I certainly own enough scented body products with artistic designs and elaborate promotional rhetoric, but even in my most frivolous moments, I am loyal to Beekman’s COPA Soaps. This small company, housed in a Philadelphia workshop, perfectly demonstrates the truism that “less is more.”
COPA is an acronym for the company’s basic soap recipe: a mix of coconut, olive, palm, and almond oils. Nothing is added to this blend of saponified oils except natural essences with aromatherapeutic benefits; no dyes, synthetic perfumes, or preservatives are included. The same back-to-basics approach is applied to the soap’s packaging. The hand-cut bars are bound in brown-paper labels, and they have no eye-catching coloring, decorative shapes, or whimsical names.
However, this is one of those rare cases where a product’s quality shines through the plainest of exteriors. The soaps are deeply cleansing but gentle. They supply a rich lather that rinses away completely, yet they never leave the skin feeling stripped of its natural emollients. And what about the fragrances? I’ve tried most of them, but I’ll limit myself to mentioning just a few favorites. In the winter, I often reach for Harvest, a blend of clove and cinnamon that gives off a warm spiciness without veering into pumpkin-pie territory. When I have a cold or I just want to feel more alert, I crave Lemon EucaMint, a refreshing, head-clearing pairing of lemon and eucalyptus oils.
Most of all, I am fanatical about COPA’s Basil soap, and I need to have some in my bathroom at all times. This soap serves up basil’s herbal freshness with an intriguing twist: basil essential oil has a note reminiscent of anise, so it is leafy yet sweet, invigorating yet smooth. Throughout history, basil has been used to treat various ailments, and in contemporary aromatherapy its essential oil is recommended to enhance mental clarity, alleviate headaches, and ease depression. When this Basil soap’s herbaceous fragrance is released through its suds into the steamy bathroom air, it becomes intensely aromatic. COPA Soaps compares its products to small-scale spa treatments, and I am inclined to agree.
I was introduced to COPA Soaps a few years ago, when I was living in Philadelphia. My boyfriend, knowing my obsessive interest in scented toiletries, did an internet search for local soap-makers and contacted COPA Soaps to place an order. He gave me a few bars as a Christmas gift, impressing me with his knowledge of a niche brand that was unfamiliar to me! When we both eventually moved away from Philadelphia, I was relieved to learn that COPA Soap’s wares are also available through the company’s website and at craft fairs and other outdoor events around the New York City metropolitan area. Even on the most loathsomely hot weekends of summer, I will brave all the unpleasant aromas of a Manhattan street fair — fried foods, spilled beer, many overheated bodies — in order to find the COPA booth and restock my own supply of these wholesome, scent-filled soaps.
COPA Soaps sell for $4 per 4.5-ounce bar. They can be purchased through the company’s website, copasoaps, which also lists upcoming sales venues.