The best bar soaps
29 December 2020
It's no longer just for hotel rooms or your mother-in-law's house - soap bars are back and here to stay. So if you're looking for something long-lasting and sustainable to wash your hands and body with, we've rounded up Mumsnet users' favourite bar soaps to buy this year.
Is bar soap better than liquid soap?
Sales of soap bars are climbing (even pre-corona) – and with good reason.
The most obvious benefit of bar soaps is the lack of plastic packaging, which means it's better for the environment than regular shower gel and creates little waste.
If that wasn't enough, traditional bar soaps are usually made with plant oils, shea butter and other natural ingredients meaning you can keep those harsh detergents at bay – detergents dry out the skin, so can be particularly bad if you have sensitive skin or eczema.
If stored properly and kept dry between uses, soap bars should last ages too – around four to six weeks depending on the size of the bar.
There's often a misconception that bar soap is unhygienic, but this isn't strictly true. When you rub the soap in your hands to lather or foam it up, you're actually washing away the germs.
Bar soap is also much easier to make than liquid soap so there are many independent sellers if supporting small businesses is important to you. If you're particularly crafty, you can even make some yourself.
Top tip: store the soap in a drawer for a few weeks before using it. It'll keep your clothes smelling fresh and this will dry the soap out a bit too, meaning it'll last longer.
Why you should trust us
The Mumsnet forum is a veritable hive mind of recommendations and Mumsnet users are a particularly useful source of information when it comes to frugal and eco-friendly family life.
With over 12,000 mentions of bar soap in the past year alone, their investment in finding products that will really go the distance is nothing short of first rate.
I switched from hand wash to Wright's Cold Tar soap and it's great for my hands. Not as drying as liquid hand wash.
My skin is less dry and irritated, my clothes smell fresh after wearing even if I've been sweating, and my heels are much better too. I used to use a foot file but I would find that a few days after using it my skin would be even rougher than before.
Fewer ingrown hairs in my pits. It's something I've suffered from with the sprouting of hair, but I've only had one new one since switching to bar soap.
I didn't suffer from bad body odour before, but became decidedly whiffy after a hard cardio session. Since using a soap bar my gym clothes just don't smell at all.
And the verdict is in. Here are the best bar soaps that your skin will actually love.
1. Best smelling bar soap: Diptyque Soap Eau de Rose
You're probably not surprised to hear that master French perfumery Diptque makes soap that, quite simply, smells amazing. This plant-based option is enriched with sweet almond oil and two different types of rose. As well as rose, there are notes of blackcurrant, musk, and cedar in this gently-foaming soap.
“Diptyque Eau de Rose. I justify the price with the fact that it doubles up as a bathroom freshener.”Buy now from SpaceNK
2. Best bar soap for face: Dodo Osun African Black Soap
Originating in West Africa, African black soap has become somewhat of a wonder ingredient in the skincare world. Dodo Osun African Black Soap is made from the ash of locally-harvested plants, which gives it a distinctive black colour. It's reported to help in healing acne, eczema and hyper-pigmentation – and is one of the best bar soaps to choose if you want something you can use on your face as well as your body.
“Dodu Osun – Nigerian black soap. Smells slightly disinfectant-y, lathers well and doesn’t crack.”Buy now from Amazon
3. Best handmade soap: Nesti Dante Cypress Tree Soap
One brand of soaps that's recommended time and time again on Mumsnet is Nesti Dante. These Italian soaps are handmade – in fact, Nesti Dante himself started making them at home in 1945, when he was just 12 years old. The product is 100% biodegradable, and Nesti Dante are against animal testing. The soap also smells lush, last ages and make you feel really clean too.
“The Nesti Dante soaps are gorgeous and fragrance definitely lingers. You can get them on Amazon.”
“I only ever use Nesti Dante soaps now too. The narcissus one is my favourite. They feel lovely, smell divine and last for ages. I buy them in bulk on Amazon when they're on offer.”Buy now from Amazon
4. Best insect repelling bar soap: L'Occitane Verbena Soap
If you're after a natural insect repellent, this Verbena soap from L'Occitane may well be the answer. Mosquitoes and midges tend to hate the scent of citrus, so pack this one in your suitcase for any impromptu trips abroad. It's free of detergent and contains pieces of verbena leaf to gently exfoliate.
“I use the L'Occitane bars of soap. Last ages, really creamy, aren't drying and come in lovely fragrances. I even have my own little soap dish. No one else dare use them.”Buy now from Amazon
5. Best unscented bar soap: Dr Bronner Pure-Castile Bar Soap, Unscented
The classic California hippie staple, Dr Bronner's, has become a household name in the world of soaps, both in liquid and bar form. The Castile Soap is free of preservatives, detergents and harsh foaming agent – as well as completely organic and fairtrade to boot.Buy now from Amazon
6. Best ethically made bar soap: Friendly Soap Aloe Vera
These Yorkshire-made soaps are perfect for sensitive skin and, if you're keen to shop ethically then Friendly Soaps are a great choice. As well as using eco-friendly ingredients, the company takes every step to ensure their supply chain is completely ethical from start to finish. Their products are completely plastic-free and, if you're looking to add to your cupboard, they do shampoo, conditioner and shaving bars too.
“I bought a mix of Friendly Soap and I love it, still working my way through it. I ordered the box of 12 which is one of every soap they do and I've not found one I don't like yet.”Buy now from Amazon
7. Best bar soap for sensitive skin: Johnson's Baby Soap with Honey
As you'd expect from Johnson's Baby soap, this soap is gentle and moisturising – ideal for babies and adults with sensitive skin. It's also super affordable as well.
“Bizarrely Johnson's baby soap with honey is really lovely. Doesn't seem to leave mushy bits on the sink, lathers well and smells like soap.”Buy now from Amazon
8. Best high-end bar soap: Chanel Bar Soap
If you're after a fancy soap, we can't think of anything better – soaps like this make a great gift if you're out of ideas. If you buy a fancy soap like this, it'd make sense to buy a nice soap dish with holes in the bottom, to make sure the water drains out and it lasts as long as possible.
“Seconding Chanel soap. Very expensive but made my bar lasted two years! In fact, the scent only started to go by the time it was half worn down.”Buy now from John Lewis
9. Best gentle bar soap: Simple Soap
For those with sensitive skin, allergies or eczema, Simple comes to the rescue yet again. This soap has no nasties and is perfume-free to keep any unwelcomed reactions at bay.
“Simple is the best – we are a rather eczema prone house.”Buy now from Amazon
10. Best British-made bar soap: The Dartmoor Soap Co. Devon Sea Salt Soap
This gorgeous British-made soap is made from all-natural ingredients, including beeswax, coconut and olive oil. We love that it contains Devon sea salt too for added exfoliation.
“The Dartmoor Soap Company – really nice natural cold pressed soaps. If you live close by they also run soap making workshops which are great (you make two different soaps which equate to about 12 bars).”Buy now from The Dartmoor Soap Co.
11. Best floral bar soap: Castelbel Lavender Soap
This pretty-in-purple option from Portuguese brand Castelbel comes scented strongly of lavender. It's made with a 100% vegetable base and comes stamped and wrapped in beautiful floral paper.
“My favourite is the Portuguese brand Castelbel and it last ages. The smell easily perfumes a big bathroom.”Buy now from Amazon
12. Best classic bar soap: Pears Soap Transparent Original
Pears has been around for 200 years – and it comes as no surprise that their soap is packed full of nostalgic memories for many. The classic glycerine soap is super gentle and leaves skin feeling squeaky clean.Buy now from Amazon
Prices correct at time of publication. Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here).