I wasn’t at an Aesop boutique in Brooklyn to visit the $17 toothpaste—I was there to visit the $39 hand soap. I say “visit,” because the other ways to describe going into a store to look at a product all imply that some sort of purchase might be in my future. I just wanted to stand in a beautiful boutique for a second and see something ridiculous while I waited for a ride home from getting my glasses adjusted next door.
Aesop is one of a growing stable of brands turning the mundane tasks of personal hygiene into luxury experiences, with the price tags to match. Washing your hands or putting on deodorant can now come with a full aesthetic experience. Even defecating can be elevated: Aesop sells “poo poo drops” to neutralize bathroom odors and back issues of The Paris Review to read on the john.
The pricey toothpaste I stumbled on showed just how far brands like Aesop can go to blur the lines between health-care and beauty products. In doing that, some of them have traded in the finer points of scientific advancement (like fluoride) that have long characterized oral hygiene. In return, luxury toothpastes offer fun flavors, such as jasmine and ginger, and beautiful packaging. While some do tout their “natural” ingredients, they generally don’t make any super-scientific claims about their superiority. They’re just another option that’ll get the job done, if you want to spend 10 or 15 extra bucks. Based on how soothing it is to go into an Aesop store, they might be worth it for a certain kind of consumer, but the reason why doesn’t have much to do with shiny teeth.