These Cleansing Bars Will Change the Way You Feel About Bar Soap

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Bar soaps aren’t typically the first thing we think about when it comes to cleansing the skin. To be honest, whenever I hear the words “bar soap”, I always think back to my mom furiously rubbing my face with Irish Spring. What was once a leading beauty product has now been eclipsed by its liquid alternatives.

However, thanks to the improvement of formulas and the vast variety of soaps, the new wave of bar soaps are gentler, even luxurious, and seriously next-level. I’m talking hydration, anti-aging properties, soothing ingredients, and lovely, uplifting scents. So bid adieu to those bad bar soap memories (sorry, Mom!) and say hello to your new beauty MVP.

Here, our top bar soap picks that your skin will love.

Our Top Picks
This award-winning bar is ultra-gentle, great for skin that tends to be dry, sensitive, or easily irritated.
Hyaluronic acid and ceramides hydrate and plump, so expect a fuller, more youthful complexion after use.
Known for its ability to moisturize skin, this bar doesn't disappoint.
Slough away dead surface cells with this rich exfoliating soap.
You'll love the notes of bergamot, cumin, and mandarin–trust us.
It’s refreshing and hydrating, leaving your skin supple and plump.
Best for Sensitive Skin:
Drunk Elephant JuJu Bar at Amazon
Other soaps typically have a pH-level of 9, while this one, in particular, is lower at 6.34.
This heavy-duty soap will naturally cleanse and can soothe itching from poison ivy, eczema, or rashes.
This charcoal soap dives deep into your skin to purify and detoxify your pores.
Simple does it with this body bar, as these minimal ingredients go a long way.
In This Article

Best Overall: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

We love this tried-and-true all-star. This award-winning bar is ultra-gentle, great for skin that tends to be dry, sensitive, or easily irritated. While it does replenish skin’s natural oils for hydration and softness, it also effectively cleanses to rid your skin of dirt, excess oil, and environmental pollution. Because the formula is so mild, it’s perfectly safe to use on the face and body and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Best Budget: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar

Developed with dermatologists, this bar feels so lovely on the skin. Hyaluronic acid and ceramides hydrate and help reinforce the skin barrier, so expect a fuller, more youthful complexion after use. Because it’s made with 5% CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, this moisturizing formula is made for thirsty skin, though all skin types can reap its benefits.

Best Classic: Dove White Beauty Bar

dove white beauty bar

This bar soap has a permanent home in the bathrooms of many, thanks in large part to its moisturizing formula that doesn't dry out the skin or cause irritation as it gently cleanses. Suitable for use on the face, body, and hands, this classic formula leaves skin feeling smooth and soft, and looking visibly more radiant all at the same time.

Best for Dull Skin: SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Skin Renewal Recipe Bar Soap

SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Skin Renewal Recipe Bar Soap

Key Ingredients

Manuka honey is produced by honey bees that feed on the manuka tree in New Zealand and Australia. Most honey derives its antibacterial nature from hydrogen peroxide, but the manuka variety is unique in that it contains both hydrogen peroxide and another component called methylglyoxal, which means it's highly antibacterial.

Slough away dead surface cells with this rich exfoliating soap, made up of nourishing oils, soothing Manuka honey, and probiotic filled yogurt. Vitamin C brightens while aloe invigorates and soothes skin.

Best Scent: Krigler America One 31 Soap

Krigler America 31 Soap

Created in 1931, this luxurious soap, penned the “President scent,” is equal parts commanding and captivating with notes of bergamot, cumin, and mandarin. It’s perfect for those who love fragrance but dislike the too-strong scent that a spray may provide.

