Stop Treating Soap Like a Four-Letter Word

For the better part of the two decades I have been involved in the beauty industry, it seems as though people hear the word “soap”, especially in regards to bar soap, and freak out that it will somehow make their skin a dried-out, irritated, residue-covered mess. That is rather unfortunate as some of the most iconic skincare and revered hygiene products in the world, and over history, are bar soaps. In addition, bar soap is MUCH more economical and sustainable to produce, ship, package, and use than liquid soaps or body wash. If we take brief walk down memory lane of one of the world’s oldest beauty products to understand a bit more about how this happened, it can help explain why bar soap may be one of the easiest steps you and your family can take into making a more sustainable, and effective, choice for personal care.

Forms of soap has been made for thousands of years, stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt and China, and was used for both household and personal cleaning. Soap is very simple to make (only needing a few ingredients), but quickly became a fine art that was recognized worldwide by the 15th century. Marseille, France, in the Provence region, is still renowned to this day for their fine soap making, and it is often a status symbol in luxury hotels and spas. In America, Proctor & Gamble® started manufacturing Ivory Soap in the late 1800’s, with the slogan “It Floats”, as this feature made it popular for the reason that many people still bathed in outdoor rivers, ponds and tubs – if the soap floated, you could easily find it as it didn’t sink to the bottom. Throughout the centuries of human civilization, access to soap and clean water was often the first line of defense to disease, in addition to safer food and drinking water sources. By the late 1800’s, the first liquid soaps were invented, which allowed for easier dish washing, household cleaning, and laundering of clothing. Once plastic was introduced in the mid-1900’s, the concept using liquid soaps suddenly became much easier to sell to the newly minted “consumerism” driven markets of post-war economies.

But why has the last 20 years of the skincare business been so against bar soap, and pushed liquid cleansers and body wash instead? Well, creamy or liquid cleansers are not new. For centuries, mixtures of olive oil, natural waxes, honey, and other essential oils were combined to make cold creams or cleansing balms that gently cared for drier skins, and also act as a great pre-cleanse to remove makeup. But they were often packaged in glass, which added weight for shipping and could be slippery or hazardous to handle in wet bathroom conditions. In the post-World War II industrial boom, plastic soon dominated the packaging industry due to its cheap cost and flexibility to customize, which also allowed for more creativity (ie. branding) to be included. That translated into various body washes and face cleansers for both kids and adults, each specifically geared towards gender, favorite scent, or result / skin type (dry skin, oily skin, sensitive, with scrub beads, with added lotion, etc). It also became convenient, as a squirt would lather up really fast, and could be used as bubble bath too. With this explosion of possibilities for sales, manufacturers and retailers flooded the market over the years with options. Good ol’ trusty bar soap was suddenly dwarfed by this new avalanche of liquid options. Particularly in America, our obsessions with “newness” overrode the previous brand loyalty of more traditional products. Avon ladies began showing up at their neighbor’s doors, persuading their friends that skincare regimens (planned very specifically with color schemes, scents, and flowery names) were the thing to try – especially concerned with keeping that youthful appearance of the emerging Hollywood glamour standards. But the amount of plastic packaging waste started piling up, in addition with more garbage from elaborate gift set boxes and retail displays – marketing all of the benefits, and not meant to last past the season.

In addition, as newly developed anti-bacterial agents, such as triclosan, or deodorants were added to bar soaps (and liquid soaps too), people started to experience their drying side-effects when used daily. Dial soap was a staple for many workplace-use needs, such as in hospitals, but became a household name with the over-marketed protective fear against germs. With it came rashes and irritated skin when over-used, which most dermatologists recommended avoiding and treating with less harsh cleansers to remove everyday dirt. Lever 2000 bar soap contained a high dose of deodorants, which could cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin. While it may have been great for a specific use (such as post-workout or athlete’s locker room use), it was pretty harsh for an everyday beauty product. As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I remember hearing the TV ads shout about the horrors of “soap scum” on glass shower walls, hard water concerns for skin softness (where’s the Culligan Man?) and oh my gosh, let Calgon take you “away” in your bubble bath to float into a relaxed pink oblivion. But in reality, no one was talking about the piles of bottles, tubes, pumps, and caps that were being tossed into garbage cans as a by-product of liquid soap. In 2019, National Geographic featured an article about the issues surrounding the “liquification” of beauty products over the years, revealing that body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and face cleanser formulas contain an average of 90-95% water. When purchasing these products, we are basically paying mostly for the water, fancy packaging to contain it, and fuel / vehicle expenses of shipping liquid (which is quite heavy) from manufacturer to retailer. And it all eventually goes down the drain, in addition to depleting fresh water resources…(insert face palm here). Effective skincare is about the maintained routine of cleanse, tone, treat, and moisturize. But it does not have to be in all-liquid forms to deliver the best results.

