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: Post Earth Day-inspired beauty picks for sensitive skin

In honor of our recently celebrated Earth Day, I wanted to tackle a question that seems to come up every now and then: “if I use all-natural bath and beauty products, then I’ll be healthier, right”? Well, if you are a severe allergy sufferer, then that may not be the case. While there is a significant amount of solid research that shows skin and hair absolutely utilize naturally-based products better, I caution everyone to do their research on what’s INSIDE the product first rather than just buying into the marketing that makes you feel the “need” to get it. For example, if you suffer from allergic reactions to bee stings (like carrying around an Epi-pen just in case), then you should most likely avoid any bee-based products that feature royal jelly, beeswax and honey. It’s not that those products are bad in any way, but it’s more of a personal responsibility to ensure that you don’t end up in the emergency room for a reaction because you had to try the latest bee-sting beauty trend. Same for those with shellfish allergies – it’s best to avoid marine or ocean-based beauty and bath products, as iodine naturally found in algae (a common antioxidant ingredient) could trigger reactions. Similarly for products containing herbal extracts. I feel bad for my family members and friends who feel that the first few days of Spring come with a bit of anxiety – swollen eyes, itchy skin and constant sneezing is not a fun way to spend a bright sunny day outdoors when the pollen count is high. My advice is to research and balance your approach if you want to use more natural beauty products, but don’t want to add additional suffering from allergies and hyper-sensitive skin reactions.

There are plenty of great brands out that offer deeply researched and effective formulas, and have Earth-friendly business practices. But unfortunately many of the “natural” brands are charging a premium for commonly known natural ingredients, which can make it difficult to use regularly. Case in point, some of the very best natural ingredients for beauty (coconut oil, witch hazel, olive oil, Epsom salts) can come right from your pantry or grocery store, without crazy price tags attached to them.

Why are allergies such a concern in beauty products? Because your skin absorbs what is put on top of it. Plain and simple. And your allergies can be dramatically affected based on what products you choose to use, as your skin cells react with and utilize a product’s ingredients. You’ll notice that many products recommended by dermatologists or skincare clinics don’t tout “natural” claims. Estée Lauder, for instance, figured that out decades ago when she founded Clinique as a means to help women with allergies still achieve their beauty goals by being conscious of allergy-tested formulations.

But how do you figure out what to use, and start using more natural-based beauty in your daily regimen? Best thing is to write down what you know you are allergic to or have had reaction to. This will help you weed out the brands, simply by understanding their product claims. (Bees and marine ingredients, for example) The other advice I have is to look at the brands that have trusted formulas, and are sold at retailers that have dedicated categories for natural products. ULTA, Whole Foods, and Amazon all have categories you can search through to find brands and products you want to try. My last piece of advice is NOT to worry about getting natural-based products because they simply smell good. Synthetic fragrances are the first allergen I avoid in a product, and sadly are used in some “natural” brands to make the scent even more noticeable or potent. If you want a naturally-scented product, look for those that have essential oil blends as their fragrance – these oils will provide more benefit to you in addition to smelling great.

I’ll admit I don’t have a bee or a shellfish allergy, but I have a lot of pollen allergies. Plus, I have hyper-sensitive skin that easily reacts to extremely active essential oils, like peppermint. Below are a just a few of my favorite natural-based products (clockwise), based on my known allergies and product-selecting criteria:

1) Witch Hazel – This natural extract is a key ingredient in a ton of beauty products, and often makes up the main ingredient in toners. But the best thing is the real stuff, without any added oils or scents. Used daily after cleansing, this extract is known for soothing and combating everything from irritation, bug bites, acne, inflammation, sores, and blisters. Plus, it removes any remaining traces of cleanser, makeup, dirt and oil. For around $5 and under, it’s one of the best products to use for sensitive skin. 

2) Goddess Garden Organics Baby Sunscreen Stick – It’s very important to replace your sunscreen to ensure it hasn’t expired. And it’s even more important to not use synthetic sunscreens, as those often cause reactions or rashes. What I really like about this is that it’s waterproof, broad-spectrum SPF 30, and is scent-free. Plus, it uses micronized physical sunscreens of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, so it goes on sheer, not chalky white. Use on ears, noses, cheeks, forehead and chests – or also on the lips in a pinch.

