Bar soaps have been around since the dawn of civilization, with the very first recipes made of a few simple ingredients; rendered animal fats and salt. Occasionally, ashes from various burned plant life were also used in different cultures.
You can’t beat the cost-saving convenience of a bar soap. Toss them on the side of the tub or beside the sink, and they’ll always outlast a bottle of your favorite body wash.
Nowadays, with most commercial soaps being formulated in laboratory environments, the list of ingredients is far more complex, with as many as 10 – 20 ingredients in a simple inexpensive bar of soap. As you can imagine, some of these ingredients do offer increased benefits over the soap that was made centuries ago, but not all of them.
Top 13 Bar Soaps
Reviews of the Best Bar Soaps
#1. Dove Sensitive Unscented Bar Soap
This Dove product is marketed to people with sensitive skin, and contains ¼ of Dove’s patented moisturizing cream, with no perfumes added. Many people with sensitive skin use this affordable, commercial product, and are quite happy with it. While it’s listed as hypoallergenic, some consumers report occasional outbreaks, so don’t buy in bulk, until you try it – if you’re prone to skin allergies.
#2. Caress Beauty Bar, Daily Silk
Caress Daily is labeled as a unisex soap, but the smell might not be appealing to those of the male persuasion, smelling of white peach and silky orange blossom! Caress Daily has a proprietary triple moisturizing effect, but reviews suggest it’s by no means hypoallergenic due to the perfumes it contains. Use Caress Daily if you like to smell really great after a shower, and don’t have skin allergies.
#3. Lever 2000 Original Bar Soap
This Lever 2000 product is an interesting one for a low-cost commercial bar soap. It’s a semi castile soap, heavy on sodium-based ingredients, moisturizing oils, and emollients to fortify the skin. Lever markets their products heavily on the all over body clean users get when they use this product. This bar soap is very close to being a natural product, as the main ingredient is sodium tallowate (animal fat mixed with salt.) Lever 2000 has a mild, fresh ivory scent to it.
#4. Irish Spring Bath Bar Soap
Everyone’s heard of Irish Spring at some point in their life. Known for it’s “manly” mixture of herbal scents that make it so distinctively Irish. This soap uses a mixture of palm oil and sodium for its cleansing properties, with a dash of glycerine mixed in to prevent skin drying. It’s also one of the most inexpensive commercials soaps you’ll find, particularly when purchased in bulk.
#5. Ivory Original Bar Soap
Ivory markets Original as “so pure and simple it floats.” It isn’t touted as a hypoallergenic, but it’s popular with people who claim that while other commercial branded soaps cause breakouts, Ivory Original does not. The formula used to make it is also very reliable, having not changed in over two decades now. It’s an acid-based soap, with a very mild fragrance that’s not over-powering at all. The price is hard to beat, ringing in at just over $10 for 16 bars.
Best Premium Brands:
#6. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar Soap
There’s a lot of magic contained in this product from Dr. Bronner! First, it’s a castile soap made with olive oil/salt. Magic Peppermint is certified organic. The company doesn’t test any of their products on animals. It contains a wide array of virgin vegetable and herb oils, including peppermint that are pure heaven to the skin. Reviews are very positive with regard to Dr. Bronner products, and this is one of the more affordable organic bar soaps you’ll find anywhere.
#7. One With Nature Dead Sea Minerals Mud Soap
One With Nature are very popular for their line of Dead Sea mineral and salt products. This is a truly natural bar soap, that’s great if you don’t care for commercial soaps. It contains Dead Sea minerals and mud from the banks of the adjoining River Jordan. They’ve taken those elements and added natural plant oils to create a truly pH balanced soap that’s perfect for people with skin allergies. Best, this soap is extremely affordable, selling for only $3 a bar on Amazon.
#8. Dudu Osun Black Soap
This is an imported African soap, made in a climate where people are living under the most harsh skin-drying conditions found anywhere on the planet. Dudu Osun Black is a throwback kind of soap, containing many of the ingredients our ancestors used to get clean back when soaps were made at home. All natural ingredients like honey, shea butter, cocoa ash, citrus oils, and aloe vera all combine to make a moisturizing citrusy-smelling soap.
