When I first started dating my boyfriend a few years ago, he was training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the martial-arts school Renzo Gracie. Ottavia Bourdain once likened the stench of Renzo’s flagship location in Manhattan to “sodden rash guards” and “balls,” and my boyfriend confirmed the Brooklyn gym he went to reeked about the same. I’d listen to stories about grown men who excused themselves from class to vomit from the intensity, and I couldn’t believe some of those sneaky germs didn’t make it back home. He’d assure me that his Defense bar soap would protect him. (A friend who also practices jiu-jitsu first recommended the bar soap to him after battling a “gnarly” staph infection.)
Defense soap was marketed to contact sport athletes (the box actually says “Offense Wins Matches. Defense Keeps You on the Mat”) and promised to remedy everything from jock itch to ringworm, which I figured meant it was made with chemicals I didn’t want to put on my body. For months a bar of it lived in my shower, but as a natural-soap loyalist, I never touched it. That is, until I kept noticing an unidentifiably pleasant hippie scent wafting from the bathroom after my boyfriend showered. That’s when I read the fine print on the box and discovered that the soap actually combined the two staples of Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps I bought all the time — tea tree oil and eucalyptus. Tea tree oil has been used in traditional medicine as antiseptic against bacteria and acne forever, and Equinox gyms pump minty eucalyptus for its deodorizing qualities.
When I finally gave Defense a shot, I couldn’t get enough of its mild pine fragrance and the invigorating tingle it sent through my skin. Yes, Dr. Bronner’s sells a eucalyptus soap and a tea tree soap, but it hasn’t created a product that blends both oils like Defense. (Who has time to use two different kinds?) When I tried a cheaper alternative, the Tea Tree Therapy Soap from Whole Foods, its earthy notes smelled a little too much like Nag Champa for my taste. Now, even though it’s been a while since my boyfriend “rolled” at Renzo, we still stock up on Defense. I can’t claim to have any experience (or interest) in jiu-jitsu — I’m just hooked on the scent of freshly cut trees.
More Strategist-approved bar soaps
Another soap with tea tree oil, this one also uses olive and coconut oil to moisturize.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.