Think soap is boring? Think again. With sophisticated new formulations for all manner of skin concerns, the bar has officially been raised...
There are certain products that will always carry an unshakeable feeling of nostalgia no matter how far skincare tech moves on. The humble bar of soap is one of them - whether a Dove Beauty Bar or a sharp-cornered square of Imperial Leather graced your bathroom sink growing up, it’s a permanent fixture in many of our beauty memories.
In recent years though, soap has slowly started to crumble into oblivion. Solids melted into liquids and blocks were replaced with bottles as consumers sought more complex, fancier looking upgrades that left their pebbled-shaped predecessors gathering dust at the back of their cupboards. Soap had stepped out of fashion and was struggling to fall back into favour with the masses. However, it seems that the very things that were holding it back could be what’s ultimately responsible for its return.
Why is soap coming back?
According to BeautyMART , the ease of use that a bar of soap affords as well as increased consumer interest in natural ingredients are key reasons why it’s seeing a resurgence as of late. And the stats seem to indicate this too, with Mintel pointing to a rise in sales in its 2017 Soap, Bath and Shower Products Report.
Another potential reason for its comeback? Increased hygiene awareness. According to the report, greater consumer interest in hand-washing could have also led to soap’s newfound levels of popularity. An interesting point considering that a common objection to the use of solid soap is its, how shall we say it, communal feel, with many preferring a pump of Carex over a shared slick of grotty-looking Pears. However Samantha Jameson, founder of handmade luxury soap brand Soapsmith, believes this perception is misinformed. “People think bars of soap are more unhygienic compared to liquid soap, but research shows that they are fine due to their high pH levels making it harder for them to harbour germs.”
Functionality-wise, soap may well have re-found its place in our cleansing regimes, but what about from a skincare perspective? Can they really compete with today’s legion of body and face care launches? From high street to high end, beauty brands are stepping up their soap games in a range of new and innovative ways.
How are brands raising the bar?
Skin type specific and carefully crafted, modern soaps are making significant strides in challenging preconceptions and catering to today’s increasingly savvy shopper. From acne to psoriasis, dry skin to oily skin, there seems to be a formulation for every concern.
Furthermore, they’re also boasting a bevy of high quality ingredients from a fragrance perspective, making designer soap as in vogue as many of the industry’s most in-demand specialist and niche eau de parfums . “I adore soap and we sell it fantastically well at my store, Roullier White,” says fragrance expert Michael Donovan. “Soaps like Frederic Malle's are triple-milled - this makes them incredibly dense so they last for weeks and weeks and stay looking beautiful - no more mushy disintegrating bars on the basin!”
With ingredients such as shea and lanolin being utilised to keep skin soft and nourished, he notes that soap’s once drying nature has now become a thing of the past. “Apparently sheep-shearers have the softest hands in the world and this is because of the lanolin in the fleeces!” he highlights. “ Mitchell's Wool Fat Soap , £10 for 3 bars, is a lovely British soap brand that uses lanolin as the key ingredient. It makes wonderful suds and is fantastic for sensitive skins.”
With a wide-ranging selection of soaps out there for a variety of different budgets and skin concerns, the choice out there might surprise you. It did us. Here’s our pick of the best for dishing out some brilliant benefits for both body and mind.
For body acne: Bjork & Berries Exfoliating Bath Soap, £23
Enriched with rosehip oil and salicylic acid, this bar of soap cleanses and conditions in one fell swoop. Its spring-like scent will entice, its skin smoothing results will impress.
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For the spot-prone: Cor Silver Soap, £15
Containing antibacterial silver and moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid, this small but mighty pick purports to calm inflammation, tighten pores and combat blemish-causing bacteria. Celebrity fans reportedly include Nicole Scherzinger, Tyra Banks and Christina Hendricks - some seriously glowing recommendations right there.
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For eczema and psoriasis: All Naturals soaps, £4.99
Inspired to create a range that was detergent, preservative, paraben, silicone, SLS sulphate and alcohol-free, this brand specialising in gentle yet effective soaps provides problem-specific solutions for those whose concerns may have previously excluded them from using soaps in the past. Its Natural Olive Oil and Calendula Soap for those with eczema makes for a soothing choice, while its Natural Calamine Soap aims to promote skin renewal and regeneration in the psoriasis-prone.
For dry skin: LUSH Ro’s Argan Gourmet Soap, £9
This hydrating body soap scented with Turkish rose absolute and formulated with Egyptian geranium and antioxidant-rich Fair Trade argan oil leaves skin soft, supple and silky. Using a new in-house, patent-pending technique to create a petrochemical and palm oil free soap base, each soap in the Gourmet range is made using oils from sources that contribute to environmental and social regeneration in their region. A pick that does good in more ways than one.
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For skin and senses: Soapsmith soaps, £7
Formulated using essential oils that leave skin smooth and stress levels significantly lower, the vegan body soaps created by this specialist body care brand serve as the perfect bathtime treat. Highlights include the charcoal powder and orange essential oil-containing Marble Arch and revitalisingly zesty Limehouse for the ideal early morning wake-up-call. Interesting fact - they test their soaps for over two years before letting them go on sale to ensure that they remain true to their scent throughout their lifespan. High quality at a low price guaranteed.
For long-lasting fragrance:
Frederic Malle Hand and Body Soaps, from £25
Intended to stand separate to the brand’s renowned perfume line, this six-scent collection of hand and body soaps are as luxe and beautiful to use as you’d expect. Enriched with hydrating glycerin and shea oil as well as mattifying talc, they promise both style and substance in equal measure.
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Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’Eau Perfumed Soap, £17
Containing conditioning sweet almond oil and glycerin, this plant-based body soap fragranced with a bouquet of bulgarian roses and blackcurrant leaves adds the most delicate of green-fingered touches to any bathroom.
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For oily skin: Erborian Black Soap, £13
Inspired by Korean beauty regimes, this charcoal-rich face soap suits oily skin types particularly well. Why charcoal? Chosen for being especially tough on excess sebum, it also helps to draw out impurities to leave skin feeling extra squeaky clean. Created using a gentler plant-derived cleansing base with pearlizers, it serves as a more potent pick for those looking for a deeper cleanse.
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For congestion: L’Occitane Rebalancing Black Soap, £20
For those not quite ready to give up their trusty bottle of shower gel, this hybrid buy provides the perfect in-between. An innovative soap paste created on an olive oil base and enriched with eucalyptus essential oils, it clears skin as effectively as it helps clear sinuses. Wonderfully deep-reaching in its de-congesting abilities, it provides some much-needed bliss for a heavy head when a stressful workload’s weighing heavy on your mind.
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