We've Joined the Cult of Fancy Hand Soap (and We're Never Going Back)

These luxury hand soaps straddle the price spectrum between "special" and "won't bankrupt anyone," while offering a virtual sensory vacation.

If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve obsessively scrubbed our hands with globby, Sad Flubber hand soap over the last few years. Ideally, the only places where we should be squirting cheap, skin-irritating foam on our hands is at The Bar (RIP) or the airport, and as we continue to wait out a safe return to both, one thing has become clear: We have to keep shaking up our at-home brain breaks and self-esteem—starting with our hands, and some fancy hand soap.


It’s hard to rationalize when and where we should drop (relatively) tiny, stupid, juicy sums of our leprechaun coins on something just because it makes us feel good, but that’s what’s so perfect about something like luxury hand soap: It’s an inherently practical purchase, and one whose scale of luxury, in our humble opinion, can range anywhere from a few bucks to the price of a nice bottle of whiskey. High-end hand wash has become such a covetable item that there has been media chatter about which brand will become the next jewel of the public eye (and omnipresent status symbol of restaurant bathrooms), with Eater declaring that “Le Labo might be giving Aesop a run for its money” and GQ lauding Aesop hand sanitizer as “a flex for an anxious time.”

All that industry chatter aside, it’s genuinely ripe for a little bit of olfactory escapism—a simple necessity that, when elevated, turns into a gateway luxury that leaves our fingers energized and luxuriated, as if they’ve been coddled in buttercream and butterfly-kissed by clouds—something each and every one of us deserves, whether your personal-spa-in-a-bottle is teetering next to the faucet in an otherwise grungy bachelor pad or perched by the farmhouse sink of an impeccably remodeled chef-grade kitchen. The following soaps straddle the price spectrum between "special" and "won't bankrupt anyone," while offering a virtual sensory vacation. 

The OG

Say what you will, Aesop's ever-popular hand wash still slams. Citrusy, woody, and thoroughly “herbaceous,” this hand soap makes us feel both worldly and down-to-earth, like Francis Mallmann has roasted our hands over a spit and doused them in the nectar of the gods. The amber bottle is so iconic, it's become a status symbol—and it's big enough to make the price tag well worth it. 

Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash, 500 mL

$40.00$34 at SSENSE

Soap for the commune

“Bathing Culture” makes soap for the commune. It’s certified organic, smells like redwood trees, and comes in a groovy glass bottle that gives us the sensation of rollerblading down Venice Beach whilst hoverboard douches and that dude with a snake smile from afar. While it is very important to reiterate that we cannot make medical statements about this soap, it is also very important for us to talk about how much it makes us feel some type of way. 

Bathing Culture
Mind and Body Wash Refillable Glass

$35 at Bathing Culture

The soap she told you not to worry about

You know how every office has that one guy who just smells really good? Like you get stuck in the elevator with him and it's overpowering and borderline annoying, but also intoxicating and aspirational? That's the Le Labo guy. His cloud of Santal 33 practically precedes his presence, and leaves a memory of him wherever he may pass. Anyway, Le Labo is a hot-shot scent factory and their hand soap is no exception, this one in a more subdued basil-verbena scent that is combined with sea buckthorn, sugar scrub, and hand-soothing rosemary for feel-good effects. Its bottle is unimposing to the miscellaneous house guest, but IYKYK. 

Le Labo
Basil Hand Soap

$25 at Saks Fifth Avenue

That Big Sur trip you were planning (in a bottle)

The couple behind this New York City fragrance house is so in love with their scents, they’ve even paired them with songs (to say nothing of their IRL boutiques, a kind of Brutalist-James-Turrell wet dream). The Big Sur handsoap is also rooted in a hyper-specific, curated narrative of smelling “rain water in eucalyptus groves off Highway 1,” and specifically “young green shoots, long spears, russet underbrush.” We don’t know what long spears are, but this is the olfactory escape we’ve been looking for.

Big Sur After Rain Hand Soap 236ml

$43 at Liberty London

A cruelty-free soap that costs less than a latte

We can def imagine this Very Good Soap in Nick Offerman’s guest house bathroom (which we unfortunately have yet to be invited into), because he’s already out here ASMR-carving soaps, for one, and this cruelty-free soap is spartan in design, refreshing in scent (citrus) and made in New Jersey by a brand whose wildest superlative statements are “it’s all good.” Good, and relatively cheap. 

