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When Did Bodycare Get So Bougie?

Still getting your body wash from the supermarket? Get ready for next-level (and next-level expensive) bodycare

Sherine Youssef

If there’s one beauty product I rate lower than a facial cleanser — and by “lower” I mean I would never spend too much money on it, because you literally watch it go down the drain — it’s body cleanser.

Not only do you watch it go down the drain, but it passes through your feet on the way down. I can’t recall ever buying one, because if I’m not testing a body cleanser or been randomly sent one by a brand (perk of the job), I’ll use the olive oil bar soap that my Lebanese relatives send over in the kilo from the homeland.

But body care is doing its best to get my attention right now… and it’s succeeding. The whole category is currently undergoing a major glow-up, and taking its cues from the skincare and wellness industries.

Forget the one-litre, buy-in-bulk body wash most of us have merrily been grabbing from the supermarket. Today, prestige and masstige body care brands are hitting the market, with their minimalist packaging and sophisticated ingredients. And even mass brands are getting in on the act.


The whole category is currently undergoing a major glow-up.

Take supermarket staple Dove, which has released a peptide-serum-infused body wash in the US and a range of pre-cleanse body butters. (Yes, you read that correctly. We’re now being encouraged to double cleanse our bodies, exactly as we do our faces.)

Meanwhile, Olay is adding all sorts of skincare ingredients – from ceramides to vitamin B3 – into their formulas. They have even launched something they’re calling “Rinse-Off Body Conditioner.” You can practically hear the marketing executives thinking aloud: “You condition your hair, why not your skin?” Why not, indeed.

I think the current trend can be partly pinned on the 2019 debut of the chic (and definitely not mass) US body care brand Nécessaire, which was founded by two people who know something about cult brands: former Estée Lauder executive Randi Christiansen who worked on Crème de la Mer and Tom Ford, and Nick Axelrod-Welk, a former US Elle magazine editor who co-founded Into the Gloss with Emily Weiss (he has since departed Nécessaire).

Together they launched a tightly edited collection of body essentials that looked good and delivered the goods, and was spotted on many a cool girl’s shelfie. So, what was the gap in the market Nécessaire identified? Why did body care go bougie?

“We set out to design the products we use every day — The Necessary— that support our health and wellness [and] made body care the first thought, not the conventional afterthought,” Christiansen tells me. “We made a clear choice to use facial-grade ingredients at proven clinical concentrations to really address body skin concerns.”

I fully support this. Just because I don’t particularly care about the skin south of my chest — I use body wash daily, of course, but body moisturiser happens maybe once a week — doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. You should. You definitely should.

“You condition your hair, why not your skin?” Why not, indeed.

But these clinical-grade ingredients don’t come cheap, which is where I tend to emit an eye roll. It seems like a hard sell to get consumers to pay premium for a product that requires a substantial dose every usage, especially when we can buy a perfectly fine body wash or moisturiser for under $10. The Nécessaire body wash and moisturiser are $38, each. So how did they do it?

Christiansen says they wanted to get people (I think she means me) to treat their body like their face, “and to back that aspiration, we use the ingredients that you find in facial skincare products, like acids, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and peptides… to address unique concerns for the body, like keratosis pillars. I think that is why we broke through. We made a better product in a better way.”

And that’s not an overstatement. Nécessaire basically revamped the category, and Christiansen notes that the overwhelming positive response from the industry and consumers has been “humbling.”

Have these fancy formulas and pretty packaging forced me to care about my neglected body? I wouldn’t go that far. But I am up to twice a week body moisturiser application. Small steps!

Nécessaire The Body Lotion, $38: The brand’s bestseller, Christiansen says this blend of niacinamide, vitamins A, C and E, and marula oil, “feels like a wrap of comfort.” I say it makes my skin look like I care about it.

Nécessaire The Body Wash, $38: My pick of the range. The eucalyptus body wash (there’s also a fragrance free version) is gorgeous, a rich blend of glycerin, oils and niacinamide.

Costa Brazil Sol Sunlight Body Oil, $81: This extremely curated body range comes from ex-Calvin Klein creative director, Francisco Costa, which, when you see that pared-back packaging, makes all kinds of sense.

Fresh Milk Body Cleanser, $39,and Body Lotion, $50: How retro are those milk bottles? Cute. The range includes body cleansers and lotions made with three, plant-based milks.

Palmolive Micellar Aloe Vera Body Wash, $7: Not expensive, but this incorporates the same micellar technology we’ve all been using to remove makeup, to mildly cleanse body skin.

Palmolive Skin Food, $15 each: The skincare world loves native Aussie ingredients quandong, desert lime and Davidson Plum for their vitamin C, antioxidant and AHA benefits – and now your body can get some of that goodness.

Sundae Cherry on Top Shower Foam, $20: Two other skincare faves from our backyard, finger lime (natural AHA) and Kakadu plum (vitamin C powerhouse), make an appearance in this whipped cream-like body wash (can’t lie, it appealed to the 12 year old girl in me).

Freshwater Farm Rosewater & Pink Clay Body Wash, $18: On your face, mineral-rich pink clay gently coaxes out impurities and absorbs excess oil, and it pulls off that neat trick here, too.

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BY Sherine Youssef

Sherine Youssef is a freelance journalist and co-founder of gloss etc who is starting to care about the skin south of her chest

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