‘Our crimes would depair, if they were not cherished by our virtues’ says Shakespeare in All’s Well That Ends Well; and so too will our bodies despair, if not cherished by fragranced oils in cold weather.
You will have to forgive the laboured punning, because I simply couldn’t resist, and it also happens to be true.
Winter takes its toll on our skin, so if you’re not slathering yourelf in something luxuriously moisturising, your fragrance simply wont last as long. Scent evaporates according to how dry your skin is, so if you’re closseted away in layers of wool and central-heating, your normal fragrance may need topping up throughout the day, even if it usually lasts well. And if it’s alcohol based – as most spray perfumes are – that’s going to dry your skin out even further.
Another temptation during grey, cold days is to soak for as long as possible in a steaming hot bath, but Jessica Weiser, from the New York Dermatology Group, explains, ‘Hot water depletes natural oils from the skin’s surface, leaving it dry and more susceptible to conditions like eczema,’ Best practice is to only use lukewarm water but really, where’s the fun in that? Personally I like to semi-boil myself like a lobster – all the more appealing in a scented bath – so keep the water piping hot if you like, but try and limit your soaking time to ten minutes, Weiser advises.
Yes, that seems sensible. But I can tell you now, that ain’t gonna happen, Jessica. If I’m putting in all the admin of running a bath, I’m going to be in there until I emerge like a perfumed prune. So we need a back-up plan to rehydrate. This is the time to reach for fabulously fragranced oils to layer-up your scent game, making it last longer and with the added benefit of de-pruning you, too.
Don’t worry about ‘matching’ your fragrance to these – use them instead to add facets to a favourite scent – or simply enjoy them on their own…
This is a perennial favourite, and sort of smells like paradise. Monoï is a Tahitian word simply meaning ‘scented oil’, and is made using a kind of enfleurage technique by soaking gardenia petals in coconut oil. Infused with further coconut and tropical wafts of frangipani flowers, Elemis have basically bottled the smell of a holiday in this multi-use product. Use in the bath, all over the body and even as a weekly hair treatment. The oil solidifies in cooler temperatures, so pop the bottle in a bowl of warm water to return it to a silky liquid – I just put my bottle right in the bath with me until it melts, and then baste myself as though I were a perfumed poussin.
Elemis Frangipani Monoi Body Oil £38.50 for 100ml
For a truly indulgent scented experience, I cannot recommend Mandy Aftel’s body and hair elixir enough. Originally created as a bespoke fragrance for none other than Leonard Cohen, Ancient Resins resonates with frankincense, Balm of Gilead – not the republic in The Handmaid’s Tale, thank goodness, but the name of a balsam made from poplar buds, which smell like honeyed musk – along with benzoin, elemi, and labdanum: oils cherished for centuries for their healing properties. Boswellia Frankincense resins have been scientifically tested to prove their pain-relieving anti-inflammatory qualities, so couldn’t be more ideal for this time of year. A few drops used to scent a bath (will actually scent your entire house), slathered on to soothe and nourish skin, or stroked through ends of hair and rubbed in to burnish a beard – it would seem especially pertinent listening to Cohen’s album New Skin For The Old Ceremony while you annoint yourself with this divine oil.
Mandy Aftel Ancient Resins Body & Hair Elixir $45 for 50ml or $6 for 2ml sample (great for travelling)
A heftier price, yes, but the extravagent dose of Turkish rose will truly stay with you all day, infused as it is with a deeply fabulous patchouli heart and resting on a bed of sandalwood and frankincense. Clove, blackcurrant and raspberry ‘binds the perfume together for a final movement of symphonic femininity’ say Malle, but we know many men who delight in wearing the fragrance too, and this isn’t merely a pretty rose that blushes and swoons. All those resins add a purring depth that radiates naughtiness, albeit in a very refined way. I think the lady in question would be Lady Chatterley – admiring her roses and indulging in a bit of rumpy pumpy among the petals whenever possible. Sprinkle into a bath, massage into hair and cover with a warm towel for 15 minutes before rinsing, and be sure to lavish your limbs all over.
Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady Hair & Body Oil £138 for 200ml
I really haven’t stopped wanging on about how wonderful SJP Stash is since the genderless ‘fragrance for humans’ was first launched in 2016, but now I can frolic in accompanying body and hair products like this oil – and a beautifully scented hair mist for lighter application – as well. There’s something about the composition of incense and vetiver infused with unexpected notes like sage, pistachio, grapefruit and warming black pepper, that makes it smell at least three times more expensive than it is, and about a million miles away from what you’d expect a ‘celebrity scent’ to smell like. It’s hard to find fault with either the original perfume or this nourishing treat, to wear together or used to add an ambery glow to fragrances you find a little bit “meh” on cold, grey days like these.
SJP Stash Hair & Body Oil £35 for 30ml
To mark Baccarat’s 250th anniversary, the niche house of MFK united with the iconic crystal house to create the fragrance – and it’s proved a smash-hit success all over the world. Now fans can cover themselves in the decadently rich oil as well – warm ambergris and cedarwood buoyed by the sunshine jasmine affords to balance and brighten this otherwise woody fragrance, with distinct undertones of caramelised brown sugar to my nose. Argan, sweet almond and apricot kernel oils have been used as the base, making this a gorgeously moisturising but never greasy oil. Perfect to spray on in a hurry just before dressing and dashing outdoors, it’s proving equally successful (with some department strores reporting waiting lists), so if you see a bottle and know you love the perfume already, my advice would be not to procrastinate…
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Scented Body Oil £75 for 70ml
By Suzy Nightingale