Down the plughole

Is It Worth It?: Jean Patou's luxury foaming shower gel brought little Joy to Susannah Conway, but chocolate bodywash was bliss

On a quest to find the most luxurious shower gel in the known universe, I came across Joy de Bain Perfumed Foaming Gel (pounds 31 for 200ml) from Jean Patou. For those of you who love the original perfume, Joy, I apologise in advance, and indeed I would suggest that you read no further. But I have to be honest, so here goes. I don't like the smell of Joy. There. I've said it. In fact, I hate it.

This is famously "the costliest perfume in the world" needing 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses to make one ounce of Joy extract. But one woman's meat is another woman's poison, and the truth of it is, it just ain't my cup of tea.

At pounds 31 the costliest perfume had a predictably pricey shower gel to go with it. It came in a Chinese red and black bottle that looked fantastically posh sat next to my Boots shampoo and, in my defence, I did spend quality time with this product. I coaxed it gently from its bottle and reverently washed my undeserving limbs, but there was no getting away from it - I just didn't like it. The fragrance was so watery and old-hat it reminded me of the kind of bath products my aunt used to give me for my birthday.

If I'd bought this shower gel in 1931 when Joy first came out, perhaps I'd love it passionately, but nearly 70 years later one question remains: isn't it about time they updated the fragrance?

John Oakes, author of the forthcoming The Book of Perfumes (Prion, pounds 8.99) says, "The formula remaining unchanged since Joy's introduction is not a minus - in perfume this is a definite plus. This consistency of formula and guarantee that it will always smell the same is immensely reassuring to women. There is a vast difference between being old-fashioned and being a classic."

Still feeling disappointed, I took solace in a bottle of Skinny Dip (pounds 4.15 for 250g), a sumptuous body wash from those beauty-funksters, Lush. Full of real white chocolate, creamed coconut and cocoa butter, Skinny Dip can turn your daily bath into something downright naughty.

Within five minutes of using it my bedroom had transmogrified into a boudoir, my sterile white bathroom became a steamy Turkish bath, and I fantasised I was Elizabeth Taylor bathing in asses' milk, while persuading my man to do his Mark Anthony impression.

Slathering white chocolate on my body was almost as satisfying as eating it, so I wallowed happily in my bath, smug in the knowledge that it was a calorie-free indulgence. When I emerged from my bathroom two hours later, I knew my quest was over. It had been love at first sniff.

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