Angel Belsey is a Londoner. She owns too much perfume and too many books.


As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I went trekking in Nepal over the long Easter break. When you have to carry (or get someone to carry) your life on your back for two weeks, it's important to pack light, and I have a little secret: when space is at a premium, I often just pack a shampoo bar and use it as both a shampoo and a body wash. Mind you, I don't have particularly sensitive skin, so that solution may not work for everyone. I think my husband finds Lush shops overwhelming, but he agreed to accompany me in to buy a shampoo bar as part of our last-minute preparations. While I was trying to decide what I wanted to go for, he sniffed a Karma bar and said, "How about this one? It smells nice and clean."

I don't remember when I first tried the Karma scent, but I do know I first went into a Lush shop 11 years ago, in 2000. I remember a colleague at work telling me that there was this shop you could smell for miles around, which of course piqued my interest. And at some point thereafter, Karma became one of my firm favorites.

I do think it's funny that my husband inhaled a patchouli-laden scent and called it "clean," given patchouli's reputation as a staple of dirty hippies, but he is, of course, correct: that orange/lemon burst you get from Karma does smell clean, and actually I find the fragrance really quite powdery.

Like Youth Dew, though, the fragrance of Karma is slightly different depending on which product you've used. The shampoo bar leaves my hair (and skin!) smelling of powder and patchouli, while the perfume is more rounded and retains that initial orangeyness. It's another fairly linear fragrance from Lush--what you smell is pretty much what you get, throughout the life of the perfume--though the pine oil does become more present as your skin warms the fragrance.

While I enjoy the distinctive scent of Karma and I think it's very well constructed, I do have a slight issue with it as a perfume. When you're selling soap or shampoo, it's smart to make a product that doesn't change depending on the buyer's personal chemistry: you want something that's going to smell good no matter what. But for a perfume, the real artistry comes when you create something that becomes personal as it becomes one with the wearer. Karma doesn't really do that (on me, anyway); it smells like it smells like it smells. I like the fragrance a lot, but wearing it feels kind of like wearing a very obvious brand name. Of course, this happens a lot in popular perfumery: see also Womanity, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Obsession, and of course Giorgio! So it's not all bad, just a minor niggle.

Karma, Gorilla Perfumes/Lush, 2005 Notes: orange, patchouli, pine, lavendin, lemongrass, elemi, cassie


The Smell of Freedom