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The Body Shop Absinthe Purifying Hand Care Range — Embracing the Green Fairy

Did you know March 5th was National Absinthe Day?  This celebratory day  reflects the significant change in the national attitude towards the green-colored spirit, which was banned for most of the 20th century (since 1912 to be exact). Why the opposition to absinthe, once the drink of choice by artists and thinkers in Paris and Prague, among them  Toulouse Lautrec and Vincent Van Gogh? Well, the anise-flavored was purported to have psychedelic, mind-altering effects due to the presence of the chemical compound thujone, which can be found in concentrations of up to 40% in the oil of the wild plant Artemisia absinthium (otherwise known as wormwood). Since distilled wormwood is the basis of absinthe, a drink originally created by the Switzerland-based French doctor Pierre Ordinaire in 1792 and later produced for commercial purposes and consumed for recreation, many assumed that the highly alcoholic spirit contained a large quantity of thujone. Further research, however, proved that very little thujone actually survives the distillation process and that the mind-bending qualities of absinthe were mostly, well, fabricated. Once concern surrounding the Green Fairy (“La Fée Verte”) subsided, the ban on absinthe was lifted. In the United States, this occurred in 2007, with French brand Lucid being the first to receive a Certificate of Label Approval for importation in the United States.

Right in time for National Absinthe Day, The Body Shop  introduced its new Absinthe Hand Care collection, inspired by this once controversial spirit, which is derived from green wormwood, green anise, sweet fennel, and several other botanicals and herbs. The collection consists of  five products: the Absinthe Purifying Hand Gel ($4 for 2.0 fl. oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com); the Absinthe Purifying Hand Wash ($10 for 8.4 fl. oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com); the Absinthe Purifying  Hand Cream ($20 for 3.3 fl. oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com); the Absinthe Purifying Hand Butter ($20 for 3.3 oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com); and the Mini Absinthe Purifying Hand Cream ($10 for 1.0 oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com). I had the chance to try two of the center pieces of the collection: the Purifying Hand Wash and the Purifying Hand Cream.

($10 for 8.4 fl. oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com) features a translucent green color befitting of its ties to The Green Fairy. The soap-free cleanser has a lightweight, gel-like texture and, once rinsed off, it leaves hands feeling squeaky clean. In addition to Artemisia Absinthium extract, the Body Shop Absinthe Purifying Hand Wash contains bacteria-fighting salicylic acid, Community Fair Trade aloe vera from Guatemale (which accounts for its gel-like texture), and glycerin (a natural humectant). Its fragrance, meanwhile, is leafy and lush, with the absinthe combined with notes of bergamot, petit grain and neroli for a bit of citric kick.

The Body Shop Absinthe Purifying Hand Cream ($20 for 3.3 fl. oz. at TheBodyShop-USA.com), meanwhile, features an exquisite texture that’s not overly thick or goopy but also isn’t watery or runny. In terms of its moisturizing properties, the hand cream features such lovely ingredients as: fatty acid rich shea butter; Brazil nut extract, which has a high concentration of vitamin E, selenium, and omega-6 fatty acids, all of which work to rejuvenate, condition, and protect skin from free radicals; moisture-sealing glycerin; marula extract, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (with oleic acid accounting for 70-78% of those) and flavonoids, tocopherols and sterols that  work as antioxidants.

From a sensory standpoint, I really enjoyed the hand cream since it was easily absorbed by the skin and featured a powerful aroma that was strikingly reminiscent of absinthe. In fact, I happened to have a bottle of Lucid at home, and I opened it and smelled the spirit inside, comparing it to the hand cream’s fragrance and was impressed by how well the former’s scent was recreated. In fact, I’d venture to say that the hand cream’s smells exactly like absinthe save for a hint of menthol (which actually smells more like eucalyptus in this case) and a trace of bergamot.

That being said, the absinthe-centered aroma is an acquired taste that might not have the universal appeal of, say, vanilla , almond or wild rose scents. But it’s the innovative quality of this scent that will set it apart from other hand care products. Also, because the scent isn’t overly floral, fruity, or sweet, it will appeal to more of a unisex audience.

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