Named after the towering Mount Sapo in Rome, soap dates back to Babylonian times; around 2800 BC. Much has changed since then and though for a while solid soaps were replaced by liquid washes, the humble cleansing bar - with less packaging and fewer ingredients - is back. Solid facial soaps are kind to the planet, easy on the skin, deliciously scented and long-lasting too.
Whether you're prone to acne or redness, oily, sensitive, or dry skin, there's a brilliant selection of moisturising, glow-inducing and anti-aging facial soaps available in the UK, from both huge cosmetics brands like Clinique and Neutrogena, and small independent ranges specialising in organic ingredients and sustainable production like Friendly Soap. Let's hope you find one you'll love!
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It's not always easy to identify a facial soap bar that really fits your needs, so we've pulled together some straightforward tips on picking the right product for your skin. By reading our guide to the different types of solid soap cleansers on the market, we're sure you'll choose confidently.
The most important quality in a facial soap bar is its capacity to clean your skin. That means ridding your pores of build-up by drafting in surfactants, oils, salts, and even metal in certain forms! Here's our guide to the best cleansing ingredients to look out for.
In order to rinse away dirt and oil from your skin, any effective facial soap bar will contain a surfactant which, put simply, becomes an emulsion when mixed with water. One highly effective surfactant is sodium myristate, which is a sodium salt with the capacity to thoroughly rid skin of make-up, pollution, and dirt collected over the course of the day.
A second surfactant you may spy on the ingredients list of your facial soap bar is triethanolamine, which acts as a cleansing base ingredient in many face washes and helps to balance pH levels. It should be used with some care as sensitive skin types have been known to react badly to it.
Though treating oily skin with oil may seem counter-productive, cleansing skin with products that cut through oil can actually lead to a boost in sebum production in the long term. With that in mind, it's useful to note the value of oil-based solid cleansers for greasier skin.
Palm oil is not the most sustainable or very kind to the environment, but like coconut oil, the fatty acids it contains work effectively to clean skin whilst maintaining healthy moisture levels. Coconut oil - and its derivative sodium cocoate - also have the added benefit of having anti-fungal properties.
The healing and anti-bacterial capacities of colloidal silver are repeated by numerous cosmetics experts throughout the beauty and skincare industries. Silver is commonly used for medicinal purposes and soaps containing it stop the transfer of oxygen through the wall of your cells, which prevents bacteria from breeding and blocking your pores.
Similarly, Benzoin (a natural ingredient derived from the resin of the Benzoin tree) is often used to treat cuts and scrapes and so transfers well into facial soap, with its capacity to soothe irritated skin and prevent infection of inflamed pores.
Sulphur may not smell great, but it's lately become a buzz-product thanks to its drying properties, which allow the skin to absorb the excess oils that cause clogged pores and spots. Experts suggest that sulphur is also antibacterial, helping to banish zit-causing dirt and preventing its return with regular usage.
Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that can penetrate particularly deeply into the skin, dissolving the bonds between your cells and the bacteria that leads to blackheads and whiteheads. It's a top ingredient to seek out if you want to unclog pores to reveal smooth, glowing skin.
Along with cleansing ingredients, it's also vital to check the packaging of any facial soap you're looking at to be sure it contains some ingredients that will hydrate and soften your skin - even if it's oily or greasy. Check out our recommendations for softening ingredients here.
Look out for ingredients rich in fats such as shea butter, which is known to effectively boost skin's moisture levels keeping skin plumped and healthy-looking.
Oils such as vitamin E oil and coconut oil (and its derivative sodium cocoate) can act as cleansers, as we discovered earlier, but don't forget they're hydrators first and foremost. The nourishing fatty acids in both smooth and rejuvenate parched skin cells.
Hyaluronic acid is also exceptionally effective in improving the softness of skin since it can hold up to a thousand times its own weight in water. A facial soap containing this popular moisturising ingredient leaves skin perky and full-looking; great for ageing or dehydrated skin.
Many solid facial cleansers contain glycerin, and while it's not quite as unique and lauded as collagen, it's commonly used in soaps for good reason. Glycerin not only provides hydration for the stratum corneum (the top layer of your skin) but it also improves skin's own barrier function and speeds up its self-healing abilities.
Collagen is a well-known ingredient in skin-plumping surgical fillers and helps make cosmetic products hydrating, too. One of skin's natural components, our own collagen tends to decrease over time. It may not be as effective when massaged onto the skin's surface as when injected deeper down, but it will certainly help improve the overall appearance and hydration of your face.
A final moisturising ingredient worth keeping an eye out for is calendula. This rich oil is taken from the flower of the same name, and is often used as a natural skin hydrator, and to soothe itchy skin conditions and help cuts heal faster. As an added bonus it's anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, too.
Hopefully our explanations of the main ingredients to look out for in a soap bar have given you an indication of what will work for your skin type, but if you don't want to spend ages deciphering an ingredients list, do not worry.
Very helpfully, most facial soap bars clearly outline which type of skin type they are for, whether that's oily, dry or sensitive. If your skin is somewhere in the middle, look for a soap that covers all types.