So where do you factor in with your own habits? Think about your daily routine, and how many bottles or tubes are sitting in your shower or at your sink. Bar soap can easily wash you head to toe, and the ones I feature below are gentle enough for face and body, plus everyone in the family can use them. Just like selecting any liquid or creamy cleanser, the same approach should be taken with choosing a bar soap – the results you want, as well as the skin type you have, are factors in your selection. One of the most iconic soaps in the world is the standard golden bar of Clinique™ “mild” face soap, originally created in the 1960’s as an idea from Estée Lauder’s daughter-in-law. Sold as a relatively inexpensive and refillable product (packaged in foil paper and cardboard), it has been the effective cornerstone of one of the most easy-to-use skincare regimens in the world. Fun fact – it also makes a great body soap, but it is not marketed that way. Most of the soaps I recommend below are fantastic to shave with too, by producing mounds of lather and reducing the need for yet another shaving product. Using bar soap daily can also be extremely economical overall, while reducing the amount of packaging waste your household tosses out.

These bar soaps below are some of the most easy to find and shop for. We’ll chat about homemade soaps too, but let’s focus on these four and their qualities to start. From the top left: Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Bar Soap is one of the legendary naturally-based soaps in America since the late 1940’s. With a base of organic coconut, palm, olive, hemp, and jojoba oils, the formula mimics our skin’s natural oils to make it extremely mild yet purifying. Dr. Bronner was a real person, embracing the early conservation and Earth-conscientious practices of the 20th century, especially focused on fair trade, vegan and organic ingredients. To this day, the company strives for the highest standards in eco-conscious production, as well as sustainable paper-only packaging. For around $4 a bar, these long-lasting soaps are perfect for children, and adults with hyper-sensitive, combination skin that is prone to flare-ups of acne or irritation. To the right is the iconic Dove® Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. A world-recognized beauty product, mass-produced by Unilever since the late 1950’s, this beauty bar is one of the most gentle and moisturizing cleansers, recommended by dermatologists. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database rates Dove’s Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar as a low 2 for overall toxicity, making it extremely safe for all ages, and is especially effective for super-dry, delicate, over-stressed or irritated skin. While many of us may not think of Unilever as an eco-conscious beauty company, they have committed to aggressive goals to use recycled plastic, reduce water consumption, and less wasteful production practices globally. I consider Dove the “non-soap” of soaps, and my favorite winter skincare staple. Committed to show real women in its marketing, the soap is extremely affordable (around $1 a bar), packaged in cardboard, and can be purchased relatively anywhere. From a sustainability standpoint, the safety and simplicity of the ingredients, the low waste packaging, economic accessibility, and the brand’s investment in youth programs make this a big player on the beauty stage, even though it does not adhere to natural or eco-conscious marketing messaging.

My favorite bar soaps for sustainable, sensitive skincare routines

A little less-known soap is the Pure Provence Certified Organic™ Triple Milled Unscented Soap (bottom), which is made in France of completely vegan and 86% organic ingredients. A hefty 5.3oz bar is long lasting, creamy, and made in the style of the famous Marseille soap making traditions. I usually buy this from Amazon in packs of 3 for $25, but an easy online search delivers other options. This formula contains Shea butter, and leaves skin squeaky-clean – it’s great for oily or acne-prone skin, or needing to remove grime and sweat after a workout. I love using this soap in our humid Wisconsin summers, as it balances yet completely cleans without any residue or irritation. Lastly on the left, the Cetaphil® Cleansing Bar is another inexpensive drugstore beauty staple that delivers results. Similar to the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar, this is an extremely gentle soap that cares for all skin types yet cleans deeply, and is great for drier and aging skin. Another drugstore equivalent (not pictured) is the CeraVe® Hydrating Cleanser Bar, which is very similar to Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleansing Bar, but has the added anti-aging ingredients of ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Anyone using a stricter anti-aging skincare regimen would highly benefit from using the gentle cleansing bars of Cetaphil, Dove or CeraVe as skin can be stressed by aggressive exfoliation that involves AHA or BHA acids to smooth fine lines and wrinkles. The only criticism I have of Cetaphil, Dove, and CeraVe is the use of plastic wrapping to bulk-pack multiple bars – from a production standpoint, they could easily change to a cardboard outer box.

