Bathtubs attract a crowd. Shower gels, shampoos and conditioners, other shampoos and conditioners, body oil if you’re feeling fancy, shaving cream if that’s your bag, maybe an exfoliant or a scrub. But I’ve always enjoyed a little more solitude when I bathe, sticking to three products at most. I love a good Dr. Bronner’s, for example, which doubles as body wash and shampoo, as well as some light reading material while I wash. And I tend to stick to the same bottle of Aveda clay conditioner, which has proven effective for my naturally knotty stands. As someone who likes control but eschews responsibility, a modest kingdom is easier to maintain.
But even if I dreamed of getting my routine down to one product, I never thought it would actually be possible. And then, last year, I found the holy grail: Dr. Beekman’s COPA Soaps. Based in Philly but available online and at local markets, the all-purpose potential of this soap occurred to me by accident. I was sitting in the tub having a deep think, when I idly raised the soap bar — which I’d previously only used on my body — to my head and rubbed it all over my scalp, like an ancient monkey encountering modern cleansing instruments for the first time. The friction created very little lather at first, but after a while, successfully transferred the soap’s humectant properties to my hair. So much so that conditioner was superfluous: my hair felt soft, orderly and untangled.
COPA stands for the ingredient oils: coconut, olive, palm and almond. According to the packaging, the bars are “cold processed and all natural, using quality essential oils and herbs.” The soaps come in scents like sage, saffron, tea tree with peppermint, cider and avocado, but I always come back to the same six lavender varieties, which they helpfully bundle in one Lavender Collection. They are delicious but subtle, leaving behind only a whisper of their scent, an intimate privilege for anyone lucky enough to get close.Their glacé surfaces, when wet, resemble a gold bar dipped in condensed milk. I would eat them if I could.
For a woman with winter-dry skin and fine, baby hair, keeping one nourished and the other squeaky clean is a delicate dance. But after my first full-body turn with this one bar, I emerged from the shower with fluffy hair and soft skin, in need of nothing more than a towel. I felt so portable. Like I could recreate my home spa experience in any shower in the world with an item that fit neatly in my palm. For there, I started using it for everything: face wash, body wash, shampoo, conditioner. In whittling down my bath product suite, I felt efficient and indulgent in one emollient stroke. I knew who I was and what I needed.
I can’t vouch for the universality of my practice — in the months since, I’ve given away bars to friends, who love it but haven’t embraced it monogamously. But it has me completely smitten, and my shower has never looked so gloriously empty.
The oneness of a uniform is contained in the word itself. Singularity is the thing, and with it comes certainty. What else can you be but what you are, when you wear one thing? A uniform takes self-definition and reproduces it semiotically. My beauty uniform doesn’t make me feel conformist or anonymous, but more like myself. After all, if it only takes one substance to make my hair bouncy and turn my skin to velvet, then I can believe that this soft, clean creature is who I really am. I am the luxury, and no one can ever take that away. I just need a bar of soap.
What’s your holy grail shower product? Would you ever use soap as shampoo? I’ll be waiting with my Dr. Beekman’s in the comments.
Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.