A humble bar of soap is perhaps the most important tool in your grooming regimen. Though often overlooked, soaps come in a staggering array of compositions, and packaging often touts a laundry-list of ingredients. Understanding the best soap to buy starts, first and foremost, by considering your skin type and analyzing the components of a soap to see what will suit your needs.
In technical terms, soap is a salt of a fatty acid. When vegetable or animal fats (triglycerides) are combined with an alkaline solution (e.g. lye), the triglycerides hydrolyze into soap. It seems complex, but soap production dates back thousands of years. The early processes for making soap combined boiled fats with ashes. Soap making became more complex as civilizations grew, and by the middle of the 15th-century, soap making was semi-industrialized in France. The post-Industrialization 19th-century saw the growth of the soap industry, but the next major innovation happened in 1916 when Germany developed synthetic detergents as a response to the shortage of fats due to the first World War. By the 1930s, Procter and Gamble developed a process that decreased soap production times to under a day, effectively cutting weeks from the process.
The industrialization of soap created the hard bars you now find at any big-box store or motel. Truth is, many of these conventional soaps are very harsh; they’re very alkaline and contain preservatives, artificial colors and synthetic fragrances that irritate the skin. Fortunately, there is now a wide range of soaps formulated to clean without irritating. While the processes and ingredients differ widely, the result is the same: a solid cleanser you’ll actually enjoy using every day. So before you buy your next bar, research the differences of each and find the bar that is right for your skin type.
Dove Beauty Bar
Best All-Around Bar Soap: It’s one of the top bars of soap on Amazon for a reason. It’s recommended by dermatologists for its mild formula which uses sodium lauroyl isethionate to leave your skin feeling moisturized and smooth. The creamy lather keeps your skin’s natural moisture barrier intact and its extremely cost-effective, even more so as part of Amazon’s subscribe-and-save option.
Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar
Best for Sensitive Skin: Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleansing Bar is ideal for those experiencing skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and acne since it leaves out irritating detergents. Its mild formula leaves the skin’s natural moisture barrier intact and doesn’t strip it of its natural oils while effectively cleansing the skin of dirt and grime.
Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Eucalyptus Pure-Castile Bar Soap
Best All-Natural Soap: Dr. Bronner’s line of Pure-Castile soaps are known for their granola approach to household products. Using all-natural and vegan ingredients like coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil, which have a number of beneficial properties for skin care, every option from its range of bar soaps is perfect for those who are earth-conscious and skin-conscious. The balanced blend of natural ingredients makes it safe to use for the body and face, and this eucalyptus scent is perfect for invigorating the skin and clearing the sinus.
L’Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable-Based Soap
Best Moisturizing Soap: L’Occatiane’s traditional French recipe lathers well and softens the skin with use. It uses a natural vegetable-oil base in tandem with hydrating shea butter and glycerin. Ideal for a wide range of skin types, the bar is paraben-free and carries an uplifting scent of lemon and rosemary.
The Yellow Bird Dead Sea Mud Bar Soap
Best Exfoliating Bar Soap: Using a mild mixture of all-natural ingredients, this soap is great for even the most sensitive skin types while effectively and gently exfoliating the skin. There aren’t any synthetic fragrances to be found here, just perfectly tuned blend of patchouli, cedarwood, bergamot and citrus.
Byredo Suede Soap
Best-Smelling Soap: Byredo’s Suede is our top pick when it comes to scent. That’s no surprise considering its track record of luxury fragrances. This bar soap is expertly made in Sweden and deftly balances bergamot, musk, amber, pear and lily of the valley for a mesmerizing scent that’s a great accent to its parfum counterpart.
Marlowe Charcoal Soap Bar
Best Detoxifying Soap: Marlowe’s Charcoal Bar Soap is made in the USA using a calculated concoction of green tea and bark extracts which nourish skin. The activated charcoal helps remove the skin of impurities, unclog pores and slough off dead skin cells.