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Soaps are fast replacing shower gels again. Why you ask? Because they’re saving the environment among other things.

Up until last year, soaps weren’t cutting it in the beauty closet. They’re not as slick as the gels that tend to come in a variety of colours, flavours and smells. They’re also clunky, need a soap case to keep them safe and are just plain, boring. But not this year. This year, the best soap bars are collectively amassing large fan followings, are being called ‘luxury buys’ and are giving high-performance skincare a run for it’s money. And let’s not even talk about the flavours, the exotic ingredients and the skincare issues they solve from pigmentation to dull skin – looks like we just found our beauty holy grail. The problem with traditional soaps is that they are harsh, work with a lot more chemicals and are drying on the skin. Plus, there’s something about that overpowering artificial fragrances that really make us roll our eyes.  

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Origins

Soaps aren’t new to beauty. The existence of first soap-like material has been proven in 4800-year-old archaeological digs of ancient Babylon. And what makes the perfect soap? Fat (Oils or animal fats ) and Lye (Sodium Hydroxide).  In 3500-year-old Ancient Egypt, soaps and aromatic oils were not only used for washing but also used as an important medical cure for many skin and muscle diseases. 

Why soaps win

Mohit Saxena, Co-founder of Raw Nature, a brand that specialises in a variety of soaps to solve a potload of skincare issues addresses the comeback of the humble soap. “I believe that there are four main reasons why soaps are back. Firstly, soaps are more about convenience and cleanliness. Using a loofa with the body wash or a shower gel can give you lather but cleaning the loofa thoroughly will be a challenge. And using a gel without he loofa is just not the same thing. Soap scores on that front.  Secondly using soaps reduces use of plastic packaging drastically and the conscious customer will also look at that. Thirdly, the soaps now have the same or similar level of moisturizing which was the bastion of the shower gels so with respect to efficacy and overall post-wash feels, they are as good. And all this at a lower price point than a shower gel is an added sweetener,” he explains. 

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What to look for in soaps

And not just that, soaps are already a big staple in big luxury skincare as well as boutique brands and beauty made in small batches too. And now, they tackle a lot more issues than just skin or body upkeep too. But first, how should you choose a soap? That’s where the green beauty tag lands squarely in our yard. If you’re not looking at the usual lather-creating suds then, it’s best to go eco-friendly, clean and green with your choices. Rule of thumb, look for soaps that are made from coconut or palm oils and not SLS. Apart from that, there’s also the need to be specific about the kind of ingredients you want on your body and skin – butters give you that extra moisturising, lavender or other essential oils give you a great mood-boosting morning so that counts too. Ingredients like fruits add a glow while clay and charcoal deep clean and help get rid of excess oils. But the essentials that really work: good oils, glycerin and alkalies (Sodium Hydroxide)- the ideal mix.

neemli soaps
Neemli Naturals has some great soaps to try

And one should also remember that the real job of a soap is to remove dirt, sweat, sebum, dead cells and oils from the skin. How does one know they picked the wrong soap? It clog pores, makes you more dry and scratchy after a wash, gives you   inflammatory acne or throw off the delicate pH balance your skin maintains. So it’s important to choose one that’s gentle on the skin and among all, coconut oil wins only because it’s hydrating, moisturising and a great choice for sensitive skin. The best bit about handmade soaps is their ecological impact. Cold processed handmade soaps don’t use heating and that means a massive win on the carbon footprint. Plus, they are free of all harsh chemicals including surfactants, emulsifiers, foaming agents and preservatives. What’s not to love? 

We picked out 12 best soaps in the market so you can get pampered.

Kama Ayurveda Natural Khus Soap, Rs 525

PureSense Almond Soap, Rs 295

Juicy Chemistry Organic Rose, Geranium & Saffron Soap, Rs 550

Neemli Activated Charcoal Detox Bathing Bar, Rs 425

The Body Shop British Rose Body Soap, Rs 495

L’Occitane en Provence Shea Lavender Extra Gentle Soap, Rs 760

Raw Nature Red Clay & Wild Argan Oil Soap, Rs 296

Forest Essentials Luxury Sugar Soap Madhurai Jasmine & Mogra, Rs 495

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar For Face And Body, Rs 1950

Caolion O2 Sparkling Blackhead Soap, Rs 600

Just Herbs Handmade Bathing in Coorgi Coffee, Rs 375

Global Beauty Secrets Japanese Adzuki Beans Soap, Rs 500

Latha Sunadh
Deputy Editor
When she's not trying on a new serum, researching on yet another classic fragrance and sharing lip balms with her 5-year old daughter, Latha Sunadh keeps it reined in with a nice song and a good book. Special skills include obsessing over handmade, home-made and handcrafted luxuries.