News that, in a bid to cut down on plastic, consumers are turning back to barred soap for personal hygiene, has the market analysts who notice such things all aglow. “For the first time this century,” Kantar Worldpanel’s strategic insight director, Tim Nancholas, recently said, “barred soap is making a return.”
Right up there on the list of easy ways to reduce your plastic use is switching from shower gel to solid soap. Bea Johnson, the French-Californian whose annual familial waste fits into a small Kilner jar, says she buys bars of Good Soap at Whole Foods to serve as shampoo, facial cleanser, handwash, body wash and shaving agent.
Of course, anyone who has recently washed their hands with a bar of off-white Imperial Leather might be wondering how their face, armpits or indeed their inner thighs might feel if that’s what’s in store for them this evening.
So how does barred soap stack up against gels and liquid creams? Will our belated efforts to look after the environment see us, literallly, leaving skin in the game? And altruistic concerns aside, a re we washing ourselves as we ought to? Skincare expert Jennifer Rock, founder of the Skin Nerd online consultancy, is inclined to think we’re not. “People spend a lot of time and money researching cleansers and moisturisers for the face, but then jump into the shower and use anything.” As a result, our body skin is woefully neglected. She says one of the most common pictures they’re sent on Instagram is of acne on bums. “It’s such a common problem.”
Her first tip is to think about your body as much as you do your face, both in terms of routine and product. Second, her most salient tip is to read the label carefully.Look for aloe vera, coconut and glycerine. You don’t want anything too smelly or colourful: synthetic dyes are irritating.
Other potential irritants include temperature extremes – don’t have too scalding a shower or steaming a bath – and overly frequent or prolongued bathing. One of the UK’s leading dermatologists and author of the recently published Skincare Bible, Dr Anjali Mahto, has suggested limiting a shower to 20 minutes. Bar soaps aren’t something many skincare experts recommend because they tend to dry skin out and, lying about as they do in soap dishes, may harbour bacteria. However, this latter claim has been in dispute since 1988, and, as for drying your skin out, if you find a bar with a PH close to that of the epidermis (5.5) you will be alright. The key is to try a bunch out. If you need to moisturise after you have washed, you are probably not using the right soap: invest in a better one, and you can probably ditch the cream.