#9. Kiss My Face Naked Pure Olive Oil
It’s hard to find truly organic soap. Kiss My Face really takes the cake in the all-natural department though! Kiss My Face has only 3 total ingredients: olive oil, water, and sea salt. If you’ve found other brands to be harsh, Kiss My Face might just be the product for you. It’s 100% cruelty free, and the olive oil it contains is a great natural moisturizer.
#10. Pre de Provence Shea Butter Enriched Artisanal French Soap Bar
Made in France, Pre de Provence is an extremely popular bar soap, with several natural scents to choose from. This is an organic oil/salt based soap, fortified with shea butter for added moisturizing. It has a creamy lather and each bar comes with exfoliating seeds impregnated in the soap for a gentle scrubbing action while you wash. The price may seem expensive, at $7.99 for a single bar, but keep in mind that at 250g each bar is equivalent to at least 3 standard-sized commercial soap bars.
#11. J.R. Liggett Bar Shampoo Moisturizing Hair Formula
J.R. Liggett is one of the few all-body bar soaps you’ll find. It’s marketed as a hair shampoo, but makes for a great body soap too, and offers a nice creamy lather that’s good enough for decent shave in a pinch. It’s infused with a mixture of plant oils and sea salt for gentle cleaning, infused with jojoba for added moisturizing.
#12. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Body Bar
If you love the many benefits offered by tea tree and other nourishing plant oils, you won’t be disappointed with this Paul Mitchell product! This is a non-acidic mild soap that’s formulated with several moisturizing oils and emollients including: tea tree oil, mentha arvensis oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, rosemary oil, jojoba, glycerin, and aloe vera. Tea Tree Body Bar isn’t the cheapest you’ll find, but the moisturizing properties are hard to beat. This product is gentle enough for use as a shampoo and shaving aid.
#13. Out Of Africa Verbena Shea Butter Soap
Out of Africa has a great reputation for their long lasting moisture infusing bar soaps, and other grooming products. This particular soap contains 20% pure shea butter; whereas other soaps with shea butter listed in their ingredients contain 1 – 2% at most. This Out of Africa is 100% all natural, biodegradable, and never tested on animals. Verbena Shea Butter Soap will leave your skin feeling super silky, with just a hint of lemony scent!
Benefits of Choosing the Right Bar Soap
1. Long Lasting
A bar of soap will give you hundreds of hand washes, and up to 50 entire body washes (more if you’re the conservative type when it comes time to lather up.)
2. Less Waste
Bar soap uses limited packaging, and pound-for-pound has lower transportation costs, minimizing the carbon footprint when compared to body washes. While body wash is definitely more convenient for some people to use, the packaging is much more wasteful, containing up to a half-pound of plastic. Most times that plastic ends up at a landfill site, never to be reused.
Bar soap takes the cake when it comes to cost savings. A typical person who showers daily and washes their hands frequently, will use approximately $20 worth of bar soap per year, assuming they use a mid-level commercial soap like Dove Sensitive, Ivory Original, Irish Spring, or Lever 2000. Body wash is nearly triple the cost for that same person, ringing in at $60 per year (this figure takes into account the fact that most of us don’t use body wash as a hand soap too!)
Features/Ingredients to Choose
Obviously, no label will say “This soap sucks.” Consumer reviews, word-of-mouth, and speaking with your family dermatologist are the only way to truly judge a soap’s cleaning ability.
• Acids (eg., lauric, stearic, oleic, linoleic, myristic, and ricinoleic acids) clean very effectively, but too much will strip the skin of natural oils. Acid based soaps are also harder to the touch and tend to last much longer.
• Sodium-based ingredients (sodium chloride, sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, pentasodium pentetate) are great at killing most germs, but don’t offer the deep-cleaning that acids do.
• Oils are great for moisturizing and absorbing odor-causing body oils. Oil-based alone doesn’t offer much cleansing ability however without a sodium ingredient added.
