Back in December, Robin capably tackled the topic of fragrance layering, with suggestions for combining scents to enhance and emphasize certain notes. I must admit that I’m something of a purist: I prefer to wear one perfume at a time. However, I’m willing to experiment with layers of other products underneath. Although some fragrance lines do offer their own matching body products, those shower gels and lotions are often disappointing. Sometimes, the fragrance just doesn’t live up to the richness and complexity of the original perfume; in other cases, the formula of the gel or lotion is surprisingly low in quality.
Instead, I prefer to find unrelated scented products that harmonize with my favorite perfumes, based on broader fragrance families or single notes. I’ve written about my quest for rose lotions once or twice before, and vanilla is another category that seems to merit frequent layering discussion here on Now Smell This as well as at MakeupAlley and other forums. The right lotion can moisturize the skin so that perfume “clings” better, and a vanilla-scented body product adds an extra, underlying dose of warmth and sweetness to any fragrance. Here, then, are a handful of vanilla lotions that have recently impressed me, with suggestions for fragrance matches.
My top pick for an all-around, vanilla-fragranced lotion is Roger & Gallet’s Vanilla Gentle Fragrant Nutri-Moisturizing Body Lotion. The name is a bit wordy, but the scent is straightforward: pure, dense vanilla with a subtle caramel note. The lotion itself has a perfect texture, silky and quickly absorbed, and the fragrance lasts for hours on the skin. It would pair well with anything from Guerlain Shalimar to L’Aromarine Vanille. Roger & Gallet is better known for its soaps, but this lotion is just as wonderfully effective. Of course, it also has that ineffably chic “Made in France” appeal. ($16 for 6.6 oz at beautyexclusive or shoplondons)
For a more natural choice, Desert Essence Organics offers a Vanilla Chai Hand and Body Lotion that smells of cream and cloves, just like a very milky cup of chai tea. It contains plenty of jojoba oil, as well as antioxidant extracts of green and black tea leaves, but no mineral oil, silicones, parabens, phthalates, dyes, or artificial fragrance. It feels luxurious to the touch, and its scent is derived from real vanilla and clove flowers. I would smooth it on as a sweet base for a clovey fragrance like Aroma M’s Geisha Rouge or the smoky Tea for Two from L’Artisan Parfumeur. ($8.99 for 8 oz at drugstore.com or vitaminshoppe)
Just as its name suggests, Almond Cookie Shea Souffle from Carol’s Daughter offers plenty of skin-quenching shea butter in a lotion that looks and feels like whipped heavy cream. Its scent is a comforting blend of almond, vanilla, and soft sandalwood that tempts the taste buds as well as the nose. (Yet it’s quite different from the scent of the Almond Cookie Shower Gel, which smells uncannily like almond-oatmeal cookie dough.) As a first layer of fragrance, it gives an extra note of vanilla to any almond-based perfume, such as Christian Dior’s Hypnotic Poison or Keiko Mecheri’s Loukhoum. ($12 for 4 oz; $30 for 16 oz at sephora or carolsdaughter)
If you’re looking for deeply moisturizing formula with a light vanilla scent, you may want to try Shea You Love Me Body Butter from Juliet’s Room Organics. Its thick consistency is the result of generous amounts of shea butter, aloe, meadowfoam seed oil, and neem oil, and its delicate, all-natural fragrance comes from vanilla extract. This cream’s ingredients would heal the skin while providing a discreet layer of scent under a vanilla-accented floral such as Annick Goutal’s Songes or Kenzo’s Flower by Kenzo. ($24 for 3.5 oz at julietsroom)
Despite Lavanila’s enthusiastic claims, the ingredients in its Lavanila Healthy Body Butter are really no different from those in many natural products sold at health-food stores (see Desert Essence, above). However, this lotion does feel lush and creamy without any stickiness, and its Pure Vanilla fragrance suggests the Madagascar vanilla bean, with tonka and patchouli for just a hint of earthiness. It would complement gourmand vanilla scents from the notorious Aquolina Pink Sugar to i Profumi di Firenze’s Vaniglia di Madagascar, without adding too much extra syrupiness. ($25 for 8 oz at sephora or amazon )
I have by no means sampled every vanilla lotion on the market, so if you have a favorite of your own, or a layering idea to share, feel free to comment!