Honey Foaming Jelly for Body and Hair, a combination shower gel and shampoo, is one of the products in L'Occitane's Honey Harvest line. Its label is illustrated with charming, colorful images of bees flanked by clover blossoms, and in the L'Occitane shops, it stands amidst a series of related products, including bars of soap shaped like honeybees.
The familiar symbolism of bees and honey is both practical and indulgent. Bees are traditionally associated with industriousness to the point of compulsion: you can be "busy as a bee" or find yourself preoccupied by a "bee in your bonnet". The bees' nectar-like output, on the other hand, is the epitome of sweetness: you can address your lover with the endearment "honey" during your "honeymoon", and you can always "catch more flies with honey than with vinegar". Literature dating back to the Bible and beyond makes many allusions to honey's delectable flavor and sensual appeal.
In keeping with this time-tested attraction, L'Occitane’s Honey Foaming Jelly tempts several senses at once; it's one of those products that you almost want to taste when you see it and smell it. The gel itself has an uncannily true honey fragrance, as well as the appearance and the slow-moving texture of actual honey. Inhaling this product's aroma, I’ve pondered the basic nature of honey: honey fragrance is commonly classified as a gourmand note in perfumes, but it when it's recreated without any added accents of spice, almond, or vanilla, it betrays its floral origins. If you’re thinking, "Why would I want to smell like something that I eat?" (as I did, the first time I saw a honey shower gel), keep that flowery source in mind. The scent of this gel is indeed sweet, but it’s a heady, golden sweetness rather than a sugary, cake-icing sweetness. Like the honey that we eat, it’s simple, but not exactly basic.
L'Occitane Honey Foaming Jelly does, in fact, contain some real honey, as well as propolis and royal jelly. Honey is known for its humectant properties, meaning that it attracts and retains moisture; propolis, the resinous goo that bees collect from tree buds and use to seal the cracks in their hives, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents. Royal jelly is the nutritious secretion with which worker bees feed their queen; more than anything else, this ingredient reminds me vividly of a short story of the same name by Roald Dahl. (If you enjoy that author’s whimsically twisted imagination, do find his "Royal Jelly" and read it for yourself!)
As a shower gel, Honey Foaming Jelly is thoroughly cleansing and it leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. As a shampoo, it may be a bit too drying for everyday use, but it’s an enjoyable occasional treat for the hair. The few times I've shampooed with it, I've noticed a light but luscious honey scent hovering around my head for the rest of the morning.
As an aside, L’Occitane’s Honey incense sticks are also well worth trying. (And they must be popular, because they are frequently sold out.)