In general, you want to have a mixture of each in your soap. Commercial soaps like Ivory, Zest, Lever 2000 use all three.
All-natural soaps will often use a mix of several natural oils, in combination with sodium chloride (salt). These types of soaps are often labeled “pure castile“. They’re generally certified organic too.
Many of you might be wondering the effectiveness of bar soaps on the recent pandemic of the coronavirus. Do soaps that are more organic with less chemicals perform worse when it comes to cleanliness? The simple answer is no. All soaps, if they are labeled as soaps, are effective at cleaning your hands. You’ll be glad to know it’s not just bar soaps that are effective; liquid or foam soaps are all good options to fight this virus.
The coronavirus is coated with a lipid coat and by utilizing soap, it dissolves and washes those lipids away. Awesome!
We like using bar soap at our home because we feel we subconsciously wash our hands more when we use bar soap. The act of rubbing can help briefly exfoliate the skin and we wash our hands longer with bar soap. That being said, the most important aspect of disinfecting your hands is how you wash your hands.
First, use warm or room temperature water, not hot water. This is because hot water might dry out your hands and you may not wash for as long.
Second, lather your entire hand. Yes, most people lather the inside of their hands, but the outside of your hands can have even more bacteria. Interlock those fingers and take your time scrubbing your hands. The CDC recommends about 20 seconds.
And there you have it, how to safely wash your hands. Please read on to learn about keeping your hands moisturized; a way to prevent cuts, lowering your susceptibility to any foreign virus.
2.Skin Conditioning (Moisturizing)
Several kinds of emollients are added to moisturizing soaps to prevent and even reverse the signs of over-drying that come from frequent bathing.
Some popular emollients used in commercial bar soaps include: jojoba, glycerin, and vitamin E. Fancier soaps will use virgin plant oils. Colloidal oatmeal is also a popular ingredient used in some restorative moisturizing soaps, but expect to pay more for them.
Believe it or not, there’s a bit of science that goes into getting the perfect lather. “Perfect” being subjective, as some prefer a nice bubbly lather, while others like more of a creamy lather.
If you’re looking for a bubbly lathering soap, check the list of ingredients for the following acids: Lauric, Stearic, Myristic, or Ricinoleic acids.
On the other hand, if you want a creamier lather, look for natural oil-based soaps containing coconut, palm, shea butter or olive oil.
Most commercial soaps have a combination of both. Read the label: if an oil or sodium tallowate is listed first in the ingredient’s list, the soap will have more of a creamy lather – if an acid’s listed first, the soap will be more foamy and bubbly.
Most hypoallergenic hygiene products will still cause allergic reactions in people with mild to serious skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. Unfortunately, there’s no magic ingredient that will make a soap truly hypoallergenic.
If you or your family are prone to allergic outbreaks from skin products, look for all-natural products only. Buy a small quantity of a few different brands until you find a winner.
You always get what you pay for when choosing soap of any kind. However, there are some caveats to be aware of:
• Cheap acid-based soaps almost always kill more germs than more expensive moisturizing soaps. The added cleaning benefits can be a drawback though, since they dry your skin out, and contain very little moisturizing emollients.
• More expensive soaps that claim to be rich in moisturizing emollients, hypoallergenic, and “gentle cleansing,” often contain just as many acid-based ingredients as products labeled as “deep cleaning”. Always read labels: if the first two or three ingredients are a known acid-based cleanser (Google if unsure), the product is likely mis-marketed and may not offer the results you’re looking for.
In the end, the type of soap you use (bar or liquid) comes down to personal preference. If you simply can’t imagine living without your favorite body wash and accompanying pouf, there’s no need to feel obliged to make a switch.
Certainly, bar soap is more environmentally responsible, and it’s definitely cheaper to use than body wash, considering the retail cost is lower to begin with and a bar will always outlast a container of liquid body wash.
If you’re not sure what bar soap is right for you, buy at least 3 different brands in smaller quantities before jumping into a big bulk purchase.
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I beg to differ on this list. Zest is the only soap that my family and I use. It's an awesome soap, lathers nicely, and the scent lasts all day.