Every so often some old beauty trick resurfaces, gaining new advocates and renewed popularity. That's what's happening right now with bar soap. Yes, bar soap.
And unlike the soap Grandma may have used, the latest bar soaps on the market, or beauty bars as they now are called, aren't harsh or drying. In fact today's beauty bars may be moisturizing, clarifying and even anti-aging. I've been lathering up for weeks, putting 51 beauty bars to the test to bring you a list of the best on the market.
Terra Dolce artisan soap
Hand-crafted in Florida from natural ingredients and wrapped in eco-friendly packaging, Terra Dolce's handmade products became a quick front-runner in my shower. Jolt, one of my fast favorites, calls upon natural peppermint and eucalyptus to decongest, freshen, cool and soothe ($6 at terradolcespa.com).
Alison Cripps, the creator of Terra Dolce, is an esthetician whose experience in spas inspired her to discover an all-natural approach to skin care, minus irritating additives and parabens. Each artisan soap is hand-wrapped in recycled banana seed paper, and free of synthetic fragrances or dyes.
A succinct list of ingredients and expansive collection of must-have fragrances make San Francisco's Soapy Soaps collection a must-have. Available in a variety of scents and packaging options and completely customizable, I fell hard for a luxurious bath soap from the "Cocktail Collection" called Pink Champagne.
This light, soft-pink bar is effervescent with hints of grape and a rich base of chardonnay. Hydration is second only to the decadent scent of the soap, thanks to coconut oil, olive oil, soybean oil and almond oil. Browse the collection at soapysoaps.com or head to the company's Etsy store to select your own signature soap for about five bucks.
Tom's of Maine
Leave it to Tom's of Maine to create a natural collection of beauty bars that are at once soothing, skin-softening and hydrating. The dermatologist-tested beauty bars come in formulas to suit your every need and mood including Moisture, Deodorant, Relaxing, Sensitive, Energizing and Exfoliating. One to try is "relaxing," infused with soothing lavender. And, as always, the Tom's of Maine product line is free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Get 'em for about $2 each at local drugstores.
Sella's Nano Natural Premium Cleansing Bar and Makeup Remover ($36 at sellausa.com) is the "bar soap" that sold me on the idea that skin care could be upscale and effective yet uncomplicated.
According to the Sella, the key to this beauty bar's efficacy has to do with nanosized ingredients, the process of reducing particle sizes to 10 to 100 nanometers. Once ingredients are nanosized, Sella says they are able to deeply penetrate all layers of the skin. I say this cleansing bar delivers on its promise to diminish fine wrinkles and even skin texture all without the use of irritating surfactants, polymers, preservatives, additives or artificial colors.
B.Witching Bath Company
While the intricate design of the Natural Honey Facial Cleansing Bar caught my attention, delicate honey bee designs are etched into the underside of this delicious soap, the gentle, therapeutic formula kept my interest. This all-natural cleansing bar ($4.85) is designed to neutralize skin irritations thanks to ingredients including organic honey and safflower seed oil.
Inspired by the founders' great-grandmother, B.Witching Bath Company's facial-cleansing bar is made in the USA and sold at hundred of retailers across the country as well as online at bwitchingbathco.com.
In addition to the affordable price, one big bonus I've noticed when turning to beauty bars is that they last and last, seemingly much longer than the liquid cleanser I'm accustomed to using. Turns out Grandma was right again; skin care doesn't have to be expensive to be effective.
— Carolyn Brundage is the founder of tampabay.prettycity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet up with Carolyn on Twitter @tampabaypretty.