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In the early days of the pandemic, when supply chains broke and stockpiling threw trade into chaos, mundane products swiftly acquired the sheen of luxury. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer became coveted items. Gold dust.
At one point, demand was so high that the gray market was flooded with disinfectants and hygiene products, the kind that would strip your hands of skin along with any bacteria. Moreover, each of them had been marked up beyond what anyone would consider fair.
While the early madness of the pandemic’s beginning might be behind us, our appetite for antibacterial products has remained steadfast. More importantly, the personal hygiene market has had a much-needed makeover and found a niche at the intersection of wellness, self-care, fine fragrance and skincare.
Leading the way is Never Go Alone (N.G.A.), the brainchild (and namesake) of Vietnamese heiress and style influencer Nga Nguyen. Packaged in deliciously tactile, injection-molded recycled plastic, the brand makes sanitizing, well, sexy. The sandstone and orange colorway echoes the current earth-tone fashion trend while the calming aromatherapeutic scent in each product passes as a fragrance in its own right.
Better yet, the INCI list (the systematic rundown of what’s in a product, called the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient list) reads like a premium skincare product. Both the Sanitizing Treatment Mist and Hand Wipes offset the dehydrating effect of 65 percent alcohol with ceramides, antioxidants and hydrators. Collectively they ensure the products remain effective (60 percent alcohol is the sweet spot) without over-drying or disrupting the skin’s delicate protective barrier. Additions such as calendula and chamomile, natural antibacterial agents in their own right, pacify inflammation and irritation.
Equally appealing is the backstory. In true phoenix-from-the-ashes style, N.G.A. was born out of a personal and, frankly, rather public crisis. Nguyen, fresh off the plane from fashion weeks in Milan and Paris, was falsely accused of being a superspreader at the very start of the pandemic. The media incited one of its routine witch hunts with The New York Times cruelly labeling her “fashion’s Patient Zero.” N.G.A. is a creative and exquisitely executed comeback for Nguyen: a line of multifunctional and sustainable products that literally and figuratively wipe the slate clean.
While N.G.A.’s A-list provenance is hard to match, there are a growing number of contenders in this new and supremely disinfected space.
Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land Rinse-Free Hand Cleanser
Byredo has blurred the lines between fine fragrance and personal hygiene with a series of waterless hand cleansers. The 59 percent alcohol formulation is scented with Turkish rose, pink peppercorn and a base of amber and papyrus. In true Byredo fashion, the metal paint tube packaging is as alluring as the stuff inside.
Susanne Kaufmann Hand Spray Purif-i Sanitizing
For those who insist on all-natural formulas, this spray from cult favorite Susanne Kaufmann features 62 percent pure vegetable alcohol. Any astringency is balanced out with arnica, vitamin B and silk proteins. As with all Kaufmann products, there isn’t a paraffin, paraben, sulfate or silicone in sight.
Oskia Safe Hands Hand Gel
Equally kind to the skin is Oskia’s Safe Hands Hand Sanitizer, which employs antibacterial essential oils along with 62 percent alcohol. The amount of glycerin in the formula makes it a great option for those whose hands are parched by relentless sanitizing.
Buy Now on Cult Beauty: £6.40 (about $7.60)
Zenatti Luxury Atomizer Set
For all-out luxury, there’s Zenatti, whose £125 (about $148) atomizer set features a collection of fragrance-cum-santisers that have been formulated with 70 percent organic alcohol and a skin-boosting blend of argan, kukui and tamanu oil.