This Christmas I received no less than five bars of soap. Five deliciously scented, rather beautiful soaps in shades of honey and milk, some exfoliating, some moisturising and one intriguing charcoal formula. Not only was I delighted with this classic beauty gift, I was also intrigued, I hadn’t been gifted a soap for a decade, now suddenly I receive five? Time to investigate.
Soap Throughout History
Soap has been around for centuries, in fact a formula for soap consisting of water, alkali, and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC, and the formula today is not so dissimilar, combining plant oil or animal fat with an alkaline base. Throughout history soap making has been treated as an art form, with different regions creating their own signature formulas, such as Castile soap a hard, white soap made with olive oil from the Castile region of Spain. There’s also the famous Marseille soap, still made by 162-year-old brand Fer à Cheval from simply olive oil, soda, salt, and fresh water.
The Soap Revival
There’s no doubt that soap is having a moment with many of our bestselling brands increasing their soap offering, including fragrance brand Commodity and skincare favourites Herbivore and Drunk Elephant. In part it’s because of the recent focus on clean beauty; it’s relatively easy to manufacture clean soaps with ingredients derived entirely from nature. It’s also a plastic-free option, by replacing throwaway plastic handwash and shower gel containers, soap is your shortcut to becoming more environmentally friendly. While not every bar soap is created equal – there are still many drying formulas, the newer soaps are often gentle enough for even sensitive skin. Soap is also economically friendly as it tends to last a long time, it’s travel-friendly and practical – it won’t smash if it’s dropped onto a tiled floor. Soaps also have a classic elegance and an old-fashioned, strangely comforting, steadfast quality, not to mention their ability to scent body and bathroom in one quick lather.
The Soap We Love
“I never take showers, only baths, which is why I created a soap. Sculptural, sophisticated lines give my luxe bath bar a distinctive look and feel.” So says Linda Rodin founder of Rodin, and we couldn’t agree more. This heavyweight bar packs a fragrant punch with sensual jasmine and neroli oil and creates a luxurious, creamy lather that gently cleanses and nourishes the body.
Commodity’s richly fragranced soap is more like a perfume for the shower with top notes of almond and cardamom oil, heart notes of lotus and magnolia and base notes of sandalwood oil and Venezuelan roasted tonka. Plus, it lathers up with chia seed oil and pistachio butter for a really moisturising clean.
Hair guru Christophe Robin’s innovative shampoo bar contains only natural ingredients and works as well as a nourishing shampoo, without the plastic. Enriched with aloe vera, natural glycerin and castor oil, it gently cleanses and moisturises hair and scalp.
In place of a cleansing oil, cream, balm or wipe, Drunk Elephant’s Juju bar is ideal for an invigorating morning facial cleanse. Containing deeply cleansing thermal mud and exfoliating bamboo powder, the bar works to dissolve excess sebum and smooth away dry patches for clean, soft skin.
For an evening cleanse we like Argentum Apothecary Le Savon Lune Illuminating Hydration Bar which contains purifying bentonite clay alongside antibacterial and anti-inflammatory silver hydrosol. Joy Isaacs, founder and CEO of Argentum Apothecary says that “in 2018 we saw an 88% increase in purchases of our cleansing bar. With the growing cult status of this illuminating hydration bar we are developing a bespoke brass mould that will give our customers a choice in size.”