– Modern bar soap has undergone a wonderful transformation. In the past, traditional bar soap has long been associated with dry, flaking, itching skin, but that is no longer true. Far from being the enemy of skin, there are now bar soaps that can provide many skin care benefits – not just cleansing, but to moisturize, soothe and restore. read more about bar soap » | resource library for skin care »
In the bad old days of lye soap, when it was made from alkaline and rendering, bar soap could rightly be considered to be harmful to the health of skin. At its most basic, soap works by using surficants to dissolve oils and particles of dirt and allow them to be rinsed away. Unfortunately, much of the natural sebum (the skin’s natural oils) could be lost in the process. Since sebum is crucial to keeping skin tissues moisturized and maintaining the acid mantle of skin, that slightly acidic layer that helps repel bacterial infection, the loss of sebum to harsh soap could harm skin. These harsh effects can be, and have been, overcome by re-formulating soap. Today, bar soap can provide a gentle means of cleansing; in many brands, with additional beneficial ingredients.
The trend in modern bar soaps is towards formulas that perform the important cleansing effect, while helping to soothe and restore the skin. The ingredient lists of many bar soaps show that they include pure, mild compounds, often without dyes or perfumes. Even scented cleansers are frequently made with natural botanical oils and extracts that provide a wonderful aroma, but without any harsh chemicals. Instead of using animal products, many bar soaps are now vegetable-based, in a style called “castile” soaps (named after the city of Castile, Spain, where they became famous for their gentle nature). The use of goat’s milk as a base for soap has also become popular. To increase the moisturizing benefits of soap bars, many brands contain such botanical oils and extracts as cocoa butter, aloe, olive oil, shea butter and honey.
The use of minerals and botanical extracts with anti-bacterial effects provide another dimension of skin care with bar soap. Anti-bacterial soaps can be helpful in the control of acne as well as other skin conditions caused by bacterial infections. Added to the cleansing action, the pores can be cleansed of excess oils, dead skin cells and the deposits of airborne particles – a breeding ground for many microbes.
Scouring soap has long been in standard use, but the days when the only option was “work soap” filled with pumice, are long past. Instead, more gentle exfoliating soaps are available. The inclusion of salt particles, mineral beads or other gentle materials provides a means of safely removing the dead, dry skin cells to renew the skin. Gentle exfoliation with these types of bar soap can leave the skin looking fresh and glowing.
Bar soap has advanced from the days of the hard, yellow lye soaps. The choices available today include gentle, moisturizing, cleansing and even anti-bacterial formulas. The range and selection of bar soaps make the bath a skin-friendly zone.