Beauty: The plastic-free products raising the bar
There was a time when switching to bar products meant sacrificing performance for the sake of the planet. But formulas have come a long way. Alice Ryan lathers up
Made with a loofah slice and high levels of glycerine, to exfoliate and boost moisture in one, this is the perfect soap for prepping your body for summer. Handmade by Cambridge Soap Studio, a new brand pledging to bring “good, clean fun” to the bathroom, it’s vegan, planet-conscious (the loofah and string are compostable, while the film packaging is made from FSC-approved wood pulp) and supports good causes, too (10% of profits go to WASH charities, which fund clean water and sanitation projects).
Easily the best facial cleansing bar I’ve tried, this is brilliant both for dissolving make-up and giving skin a glow. While the activated charcoal slurps toxins from your skin - with repeated use, it does a particularly nice job on gunky pores - the base is rich with shea butter and coconut, castor and olive oils, meaning it replenishes as it goes. Handmade in Cambridge, The Essential Soaps are all 100% natural and nasty-free.
CENTRED. Altered State Solid Shampoo, £20, wearecentred.com
One of my biggest beefs with the solid shampoos I’ve tried previously is the lack of lather: hair just doesn’t feel squeaky without it. Thanks to an ultra-foaming coconut-based formula, this bar is an absolute game-changer in that respect. Plus, enriched with aloe vera (to condition, smooth and shine), flower waters (to soothe) and caffeine (to stimulate), it leaves your locks looking and feeling fresh-from-the-salon lovely. It’s also 98.5% natural and certified vegan.
The Suffolk Soap Co. Coconut, Honey & Oatmeal Soap, £4.99, suffolksoap.co.uk
I have an on/off battle with eczema and am prone to patchy break-outs. Containing a calming and nourishing combination of coconut, honey and oatmeal, this bar is lovely for dry, tight, itchy skin, having a soothing effect on my problem patches both during and after showering. Hand-poured using 100% natural ingredients, generous proportions of glycerine and shea butter produce a gorgeously creamy lather and the formula is so gentle, it can be used on the face as well as body.
L’Occitane Intensive Repair Solid Shampoo, £10, L’Occitane, Rose Crescent, Cambridge, arc, Bury St Edmunds, and uk.loccitane.com
If your hair’s in need of TLC, this bar is hard to beat. Containing sunflower oil to protect and nourish and oat amino acids to repair - it works wonders on split ends - it noticeably boosts softness and shine. As with all L’Occitane products, it’s loaded with essential oils, including sweet orange, lavender and geranium, so it also smells gorgeous.
The Cambridge Soap Company Salt & Dew Spa Bar, £7.50, thecambridgesoapcompany.co.uk
Deploying the skincare superpowers of sea salt - to exfoliate, draw out impurities, form a protective barrier and stimulate circulation - this is, as its name suggests, a spa in a bar. Coconut, olive, castor and rosemary essential oils make it as luxe as it is effective, producing a lather so rich and moisturising it doubles brilliantly as a shaving bar. Handmade in small batches from solely natural ingredients, for every Cambridge Soap Company order placed a donation is made to TreeSisters to fund tree planting.
Care Soap Pink Clay & Rose Poppy Seed Facial Bar, £5.50, caresoapmimi.co.uk and Ely Markets
The big hitter here is pink clay which, high in silica and iron oxide, is believed to rejuvenate and boost elasticity. Formulated with more mature skin in mind, it also contains nourishing olive, coconut, rice, rose, jasmine and geranium oils, cocoa butter, goat’s milk and poppy seed. The combination is a winning one: it cleans and cossets the skin in equal measure. Using all-natural ingredients, no synthetics, the bars are handmade and slow-cured (for two to six weeks) at Care Soap’s Ely HQ.
Lyonsleaf Calendula Soap, £4, lyonsleaf.co.uk
Blending coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter to create a skin-calming and nourishing base, all Lyonsleaf bar soaps are handmade from 100% natural ingredients. This version contains home-grown calendula flowers, loved for their sweet scent and soothing properties. Building up a silky lather, it’s a great everyday body wash bar.
Woods of Windsor Lily of the Valley Soap, £4.99, woodsofwindsor.co.uk
Not all winning formulas are new: this Lily of the Valley hand and body bar has been best in class for generations (literally - Woods of Windsor has been making and selling soap since 1770). Made from 98% natural ingredients, including a generous proportion of enriching shea butter, this bar produces the softest, sweetest smelling suds which leave skin super-smooth and deliciously scented.
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More by this authorAlice Ryan