When it comes to bathing products, the world is divided in two: the sophisticates and the toddlers. The former favour fine botanical oils, natural milks and complex aromatherapeutic fragrances. The latter crave sweet, fat bubbles, dense enough to make a carefully laid foam beard last the duration of Carols From King’s. My head may be in the first camp, but my heart will for ever be at the foam party. Nevertheless, an arduous month’s testing of bath foams, oils and powders means that whoever’s on your Christmas list, I have them covered.
Philosophy’s bubble baths are a Christmas tradition, with new festive fragrances released each year. There’s a reassuring lack of pretension in peppermint Candy Cane or spicy Cinnamon Buns foam (both smell unapologetically literal and synthetic) and in this season’s Cozy By The Fire (£13.50 for a whopping 480ml). Heavy on the sweet vanilla and winter flowers, and huge on bubbles, this is essentially a gift for adults who still love Matey.
British brand Bramley makes a very lovely foam for a fair price. Its All Natural Bubble Bath creates big, bulbous lather that fills the bathroom with a beautiful and not un-Christmassy fragrance of orange and geranium (it contains lavender, too, but, to my grateful nose, only in a supporting role). It’s available in an eco-conscious 250ml glass bottle, too, for £16, which seems reasonable for such a lovely gift.
Brilliant bargain bubbles come from the Scottish Fine Soaps Company’s comforting, skin-soothing Au Lait (£8.99 for 220ml), which I’ve had on heavy rotation throughout the pandemic (it’s cheap enough to glug in lavishly).
Soapsmith’s skin-softening Bath Soaks smell so intoxicating that for one blissful hour, I forget all about my love of bubbles. This British independent, black woman-owned brand really does create, in my view, some of the most beautiful fragrances in the business. The ambrosial Camden Bath Soak (£25 for 500ml), scented with coconut, bergamot and white musk, manages to smell both cosying and reviving, and the graphic, weighty, gift-worthy glass jar looks sublime on the shelf. I adore it.
For the ultimate oil blend to give a bathing connoisseur, look no further than Susanne Kaufmann, who makes the most glorious (and very special-looking) oil-to-milk soak. The natural, herbal smell of Oil Bath For The Senses (£50 for 250ml) gives that wonderful, almost painful pang upon submersion, before softening skin, clearing the sinuses and leaving behind absolutely none of that grubby-feeling grease.