Homemade soaps are now more accessible than ever, being widely sold at farmers markets, natural food stores, boutiques, and online. Kits are easily found online or in craft stores, and can be a fun creative project to do with kids. I do support finding a local soap maker that you trust, if you want to pursue an even more sustainable approach to beauty. I just caution that you still assess the ingredients used, as many “natural” soaps often are heavily fragranced, and essential oils can cause reactions on sensitive skin. One of my favorite local grocery stores features an area soap maker, and they produce a fantastic unscented, olive-oil based bar soap that runs about $5 per bar. These soaps are packaged extremely minimally, often in a simple sleeve of paper. Think of these types of local homemade soaps as the same concept of farm-to-table food – the less distance a product has to travel, the better for the local economy and less pollution or waste. This is a main cornerstone of sustainable business practices, and allows for direct support of local talent.

Regardless, choosing any of the bar soaps above could replace at least two plastic bottles or tubes from your bathroom routine (face cleanser and body wash), as well as streamlines your regimen with a single multi-tasking product. These can also replace shaving creams and lotions, due to their high-lathering formulas. This saves money and waste, but still delivers results. When advising anyone on skincare regimens, especially those who have concerns of sensitivity or anti-aging, I often recommend using a gentle, moisturizing bar soap (inexpensive) and then investing in a treatment serum or moisturizer that sinks into skin and specifically treats concerns such as fine lines or uneven skin tone. Remember, any cleanser literally goes down the drain – you are simply needing to remove dirt, oil, dead skin, and makeup, which does not require a high investment. By using this balanced approach of low and high cost products, it allows for you to have more flexibility to invest in the beauty products that do more heavy lifting and absorb into the skin, such as serums, eye creams, and moisturizers – these will deliver the most impactful results. Since our skincare needs often change with the season, I keep multiple bars of each brand above on hand in my household to easily switch out as needed. One final tip: if you are dead set on keeping a liquid face cleanser (I know how hard it can be to let go of a beloved product), then use an alternating approach for AM / PM regimens. For example, I love Clinique’s All About Clean Rinse-Off Foaming Cleanser, and I’ll occasionally buy it. However, I’ll only use it at night, and in the morning I use bar soap head to toe. That way, it extends the life of my Clinique product, since I’m only using it once a day. In addition, the Clinique Cleanser is packaged in a tube, which is more sustainable packaging than a pump-style bottle. We’ll talk more about why this is important in future blogs!

By switching to bar soap, you can dramatically and easily reduce waste output from your household, yet uphold an effective skincare regimen. This can also be a cost-effective move, since bars can be purchased in bulk and used by the entire household, as well replacing multiple products. And if you’re wondering what to do about shampoo and conditioner, I’ve got plans for a dedicated post on that shortly!

© 2021 28daysbeauty

Beauty Topic: Buying Beauty in bulk at Costco

I’ll admit that I don’t really like going to super-mega-crazy-big-warehouse stores. I think they are rather overwhelming, not quick or easy to shop, and too often I lose my patience dodging the people who aren’t paying attention in pushing their shopping carts. Nevertheless, I find Costco is worth a trip every 3 months or so, but I plan my visit strategically. Only get what we need, stick to the list, and try to avoid going on a Saturday. One of the departments that I always visit at Costco is the beauty area, as they have fantastic deals on products that my family and I use everyday. Here’s an example of a typical Costco haul of mine, and why I love it:

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Almost every product you see here is something that I’ve already blogged about in prior posts. But what is awesome about Costco is that each of these products you see comes in multi-packs – so you aren’t just getting one of something. Here’s what I buy:

  1. Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer SPF 15 Sensitive Skin: this is my favorite daytime moisturizer, and I can get a 2-pack of BIG bottles (6 oz) instead of the usual 4 oz bottles at my local Target. Per ounce, the Costco deal is better. Plus, my pale family members and I go through this stuff like crazy, so a 2-pack is perfect for about 3 months’ use.
  2. Simple Micellar Cleansing Water: I just about flipped out when I saw that Costco started carrying kits of my favorite Micellar Water. Inside this box, there’s 3 bottles, one being travel-sized. The larger bottle (13.5 oz) is bigger than what you can get in most big box stores, so you get lot for your money. This stuff is great year round for makeup removal and soothing cleansing of irritated skin. If you’re by the pool this summer, this is a great cleanser to gently remove chlorine and other irritants off of skin quickly. Micellar Water also breaks down SPF, so men and women can use them to help deep clean skin and remove stubborn SPF residue.
  3. Swisspers Cotton Rounds: Costco has big packs of these sleeves, with 100 count of cotton rounds in each. These really are some of the gentlest, cushiest cotton rounds on the market, and they go great with the Simple Micellar Water. For the money, a pack of these is a great value and easy to stockpile in your closet or basement.
  4. Kirkland Daily Facial Towelettes: Kirkland is Costco’s own private brand, and they’ve created a strong contender in the makeup removal game with these towelettes. They do have a little bit of fragrance in them, so if you do have sensitivities to fragrance, then I recommend being cautious about using. But if you don’t have extremely sensitive skin, then these are a great bargain for a box of these packs of towelettes. They also have 2 travel-packs in the box, which are great for gym bags too.
  5. Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap: Oh Dove…how loved you are. I can get a huge pack of these bars for a little bit more of what I would pay for a smaller pack at mass retailers. Having a big pack of these at home comes in handy, as schedules get busy and these bars can do double-duty as body wash, hand soaps and facial cleaners, plus are gentle and effective enough for the whole family.

Many women worried about skincare not being effective enough, or giving them results, if they don’t come with a hefty price tag. These basics are beauty workhorses, and having a good stash of these products that are reliable is a great way to not feel panicked when one starts running low – especially when you get them at a great value. Plus, they are safe for the whole family, which makes your dollar stretch farther. I didn’t even list the 9-packs of EOS lip balms (which are another great item to snag at Costco) or the twin-packs of Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. If you have a Costco near you, I recommend making a trip to see what favorites you may find. My cart typically consists of K-cups, beauty products, paper towels, laundry detergent, and a few bottles of rosé. Hey, bulk shopping may not be glamorous, but it’s convenient when it features brands that deliver and gives you more time in the long run to enjoy things you’d rather be doing!

© 2017 28daysbeauty

My best beauty of 2016: Top 10 Savvy Splurges & Cheap Thrills

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to recap for you the beauty products that I found myself constantly reaching for, as I think they are worth noting in the flood of beauty choices available. Many of them aren’t really “new” to the market, but they are the ones that I think a) deliver GREAT results and b) are worth the money. So, I divided my top 10 beauty products into 2 groups: 5 Cheap Thrills (which cost under $15) and 5 Savvy Splurges (which cost over $15). In the beauty industry, it’s surprising to me how many people think the higher the price tag, the better the product. There’s a certain perception people have, but in reality, it’s all about the performance. Check out my top picks – they all are great for ANY skin type, even hyper-sensitive skins.

Top 5 Cheap Thrills:

Who doesn’t love a great deal that is also a performance workhorse? I also love the fact that all the 5 products you see below can easily be found at Target, or online at Amazon.com. Stock up on these if you can, since you’ll find that these become a part of your daily routine year-round (clockwise from the top):cheap

  1. Simple Micellar Cleansing Water – This is the fantastic alternative to expensive micellar cleansing waters that burst onto the American beauty scene a year ago. The best part is that this is truly great for sensitive skins, cleans deep, and removes eye makeup easily. For a new, large 13.5 oz size, it’s a mere $8.99 at Target.com. Use as a pre-cleanse at night, with cotton pads, to remove all makeup and prep skin for your cleanser. Your cleanser will work even better, and your skin will be balanced.
  2. Dove Sensitive Skin Bar Soap – All hail this fantastic soap! It creates a luxurious, foamy lather, makes for a comforting head to toe clean, and doubles as a great shaving cream in the shower. For an 8-pack on Target.com, it’s only $9.39. The nice thing is that it’s great for kids too – if you need a soap that is safe for the whole family in the bathtub. Use with a bath puff for extra lather and suds.
  3. e.l.f. Mineral-Infused mascara – For only $3, it’s hard to pass up this awesome mascara. It’s buildable, doesn’t smear or flake, and can look natural or dramatic. The silicone brush lifts and separates, plus always creates a clean look without clumps. Mascara should be replaced at least every 3 months to avoid eye infections, so this price points makes it even easier to do.
  4. TRESemme TRESTwo Extra Hold Hairspray – I use this hairspray daily, as it’s great to maintain any style. It resists humidity, and holds all-day without feeling crunchy. Plus, you can get it in travel sizes, so I keep a bottle at my desk to help fix any hair emergencies fast, but it doesn’t irritate my scalp. The 14.6 oz size is $5.99 at Target.com, and it lasts!
  5. Up & Up Witch Hazel – If you struggle with finding toners that don’t burn and actually do something, then look to witch hazel as your daily skin fix. Witch hazel is a natural extract, and acts as antiseptic, soothing and balancing astringent for the skin. After cleansing, soak a cotton pad and wipe over skin – it helps clear away dead skin cells from dry skin (to allow your moisturizer to do its job properly), and clears/heals acne breakouts from oilier skin types. Men will like it post-shaving, to help soothe razor burn. At $2.49 for a 16 oz bottle, Target’s own private brand Up & Up version is a steal. It’s located in the first-aid section, since it’s always handy to keep for cleaning minor cuts and scrapes. Insider tip: witch hazel is a staple in many spa facial treatments and toner brands on the market.

