Easily recycled packaging that still feels luxe
Increasingly softer skin with weekly usage
Affordable cost per use
Typical bar soap storage issues
Can be overdrying for sensitive skin
Soft Services Buffing Bar
Great Expectations. It’s a Dickens novel, a Gwyneth Paltrow movie from the 90s, and my immediate reaction when I found out Annie Kreighbaum and Rebecca Zhou would be creating a brand that targets skin below the neck. Body skincare always felt overwhelming and too large scale. But leave it to ex-Glossier cool girls and science savants to crack the code. Soft Services' Buffing Bar has me RSVP-ing yes to legs out this summer. Safe to say, my great expectations were exceeded.
Best for: Those looking for exfoliation, not for sensitive skin or active breakouts
Uses: Treating keratosis pilaris ("KP"), stubborn ingrown hairs, and rough, bumpy texture
Star Rating: 4.9
Potential allergens: No
Active ingredients: Magnesium oxide, sodium citrate, aloe barbadensis (Aloe Vera) leaf juice
About the brand: Soft Services makes products and digital tools to help people who are looking for solutions to their body skin concerns. Their launch in May 2021 featured three curated product offerings, including the Buffing Bar.
About My Skin: Seasonal KP with a Side of Dullness
The skin on my body always existed as a permanent afterthought. I moisturized out of the shower and tried to remember to shave once or twice a week. That’s it. My laissez-faire attitude toward bodycare was the result of a pretty intense round of Accutane in my early 20s. With my skin clear and dry skin trauma behind me, I was happy to coast. That is until I started Googling to figure out what the tiny bumps on the back of my arms and occasionally my legs were. All signs pointed to keratosis pilaris, also known as KP. It occurs when keratin builds up and the results are harmless.
However, I wanted to treat it. I upped my exfoliation game with a dry brush and a body scrub. But the results were only visible for the first twenty minutes after a shower. I wanted something more advanced—like a Biologique Recherche's Lotion P50 for the body—to smooth things over and offer viable changes. Enter: Soft Services Buffing Bar. The brand recommends use once per week in the shower. Since I was over-enthusiastic and because I knew my far from sensitive body skin could take it, I upped it to twice a week. The results were impressive.
The Feel: Slight Suds During Usage
The Buffing Bar feels like a cross between a regular bar of soap and a pumice stone to the touch. Once wet in the shower, buffing motions produce small amounts of foaming. As a person obsessed with exfoliation, the feeling is familiar—sort of like dry brushing or using a body mitt in the shower. But it's made more comfortable (and more effective) by the layer of product.
The Ingredients: An Innovative Approach
- Sodium Palmate: The first ingredient listed in almost every bar soap, sodium palmate is the result of the saponification reaction of palm oil’s fatty acids with sodium hydroxide. It’s gentle and great for cleansing.
- Magnesium Oxide: Perfected for the ideal exfoliation size, these magnesium oxide crystals might be the star of the show when it comes to ingredients with instant results.
- Butyrospermum Parkii: Also known as shea butter, this naturally occurring moisturizer regenerates and soothes skin, all while protecting it from external factors. It’s also rich in antioxidants.
The Science: The Power of Magnesium Oxide Crystals
When asked about the star ingredient in the Buffing Bar, Zhou and Kreighbaum pointed to the magnesium oxide crystals. More specifically, their size. "Perfecting the size of the particles and their ratio within the formula base is where the magic happens," they said. "Physical body exfoliants usually have too large or uneven particles (like salt and nut-shell scrubs) or way too small particles that are at too low of a concentration in the formula to have an even, smoothing effect on the skin. The condensed, solid brick of consistently-sized exfoliating particles makes the Buffing Bar so effective."
Drying / Irritation: A Few Things to Note
The pressure used to apply the Buffing Bar makes all the difference when it comes to sensitive skin. Being sure to use the product once per week also combats any potential dryness or sensitivity.
Packaging: Chic and Thoughtful
The unsung hero of all Soft Services products is the ultra-chic, easily recycled packaging. Nothing is wasted, everything is considered. The Buffing Bar comes in a paper box and is wrapped in branded paper. The bar doesn’t really budge once placed in the shower.
The Results: Immediate and Long Lasting
The experience of using the Buffing Bar in the shower after a day’s worth of sunscreen and sweat was the most profoundly clean I’ve felt all summer. My skin felt primed and eager for moisturizer. There was an instant evenness to the texture I’d never felt from a physical exfoliant. There was no tightness or stinging after using it—just good old-fashioned smoothness that reminded me of my pre-shaving years.
Overjoyed, I changed into my shortest denim cut-offs and headed out to dinner. I kept up my usage, overzealously using the bar for the second time in a week. I expected redness or sensitivity, but to my shock, just more smoothness. Now, it’s hard for me to shower without reaching for the Buffing Bar. A few weeks in and the bumps on the backs of my arms have cut almost in half. Razor burn is nonexistent. And I can’t seem to stop evangelizing about the product’s scientifically-backed, real-life results.
The Value: Average Cost for Above Average Results
It’s funny to think about something as fundamentally basic as a bar of soap as valuable. But it is. There’s no plastic to recycle properly. There’s no spring attached to a bottle that will live on longer than I will. There’s just the product, wrapped in paper, in its most distilled form. With that in mind, the Buffing Bar is a valuable option: economically and ecologically. The price per ounce is $3.50, which is average for the product’s competition. Also, once per week usage means that two bars will last for a long time.
Similar Products: Nothing Compares
Soft Service’s founders Rebecca Zhou and Annie Kreighbaum have committed to not creating redundancies. If there were a plethora of options, then the space wouldn’t be as primed for their creative vision. When asked about competition and what they knew they could do better, Zhou and Kreighbaum responded, "with most scrubs being a paste or a gel format, they always seem to spread too thin and quickly wash away when you’re using them."
First Aid Kit’s KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub with 10 AHA ($28) exhibits this dilemma. The plastic packaging attracts buildup, the sandy beads stick to the shower floor, and the only way to achieve visible results is to use an entire handful of the product. And the dry brush I’ve been halfheartedly using for what feels like most of my life finally got the boost it needed. When I brushed off before using the Buffing Bar in the shower, I finally felt its intended power.
But physical exfoliating isn’t enough. Soft Service’s founders went on to explain that, "Physical exfoliation is a mechanical process that happens instantly, while chemical exfoliants need to stay on to be effective, so they need to be in a product that you use outside of the shower," they said. "That's why we made both the Buffing Bar and the Smoothing Solution ($34), our calming chemical gel exfoliant that skin drinks up after using the Buffing Bar." If I thought the dry brush was a powerful add-on, the Smoothing Solution was an entire system upgrade.
Soft Service’s Buffing Bar represents innovation in the world of bodycare. It feels good, looks good, and above all else, works well. It’s formulated expertly and intuitive to use. Rethink what you thought you knew about physical exfoliation with this product.
- Product Name Buffing Bar
- Product Brand Soft Services
- Price $28
- Ingredients Sodium Palmate, Sodium Cocoate, Magnesium Oxide, Aqua/Water/Eau, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Alumina, Spirulina Maxima Extract, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Sodium Citrate, CI 77007 (Ultramarines), CI 75810 (Chlorophyllin-Copper Complex).