These 4 Humble Bar Soaps Have Won My Heart and Saved My Skin

At a time when people have beauty regimens that take an hour, the humble bar of soap just makes sense to me.

This summer has been the ultimate experiment in going back to basics; we moved out of our cabin into a bell tent for the summer. We didn’t have plumbing before, so there’s no real big change there, but space is now at a premium. Because there's no bathroom (just an outhouse, and it’s run by a gang of spiders) there's nowhere to put the products I just seem to magically accumulate.

I usually keep it pretty simple for my face and neck: oil cleansing daily, exfoliation once a week. This summer has been a hot and dusty one, however, and I’m often working up a sweat pounding nails. When I come down off the ladder, I look like an extra in a cowboy film: weathered, and also like my brother just succumbed to dysentery.

Or, in a word, dirty. Oil cleansing isn't the best for actual DIRT.

But bar soaps are. A good lather will take off the grit and my foundation with no scrubbing. A bar of soap is cheap, long-lasting, portable, and they come in every formula imaginable. I’ve fallen in love with them all over again. At a time when people have beauty regimens that take an hour, the humble bar of soap just makes sense to me.

Mountain Ocean Coconut Skin Trip

I love Mountain Ocean's coconut cream lotion, and this soap doesn’t disappoint either. It's so creamy, it's hard to believe it's a bar soap! Glycerin-based, it’s made with olive, coconut and sustainably-sourced palm oil, in Mountain Ocean's classic deep, toasty copra (sun-dried coconut) scent.

This soap is hand-made in small batches in Boulder, Colorado. It's moisturizing, vegan and cruelty-free, I love it because it's gentle and doesn’t strip my skin. I actually used it on my hair the other day and was super impressed at how soft and shiny it left it! It’s the priciest of the bunch, at about $6.

Filthy Farmgirl Tuberose Sweetgrass

I can honestly say that I’ve never received any freebies from this company at all—and just as well, as I will gladly fork over cash for these oil and glycerin-based soaps. Handmade by babes in Hawai’i, they come in every imaginable essential oil combination to address whatever skin issues you may have. I have a favourite for my body, but for my face I love their Tuberose Sweetgrass.

Made with coconut and castor oils, as well as jasmine flower wax, it’s terrific at removing grime. It also hydrates dry, angry skin. Their soaps are made with all-natural ingredients and fragrances, keeping irritation and freak-outs to a minimum. The sweet, citrusy, floral scent is just a bonus.

The big bars run about $5, but check their website for deals!

Chandrika Ayurvedic Soap

I’ve been hooked on this soap since I was a kid; I was very interested in all things Indian, and at $2 a bar, it was within my reach. Its signature is the soap’s intense, exotic scent: with notes of sandalwood, patchouli, lime and ginger, it’s herbal and spicy and very distinct.

It was developed by Ayurvedic physician Sri. Kesavan Vaidyar in 1940, and is still made by hand in Kerala, India, using Ayurvedic principles. It contains Chaulmoogra essential oil, a natural antiseptic that has been used to treat skin lesions and rashes in Asia for centuries.

Chandrika produces only vegan products, they do not test on animals, and a portion of the proceeds fund a hospital for the poor of Kerala, as well as adult education programs.

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap

I waffled on including this soap. It contains sodium palmate, a surfactant derived from palm oil, the cultivation of which is environmentally devastating in many areas of the world. I reached out to the company, and they confirmed that they were making a move to sustainable sources.

But still, I love this soap, and I use it frequently--not only for the extreme softness that it lends my skin, but the light, creamy scent that Baby Bee products are famous for. Triple-milled in the French tradition, this soap would be drying if it weren’t for the addition of buttermilk and oat flour. It’s perfect for rage-y skin, and the scent is to die for. I think I described it perfectly as "butterfly milk." For $4, it's a steal.

  • Do you have a favourite bar soap?
  • Ever washed your hair with bar soap? How'd that work out?
  • Is your skincare regimen super complicated or totally basic?