Well this is awkward. After a
lifetime a year in relative isolation during which my longest journey away from home has been the decidedly unexotic Hastings pier, I find myself craving tropical coconut-laced smells.
That’s maybe not so surprising though. As with the power of touch and what’s known as ‘skin hunger’, the pandemic has not only literally stolen the sense of smell from some unlucky individuals, it has also heightened the link between scent and nostalgia.
“Fragrance can control your mood,” says perfumer and founder of her eponymous brand, Maya Njie. “If you’re feeling low and you need a boost, put fragrance on and it will elevate you.” Njie’s popular fragrance Tropica* (above) does exactly that with its transportive notes of fig, pineapple, fresh citrus and musk, blended with what we all consider the smell of eau de suntan lotion, the all-important coconut note.
Coconut is the omni-present heart of such classics as Tom Ford’s sultry Soleil Blanc* and Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess*, a summer ritual so popular it has inspired a mini sub-brand of ancillary products. (I 100% recommend the Smoothing Body Crème*). So potent is its power, it appears to have spawned an entire TikTok aesthetic. ‘Coconut Girl’ is this summer’s teen trope that encompasses hibiscus prints, 90s Roxy bikinis and the nostalgia of grainy disposable camera photos. Or in short, “youthful summer optimism” according to Nylon. Even supposedly avant-garde Comme des Garcons got the ‘Coconut Girl’ memo. Its brand new collab with cult L.A label ERL is a coconut-heavy eau de toilette called, unashamedly, Sunscreen – aka ‘the scent of Venice Beach’ (below).
Coconut won’t do all the heavy lifting on its own though. To really bottle beachy escapism, you need the sweet notes of vanilla or its more sophisticated sibling, tonka bean, a sultry waft of white floral – jasmine, ylang ylang or neroli – and a juicy twist of citrus. Juliette Has a Gun’s Sunny Side Up* eau de parfum says it all, a unisex ‘skin scent’ that starts out fresh, bright and floral, leaving behind a musky dry down. Vanilla Vibes* (below) is less about the sex-on-the-beach coconut note and more about the après-beach warmth of vanilla, sea salt and musk.
For the less floral-inclined, citrus is the way to go. One of the most enduring summer classics is Creed’s Virgin Island Water (below). Still going strong since 2007, its blend of coconut, lime and white bergamot, with a floral heart and sweet, rum-laced base notes is familiar, wearable and cool. Another light citrus is Sunspel’s Neroli Sun eau de parfum* (below), a Lyn Harris creation that blends bitter orange, English herbs and neroli. It’s my gentle citrus of choice and a good holiday-esque scent for the coconut-shy. Meanwhile, Byredo’s Sundazed eau de parfum* couldn’t be a more timely release. Olfactory escapism in a bottle, this sweet-and-sour cocktail stirs up mandarin and lemon with candyfloss, neroli and musk.
Back to ‘skin hunger’, the combination of tactile body oils and creams with mood-boosting aromatherapy ‘feels’ is perfect for a summer of back garden staycations. Summer Fridays just launched its Summer Silk Nourishing Body Lotion*, an indulgent cream scented with coconut and almond, as well as its Pool Time Glowing Body Oil*, a blend of macadamia, jojoba and sunflower oils infused with coconut, warm almond and vanilla blossom.
Then there’s my eternal favourite, NARS’ Monoi Body Glow I. This elusive deep bronze oil – scented with tiare blossom, white frangipani, ylang-ylang, and vanilla – is currently having stock issues but if you’re quick, Fenwick has it here. Or try the equally lush untinted version, NARS Monoi Body Glow II, here. One other sensorially uplifting recommendation: the Urban Apothecary Coconut Grove Luxury Hand and Body Wash*. I discovered this line at The Conran Shop and it’s so nicely formulated. Coconut Grove is clean, sweet and citrusy with a tropical coconut heart sharpened by bergamot, lime, mandarin and mint.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Maya Njie, Comme des Garcons X ERL, Juliette Has a Gun, Sunspel
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