Just because we're a land of hippies doesn't mean we want to smell like patchouli ALL the time. These local Austin businesses specialize in handmade soaps, essential oils, and enough perfume to make a sorority girl squeal.
Billing itself as a "natural apothecary," Sabia certainly lives up to the billing. This vaguely French-feeling Austin shop doesn't just carry a plethora of high end, nice smelling beauty brands (like Kiehl's and Dr. Hauschka), they have their own Sabia line of face and body products, as well as an on-staff aromatherapist who can mix up a special blend just for you.
A small, nearly 15-year-old Austin-based beauty chain (there are four locations around town, including one steps away from Blue Elephant), The Beauty Store is like a mini-Sephora/hair and nail salon. There are plenty of products here to make you look great obviously, but if you want to smell great too, head for these two brands on Beauty Store's shelves: The Thymes fragrance line (which is refreshingly NON-floral) for ladies, and the Jack Black fragrance line for dudes (no relation to Jack Black, beloved comic actor).
Blue Elephant is an estrogen-fueled, girly-girl's fantasy: Think clothing boutique, up-market beauty store, and parfumerie all in one, with a plate of for-patron chocolate chip cookies perched demurely at the register. But it's the scent selection I want to point out here: Blue Elephant doesn't do department store, celebrity-fronted perfumes. Rather, they offer affordable-to-pricy boutique perfume brands likes Tokyo Milk, Fresh, Bond No. 9, Love & Toast, Juliette Has a Gun, and Philosophy. I know I made fun of patchouli-wearers earlier, but admittedly, I wear the Cannabis scent from Fresh almost daily.
At first glance, So.A.P. ("South Austin People") seems like it was born during the heady days of 1970s Austin hippiedom, perhaps in the home of an earnest, incense-filled student co-op. But actually, JohnPaul Fierro started the company just eight years ago, after he graduated from UT in 2004 with a BS in Chemistry. Today, he and his chemist-artisans create a variety of handmade soaps, lotions, detergent and even dog shampoo, using organic vegetable oils, quinoa protein, vitamin E, and other feel-good ingredients. I fancy the peppermint liquid hand soap myself.
In addition to the handmade soap of its namesake, Austin Natural Soap also creates solid, roll-on perfumes with names any Texan can appreciate, like the Padre Island Breeze (green and seaside-smelling), the Hippie Hollow (think exotic flowers and -- wouldn't you know it -- patchouli).
W3LL People is largely known for their own line of mineral-based makeup, but they also import bottles of pheromone-based Eccentric Molecule, a UK perfume company. The scents are numbered #1, #2 and #3, and while they range from $140 to $150 per bottle, it's the cheapest one (#1) that the store can't seem to keep in stock -- it's just that popular (perhaps all those pheromones really are working). Also check out unisex scents from D.S. & Durga, a tiny parfumerie in Brooklyn: both the sandalwood-y "Cowboy Grass" and "Burning Barbershop" -- think bourbon tossed on a campfire -- are highly recommended.
Created with minerals, clays and herbs, Fleegal Farms creates soaps in small batches that are paraben-, petroleum-, and sulphate-free. The Cinnamon Oatmeal bar is quite nice, as are their varieties of sugar scrubs: I like the cocktail-seeming Coconut Lime myself. A variety of small boutiques around Austin (including A-Town on Burnet Road) carries their products, but you can also order them right online.
Where to start with Coco Coquette? Tucked away in an east side bungalow with Charm School Vintage, this wig shop, off-the-wall fashion show production company and perfume store is roughly 1,000 sq. feet of absolute magic. Owner Allyson Garro possesses not only a fierce imagination but a penchant for throwback beauty, infecting her patrons and artist community alike with a new definition of "dressing up." Onto perfumes, then: Garro, a New Orleans native, carries 16 eau de toilettes from NOLA-based parfumerie, Hove. I'm partial to Heliotrope, a spicy, vanilla-y scent that smells like cayenne-spiked cookies.