Despite having been around for centuries, traditional bar soap has had a rough ride in recent years, continually slipping down the popularity scale in the cleansing world thanks to the introduction of its liquid, foam, gel and waterless counterparts. However, according to research by consumer insights company, Kantar Worldpanel, sales of classic bar soap rose for the first time in years in 2018, with a three per cent increase nationally since 2017. That’s right, the OG cleansing method has come back into the limelight and back into our bathrooms.
Fortunately bar soaps have become a little more sophisticated while we’ve had our eye on the sparklier alternatives. Forget the shrivelled, unloved husks of the past, or the retro, shell-shaped cakes that seem to reside in the home of every grandmother. The new school of soaps offer a fresh upgrade on the musty-smelling, pastel bars of old. It’s out with filler ingredients and overly drying chemicals, and in with skin-loving oils, clarifying muds and heavenly-scented natural extracts.
Take Dead Sea Spa Magik’s Black Mud Soap, which owes its inky hue to pH-balancing mud sourced from the Dead Sea, making it perfect for sensitised skin on both face and body. Or Soapsmith’s delicious-smelling bars, each hand-made in London and inspired by the city’s streets and boroughs (Baker Street, with its almond, honey and goat’s milk blend, is particularly addictive). The scents are modern and fresh, the packaging is chic and they make perfect gifts – ones that will actually get used, rather than languishing in the back of a drawer like the soaps your distant relatives used to give you for Christmas. There’s something undeniably satisfying about the unwrapping of a smooth, box-fresh bar, and the fragrant, deep-cleansing lather it creates when it comes into contact with water.
But the prettier upgrade is not the only reason soap is back in the spotlight. With many of us keen to cut back on excess packaging, bar soaps offer a much more eco-friendly route to keeping ourselves clean. Instead of the bulky bottles and unrecyclable pumps of liquid soaps, the best bar soaps are made from naturally-sourced ingredients and packaged in no more than a printed paper wrap, cutting out unnecessary waste almost completely. Market intelligence agency Mintel highlighted plastic-free packaging as one of the key packaging trends for 2019, giving bar soap the upper hand in the world of bubbles and lather. And whilst hand and body soaps are perhaps the most ubiquitous, effective bar cleansers for face and even hair look set to trend too as we all wake up to the endless bottles, jars and tubes involved in our everyday beauty routines and consider where it’s possible to cut back.
And that more conscious approach goes for the formulations too. Those keen to remove potentially worrying chemicals and preservatives from their beauty routines might find solace in bar soaps, which use fats such as olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil as their base. These fats have the added benefit of providing excellent nourishment for the skin, cleansing gently and effectively as well as supporting skin’s natural oil barrier.
Which brings us to the power of soap as the ultimate all-rounder. Take Dr. Bronner’s All-One Pure-Castile Bar Soap, which is formulated with organic oils and comes in natural scents such as Hemp Rose, Hemp Almond and Hemp Peppermint. Packaged in recycled paper packaging in all colours of the rainbow, it is designed for use on face, hair and body, and is completely vegan. And it costs £4.99. Do you need any more convincing?