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This Simple Shower Tweak Could Change The World

Photo by Trinette Reed
September 27, 2017

Bar soap might just be one of the most underrated beauty products out there. While nonbelievers label it "ineffective," "messy," or "too slippery," it's about to make a serious comeback—and for good reason.

For starters, the environmental impact of bar soap is meager compared to that of its liquid counterpart, with one investigation finding that its carbon footprint is 25 percent lower on average. Liquid soap's plastic packaging is a large driver of its impact (Americans now cycle through roughly 270 million liquid soap bottles every year), but the contents that lie inside can also cause problems. Liquid soaps tend to weigh more and therefore take more energy to transport, plus it's easier to cycle through it quickly, leading us to go back to the store again and again for a new bottle. While there are certainly brands out there making clean, natural liquid soaps, there are also plenty that are not. Since bar soap is usually made by combining fats, oils, and water, it typically leaves less room for added chemicals than the liquid stuff—which can be packed with surfactants, parabens, and preservatives to maintain shelf life.

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While there's a common misconception that reusing bar soap keeps germs lingering around, this, too, has largely been proved a nonissue. Though we could still use some more research in this department, the one study1 out there found that people who used bar soap covered in bacteria did not have any left on their hands after washing. Not to mention, a little bacteria every now and again is actually a good thing, considering all that it can do to promote a healthy, diverse microbiome.

Raising the bar.

Photo: @osmiaorganics

Thankfully, in an age of eco-minded beauty consumers (nearly half of female skin care shoppers polled now consider themselves environmentalists), bar soap is getting a much-deserved upgrade. Our 2017 beauty trend forecast reports that eco-friendliness is becoming a priority for formulas and packaging, and many companies are starting to lead with bar options.

Colorado-based Osmia Organics is delivering black clay facial cleansing bars that double as skin saviors for people with acne and dermatitis, and their body soap varieties like lavender shea smell like a dream with natural ingredients like rosemary and clay. Founder Sarah Villafranco, M.D., gushed to a beauty-obsessed audience at a beauty event in NYC last week that she even picks the lavender from her backyard in the mountainside sometimes. Bonus: The resulting soaps lather up on a loofa, just like liquid soap might! Soapwalla is another brand putting forward a beautiful, natural bar. Theirs is made using green clay to exfoliate and stimulate blood flow and gentle essential oils that calm sensitive skin.

And our skin isn't the only thing that can benefit from bar products. Brooklyn-based Meow Meow Tweet's rosemary avocado shampoo bar brings the no-waste, high-yield bar properties to hair care, and Ethique's NZ-bred vegan bars do everything from condition frizzy hair to polish the feet to tan the body.

Pick your poison, throw it in a cute carrier case (another bonus is that bar soaps are way less of a hassle to travel with), and you're ready to go forth and save the world with your next shower. Well, save some plastic at least.

Dying to know the other beauty trends on the rise this year? Check out mbg's industry forecast here and prepare to be the most in-the-know person in your yoga class.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.