3) Eco Lips Zinc Sunscreen SPF 15 Lip Balm – natural zinc is a much safer alternative to chemically-based sunscreens. You are much less likely to develop a reaction by using a physical sunscreen, such as zinc or titanium dioxide. This formula is awesome, since I like and can tolerate the natural mint flavoring, but also love the hydrating blend of cocoa butter and coconut oil. It’s great for men and women, since skin cancer is a concern for all ages and genders. I keep this in my bag year round, and especially in the summer months when my sailing season starts up.

4) Burt’s Bees lip gloss and lip stick – not only are these beauty-award winning (2016 Allure Best of Beauty for the lipstick) and feature a beautiful range of shades, but the formulas are amazing. My favorite shades are Blush Basin (lipstick) and Rosy Dawn (lipgloss), as they are great everyday pinky-peach neutrals. I love how the gloss glides on with a hint of shimmer but is not sticky, and the lipstick gives an opaque, satin finish while still hydrating. Both are 100% natural, feature a blend of beeswax and other oils, plus are long-wearing. If you are looking for high performance yet natural-based ingredient formulas, then make these your go-to.

5) Aveeno Ultra-calming nourishing night cream – for a drugstore brand, Aveeno delivers great formulas that utilize oats, which is a fantastic ingredient for hyper-sensitive skin. This night cream also contains feverfew, which calms redness. I really like this product when my skin feels overstressed and delicate. 

6) Shea Moisture African Black Soap Body Wash and Sacha Inchi Oil Omega 3, 6, 9 Rescue Body Lotion – these two products are my absolute favorite from this brand. Shea Moisture is an impressive company, by providing naturally-based formulas that are high-performing, and yet very reasonably priced. I’ve raved about their African Black Soap formula before, which is fantastic for men and women, especially coming into summer. African Black Soap uses charcoal to naturally deodorize, and oats to soothe and calm irritated skin. Have a sunburn? Then use this body wash to care for skin, while not using irritating detergents and fragrances found in most commercial body washes. The Omega 3,6,9 lotion is also fantastic for soothing raw or dry, cracked skin. The scent is subtle, and comes from natural blends of essential oils. Omega 3, 6, 9 are essential fatty acids that help with skin health, by repairing and protecting the moisture barrier naturally found in skin cells. What I liked about this brand is that they don’t heavily scent their products, and deliver value through powerfully effective products.

7) Burt’s Bees Rosewater Toner – with a formula that is 99.9% natural, this is one of the original products in the Burt’s Bees skincare lineup, and is a great option for very dry and sensitive skin types. Rosewater has been used for centuries in skincare and bath products, due to it’s mildly astringent and soothing properties. It’s great for skin that is stressed, showing early signs of aging, or in need of extra-special soothing care. Both men and women can benefit, especially men who suffer from razor-burn. Use daily after cleansing, and prior to moisturizing.

8) Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value fragrance-free hand soap – this is a great alternative to harsh and anti-bacterial hand soaps for use in your home. Contrary to popular belief, anti-bacterial ingredients aren’t the best for your daily use, and can often cause rash and irritation. Also, with the amount of hand-washing that you normally do, it’s best to choose something that truly deep cleans gently, rather than creates potential reactions. This product is free of parabens, lanolin, preservatives and other ingredients that be irritating.

These are just a few of my favorites, and the reasons why behind them due to their benefits and formulas. Biggest tip is to check the ingredients of any product, and also research the brand’s business practices if you are conscious about Earth-friendly practices. I’m in process of testing some other brands, so I’ll check back with my reviews of those soon. Cheers!

© 2017 28daysbeauty




Beauty Haul Review: IT Cosmetics 

I’ve known about IT Cosmetics for a while, and I decided to try some of their higher rated top picks. IT Cosmetics reminds me a lot of Clinique, and is even more highly-concentrated and high-performing. Developed by a former news anchor, who suffered from Rosacea, this line is developed with plastic surgeons and dermatologists to offer a full line of skincare and makeup. Sensitive skins can comfortably wear the products with sunscreen too, as all of the sunscreens are physical and not chemical. So, in short, I had to try them out for myself and report back after 30 days of daily use.

One thing to note right away is that this makeup is best for that “no-makeup makeup” look. This line doesn’t really offer the standout, bold shades like Urban Decay, Kat Von D or Smashbox – think bright blues, vibrant greens or shimmery purples. If you want a natural, everyday go-to makeup look, then give this a try. 

