If you’re in the market for a body wash, consider the humble bar soap. While typically associated with handwashing, this skin-care category has come a long way in recent years. Plenty of bar-soap options are now just as effective — and much more sustainable — than their body-wash counterparts. Picking the right one for you and your skin’s needs can be overwhelming, so I asked dermatologists and skin-care experts and scoured our archives for the best options in a range of preferences. Use the links below to jump right to the type of bar soap you’re looking for, or read on to learn more about the criteria we considered as we assembled this list.
What we’re looking for
Active ingredients: In our search for the best, we looked at everyday cleansing bars, exfoliating bars, acne-clearing bars, and more. Active ingredients will vary depending on the soap’s intended purpose, so we’ve made sure to note those ingredients here.
Scent: If you love a fragrant soap, we included a range of options with different scents. However, scented soaps tend to include ingredients that can irritate more sensitive skin, so we’ve included a range of unscented options in case your skin (or nose) is sensitive.
Price: Bar soaps are typically inexpensive, but depending on the ingredients and the brand’s manufacturing practices, they can run upwards of $10 to $15 for a bar. We’ve noted the size as well as the cost per ounce, so you can decide which product works best for your budget.
Best bar soap overall
Sodium lauroyl isethionate, lauric acid | Fresh scent | 2.6 oz. (approx. $0.05/oz.)
Dove Beauty Bar is the most affordable soap listed here but is still made with a mix of quality ingredients, which is why it’s our best-overall pick. Dermatologist Dr. Mary P. Lupo typically doesn’t recommend bar soaps because of the irritating and drying lathering agents found in most formulas. But Dove’s contains sodium lauroyl isethionate, a “particularly gentle lathering agent” that doesn’t penetrate or irritate the skin, and the soothing, antimicrobial ingredient lauric acid. Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King also likes that Dove is “free of harsh detergents, so it doesn’t strip the skin,” and it comes in lots of varieties (her personal favorite is the Gentle Exfoliating Bar because it’s both gentle and effective). Another longtime fan happens to be Kelly Ripa, who has been using it for over two decades. “Even if I’m staying in the most luxurious hotel that gives you all the fancy soaps and shampoos, I bring my own bar of Dove soap,” she says. “It just sets my mind right. It’s the best.”
Best moisturizing bar soap
Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides | Fragrance free | 4.5 oz. (approx. $1.40/oz.)
CeraVe, the maker of our favorite dry-skin products, has this cleansing bar soap that’s filled with moisturizing, restorative ingredients. It works for most skin types, but Dr. Debra Jaliman recommends it for dry, sensitive skin since it’s gentle and “extremely hydrating.” She specifically calls out the glycerin and the added ceramides. It’s also fragrance free, so you won’t have to worry about possible irritants.
Best bar soap for sensitive skin
Glycerin and petrolatum, aloe vera, chamomile | Fragrance free | 4 oz. (approx. $0.57/oz.)
While the aforementioned CeraVe bar soap likely won’t irritate normal skin, Basis has some added ingredients that may help with extra-sensitive skin. (In fact, it’s so gentle it was recommended as a mild bar soap for preventing and treating bacterial vaginosis.) Jaliman notes that it contains aloe vera, which is anti-inflammatory, and chamomile, which is soothing.
Best bar soap for acne
Benzoyl peroxide | Fragrance free | 4 oz. (approx. $1.40/oz.)
Panoxyl first came on our radar when Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton wrote that its face wash was so effective that it cleared up cystic acne. The brand also makes a bar soap, which King recommends for anyone struggling with body acne. She says its formula “helps kill bacteria that contribute to acne while also supporting the skin barrier.” One note: Because it does have a higher percentage of benzoyl peroxide to fight off acne, you probably won’t want to use it as an everyday cleanser. Instead, reach for it whenever you have a breakout.
Best exfoliating soap
Sodium palmate, magnesium oxide, glycerin, shea butter | Fragrance free | 4 oz. (approx. $3.50/oz.)
Alice Lin Glover, a co-founder of skin-care brand EADEM, uses Soft Services’ exfoliating soap bar a few times a week to “slough away any dead skin,” leaving her “supersmooth from the neck down.” The brand also sent me the Buffing Bar to test out earlier this year. As someone who has struggled with keratosis pilaris, I can firmly say it’s one of the best body exfoliators I’ve tried. After about three weeks of using the soap two to three times a week, I found the bumps on my legs significantly less noticeable.
Best gentle exfoliating soap
Sugar, glycerin, coconut oil, walnut shell | Coconut and vanilla | 3.92 oz. (approx. $2.90/oz.)
If you’re after an exfoliating soap that’s gentler on the skin, Tower 28 founder Amy Liu recommends Kitsch’s body scrub bar, her go-to during the summer when she tends to show more skin. “The sugar and walnuts act as a super-gentle natural exfoliant, while the coconut oil gives my skin that extra moisture I need,” Lui says. Plus, the body bar has a nice coconut-and-vanilla scent that “smells like a dream.”
Best vegan bar soap
Rice-bran oil, coconut oil, shea butter, other plant oils | Lemongrass | 4 oz. (approx. $3.50/oz.)
The two exfoliating bar soaps on our list are vegan, but if you’re looking for other vegan bar-soap options, we’ve included them here. To start, Ranavat founder Michelle Ranavat recommends Nopalera’s handmade soaps. “The soap has a fresh lemongrass scent and leaves my skin feeling super-nourished thanks to moisturizing ingredients like shea and cocoa butter,” she says, adding that its bright-green shade “gives my bathroom a little pop of color.” Also worth noting: The soap is palm-oil free, making it a more sustainable choice.
Best unscented vegan bar soap
Sea kelp, jojoba, glycolic acid | Fragrance free | 3.5 oz. (approx. $3.71/oz.)
Alder New York also makes a palm-oil-free vegan soap. However, its Cleansing Body Bar is unscented, making it a good option if you have sensitive skin (or a sensitive nose). The brand sent me one to try out for myself, and it left my skin feeling clean and hydrated. It contains one percent glycolic acid, so it lightly exfoliated my skin without irritating my eczema and was gentle enough for everyday use.
Best less expensive vegan bar soap
Coconut oil, palm oil, jojoba oil | Rose | 5 oz. (approx. $1.16/oz.)
The previous two vegan bar soaps are on the pricier side, so we found a cheaper alternative from our archives. When we spoke to nutritionist Daphne Javitch about the things she can’t live without, she told us her favorite soap is from Dr. Bronner’s. The brand’s sustainable practices and cool packaging make it the “Patagonia of soap,” she said, adding that rose is her go-to scent for a shower. “Everyone loves the Dr. Bronner’s liquid, and I love it too, but I really love the bar soap,” she said. “I somehow find it less drying. Also with bar soap, so little goes a long way.”
• Dr. Mary P. Lupo, dermatologist
• Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist
• Kelly Ripa, actress
• Dr. Debra Jaliman, dermatologist
• Alice Lin Glover, EADEM co-founder
• Amy Liu, Tower 28 Beauty founder
• Michelle Ranavat, Ranavat founder
• Daphne Javitch, nutritionist
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