Luxury for your skin at Harvard Square’s Colonial Drug

By Yazhou Sun

If you are a slave to your skin, Colonial Drug is your place. This small but well-stocked pharmacy is a landmark in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Colonial Drug bills itself as the “hard to find fragrance specialiste” and prides itself on selling luxurious European perfumes, bath and grooming products.

Coming in the store is like stepping back in time.  It’s old school. Time moves a bit slower inside the doorway; browsing is encouraged, and sniffing is a must. The store, located in Cambridge at 49 Brattle Street, made its debut in the 1940s and has been owned by the same family since 1947.

Walking into the store, the shelves are stocked floor to ceiling with an amazing array of mustache wax, fizzy bath items, shampoo, conditioner, skin cream and all sorts of various high-end to mid-range products.

In a world of grooming products and outlets that are geared towards the 20-something female crowd, it is a welcome relief to find a men’s grooming outlet. If you are a guy who enjoys high quality shaving products, you’ll be glad to know that Colonial carries the full lines of Truefitt & Hill, Taylor of Old Bond St. and Castle Forbes (all from the UK), as well as Tabac (from Germany) and many other popular brands.  They also carry Plisson (from France) brushes and other hardware.

Don’t worry ladies; the store is welcoming to men and women alike. They import luxurious perfumed salves, soaps, lip balms, creams and bath products from Britain, Portugal, Italy and France to indulge your senses. From its handwritten signage and careful explanations of the forms and types of scents, to the suggestions on how best to sample perfumes, I was absolutely enchanted with the old-fashioned glass bottles in this anachronistic olfactory heaven.

The fact that most products are imported does cause a supply problem. Sure, you could always find a certain product online, but a trip to Colonial Drug is definitely worth it. Last week, I was lucky enough to find a lavender soap from the oldest soap making company from Italy.

The store is a bit cramped and can be frustrating if you’re in a rush, but those facts are easy to overlook. Buyer beware—the proprietors do prefer cash to credit cards.

Colonial Drug is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays until 6 p.m., and by appointment on Sundays.

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