Top 5 Savvy Splurges:

Some beauty splurges are totally worth it, since they deliver that extra-special level of performance and can be multi-tasking to get the most for your money. The ones that I’ve chosen below are the over $15 price point, which some people would scoff at for being too “low” of a splurge price point level. Yeahhhhh, sure. But how many times have you bought a higher price point beauty product with the promise of it being “totally worth it”, only to be disappointed and have buyer’s remorse? Probably more often than you care to admit. Also (this is important) – if you have a closet or drawer full of these miracle-in-a-bottle types of high price point beauty products, and you haven’t used them within the last year, then PLEASE toss them or return them. You don’t want to risk eye infections or breakouts due to expired products or bacteria buildup, just because you refuse to let your hard-earned dollars go to waste. Navigate beauty hype cautiously, and remember that $15 could also equal a fantastic bottle of wine! (clockwise from the top):

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6) Clinique Different Lipstick (my favorite shade is Sugared Grapefruit) – this collection of lipstick shades from Clinique has been a fan favorite for years. This formula feels lightweight, yet delivers great color payoff. The shades range from cream to satin finishes, are long-wearing, and moisturize lips. I wear Sugared Grapefruit almost daily year-round, as it’s a beautiful pinky-peach color that matches my natural lip color. At $17 a tube, I love that these are available at Ulta and Boston Store, since I can earn points and use my rewards.

7) Cargo Color Stick (my favorite shade is Key West) – Cargo has a knack for developing multi-use makeup, with high performance formulas. For the past year, I’ve found myself constantly reaching for this as a blush, and multi-tasking it as a lip color when traveling. They are $28 per stick, and come in a variety of shades, plus a bronzer shade of St. Tropez. The great part is that you get a LOT within the tube, so they last a long time. You can easily find the entire shade range online!

8) Julep Skip the Brush Creme-to-Powder Blush Stick (my favorite shade is Sheer Glow) – Oh, what a fun brand Julep is! This Korean-beauty inspired brand also features great multi-use products, including this Sheer Glow highlighting stick. I love to use it under my brow bone and on my eyelid, to give shimmer under shadow. As well as a highlighter on my cheekbones, forehead, and bridge of my nose. The stick is super easy to apply, and the creamy formula is very blendable – it looks glowy, not glittery! Each blush stick is $24, and you can either subscribe to the Julep Maven beauty boxes, or find them at Ulta.

9) Altchek MD Glycolic Renewal Pads – This NYC beauty brand is dermatologist developed to give high performance skin care, without a super high price tag. A jar of pads (36 per jar) is $20, and delivers a great micro-peel, anti-aging treatment that you can easily use at night, under your favorite moisturizer. My family and I have super sensitive skin, and what we love about these is that they don’t burn. At. All! I use them about 2 to 3 times per week, after cleansing, and I wake up to glowing, softer, clearer skin. Find these online from the brand’s website, or at Kohl’s.

10) First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream – Hands down, this is one of my favorite moisturizers of all time. It’s soothing for all skin types, and doesn’t leave a greasy shine. It absorbs quickly, hydrates fast, and helps repair the skin’s natural moisture barrier. You can use it anywhere on the face and body, and a little goes a really long way. Even people with oilier skin need to hydrate, especially if you are in a seasonal or dry climate. A large 6 oz jar is $30 at Ulta or Sephora, but it will last for a while. People with hyper sensitive skin, such as eczema, will also love this – it calms irritated skin, contains colloidal oatmeal, anti-oxidants, and ceramides without any parabens. I consider this one of my anti-aging secret weapons, to help build healthier skin.

I hope these product recommendations help you in tackling your beauty challenges, and sifting through performance versus price. I’m looking forward to trying some new brands and products next year, so feel free to let me know if there’s any out there you have questions about! Be well, and have fun, in the New Year!

© 2016 28daysbeauty