The case for bar soap

It's time to stock up on this classic shower essential.

Bar soaps once had a bad reputation. They'd dry out the skin by stripping away healthy, nourishing oils and forcing users to apply a liberal amount of lotion just to counter the clean. Body washes were the marketed solution: They contain ingredients that soothe the skin while cleansing it, kind of like a shampoo-conditioner combination for the entire body.

But two big problems emerged with body washes. One is that they often have added fragrances. “We’ve noticed an increase in allergies to these [fragrance] ingredients,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali. The inverse effects are especially unfriendly on the face and sensitive skin.

Body wash also works best with a loofa, which presents its own concerns. Bhanusali says loofas also are a hotbed for germs and bacteria as they rest in your damp shower. “They can also strip some of the good oils your skin needs to protect itself,” he adds.

That's why soap-makers are returning to the idea of bar soaps—but new-and-improved versions. With natural, hydrating ingredients and the ability to physically or chemically exfoliate the skin, these bars are back for the last laugh. If you’re looking for a new candidate to replace your body wash, Bhunasali recommends soaps with cocoa butter, shea butter, chamomile, and glycerin. And remember—use a cleanser to wash your face, and a bar soap on your hands and body. If your soap has a fragrance, test it on a small patch of skin to see if you experience any allergic effects.

Here are six hydrating body bars that will save your hide:

fulton & roark everyday cleansing bar, $16

This bar is packed with Moroccan clay, shea and cocoa butters, and a blend of natural oils. Plus, it's been triple-milled, which means it'll last months on end.
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herbivore botanicals bamboo charcoal detoxifying bar soap, $12

Bamboo charcoal removes impurities from the skin while an all-natural oil blend tackles grime and hydrates skin.
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maak lab coffee bar, $9

Each all-natural bar is cured for a month, which is said to heighten the moisturizing effects of glycerin and essential oils.
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ayres sweet nostalgia bar soap, $10

Natural floral notes linger while shea butter and olive oil leave your skin moisturized.
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baxter of california exfoliating body bar, $17

Pumice, jojoba meal, and crushed olive seed help exfoliate while you cleanse and hydrate the skin.
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dove sensitive skin beauty bar, $3

“This is probably the most recommended soap brand by dermatologists,” Bhanusali says. “It’s simple yet effective. A great moisturizer, and I haven’t heard of anyone having any bad reactions.”
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