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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.
Best Overall: 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
Developed with dermatologists, this bar feels so lovely on the skin. Hyaluronic acid and ceramides hydrate and plump, 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
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
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
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
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 Oily Skin: L'Occitane Shea Butter Extra Gentle Soap
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
Newsflash: If you have oily skin, the best way to combat it is by moisturizing it. Your skin overproduces oils when it isn’t hydrated enough, hence the grease fest that can occur. Rather than stripping it even further, it’s best to use products with replenishing ingredients, like this extra-gentle soap made with shea butter and sunflower seed oil. Users find the subtle lavender scent to be calming and relaxing, so it’s the perfect addition to your bath routine.
Best for Sensitive Skin: 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
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 will naturally cleanse and soothe these irritations. 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
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
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 majorly protects against environmental damage, thanks to 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.
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 and gets rid of dirt, oil, and environmental pollution. 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
You should avoid all-purpose bar soaps, says Zilka, as they can be too harsh or drying on the skin.
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.
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. “If you keep it in your shower, make sure it is out of the path of the shower stream.