When Joan Didion, in her 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That,” wrote about leaving New York City—as so many others have done in the face of the pandemic—she spoke not only of the blue-and-white striped sheets, the vermouth cassis, and the faded nightgowns, but also of the scents—two jasmine-inflected perfumes, Caron’s Fleurs de Rocaille and Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps—that captivated her, even long after she abandoned the Manhattan of her 20s. “Nor,” she continued, “can I smell Henri Bendel jasmine soap without falling back into the past…”
Times have changed, yes: in the 50-plus years since the piece’s publication, Didion has returned to the city that she once so famously renounced, and Bendel’s, the iconic 5th Avenue department store, has shuttered—but the fragrant white-petaled floral continues to intoxicate, albeit in new forms: now, oils, sea sprays, solid perfumes, and more incorporate jasmine as much for its heady scent as its complexion-boosting properties. (Didion might find that a prettily-packaged bar sapone from the famed Florentine pharmacy Santa Maria Novella would be a close second to the jasmine soap she once stocked up on.)
“Jasmine for me is the epitome of sensuality and luxury in an ingredient,” says Sangre de Fruta’s Allison Audrey Weldon, the mind behind a whipped body butter that derives its seductive aroma from Indian jasmine graniflorum absolute. “With its aphrodisiac qualities, unique and irreplaceable scent and skin-healing capabilities, it is a dream ingredient.” It’s the very reason why Flamingo Estate’s Richard Christiansen, who recalls feeling drunk from his first encounter with jasmine as a child visiting Florence, Italy, introduced a limited-edition face mist and body oil that center around the delicate flower to his lineup of farm-fresh beauty bounty. “The scent is so powerful yet elegant at the same time,” he muses, noting that in the spring and summer months four varieties of jasmine grow on his seven-acre plot of Los Angeles land, engulfing the property with a constant, piercing perfume. “I sometimes even fill my shirt pocket with the blooms before heading off to meetings.”
Below, the best jasmine beauty products to shop now.