A new generation of moisturising, sustainable soap bars are transforming the way we lather up
Does the word soap conjure up images of dried-up pink tablets that have seen better days?
If so, it’s time to introduce yourself to the latest luscious bars that thoroughly cleanse while helping to protect the planet. Bars of hand soap fell out of favour in the Noughties – they felt dated, slippery and tended to dry out your skin. Efficient, high-tech replacements came in the exciting shapes of liquids, gels and foams.
But now, for the first time in a century, sales of soap bars are up. UK shoppers spent £68.3 million on bars of soap in the year to last September, up £2 million from the year before, according to Kantar UK. Sales at Waitrose are up 20% year on year, while individual brands are seeing increases, too.
So why the shift? One major reason is the environment. As we cut back on plastic, bars of soap – some of which are packaging-free – are a lot more sustainable than their liquid counterparts. But it’s not just hand soap – the new generation sees bars for hair, face and body, too. Turn over to embrace the beauty bar revival.
Treat your hair
If you haven’t yet tried washing your hair with a shampoo bar, it could be the step your routine has been missing. As well as replacing bulky single-use plastic bottles, most shampoo soap bars are free from drying preservatives and harsh sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), making them kinder to your hair. Lather and rinse like normal and your bar should last weeks longer than your usual bottle.
In place of chemicals, shampoo soap bars focus on nourishing oils and butters, like Funky Soap’s Babassu Oil Shampoo, £5.50, which pairs hydrating babassu oil with cocoa and shea butters to restore shine and improve lost elasticity. If scent is key, Bain & Savon’s Zesty Orange Shampoo Bar, £5.50, is made with orange, grapefruit and lemongrass oil, while the lemon juice and green olives in Lush’s Montalbano Shampoo Bar, £7.50, will transport you to Sicily.
Cleanse your face
Old-fashioned soap has a reputation for being packed with harsh ingredients, so it’s no wonder that the idea of using it on your face might make you shudder. “Using facial soaps on a regular basis can strip the skin, leading to dryness,” says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. But a new breed of gentler facial soap bars is promising to work with our skin.
Erno Laszlo’s Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar, £35, harnesses the power of mineral- rich Dead Sea mud to remove impurities from the skin without stripping it of essential oils. Likewise, Ethique’s Gingersnap, £13, is made of brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon to exfoliate while leaving behind a light hit of hydration. Then there’s Drunk Elephant’s fan-favourite Juju Bar, £24. A cleanser, exfoliator and moisturiser in one, it has a gentle pH of 6.34 (most soaps have a pH of 9 or above).
Buff your body
With summer (and sweaty commutes) around the corner, it’s important to buff away dirt and dead skin by exfoliating regularly. “While skin cells naturally shed or exfoliate every 28 days, using products to speed this process up will brighten the appearance of the skin, make it look smoother, and allow better penetration of products such as moisturisers,” explains Dr Mahto.
For the time-poor, incorporating a multipurpose soap bar into you routine – like Fresh’s Seaberry Exfoliating Soap, £15, or Molton Brown’s Re-charge Black Pepper Bodyscrub Bar, £15 – is the best option. Both work to clean skin while sloughing away dead skin cells.
If you prefer a hit of stimulation in your morning shower, try The Body Shop’s Mango Soap, £2.50. This vegetable-based bar contains mango seed oil to leave you feeling more awake than a motivational podcast.
Soothe your hands
We put our hands through a lot every day. “Hands are not only exposed to the elements but they are often also the most frequently washed part of our body,” says Dr Mahto. “Repeated hand washing can strip the skin of oils, leading to dryness, irritation and, in those susceptible, even a flare-up of hand dermatitis.”
To combat this, opt for hand soaps that contain soothing ingredients, such as Arran’s Apothecary Honey & Oatmeal Soap, £4. Honey and oat are known for being gentle to skin, while honey is often heralded for its antibacterial properties. Similarly, Holy Lama’s Rainforest Soap, £4.50, and The Soap Co’s Geranium & Rhubarb Bar Soap, £9, both use ingredients inspired by ayurvedic practice and are created using the traditional cold-pressed method, which means the ingredients stay fresh and potent.
Main image: Photography by Dennis Pedersen