bit of spray. I figured it'd work on the build up. It makes my hair SO SOFT and silky and shiny and and...I love the stuff! The first time I left it on for a few minutes and it eventually will UN-foam itself. I use it often now, instead of Neutrogena.
Also, I use it to wash my apples. I eat a large amount of apples each day and worry about the pesticides and just the normal handling of them! I most often peel my apples...even so, I wash them!
I loved the article once again Marlen!

Jan
03
2017
azcactusgirl
azcactusgirl

Hello! Interesting article, very enjoyable. This is a bit off-topic but I have discovered that Ajax makes a rose-scented dishwashing soap for hand-washing dishes! It has a lovely rose smell and is a pink color, so far I can only find it in gallon containers from Amazon but I love it. It cleans well also and does not leave a fragrance on your dishes. It makes doing dishes a bit more pleasant!

Jan
03
2017
bellejones
bellejones

I love that you've given such an honest account of your shopping habits. I too hover around the TK Maxx soaps.

Jan
03
2017
akawanis
akawanis

The year was 1991, southern California. A niche hole-in-the-wall store in Irvine sold MOTTURA-- whimsical cube-shaped glycerin soap in scents like Grass, Earth, Heaven, and Water. Packaging was so cute, it'll make you cry.

Around 1994, the Mottura line was bought by GAP, and I cried again. It lost the niche value for me, but on the upside, cheaper, large volume production. My favorite (Earth) continued for a while, and to GAP's credit, they added Om, a nice fiery scent.

Jan
03
2017
Allen-at-home
Allen-at-home

I am a guy and I love good-smelling soap! I think Mrs. Meyers RHUBARB really does smell like the CdG Rhubarb (sherbet series). BUT... I suspect it's the reason for my allergies, so I don't use it anymore, although I have a half-full bottle at home. I have tried every single Bath & Body Works Christmas soap, and my favorite has to be "Tis the Season". I even ordered a portable car-scent thing of it.

Nov
29
2016
Jyrhara
Jyrhara

I prefer solid soap bars. Recently I bought a cheap iris-scented soap. It's really bad for the skin, but who cares, it smells good!

Nov
28
2016
funnyboy
funnyboy

I use a Spanish handsoap called Moussel.
The pink colour and fragrance is wonderful.
Fresh and herby
The only problem is it is getting harder to find.
I therefore substitute the bath/ showers gel and refill my old container.
Much cheaper , works just the same and leaves hands soft and beautifully fragranced.
Sometimes I think you pay for the dispenser and the ingredients in the shower gels are similar or even better than the handsoaps!

Nov
28
2016
funnyboy
funnyboy

I use a Spanish handsoap called Moussel.
The pink colour and fragrance is wonderful.
Fresh and herby
The only problem is it is getting harder to find.
I therefore substitute the bath/ showers gel and refill my old container.
Much cheaper , works just the same and leaves hands soft and beautifully fragranced.
Sometimes I think you pay for the dispenser and the ingredients in the shower gels are similar or even better than the handsoaps!

Nov
28
2016
johngreenink
johngreenink

Ah, we share this love of soaps and scents mingled! I still tend to be a solid "bar soap guy" when it comes to the shower, but having a good pump soap in the kitchen and bath is great. I love the Mrs. Meyer's soaps as well, particularly the Geranium one, and the one called Parsley - I don't think it's exactly like parsley, but it's got a nice fresh green vibe that is very cool.

Nov
27
2016
lulu169
lulu169

I love using Fa showergels as a hand wash...I discovered only recently I actually might use shower gels instead of official hand soap, LOL. since then my life will never be same as before ;) you have so much more options to use the aroma you really prefer and its so important, you are absolutely right, it makes your every day happier...and by the way, I realized, the shower gels actually hydratate the hands better than soaps do and have usually better quality than hand wasch liquids, so thats a plus on top. happy hand-washing everyone! greeting from Germany :)

by the way.....while I love using up to 5 different perfumes a day and get bored by perfumes quickly (that explains me owning over 400 perfumes!), I use only THE SAME SCENT of my hand wash liquid consequently over years again and again....my favourite is Fa shower gel Oriental Moments "Wüstenrosen & Sandelholz". I never get bored of it, Im addicted. in fact, I get pretty nervous when Im forced to use another Aroma for Hand wash. crazy, isnt it....?