Public Goods
Hand Soap

$4.99 at Public Goods

The no-rinse OGs

The staying power of Aesop’s skincare products is a testament to its quality—and its status as a symbol of luxury, elegance and, well, status. These no-rinse options are great for on-the-go hand cleaning, with style. They also won’t dry out your hands with repeated use. 

Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash

$10 at Aesop
Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash Soap

$40 at Aesop

One for the graphic design nerds and Francophiles

Compagnie de Provence makes BIG bottles of CREAMY soap that smell GREAT and CATCH YOUR ATTENTION WITH THAT BIG SANS SERIF TYPEFACE. For real, though, hand soap gourmands absolutely love this stuff—we're talking an orgy of five-star reviews. It's loaded with vitamin E, shea butter, and coconut oil, and you can even use it as shower gel; think Dr. Bronner's gone upscale. It ain't cheap, but at $33 for 16.7 ounces, you get a lot of bang for your buck. 

La Compagnie de Provence
Black Tea Liquid Soap

$33 at Amazon

This rad Judy Chicago soap that kinda looks like a butt plug

1970s feminist and artist Judy Chicago (of that vagina table) has manifested her exploration of the sacred feminine into hand soaps because, why the hell not? While a millennial makeover for the Venus of Willendorf could have felt a little too #GirlBoss, Chicago did a great job of applying a graphic reinterpretation of the iconic figurine, making it a hip housewarming gift or present for an art buff. This Venus comes in a calming lavender scent, and is hand-made in a small batch in Turkey (only 500 of these gals, so scoop fast).

Judy Chicago
"A Goddess For You" Soap

$25 at Coming Soon

This Shark Tank favorite

This unique tablet-based soap system was born from two of our favorite things to stress out about: reality TV and saving the planet. You may know Blueland from when it tap-danced on Shark Tank, or simply because you’re passionate about reducing single-use plastic. Either way, integrating their products into your life is a great way to be a less shitty skin sack on planet Earth. Just add water to the agave, lemon and eucalyptus scented tablets of this soap, and boom. Foam away, in good conscience.

Hand Soap Starter Set

$16 at Blueland

The lowkey dandy soap

This Diptyque soap comes in a refillable, heavyweight glass bottle with a chill take on the fragrance brand's signature biG LeTter logo, bringing the luxuriousness of their boutique experience to our bathrooms without feeling too douchey. The formula is a hydrating blend of lavender, rosemary, and honey, and we’re going to try really hard not to tartine it on a croissant. 

Softening Hand Wash

$65 at Space NK

No-fuss bubbles from Tokyo’s oldest soap manufacturer

We don’t know why the words “trusted by Japanese school children” have us ready to ride ‘n die for Shabondama. The graphic design is calm, straightforward, and indicative of this scent-free, trusted road to bubbletown that lies ahead with this lil dude. It’s formulated without additives, and the refills are just as cool

Soap Bubble
Bubble Guard 300ML

$5.22 at Dokodemo

A soap that comes with its own leash

For the sheer novelty of buying something called, “soap on a rope,” we give you this charming oval by Claus Porto. Founded in the late 1800s by two German dudes, this brand has long been making high-quality products that lather you up in old world fashion, and when it does come time to have houseguests again, we can’t wait for the moment when they spend an extra stressful five minutes in the bathroom trying to figure out how TF it works. We may have a problem. 

Claus Porto
Musgo Real Spiced Citrus Soap

$28 at Amazon

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.



like this
The Best Ashtrays to Instantly Make You Seem Worldly and Full of Character
The Best Gifts for Taurus, Other Than a Really Long Nap
The Coolest Lighters for Being the Most Interesting Person at the Bar
I Vacuum-Sealed My Clothes Like in a 90s Infomercial, and It Actually Rocks
Ruggable Just Launched Faux Hide Rugs, and They’re Very Sexy
Is a Casper Dog Bed Comfier Than My Couch?
The Best (and Easiest) Food Storage Swaps to Cut Down on Plastic
The Best Statement Chairs for Holding Court