The new bar culture: in praise of solid soaps
Like pop legends Abba, the humble bar of soap has something of a chequered history when it comes to public approbation; but, just like the poptastic Swedes, it has been somewhat re-evaluated and rehabilitated, particularly as it offers a plastic-free way of cleansing. In fact, bars of soap are becoming so popular (Waitrose alone reported a seven per cent rise in sales last year) that in 2019, it has become a bona fide beauty trend.
In the past, beauty bods like myself cautioned people against soap and steered them towards face and body washes instead. This was down to the fact traditional soaps tend to be alkaline in nature, which means they easily disrupt the skin’s natural protective barrier (or ‘acid mantle’), which, as the name suggests, is on the slightly acidic side. That can leave skin feeling dry, tight and unable to protect itself from external aggressors like pollution, and internal ones like moisture-robbing central heating.
Thankfully these days, most solid soaps are a far cry from the ones my nan used, which could probably strip paint from a skirting board. Formulations have improved; now,
few soaps contain ingredients like lanolin, an animal-sourced emollient that can irritate sensitive skin. There are plenty of animal- friendly options (if they’re labelled vegan, the glycerine used will be plant-based or synthetic rather than animal-sourced), while a new breed of multi-functional soaps help save space in the bathroom, not to mention waste heading for landfill; Christophe Robin’s Hydrating Shampoo Bar is the perfect alternative to plastic bottles of shampoo.
PASS THE BAR
Lush has more vegan-friendly soaps than you can shake a washcloth at, while Dr. Bronner’s soaps are mild enough to be used on hair, face and body, are made from organic, fair trade ingredients and come in 100 per cent biodegradable, recycled paper.
One of your best options, though, comes from BECo – an eco-friendly, not-for-profit company whose products are hand-wrapped by a workforce consisting of people who are partially-sighted, disabled or disadvantaged, enabling you to do your skin, the planet and a whole bunch of people a favour all at the same time.