Don’t let people tell you your 30s will be the best time of your life in a tone that suggests your looks will fade so you better find inner peace. Vicki’s Pick is a weekly beauty column that features Vicki’s all-time favourite beauty products and latest discoveries for women in their 30s who plan on staying pretty on the outside for a long, long time. Inner peace is optional.
In a time when body washes and the foaming sponges are often sold as a dynamic duo and have almost become standard body-cleaning tools, there’s something to be said for a simple bar of soap. I admit that I like beauty products as much, if not more, than the average woman. Sometimes I secretly prefer getting dolled up to the actual places and events I find myself going to. While I’ll gladly experiment with a new cherry-stained gloss in lieu of red lipstick, I always have a bar of soap in my shower… and there’s no sponge, luffa, or mesh bubble in sight.
I remember reading an article years ago about the impact bath and shower accessories were apparently having on our personal relationships with our own bodies. The article hypothesized that sponges, back washers, and the like were making us almost afraid of lathering up with our hands and getting acquainted with our crevices, skin, and body parts, from head to toe. It was, according to the author, like we were growing more and more afraid of connecting with our mortal forms, like we were disengaging subconsciously from the human experience.
I can’t remember the author’s ultimate call to action in the article or if there even was one, but the idea of a good handmade lather has stuck with me over the years nonetheless. Despite all the magazine articles I’ve read since I was a tween that insist soap can dry skin and is an absolute no-no when it comes to shaving, I don’t feel right if my shower is soap-free. I love working the bar directly onto my skin and getting a good lather going with my other hand and somehow showing myself that my body and I are on the same page. We’re not letting any luffa get between us. I also shave with soap no matter what the “experts” say, and my legs feel perfectly smooth afterwards, so clearly we were all misguided by the magazines of our youth. It doesn’t hurt, however, that my soap of choice is the hard-milled version of the famous Savon de Marseille ($7.52 for 300 grams; $12.89 for 600 grams). The hard-milled edition of the renowned hand-crafted natural soap has the same ingredients as the olive oil-based original and follows the same centuries-old recipe, but it’s machine-pressed. All that means is that it’s firmer and keeps its shape longer than the famously soft traditional Savon de Marseille.
They say memories exist in their most powerful form in scents, that just a whiff of something that reminds us of our past can open the floodgates to younger versions of ourselves and moments in time we didn’t realize were resting so closely to the surface of who we are now. There’s something about Savon de Marseille’s scent that reminds me, and probably a lot of people in my age demographic, of the soap our grandparents had in their homes. The scent might be delicate, but it brings me immediately back to the bathtub in my grandmother’s 200-year-old house on the east coast. Growing up, I never thought to ask her what brand she used because I wasn’t old or market-savvy enough to think that way. Scents were just a part of people to me, the same way my Mom’s perfume still smells like her and no one else to me, no matter how many other people wear it.
I used my grandmother’s soap every time I had a bath or shower as a kid on summer evenings when I went to stay with her for the month of August. She was a woman of many quiet rituals, and I liked having my own when I stayed with her too – like bathing the beach off my skin and dirty feet when the sun set. I wasn’t necessarily a pretty child – just a shy, skinny beachcomber of a kid – but using the soap in her bathroom, the same one I knew both she and my mom used, made me feel like maybe I would be as beautiful as they were one day. My grandmother’s been gone for nearly two decades, but even when I absent-mindedly reach for my Savon de Marseille in the shower, my mind floods instantly with vivid memories… like she’s just in the other room.