Nov
27
2016
Bloomahyde
Bloomahyde

My husband loves Rainkissed leaves and Mrs. Meyers. You are in good company. I love Dr. Bronner's since I discovered it in C.O. Bigelow on 6th avenue so many years ago. The peppermint soap is perfection.

Nov
27
2016
vintage_scent
vintage_scent

I love your list! The only one I am not familier with is the aveda, and I would love to try it ;) I love Crabtree & Evelyn's Iris and adore Bath and Body Works Winter line...

Nov
27
2016
rochie
rochie

I get excited when I finish a bottle of handwash, because yay! I get to crack open a new one! Another lovely aroma to experience! A few months ago I had a lovely Pomegranate one. Loved it so much, I had to look up 'notes' on Fragrantica for Pomegranate fragrances, to try.

Nov
27
2016
spring_pansy
spring_pansy

I love Mrs. Meyer's Radish - I also have both Lavender and Basil. I have to mention Method Hand Soap as well - their Sea Minerals is my favorite. (And they also make a wonderful all-purpose cleanser in Lime and Sea Salt which I've fallen hard for.)

Nov
26
2016
orabsolute
orabsolute

I love Mrs. Meyer's! But you're so right, Marlen--they often smell nothing like the name would imply. I hadn't heard of the radish one but, based on your description, I'll be keeping an eye out tomorrow at the grocery store. To this day, the smell of the basil one takes me back to an apartment I had several years ago, where I went through a lot of that particular soap.

Nov
26
2016
GrandmaGaga
GrandmaGaga

I'm with you, Marlen; I regularly use shower gels at the sink. They have stronger scents than hand washes and if I love the fragrance I want more, more, more!

Nov
26
2016
smellagent
smellagent

I like Dr. Bronner's products especially the peppermint and almond. I have used them for years.
I love this cheap stuff called Method Sweet Water hand soap. Method makes a wonderful Lavender and well other scents as well that I love.

Nov
26
2016
matty64
matty64

The best quality hand soap I've found on today's market is Nest. My fave is cedar leaf & lavender. It adequately cleans and moisturizes your hands and leaves them smelling fantastic. My favorite room diffuser is any of the opulent offerings by Antica Farmacista. You can literally buy any of their scents blindly and be very satisfied. My personal favorite is Damascena Rose, Orris & Oud! I love it! Oh, by the way, if anyone asks you to smell their fingers...don't do it!!!

Nov
26
2016
bibibling
bibibling

It must be pretty hard to get liquid soap wrong (at least if you like fruity, floral, or gourmand stuff!) I've found so many cheap no-name brands at places like Target that I adore but I can't wait for them to hurry up and finish so I can try the next one and the next one and the next one (I draw the line at having more than 1 hand soap per bathroom available at a time, I like to think I haven't become so crazy yet that I'll be going 'hmmm... which one shall I use today?' while gazing at my mighty collection of drugstore liquid hand soaps!)

There's one drugstore brand called 'I Love...' that has really sweet fruity dessert themed stuff. (Coconut, Mango, Lemon pie, etc...) that I'm addicted to right now. It's not too well known in America but they're all over Europe.

For anything more $$$$ sophisticated or grown up smelling, $$$$ I'd rather put the money towards the perfume version because hand soap has no staying power/sillage/whatever on me beyond 10-15 minutes.

Nov
26
2016
Antonia99
Antonia99

Dr. Bronner's Peppermint is wonderful in the kitchen to remove garlic and onion from your skin. It is super.

Nov
26
2016
sweetsmellingmama
sweetsmellingmama

My favorite is the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day in Lemon Verbena. It is absolutely incredible. I run out of the hand soap and kitchen cleaner regularly because I just LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE them. I also enjoy the lavender cleaner.

Nov
26
2016

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