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Salicylic Acid Scrub Soap
This Soap Smooths Rough Skin and Adds Moisture
Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar
Mattify and Nourish With This Luxurious Soap
Organic and Vegan Vitamin C and E Citrus Soap Set｜6 Pieces
Great Value Vegan Vitamins for Your Skin
The Transparent Facial Bar
A Deep Cleansing Bar to Banish Acne
Pure Vegetable Advanced Sulphur Soap
Harness the Power of Sulphur
Shea Butter Facial Cleansing Bar
A Friend to Skin and the Planet
Soapless Foaming Cleansing Bar
Soap-Free for Matte Radiance
Marine Algae Cleansing Bar
Feel the Goodness of an Algae Detox
Extra Strength Colloidal Silver Soap
Silver Service for Your Skin
Little Soap Company
Tea Tree & Charcoal Solid Bar
A Cruelty-Free Way of Purifying Your Skin
Another fabulous facial soap employing salicylic acid to great effect, this pretty pink soap with apricot kernels for added exfoliation really does deserve its place at the top spot on our list, since it smooths rough skin while returning tonnes of moisture as it works.
It's no surprise this delicately scented facial soap bar is a number one bestseller on Amazon, since many customers note a visible difference in the appearance of spots on their skin, with many sharing before and after photos. The only way to find out is to try it!
Aimed especially at acne-prone skin, this large creamy facial soap bar uses salicylic acid as its cleansing weapon of choice. The fatty acids from coconut work to give your skin a perky appearance, along with glycerin to moisten and plump sad, crusty skin cells.
As one part of Clinique's famous three-step formula, this soap works to gently exfoliate the skin using everyone's favourite BHA (salicylic acid) but also has an entirely neutral fragrance so won't be overwhelming to your senses, only kind to your skin.
This collection of six vegan soaps is aimed to give a citrus burst to your morning face-washing routine. They're pretty great value for the quantity as these large soaps, when kept fairly dry in the bathroom, should last for months.
Collagen-boosting vitamin C and super-hydrating vitamin E are essential here, giving your skin a daily boost of firmness and a noticeable glow. Triple-milled in France, these soaps will work just as well as a gift as they will at brightening your own dull, tired cheeks.
A perfect pick if you suffer from bad acne, this is another effective soap which has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers on eCommerce sites, likely down to the fact it employs both the classic moisturiser glycerin and the added fatty acids of coconut oil.
This soap is listed as non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog up your pores, but also contains no dyes so your skin is protected from overly drying ingredients. Ideal for oily skin prone to squeezers and lurkers, this transparent facial bar is recommended by skin experts.
Utilising the clever capacity of sulphur to fight fungus and bacteria while reducing excess sebum in the skin, this soap is highly rated by online consumers who come back to buy the same product again and again. The addition of vitamin E may help to reduce UV damage too.
Crafted to be gentle enough for use by sufferers of troublesome skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, this soap can be used twice daily to blast dirt out of pores and banish blemishes, leaving cheeks and t-zone revitalised and healthy-looking.
Affordable and sustainable are the first words that spring to mind here, though natural and cruelty-free aren't far behind. This soap has only three ingredients which is always a plus when it comes to skin products. Hydrating shea butter works beside olive and coconut oil for serious softness.
Suited to sensitive and delicate skin conditions such as eczema, this lovely-smelling soap comes in a recyclable box and is handmade in the UK and free from parabens, sulphates and other potential nasties. Choose from a variety of scents among this varied organic range.
Apply this soapless formula to your skin and massage in circular movements for purified pores and kissable skin. Along with the tropical resin Benzoin which is known for its healing qualities, this soap also contains deliciously rich-scented myrrh and soothing calendula.
The non-alkaline properties of this soap-free... well... soap, make it possible to clean up your skin without worrying about over-drying as you may do with other products on our list. Diminish pores and reduce sebum with this creamy, long-lasting facial soap bar.
Number eight on our list is a soap that's benefits are derived in part from algae. With the surfactant cleansing properties of sodium palmate you can be sure of a squeaky-clean finish, efficient make-up removal and visibly reduced pores.
Spot the range of natural flower and plant extracts that are used to give a fresh-faced, glowing look after each wash. This Thalgo product is produced by experts in France who have done extensive research into the benefits of sea minerals on the skin, but unfortunately you do have to pay a price for these expertise.
Silver is the key ingredient in this reasonably-priced soap. As well as claiming to reduce pore size and rev up the healing process with colloidal silver and natural oil, this soap also removes make-up, protects against sun damage and may prevent the early signs of ageing.
The bar is large so will make sure you're stocked up for a while. Some might like the fact it is unscented, but others might prefer their skin care product to have gentle, pleasant aroma.
This soap works up into a rich lather that will work wonders on your skin. The main cleansing ingredient is palm oil, known as sodium palmate, but the soap also contains another super-ingredient that's known for absorbing excess oil: activated charcoal.
While evidence of the effects of charcoal is largely anecdotal, there is still a huge wealth of positive feedback on the product, so it's certainly worth a shot, even if you're unconvinced, since it's blended with highly moisturising oil and glycerin.
A good face wash a foundational component in setting up a reliable skin care routine, but there are plenty of other products that will aid you in achieving that flawless glow. No matter what your skin type, we have a guide that will steer you towards the beauty products worth having.
Facial soap bars are a fantastic way to cleanse your skin while reducing packaging and saving money. The extensive range of scents and active ingredients available make it a tricky job to find the perfect soap, but we're sure our list has guided you some of the ways towards identifying an effective cleanser with any added bonuses your skin type requires.
Author: Annie Hopkins
No. 1: Revitale ｜Salicylic Acid Scrub Soap
No. 2: Clinique｜Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar
No. 3: O Naturals ｜Organic and Vegan Vitamin C and E Citrus Soap Set｜6 Pieces
No. 4: Neutrogena ｜The Transparent Facial Bar
No. 5: Revitale ｜Pure Vegetable Advanced Sulphur Soap
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