What I chose (pictured above) I was actually able to use as a full-face everyday. The Bye Bye Concealer is super concentrated, and I was able to get fantastic coverage to even out tone and shadows/dark spots. I decided to then layer the Bye Bye Pores powder over that, and forgo foundation. Neither of these products contain sunscreen, so just note you’ll need to cover off on that with your moisturizer. I used my Cargo Magic Brush to buff in the powder after applying concealer, and was immediately happy with an even tone and finish. My combination skin felt comfortable – the powder has an anti-aging collagen and vitamin formula, and I noticed it kept my skin feeling great without any irritation that I’ve had before from loose powders.

Next up, the Radiance Vitality Disc – this is the workhorse of the group. This combines contouring, strobing and blush all in one – and it makes your skin look amazing. It’s got the slightest hint of shimmer, which applies almost like a sheer sheen. The champagne highlighter makes for a beautiful eyeshadow, and the matte bronzer blends very easily. The blush is a very pretty peachy pink, and looks like a natural glow on skin. I was super impressed by how well the colors and powders lasted all day, and gave me a completely natural-but-polished look. 

Lastly, the Hello Lashes 5-in-1 mascara was the one product I was somewhat a bit less than excited about over the 30 days. I appreciate the technology of the formula – it contains a lash enhancing serum to increase volume and length. The brush has silicone bristles with a ball end, which is great for individually lifting and separating lashes for added definition. To me, it just didn’t perform above and beyond my e.l.f. Mineral Infused mascara – which gives high impact effects immediately. However, if you are concerned about thinning lashes, or a formula that contains a lash-building treatment, then you may like this formula. I am impressed that it didn’t flake or smudge, and came off easily with my makeup wipes.

Overall, I really like this line and especially recommend it for sensitive skin. I’m also loving how my skin feels after using the brand, so I’ll definitely be looking at their assortment for more products to try. 

© 28daysbeauty 2016

Beauty Topic: body washes for sensitive skin

The summer always gives us the chance to show more skin than we normally would, and it’s also the time where a host of skincare issues on our bodies can also occur. These issues could involve back or chest acne, sunburn, irritation from bug bites or allergies, and dryness from too much fun in the pool. A lot of people (women in particular) will spend a ton of money on their facial skincare, but neglect to also care for their bodies in the same way. Unfortunately, this will then result in fine lines, irritations, discoloration, and other imperfections on shoulders, arms, legs, and other often visible body areas.

For body soap and body washes, the other common culprit for skin issues is added synthetic fragrance, or too “active allergens” of ingredients. Body soap and body washes are often marketed to deodorize or scent the body, as the general consensus is that we want to smell good (well, obviously)! But these fragrances and “deodorizing” properties often create allergies or skin irritations that can morph into conditions like acne, dermatitis, or dryness. 

The solution? Focus on bath and body products that are meant for sensitive skin care – you will reap the benefits by having less irritation, and smoother, healthier skin. Here’s two of my favorite picks for body washes and soap:

1) Dove Sensitive Skin formula bar soap – yup, this soap that has been around seemingly forever is my go-to bar soap for any time of the year. It has one of the lowest toxicity ratings per the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Skin Deep database, and it’s always proven to me to soothe irritations yet deeply clean the skin. Another plus? This soap makes a fantastic shaving cream – it’s super frothy and creamy! The formula is very moisturizing, unscented, and is a great choice for any skin type. 

black soap, dove sensitive bar soap, body wash
my two fave body washes for sensitive skin!

2) African Black Soap – many of you may not have heard about this type of soap before. A quick history: it’s actually one of the oldest known soap formulas still in use today, and is considered somewhat medicinal. This type of soap (my two favorite brands are from Shea Moisture and Coastal Scents) is an awesome choice for sensitive body skin types that also suffer from back or chest acne, oiliness, or need a deodorizing quality. Black Soap is made from a process that is very natural, and includes charcoal – which absorbs impurities, excess oils, and odors from the skin. The formula also has a naturally soothing aroma and it’s perfect for men or women. My husband loves the liquid form of Black Soap, as it makes a great body wash. 

Soothed and properly moisturized skin will also be naturally able to age gracefully. You can also use your treatment serums on your body where needed to address concerns of discoloration, fine lines and acne. With the right body washes and treatments, your body skin will glow! 

© 2015 28daysbeauty