Why The Old-School Bar Soap is Making a Comeback

Posted by Jimmy Gould on


For the first time in decades, sales of the humble soap bar are on the rise.

But why has this modest beauty hero returned to our bathrooms and kitchens, and should we all think about embracing retro washing as our grannies used to do?

One major reason for the skyrocketing sales of soap bars is that they eliminate the need for the seemingly endless array of plastic bottles in our homes and bathroom cabinets. Just think about how many plastic bottles we will eliminate by making the switch, taking into account the bottles we use for liquid hand soaps, body washes, shower gels and their refill bags and bottles. To put this into perspective, British brand Lush (which aims to ditch all packaging and actually opened its first packaging-less UK store in Manchester this January) is famous for its shampoo bars - with each small bar the equivalent of three medium-sized bottle shampoos!

In 2015, over five million people bought the shampoo bars, which saved nearly 16 million plastic bottles from going into landfill. Brilliant for Mother Nature and our wallets!

If you can't handle the thought of ditching your favourite haircare bottles, fair enough, I hear you! But one easy step we can take to reduce our plastic use is simply switching from shower gel to solid soap. Gone are the days of heavily scented, sickly smelling synthetic soap bars that dried out our skin, left it feeling stretched and tight, and stung our eyes. We have so many natural, hydrating, cleansing options that should leave your skin cleansed but still moisturised.

I've listed some favourites below for you - your best bet is to sample a few until you find the best fit for you. A rule of thumb is to steer away from synthetic ingredients and try to pick soap with a similar pH level to skin (5.5).

Ditch the plastic

Studies have shown that less than half our bathroom plastic gets recycled, with haircare plastic being one of the main culprits. If you want to ditch more plastic from your home, check out the shampoo bars from Lush. They have six bars to choose from with one bar the equivalent to a whopping three medium-sized shampoo bottles! Lush Jason and the Argan Oils Shampoo Bar, €7.90, from Lush stores nationwide and lush.com

Three top soap tips

Keep your soap from glooping

Add a few drops of baby oil to your clean soap dish and the oil will act as a barrier to soap suds, keeping your dish and soap smooth and clean for longer.

Buy a raised soap dish

Ensure you've a decent soap dish with raised grooves that let the water drain away. If your soap is not dry, rinse it under running water before lathering up.

Let your soap dry

Bacteria does not live in your soap - it rests on the water on top of it - so allowing your soap to dry between uses gets rid of the moist environment that germs enjoy.

Best for baby

Dr. Bronner Castile Soap

This beauty is 100pc natural, fragrance- and colourant-free, and full of hemp oil for a soft, smooth lather that is caring for all skin types - young and old. Dr Bronner's All-One Baby-Mild Pure-Castile Bar Soap, €6.99, pharmacies nationwide.

Six of the best

Natural beauty

Handmade Soap Co

This gentle soap is bursting with grapefruit zing, restorative Irish moss and only the most genuine natural ingredients. Works a treat first thing in the morning! The Handmade Soap Company Grapefruit & Irish Moss Soap, €6.95, from Kilkenny Shop, Carraig Donn, Avoca, Debenhams and pharmacies nationwide.

Eco pick

Jo Browne soap

Handmade in Ireland, this natural soap is made with bamboo silk (a vegan alternative to silk), cocoa and shea butters. Its eco-friendly packaging, made from bamboo, can just be chucked into your brown or compost bin. Jo Browne Soap, €12, from Kilkenny Shop and Avoca, health stores nationwide and jobrowne.com

Sleepy soap

Avoca No. 1 Soap

Night-time bathers looking for a little Zen could try this natural lavender and chamomile soap which will leave your skin clean but also serenely perfumed - perfect for catching some much-needed Zs! Avoca No. 1 Soap, €6.50, Avoca stores nationwide and avoca.com

Face time


If you can't be bothered faffing about with cleansers, toners and scrubs, and just want a one-stop-shop face cleanser minus that skin-crawling 'tight' feeling, try this gem, jam-packed with fig and honey. L'Occitane Face Soap, €22, from pharmacies, department stores and L'Occitane stores nationwide.

Unisex buy

Salon Veloute & Other Stories

This soap is a great alternative to shaving gel/cream. Made with lots of almond oil, it won't leave skin 'tight' and is a great unisex option as it smells woody and spicy. Savon Velouté, €9, from & Other Stories Grafton Street, Dublin, and stories.com

Budget bar

Dove Beauty Bar

This is a long-standing favourite of mine - even though technically it's a beauty bar, not soap! If you have dry skin, this is a godsend and it never irritates my eyes. Dove Beauty Bar, €1.99 for two, from stores and pharmacies nationwide.