Bathroom Soaps That Aren't Aesop
Showcase your own taste and buy a hand soap that isn’t all over TikTok
In Kyle Chayka's upcoming book “Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture,” he talks about taste. Specifically, how taste and culture have become more generic in the age of the internet. On The Ezra Klein Show, he said: “Comfort is a product that people like to consume. It’s scalable. Consumers enjoy it … I think there’s this vast generic agglomeration of stuff that we’re just cherry-picking from each place and molding it into a great blob of generic culture.”
Increasingly, it’s easier for us all to appear like we have some identical version of good taste. Across the internet, we can see what curators, celebrities, and the ultra-wealthy consider good and tasteful. So, to prove that we too have elevated standards, we imitate them. Whether through buying dupes, saving up for “investment pieces,” or just learning the vocabulary of wealth, we prove that we have good taste.
This compulsion to imitate people we aspire to be like is an ancient one. It explains the rise of Stealth Wealth and quiet luxury from people who have no access to wealth or luxury. And it begs the question: why do we think certain classes of people have better taste than us? And why do the silliest things signify that taste?
The best example I can think of is the pervasiveness of Aesop soaps in the imaginations of younger millennials and older Gen Z. Picture this: a friend comes over, and they marvel to see that in your kitchen or in your bathroom (or both!) you have the coveted bottles of Aesop hand soaps. They’re impressed, maybe a little envious, and they think you have good taste. Because, after all, that’s what all this is for.
Now, I’m no stranger to splurging on quality. I’m especially no stranger to splurging on little luxuries. Our generation is prone to spending on the little things since big financial goals seem so far out of reach. As one financial expert (Maria @FirstGenLiving) put it: young people can afford nice things because they can’t afford anything else. Since we can’t save for a down payment on these million-dollar homes, we might as well get designer bags and fancy hand soaps.
However, when I splurge on something, I want it to be because I really want it, not because it will make other people think I have TikTok taste. Don’t get me wrong, Aesop soap is great quality. But for me, it’s more of a cultural signifier than anything else.
Chayka makes the claim that instead of trying to be received as having good taste, we should cultivateour own taste. This doesn’t mean being excessively contrarian, a trap I have fallen into a time or two. It means figuring out what you like to wear, not just copying Succession style. It means experimenting with the little things until you find something that feels like you — from the music you listen to to the soaps you keep by your sink.
If you’re looking for bathroom soaps that aren’t Aesop, for all budgets, here are my picks:
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Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap
I have this by my sink to wash dishes, my hands, and everything else. This versatile soap comes in many different scents and can be used for pretty much anything. Buy in bulk.
Gen Z cool laundry brand DedCool also makes hand soaps in their signature scents. For that cool factor without the insane price, this is your pick.
For sensitive skin or overwashed hands, this dermatologist-recommended option is the best choice.
Alaffia Everyday Coconut Hand Soap
This Black-owned, fair-trade brand produces natural and ethically sourced products made with coconut oil. Start with their hand soap and you’ll probably want their body soap and other products too.
P.F. Candle Co. Sunset Hand Soap
P.F. Candle Co. is known for its candles, but did you know they make hand soaps with their homey scents? The Sunset Hand Soap features a warm, floral aroma that will elevate your home and make you look super pout together. Matching your candles with your hand soap is a major flex.
By Humankind Hand Soap
Want something sustainable? Yes, everyone reuses the Aesop soap bottles until there isn’t even Aesop soap in there, but why not start by reducing your plastic consumption altogether? By Humankind is committed to reducing single-use plastic waste. Their hand soap is available in a sustainable, refillable container, and the formula is gentle on the skin.
Kinfield Golden Hour Hand Soap
Kinfield is an outdoor-inspired brand that makes sunscreen, bug spray, and the works. They also offer a refreshing Golden Hour Hand Soap for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. It features a clean and invigorating scent, and the brand emphasizes eco-friendly packaging.
Diptyque Softening Hand Wash
Still want a bougie option? This is a classy hand soap that you can also match to their candles if you’re in the mood to splurge.
Hotel bathrooms love this brand for a reason. The fresh scent and neutral packaging are almost identical to Aesop. They might just be a little bit more aligned to your taste
My personal favorite perfume brand makes the ultimate status symbol soap in my option. The strong scents and foamy lather mean you only have to use a little for it to go a long way. You can also get a matching hand sanitizer to cleanse your hands on the go in a fancy, cool way.