Hello, and welcome to the controversial debate about bar soaps for your face. I'm your host, Anna Jube. Let's dig in. First: Why are bar soaps so controversial? We know many of them are made with harsh detergents that can be overly drying to the skin. Some are irritating. Some may just not cleanse all that well. But in her Top Shelf, Dr. Amy Wechsler states that "Dove Sensitive Skin Soap or Purpose Cleansing Bar" are what she cleans her face with. Why? "I've used them in high school—a long time ago—and I just now went back to them. If something works for you, no need to change it," she tells us. So, while not every bar soap is created equal, you wouldn’t be crazy for still wanting to buy them.
For one thing, bar face soaps are generally inexpensive: C.O. Bigelow sells a variety of facial soaps all within the vicinity of $5, as does pretty much any drugstore. For another, they double as home decor (look at that baby Koh Gen Doh round!). And—some of the more retro ones aside—their formulas might not actually be any worse than whatever liquid, gel, or oil facial cleansing product you’re currently using: This Solros-Tval Sunflower Facial Soap, for one, is made for dry skin types with Primrose and Sunflower oils, both of which treat the skin without drying or clogging its pores. In other words, you'd be better off with a bar facial cleanser than St. Ives Apricot scrub any day.
Now please allow me to rattle off every extraneous reason I like bar facial cleansers. They're easy to travel with (don't have to be stuffed in a liquids bag and won't leak, either); keep well over time; can be used in lieu of a drawer fragrance sachet—I tuck this still-wrapped L'Occitane En Provence bar between the silks and the laces; won't run out for ages; make cute gifts; are easily mailed; are not pretentious (yet?); smell nice; look pretty; sometimes work to exfoliate and brighten or tackle acne; remind me of pink sea-shelled bathrooms; won't shatter when dropped. And they can be stacked three high and four wide; please see photos for details.
Photographed by Tom Newton.