In the early ’80s I (and every other girl I knew) went to The Body Shop. I suspect that anyone between the ages of 9 and 14 must have a very under-developed sense of smell. It would explain why (to this very day) you can smell a Lush shop before you can see it. The scent of choice for my generation was White Musk Oil, inevitably misheard and misread as White Mouse Oil, which I still think would be a much better name. For my sister and her friends, six years younger than me, it was all about Dewberry 5-oils. I’ve just checked the Body Shop website, and White Musk is still available, but Dewberry has been discontinued – strange, as it was much nicer.
Once my nose developed properly, I used it to give the Body Shop a wide berth. It had so many brand values I disliked: it smelt too strong, it was right-on and it was founded in Brighton. (I’m scared of Brighton. I’m scared of nudists, clowns, unvaccinated children and hippies, all well-represented there.) Once Anita Roddick’s daughter started to promote her sex-boutiques there was no chance of me going near The Body Shop for fear she’d appear brandishing a phallus carved from a gourd and retailing at several hundred pounds.
Then the Roddick family sold out to L’Oreal. The internet went crazy – people were outraged that this giant French pharma company was getting its huge corporate paws on the gallant little home-spun Body Shop. ‘Hmmm,’ thought I. ‘L’Oreal’s huge R&D budget. L’Oreal’s marketing expertise … what’s not to like?’ So I bought two things for testing purposes: Chocomania Body Butter and Sweet Lemon Beautifying Oil. I’m pretty sure the butter has been a Body Shop staple since the Roddicks were in charge, the oil is newer. And this is what I think of them.
I like chocolate, although I prefer to apply it internally, rather than externally. The dark brown tub attracted me and I liked the ribbon that promises 48-hr hydration, but I hate the image – a heart-shaped chocolate-iced cup cake. The cup-cake has been horribly over-done. It’s the Cheryl Cole of cake.
Once inside, the smooth pat of peachy coloured butter looks quite enticing and absolutely reeks of chocolate. I was expecting a coco-butter smell, this is definitely stronger. Once scooped, all that enticing smoothness degenerates into a smoochy mess – what you see in the photo is what’s left after two lower legs (human) have been thoroughly buttered.
Did it leave my legs feeling soft and smelling like chocolate sauce? Yes, it did. Have I used it again since that first trial? Er, no. To be honest, I forgot I had it, which means that it’s a perfectly reasonable buy, but not at all exciting. I might use it again in the summer, as the scent makes me think of beaches, and slathering on After-Sun (that’s what Mummies and Grannies used on the scarlet, peeling children of the ’70s: no concept of sun-block in those days). Of course, to really capture the scent of a contemporary British summer, you’d need a heady blend of seaside chips, fresh-fried donuts, melting tar and a waft of skunk. I’m sure Lush are working on that as I type.
Remember when facial oils started to become popular? (Not when they first appeared – Clarins were about three decades ahead of everyone else with their facial oils.) For a while earlier this year, oils were coming out that cost less than £20, but this Body Shop one was the first that I found that was under a tenner. Naturally I snapped it up, but with customary perversity, didn’t use it on my face, as planned. Instead it became a bath-time staple. It’s quite delightful when sloshed into the water, and cheap enough that doing so doesn’t feel too extravagant. It’s a very good body oil, that gives a slight sheen to your skin, a gentle scent of lemon and most importantly, doesn’t take long to dry and leaves no hideous sticky feeling behind.
I tried it on my face, and have no complaints there, either. It didn’t cause any break-outs or irritation. But for me the scent is a bit much once it’s all over the iBeheld eke. It’s available in 11 different scents though, so if you did want to use it as a facial oil, there’s sure to be something a little less intense. I’m prepared to test it as a hair oil once I have invested in antimacassars, but not until that happy day, so you’ll have to take your own chances with that particular use.
But what really impresses me, and makes this a whole-hearted recommendation, is that I used it in a leg-shaving emergency. Although I went about this with some trepidation, anticipating irritation at best, and a literal blood-bath at worst, it worked perfectly to soften hair and lubricate the skin, and I got a good close shave using it. Personally, I’m always quite taken aback by the price charged for shaving gels and foams. The modern ones aren’t really glamour purchases, are they? And not really essential kit either, for (as any fule do know), the cheapest possible conditioner will do the job.
The Body Shop will have a a new range in store in January. It’s Absinthe, which sounds very French, and not really very Body Shop. Wormwood isn’t famous for its health-giving properties, quite the opposite in fact. I suspect this range is primarily aimed at men, and people who think of themselves as a bit ‘rock and roll’. Personally, I like the look of it because it resembles Fairy Washing-Up Liquid and I’m hopeful that it smells of aniseed balls. If this turns out to be the case, then I think it could be the perfect range for an old crone like me.
Since L’Oreal took charge, the Body Shop have had consistently good offers going on. A few days ago, they were offering 50% off on the purchase of four items, which is the sort of deal that can really help you work through your Christmas present list. They’re a shop to have on your radar for emergency gift-buying. There’s so often someone you need to buy for who you don’t know that well, so it needs to be a token gift, not too personal and lend itself easily to re-gifting. You can’t really go wrong with The Body Shop when that’s the case.
And of course, they are marvellous for the 14-and unders. When the Lush founder tells the world that l’Oreal are poised to sell the Body Shop, L’Oreal step forward and say they aren’t. I’m hoping The Body Shop doesn’t get sold on for a while, and particularly not to Lush. I have nothing against them, but I do think they’re a bit pricey. When my Youngest Great Beauty was in the early years of secondary school I seemed to spend hours in Lush saying “No, can’t afford it…”
Apologies to anyone that read this anticipating I’d have good words to say about Nirvana, or the deodorant that they took their title from. I don’t.
Instead, here’s Great Beauty Diana Ross with Work That Body – from 1981, when The Body Shop held mesmeric sway over adolescent girls, and Lush was yet to launch …