The soap bar has a long, intricate history. Thought to have originated way back in 2800 BC when Egyptians used it medically to treat skin diseases, it didn’t hit the big time until the 19th century with the invention of common soap bars. In these more recent times of fancy shower gel and body wash, however, the traditional soap bar has had something of a hard time. Widely considered old-fashioned, unrefined and inferior to its more modern liquid-based cousins, soap bars conjure images of pound shops, granny’s toiletry bag and grotty pub toilet hand basins for many people. For this reason, it’s become an unpopular option for most men looking for something nice-smelling to spruce up their pits.
But things are changing: the soap bar is back. In fact, thanks to an influx of bougie startups and luxury brands creating natural formulas with indulgent ingredients, the soap bar has managed to turn its fortunes around and is slowly working its way to being our favourite trusty shower companion once again.
So, if you’re thinking about making the switch back to the bar, or you’ve always used soap and want to mix things up but don’t know where to start, we’ve listed the best soap bars for men to help you in your quest to find the most suited soap product for you.
If you're looking to fully refresh your grooming routine, then you can also check out the best shampoo for men to level up your hair game, the best body wash for men if you prefer shower gels to soap bars, and the best moisturiser for men, for post-shower hydration.
Finally, no matter what products you use, you should finish off your grooming routine with the best fragrance for men.
How to choose the best soap for men
The world of soap is no longer just about Imperial Leather and Dove. There are hundreds of different soap bar brands on the market now, all with unique smells, ingredients and even with the ability to treat certain skin conditions. Here’s are some tips for finding the right soap for you:
Unlike your bog-standard shower gels, soap bars don’t require preservatives as they don’t contain water. So, if you choose a natural, certified-organic soap bar, you can be sure that it's made with nothing but ingredients that are good for your skin, and certainly no nasty chemicals.
There are, of course, cheaper soap bars around that don’t have the same nourishing formulations. Just be sure to check the ingredients list before you buy and steer clear of any long lists of ingredients or chemicals you don’t recognise. Also try to match the ingredients to your skin type, as we will explain next.
When buying a bar of soap, you should always purchase the soap keeping in mind your skin type. The ingredients in the bar will determine what skin condition it is best suited to. Here’s a quick guide.
Dry skin: try Soaps containing aloe vera, cocoa butter, avocado or vegetable oils.
Sensitive skin: opt for those containing Vitamin E and jojoba oil, especially if you suffer from ichthyosis, eczema and psoriasis.
Oily skin: look for an antibacterial soap containing lavender, chamomile and thyme, all of which are effective for oily skin.
Combination skin: Glycerin-based soaps are a good option here. This ingredient is produced naturally during the saponification process and will help nourish and soften the skin.
Soap size is measured in weight (usually grams). If you want your soap to last, then opt for a bar over 100g. A little goes a long way, so a bar of this size should keep you going for a good few months. You might find that these bars are pricier, but if it’s lasting you longer between purchases then it all works out in the end.
A bar of soap can cost anything from £1 all the way up to £50 per bar, this will depend on the size and the exclusivity of the ingredients it contains. You’re going to pay around £10 for a decent bar of soap, so there’s no need to splurge unless you really want to or particularly love the formulation of the soap in question.
The best men’s soap bars you can buy right now:
Inspired by decades-old glycerin soaps, Kiehl’s Heritage Glycerin Soap is a purifying cleansing bar that lathers up into a luxurious foam to help lift away dirt and impurities from the skin, prepping it for moisturising through a deep clean. It’s the main ingredient, glycerin, is also a well-known, effective humectant that helps skin retain moisture while softening skin.
Featuring eco-friendly, limited-edition Heritage Collection packaging, this soap bar is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
With an aroma that will make your eyes go white for a second, the Aesop Body Cleansing Slab soap bar is a testament to the brand’s long-standing reputation as a producer of great-smelling, quality products. It’s a non-drying and vegetable-based soap, comprising a range of heavenly-smelling oils such as Bergamot Rind, Ylang Ylang, and Tahitian Lime, all of which boast a stimulating mix of citrusy and floral aromas. This bar also lathers up nicely and will leave you feeling invigorated while it works to purify the skin. Best of all, though? Each bar is a whopping 310g (hence the slab reference) so will take a while before you need to buy another.
If there’s one thing you should be smearing all over your body, it’s Scottish seaweed. This stuff is packed full of naturally-occuring, detoxifying ingredients that does wonders for your skin. Enhanced with Hebridean natural spring water, lemongrass, geranium, lavender and juniper berries, this soap bar not only smells great but it leaves your skin feeling silky soft. A formulation that’s free from sodium lauryl sulphate and features a high glycerine content helps with that, too, providing a rich level of moisture. And as you probably guessed from the name, it can be used as a shampoo, too. Double-whammy.
So motivated by the circular economy that it named itself after it, UpCircle is a beauty brand on a mission to change the world by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty products. The brand’s body soap bar is only £4.99 a pop but boasts a pretty impressive ingredients line-up that works to gently exfoliate the skin to purify and energise. First off, there’s pink clay, which reduces redness and irritation, whilst organic cinnamon and ginger oils help to revive tired skin. Made in the UK, it’s also completely vegan.
If you’re looking for a soap that can be used on the face, is gentle enough for all skin types but also eco-friendly, get yourself down to L'Occitane. Made from 99% readily biodegradable ingredients, the brand’s Shea Ultra Gentle Soap is packed with natural organic extracts from the fancy southeastern French region of Provence. Ooh la la. Soft, creamy, delicate and palm oil-free, this soap bar gently cleanses the skin without drying it out. The only downside? We’re not massive fans of the granny-ish L'Occitane branding. Each to their own!