Best for Dry Skin: Nubian Heritage Soap Bar Indian Hemp and Haitian Vetiver

Nubian Heritage Soap Bar Indian Hemp and Haitian Vetiver

Touted as a “gourmet soap”—we’re hungry already—this olive-oil-laced soap has unbelievable lather and quite the invigorating scent. It’s refreshing and hydrating, leaving your skin supple and plump. One user notes that the scent reminds her of her grandparents’ orchard, so prepare to be transported.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Drunk Elephant JuJu Bar

Drunk Elephant Juju Bar

What makes this powerhouse soap unique is its low pH level—other soaps typically have a pH-level of 9, while this one, in particular, is lower at 6.34. This means that while it does cleanse your skin, it doesn’t strip it, making it ideal for sensitive types. It has a plethora of benefits from removing dead skin cells through gentle exfoliation to emptying pores of debris and excess oil.

Best for Itchy Skin: All Terrain Ditch The Itch Bar

All Terrain Ditch The Itch Bar Soap

When the itch is real, you need something strong enough to keep it at bay. Whether it’s a skin condition, reaction to poison ivy, eczema, or rashes, this heavy-duty soap can help cleanse and soothe irritation. Formulated with healing neem oil and antibacterial tea tree oil, it’s definitely a soap everyone needs in their arsenal.

Best for Acne: Soleil Essentials Tea Tree, Lemongrass + Activated Charcoal Bar

Soleil Essentials Tea Tree, Lemongrass + Activated Charcoal

This charcoal soap dives deep into your skin to purify and detoxify your pores. Excess oil, dirt, and debris are flushed out, revealing a clean and refreshed complexion. The combo of tea tree and lemongrass essential oils calms and detoxifies without drying out the skin.

Best Multi-Tasker: Meant The Every Body Bar

meant the every body bar

Here’s one for the minimalists. This bar literally does it all. It's a face bar, body bar, and hand bar all in one. It helps protect against environmental damage, with goat’s milk, coconut, and grapeseed oil. Although it’s a treat to have for yourself, users also love the stylish packaging, which makes it perfect to gift to someone special.

Final Verdict

Regardless of what you previously thought of bar soaps, it’s time to add one into your routine. Aside from being super gentle on the skin, they’re also incredibly luxurious and arrive with a wide range of features—anti-aging properties, soothing ingredients, and the like. Known as a tried and true all-star, our favorite bar soap is Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar for its ultra-gentle formula that effectively cleanses, getting rid of dirt and oil. Coming in at a close second is CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser Bar that’s budget-friendly and leaves skin hydrated and plump due to the additions of ceramides and hyaluronic acid into its formula. For a true classic, try Dove’s White Beauty Bar as it has a permanent spot in our bathrooms and is suitable for use on the face, body, or hands. 

What to Look For in Bar Soap

Ingredients

Look for nourishing ingredients like shea butter and jojoba to keep skin hydrated, explains Nina Zilka, co-founder, and CEO of Alder New York

Avoid All-Purpose

You should avoid all-purpose bar soaps, says Zilka, as they can be too harsh or drying on the skin. 

Actives

Keep an eye out for bar soaps with actives like glycolic or salicylic acid as they keep your skin healthy, says Zilka. These ingredients are really great for keeping skin hydrated and smooth, she says.

FAQ
  • How do you use bar soap?

    To use bar soap explains Zilka, get the bar wet and rub it between your hands to get a soapy lather. After that, you can either run your soapy hands or the bar directly onto your face or body—whatever you prefer. There’s no need to use a loofah or washcloth, she says.

  • Does bar soap expire?

    Bar soap does expire, says Zilka. But, if stored correctly, it can last for years. 

  • How do you store bar soap?

    Store it in a cool, dry place until you're ready to use it, says Zilka. Once you’re using it, she explains, make sure to store it in a soap dish that elevates it from residual water.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Meckfessel MH, Brandt S. The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Jul;71(1):177-84. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2014.01.891.

  2. Johnston M, McBride M, Dahiya D, Owusu-Apenten R, Nigam PS. Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS Microbiol. 2018 Nov 27;4(4):655-664. doi:10.3934/microbiol.2018.4.655

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