Well, nowadays we don’t have much choice. Like so much in life, showering has become a hypersexualised ritual: saturated with talismanic brand names, swollen with images of orgasmic joy, and accessorised with a full arsenal of props, lubricants and specialist techniques. Whether we slather our limbs in gel, lather our skin with foam, slide oil into every cranny, or luxuriate in that suspiciously spelled and ambiguously accented substance known as crème, we’re forced to indulge in a linguistic smorgasbord of suggestiveness before we’ve popped our first Berocca of the day.
It isn’t just the textures. With their synthetic super-sweetness, their sensual blends and relaxing essences and milk-and-honey utopianism, these ablutive elixirs are engineered to send us off into Soho stinking like a scratch-n-sniff sex doll. Hints of the corporeal must be hidden at all costs. The slightest hint of mammalian musk must be masked by a shining chemical varnish of seashore or applemint or blossoming lily. Skin is the enemy; vanilla and acai berry the evolutionary apogee.
But hang on. Tugging at a corner of the Matrix, I seem to remember another way: a childhood bathroom uncluttered by those flamingoid bottles with their sinister hanging hooks and gummed-up lids. Instead, I recall a handful of solidity; a firm pat, a simple chunk, a scentless slab of clean, rubbed with vigorous love onto hunched and protesting shoulder blades.
Soap! Whatever happened to soap? Whither humble soap in this orgy of Cocamidopropyl betaine and Benzophenone-4? To the nunnery, that’s where. Soap isn’t just old rope. Soap is actively frowned upon in our sophisticated cosmetic age. Soap is impotence, the maiden aunt of the bodycare aisle. It is tar. It is coal. It is Victorian workhouses and pig fat and Gradgrind washing out your gob.
Nevertheless, recently my skin has started to rebel against the moisture-stripping multisyllables of modern shower gel. My sister mentioned that good old soap was the way to go. And oh, my friends, it so is.
Of course, there are limits. Flim-flammish Gen Y floozie that I am, I can’t quite bring myself to love the star of those buried childhood memories, my father’s austere Imperial Leather, despite that pleasing little red label begging to be peeled from the slippery bar. No, I want something gentle, something pure, an additive-free ur-soap that will lather me in virgin virtue every dawn.
And I found it. The lovely Andrea of Victoria Regia makes hand-milled Castille soap from 100% organic olive oil and crafts bespoke blends using essential oils. I am currently working my way through my very own flowery (orange, lime and ylang-ylang), energising (orange, rosemary, ginger and myrrh) and spicy (orange, cedarwood and cinnamon) bars and already feel the glow coming back to my cosmetically raped skin. They come beautifully packaged, too. Soap. Perfect. Who knew? I’m off to get wet.