A humble bar of soap is perhaps the most important tool in your grooming regimen. Though often overlooked, soaps come in a staggering array of compositions, and packaging often touts a laundry-list of ingredients. Understanding the best soap to buy starts, first and foremost, by considering your skin type and analyzing the components of a soap to see what will suit your needs.
In technical terms, soap is a salt of a fatty acid. When vegetable or animal fats (triglycerides) are combined with an alkaline solution (e.g. lye), the triglycerides hydrolyze into soap. It seems complex, but soap production dates back thousands of years. The early processes for making soap combined boiled fats with ashes. Soap making became more complex as civilizations grew, and by the middle of the 15th-century, soap making was semi-industrialized in France. The post-Industrialization 19th-century saw the growth of the soap industry, but the next major innovation happened in 1916 when Germany developed synthetic detergents as a response to the shortage of fats due to the first World War. By the 1930s, Procter and Gamble developed a process that decreased soap production times to under a day, effectively cutting weeks from the process.
The industrialization of soap created the hard bars you now find at any big-box store or motel. Truth is, many of these conventional soaps are very harsh; they’re very alkaline and contain preservatives, artificial colors and synthetic fragrances that irritate the skin. Fortunately, there is now a wide range of soaps formulated to clean without irritating. While the processes and ingredients differ widely, the result is the same: a solid cleanser you’ll actually enjoy using every day.
It’s one of the top bars of soap on Amazon for a reason. It’s recommended by dermatologists for its mild formula which uses sodium lauroyl isethionate to leave your skin feeling moisturized and smooth. The creamy lather keeps your skin’s natural moisture barrier intact and its extremely cost-effective, even more so as part of Amazon’s subscribe-and-save option.
Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleansing Bar is ideal for those experiencing skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and acne since it leaves out irritating detergents. Its mild formula leaves the skin’s natural moisture barrier intact and doesn’t strip it of its natural oils while effectively cleansing the skin of dirt and grime.
Dr. Bronner’s line of Pure-Castile soaps are known for their granola approach to household products. Using all-natural and vegan ingredients like coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil, which have a number of beneficial properties for skin care, every option from its range of bar soaps is perfect for those who are earth-conscious and skin-conscious. The balanced blend of natural ingredients makes it safe to use for the body and face, and this eucalyptus scent is perfect for invigorating the skin and clearing the sinus.
Nopalera blends botanicals, plant butters and oils, plus nopal (hence the name) into a line of super moisturizing bar soaps. It's hard to describe the way they melt into your skin. Sure, the suds do the dirty work, and then they wash away, but you're left with a luxe velvety top layer.
Pharrell Williams' product company, Humanrace, covers items for your skin, home and body (sneakers included, obviously). Its newest release, the Take a Moment Body Bar Set, comes with three bar soaps: two Reenergizing Whiteclay Body Bars and one Energy Channeling Charcoal Body Bar. They're both soap-free and work in tandem to moisturize, exfoliate and, as the name implies, energize your skin.
This option from Ben Gorham's fragrance brand Byredo blends the simplicity of a classic bar soap with the scents of a designer parfum. The result is easy-to-use and could sub in for a few spritzes of your favorite cologne.
Bravo Sierra posits its Hair and Body Solid Cleanser as a one-size-fits-all formula for both, as the name suggests, your body and your hair. Sure, there are others you could definitely do the same with, but this option has been thoroughly tested on both areas, which typically require very different treatment.
Exfoliation is a vital part of any good skincare routine — not only on your face but your body, too. Baxter of California mixes pumice, jojoba meal and crushed olive seed oil into its bar soap mold for a textural yet refined rub.
Harry's has made its way into a bunch of big box stores — see: Target — but it remains a solid option still. Its formulas are free from any major red flags, and the scents are quite nice. Plus, for $15 dollars you get four bars.
The Buffing Bar is intended for acne-prone bodies. It's a micro-crystal exfoliant designed to clear dead skin, ingrown hairs and other rough spots. Be careful to consider whether it's something you can scrub away, though. Issues like eczema can be exacerbated by exfoliants.
Malin+Goetz founder Matthew Malin has long battled rosacea, eczema, seborrhea and fragrance allergies. It's why he launched the brand, to formulated sensitive skin-safe soaps with luxe signature scents.
Marlowe opts for Shea Butter as the base of its Moisturizing Soap Bar, a straightforward option that eschews excess (either fragrance or additives) in favor of something that'll feel familiar to someone who's used the same bar since middle school.
Exfoliating bar soaps can be expensive. It's often because the textural additives are micro-crystals or meal, which can drive costs up. But Jack Black's Turbo Body Bar comes in a three-pack for just $30 dollars. That's cheap considering one of them sells for $15.
Do you turn to a cold shower to wake you up? It's a trick as old as time itself. Let Ursa Major's Morning Mojo Bar accelerate the process with its energizing peppermint scent and tingle.
Charcoal is a common ingredient in soap because it binds to dirt and sweat and clears the skin's surface, lessening the likelihood you'll break out. Oars+Alps' Blue Charcoal Bar Soap has an added exfoliating component, which helps clear even the most caked on dirt and grime.
Clay, like charcoal, can draw out impurities deep inside your skin's surface. The former, though, is far less harsh in my opinion. Haoma mixes clay with other earth-derived elements for a bar soap that's all-natural but absolutely effective.
You know how toothpastes from abroad always seem so much cooler? The same can be said for bar soaps, and especially this one from Tangent, a French apothecary brand. It's organic, all-natural and scented with a complex fir fragrance.