this thing's incredible

I Buy This French Shower Oil by the Litre

Photo-Illustration: retailer

I’m a bargain hunter at heart, but some products are so brilliant, or such a joy to use, that they justify the extra change: NARS concealers, Philip Kingsley hair care, all things Aēsop. But then there’s also the Sudocrems: unsexy but effective, so why bother spending more? For me, bodywash used to fall into that last group. Every so often, I’d be gifted a fancy Molton Brown or REN shower gel for Christmas — a real treat, used only before extra-special occasions — but no amount of bergamot-y loveliness would ever justify a repurchase. A pricey retinol at least carries the promise of long-term wrinkle reduction; a £35 foundation can last a solid year. Considering I take two long, environmentally unfriendly showers a day, a bodywash for anything over a fiver just seemed like money down the drain — that is, until I discovered Bioderma’s Atoderm Huile de douche.

This needs a bit of backstory: Sometime in 2018, I woke up in a friend’s house after a night out, stumbled to the bathroom, stole a dollop of her L’Occitane Shower Oil, and accidentally fell in love. Already a fan of oil-based face cleansers, I knew how brilliant they were at removing grime and makeup. A shower oil, I discovered, does the same for your body — it emulsifies and forms a silky lather so that you’re left just as clean as with soap but not completely stripped of moisture. My friend’s almond-scented shower oil of choice was especially divine, but at £19.50 for 250 millilitres, there was absolutely no way I’d have felt comfortable using it liberally. Instead, I was determined to find a dupe.

My search began on Google, but it seemed that only luxury brands were in the market for shower oil. There was also Glossier’s delectably branded Body Hero Daily Oil Wash, which had launched a few months earlier, but £15 for 250 millilitres was still too steep for me. Eventually, I came across Bioderma’s Atoderm Huile de douche (at the time £13.50 for a litre, but it was on sale on for £9.33). It seemed to be lesser known in the French-pharmacy canon — reviews, while positive, were scarce, and there weren’t many other U.K. stockists. Ordering a litre of a product I’d never even tried went against my best judgement, but I was already a fan of the brand (stocking up on value packs of their micellar water every time I was in Paris), and at such a good price, I thought it was worth a shot. When my hefty package arrived and I had a chance to give it a trial run, I was delighted with the results.

Here’s what makes Atoderm Huile de douche so special: Like the rest of Bioderma’s range, their shower oil has a low-key ingredients list. It contains lots of glycerin and lipids, which create great slip for shaving, and zero SLS, which can leave dry types like myself desperate for lotion. There is also very little fragrance — so while you won’t enjoy the same spalike experience as with a Le Labo or L’Occitane version, it’s pretty safe to use … everywhere. All these qualities come housed in a bottle with a pump — a minor detail, sure, but one that’s extra handy when getting ready in a pinch.

As someone who is typically tempted by every new product release, I’ve stuck loyally to it, purchasing a litre bottle every few months for the past three years. Occasionally, I’ll run out, and, having been too lazy to make an order three to five working days beforehand, I’ll grab whatever I can find on a supermarket run — except now a bog-standard shower gel feels too soapy, too drying, too faff-y to use. By my calculations, Bioderma’s Atoderm is the ultimate bodywash, giving the same luxuriously silky payoff of the shower oil I first fell for without making me wince at the online checkout. Its only downside? That indestructible seal stops me from getting every last drop.

One final note: You can pick up a 200-millilitre bottle of Atoderm in Boots for £10.50, but I always hold out for Escentual’s famous French-pharmacy sale. Every couple months, a litre of Atoderm Huile de douche is slashed from £16.50 to £11, making it a ridiculously good value for money.

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I Buy This French Shower Oil by the Litre