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Letters to the Outdoors | Pop-In@Nordstrom / Aesop

Now through May 22, Pop-In@Nordstrom is partnering with the much-loved skin care brand Aesop, celebrating the simple virtues of our daily routines. In this blog series, we explore five skin care rituals with Aesop’s own Dr. Kate Forbes, general manager of products and research & development.


“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” Amelia Earhart

Products for invigorating body care to guide the journey from indoors to outdoors, for adventurous spirits and wandering minds:

  1. Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash 500mL
  2. Deodorant 50mL
  3. Geranium Leafc Body Cleanswer 500mL
  4. Rind Concentrate Body Balm 120mL

What makes this ritual so unusually effective?

Pop-In@Nordstrom / Aesop


Nordstrom blogs: This selection is about preparing to venture into the outdoors, and also what you’ll do afterwards.

Dr. Kate Forbes: Exactly. One of the key products is our deodorant. It’s different from how other brands would approach deodorant. It’s not an antiperspirant. We’re working on controlling body odor instead of stopping sweating. It’s an interesting formulation: we use a zinc ricinoleate as one of the active ingredients. That helps to bind odor-forming bacteria before they can produce the malodors that can occur and we associate with underarms. We screened all the essential oils that we use for their effectiveness against some of the bacteria that cause underarm odor – Staphylococcus aureus and Corynebacterium xerosis – and developed a suite of 11 essential oils that have that antibacterial effect. Combined all together, the essential oils produce a truly appealing scent. Some of our clients use our deodorant as their personal fragrance.

About that zinc: is introducing metals into the skin a good thing?

So what we’ve got is a zinc compound that does sit on the surface of the skin, but true, is in contact with the skin. We test the safety of our ingredients rigorously. Zinc is an essential metal for the skin, part of many body metabolic functions. It’s different from aluminum salts, which many antiperspirants use to and block the pores to stop sweating.

Also curious about the lab testing of underarm bacteria modulated with this deodorant. Are you swabbing employees’ armpits?

[Kate laughs] We outsource to an external microbiology laboratory. We look at their tests, at the bacteria in a petri dish with those essential oils. You can measure how much spread the essential oil has on the bacteria on a plate, which shows you how effective the essential oils are. When we do testing, though, we see how effective the formulation is firsthand. We invite internal staff for the first trial and gather their insights.

Everyone’s body odor is different. Does this deodorant fit everybody?

Scent always depends on your personal preference and it’s not going to suit everyone. Our deodorant contains vetiver, and its earthy, woody notes have become an iconic scent that is often associated with Aesop. We are soon launching an herbal deodorant with a different aroma profile: fresh notes of sage, rosemary and eucalyptus.

What can you tell me about the exfoliant in the hand wash?

It’s mild. It has fine pumice–it’s something for people who need gentle exfoliation, they may be going outdoors, gardening, exposing them to tough conditions. It’s a little bit different as a hand wash from what you might normally expect.

–Andrew Matson