I will admit that I am somewhat vain.
Though I virtually never go clothes shopping, don’t ‘work out’, and usually cut my hair myself, one thing I do care about, aside how I smell, obviously, is skin.
Though middle age may be encroaching (or has already encroached), and I can accept the realities of ‘ageing’ to a large degree (and I have to say that being 43 is way more enjoyable than I ever would have possibly imagined), I nevertheless see no reason why I should dry up like a crinkled, Clint Eastwood husk if I can help it, at least not yet; and like the Egyptians, and their rituals of mummification, I will continue to try to preserve this doomed, disintegrating epidermis as long as is humanly possible.
I have always been one of those morbidly attracted to moisture. In fact, I am a confirmed dehydrophobe (Duncan has even suggested hypnotherapy), but I won’t go into too much of that now, suffice it to say that there is a lot of water and herb tea (rooibos or lemongrass) by my bed at night, and that when the earthquake hit two years ago, and I clung to the walls, I thanked the heavens that I happened to be clutching a bottle of iced Japanese green tea in my hand: being trapped under rubble without water and slowly drying to a parched death is genuinely far more terrifying to me than pain or the more simple loss of my life).
Moisturizing creams are essential. And by and large, I prefer to (semi) make my own, because, in essence, they are better. Using a cheapish, generic unscented skin milk by Shiseido, I add small amounts of quality essential oils, depending on my mood (palmarosa, geranium, ylang ylang, lavender, frankincense or myrrh being some of the essences that suit my skin best), though the crown of skin-loving oils, by far the most effective and most naturally luxuriant, will always go to neroli.
Ah…..neroli. Just that word…
Brian Eno even once made a whole album about this essence, ‘Neroli’, the most relaxing ambient soundtrack I know, somnolent to the point of coma : perhaps this is why I don’t seem to review neroli or orange blossom perfumes so often, because much as I love the scent of orange blossom flowers in the flesh (one of nature’s headiest, most erotic savours), for me the extracted essence is more a medicine, a face ointment, not a perfume; a cooling, soothing nerve tonic and rejuvenating skin-cell balm that worn at night has an immediately dream-like, sedative effect – the next day I usually wake up more bright-skinned, refreshed. The stuff is gorgeous, and over the years friends that have stayed at the house have often taken a shine to ‘my neroli’: as a result I have often ended up shipping bottles of the stuff to various people at their request (but don’t get any ideas…) It isn’t cheap: essential oils are very expensive here in Japan for some reason (about three times the cost of those in England, which is why I always really stock up when I go back), and a 1ml tiny bottle of pure neroli will usually set you back about 3000-5000 yen (fifty dollars).
The Black Narcissus is primarily a perfume-worshipping oasis, but as those perfumes, at least in theory, are comprised mainly of essential oils, I would like today to take a look at one single, high quality, essential oil just for a change.
Can essential oils be reviewed? I never have before, but I do know that the quality, timbre, and sensation of aromatherapeutic essential oils, not to mention the smell, vary greatly from company to company, depending on the source, the ethos, the harvest of any particular year, how mass produced (ie adulterated) they are, and the essential integrity of the aromatherapy house in question.
The more you use essential oils- in my case, at least twenty years – the deeper you go, know which company’s oils are purest and most effective. You find your favourites. My own most used oil would probably have to be marjoram, but only, onlyonly Maggie Tisserand’s, a sweet marjoram from Spain that is like my missing link and I find healing and invigorating simultaneously. There is simply nothing else like it.
For invigoration and morning zest I sometimes use rosemary, geranium, ylang ylang, black pepper or cardamom in the bath (instantaneous results guaranteed), but at night, Maggie Tisserand’s sweet Spanish marjoram is the only thing I can be sure will take me from my overstimulated state (from teaching til late or writing posts on here), to sleep – it is basically my sleeping drug, a haven; herbaceous, strong, but warming, almost balsamic, and I absolutely cannot live without it.
As for Eden Botanicals, some samples of which were sent me by the lovely Brie of Fragrant Man and Australian Perfume Junkies, who makes her own bespoke perfumes using essential oils – you should smell the tobacco amber she has done for Birgit from Olfactoria – all I can say is wow. And express my deep frustration that I have no access to these natural beauties on a regular basis.
The lime ( I love a good lime) is by miles the best lime I have ever smelled, and in a blink of an eye it went straight into a bottle of Harry Lehmann Laguna cologne, which, nice though it is, had a slightly dissatisfying top note – a problem rectified exquisitely by this zinging citron vert; the orange so dazzlingly gorgeous that I would buy it by the litre if I could and just spray it all over the house for the sheer hell of it; unfortunately I was testing Atelier Cologne’s Orange Sanguine on the other hand at the time, and the Eden blasted it instantly into a banal nothingness of uppity New York musk; the orange I was experiencing on my other wrist so vivacious, so alive that my interest in the other wilted immediately.
In contrast, Petitgrain Sur Fleurs (is that not the most beautiful name?) smelled wrong, horribly, on the skin at first as it is just too unrectified, too brutally real, as if the entire spirit of the bitter orange tree – the petitgrain leaf oil, the twigs, and the orange blossom flowers had not been ‘extracted’ or distilled or hexaned or coldpressed, but lifted directly, the soul of the tree intact, a diffusion, or transfusion even, and in concentration on the skin all was too heady, nature’s chemicals colliding, evaporating all over the shop ( I was never a huge fan of petitgrain oil anyway – it is one of the oils that give me headaches, along with basil, cinnamon leaf and aniseed).
This is no ordinary petitgrain oil however, and it wasn’t intended for direct use as a perfume on the skin anyway. Here, there is none of that sharpness, that needle-in-eye citricity, of certain petitgrains; no, this is the tree, as I said, petitgrain sur fleurs, as its name suggests, a beautiful expression of freshly opening neroli with a slightly harsher backdrop of bark, and leafy, verdant chlorophyll, and suspended, as it was last night, in a bottle of Shiseido’s simple skin milk; diluted, or rather allowed to breathe and reshuffle itself into its new surroundings it bloomed, beautifully, and is definitely the best bitter orange tree oil I have ever experienced.
I wouldn’t put this on every night ( I have strange intuitions about essential oils – I always know, somehow, which ones are right to use, which ones aren’t, and at what time), but last night, exhausted from work, I felt like Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream; assuaged, alone in nature and coroneted in green-leaved orange flowers.
I have to say I didn’t look so bad this morning, either….