Maybe he started using his girlfriend’s in college. Maybe it was on the advice of an old roommate. Maybe he just got a little curious in the “bath” section of Bed, Bath and Beyond. But at some point, he picked up a loofah and a bottle of body wash and thought, “Now I can scrub my entire body with this liquid shit. What a time saver!” Poor fool.
Every man makes this mistake in some way. The result: a used loofah or sponge becoming a breeding ground for bacteria on the shower rack and, when in use, scrubbing away the topmost layer of your skin — a layer of dead cells called the stratum corneum or horny layer. Despite “exfoliation” being a selling point, this is actually pretty terrible for your skin health. And on an environmental level, every bottle of body wash wastes plastic and doesn’t last as long as its bar alternative.
Besides being more economical, more environmentally sound and cleaner, the bar is just a tactile adventure. It’s what your father and his father used to clean themselves, before the grocery’s skincare section was overtaken by brightly colored and heavily marketed bottles of every-colored slime. Take your hygiene into your own hands; don’t depend on some liquid gel and a sponge. You aren’t a dinner plate, after all.
Peppermint Castile by Dr. Bronner’s
Most Interesting Backstory: There’s an entire documentary about this soap brand. The story’s definitely strange, but all you need to know is that these soaps, which you’ve seen in your nearest health food store, are excellent. (They are those eccentric, oversized bottles of liquid soap that sit next to the home remedies section with messages of goodness circumnavigating the bottles.) Their Castile soaps are made with coconut, palm, olive, hemp and jojoba oil and come in peppermint, lavender, almond, eucalyptus, tea tree, rose, citrus orange. (All that said, there is an unscented bar as well.)
Mentha Exfoliating Body Soap, No. 1413 by C.O. Bigelow
Best for Peppermint: C.O. Bigelow calls itself the oldest apothecary in America. Its famous, first and, sadly, only remaining store sits in Greenwich Village, NYC. The Mentha bar is infused with peppermint oil for a clean, tingling sensation, along with crushed walnut shells for exfoliation. (Crushed walnut shell can damage your skin, so it’s not recommended for use on your face.)
Productivity by Duke Cannon
Biggest Bar: Duke Cannon thinks men have become soft-spoken boys that spent too many Saturdays browsing the aisles of Pottery Barn, so he made a soap for “real men“. While his soaps are made domestically and benefit U.S. veterans, their real selling point is their size. This 10-ounce bar is a “big ass brick of soap” modeled after the rough-cut, “brick” style of soap used by GIs during the Korean War. The bars are made with steel-cut grains and come in four scents: Victory, Accomplishment, Naval Supremacy and Productivity.
Musgo Real by Claus Porto
Best Traditional Scent: Claus Porto has been handmaking soaps in Portugal since 1887; the Musgo Real collection, since 1920. The packaging is classic — forest green with a gold crown embossed on the front — but the scent is what will sell you: the classic musky smell is straight from the Brut section of the deodorant shelf, not Axe Body Spray. The scented ingredients are complemented by coconut oil, making for a creamy soap that keeps your skin healthy, not dry.
Shea Butter Extra Gentle Soap by L’Occitane
Most Moisturizing: Founded in the late ’70s in France and named after the women of the historic region of Occitania, L’Occitane isn’t what most people associate with masculine skincare. But for men who need mild, moisturizing soap, this vegetable soap bar is a top option; it’s one of L’Occitane’s best sellers and uses shea butter to maintain skin moisture. As a bonus, the company supports traditional cultivation along its supply chain to benefit the world’s health along with your own.
Hunting Camp by Portland General Store
Best for Exfoliating: This soap is PGS’s answer to exfoliating beads and little broken pieces of walnut shell scraping against your body. Pumice is a rough, lightweight volcanic rock that’s great for cleansing your skin of caked-on grime and grease. Think of this as less of a daily, all-body bar, and more of a bar for your hands and feet after a hard day of work. Along with pumice, the bar contains sandalwood exfoliating powder, frankincense powder, spikenard powder (which makes it smell like a cabin), moisturizing natural oils for skin health and activated charcoal to naturally lifts toxins from the skin.
Awake & Exfoliate Body Bar by Ernest Supplies
For the Morning Shower: Ernest Supplies specializes in skincare products for men, and their exfoliating bar is aimed at men who need a more regular, gentle scrub than the Hunting Camp bar. The bar is made with coconut, jojoba to keep your skin from drying out, along with peppermint and caffeine to wake you up in the morning.
Dirty Soap by Lush
Best Scent: Lush founders Mark Constantine, a herbal trichologist, and Liz Weir, a beauty therapist, first started making skincare products out of their homes in the 1970s. After two decades of working under a variety of names, they opened their own store, called Lush, in Poole, England. Today they have over 800 stores in 51 countries. All their products are handmade, vegetarian and never tested on animals. The thyme and spearmint oil in their blue-green Dirty bar makes for a morning scrub that does a great job of waking you up for the day.