in praise of bar soap

I like the sense of artistry behind fine bar soaps and enjoy the tactile process of using all but the most poorly formulated exemplars. I’ve mentioned this before in the context of the soap dish, and perhaps it is not a coincidence that I prefer the kind of soap that requires its own accessories. Mentioned again in the discovery of Saipua’s excellent packaging and figured I’d share a few more favorites. There is no common ingredient here that determines my preference, I like all sorts; glycerin, vegetable, triple-milled, whatever smells and feels good.


I like picking them up and putting them down, sudsing them up, feeling them slip between my hands. The washing of hands with bar soap is one of those small rituals during the day that requires a slower pace and a certain attention, and something about it always brings me back to consciousness or awareness.

The chemistry of soap is also interesting, and a mastery of that chemistry is something I can appreciate.

L’Occitane Magnolia & Mûre Soap – L’Occitane’s soaps are solid across the board, I’ve found. Those from the Grasse collection are distinctly perfumed in a way that lingers nicely on the skin, and produce a satisfying lather. ‘Mûre’ means musk, which combines beautifully with heady florals like magnolia. I think this is my favorite scent from the collection but they are all pleasant. 

Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap  – a barely-there-yet-still-somehow-extremely-appealing scent with salt crystals, randomly available through Anthropologie. Their seaweed soap smells incredible, too.

L’Occitane Shea Butter Soap, Milk – smells the way you hope babies will smell (the more obliging babies do smell this way), that is: virtually of nothing, yet with a hint of something creamy and healthy about them. Shea butter is a nice ingredient to watch for.

La Lavande Jardin des Senteurs Soap, Milk – more French shea butter soap, can’t go wrong.

Bee & Flower Ginseng Soap – a nostalgic nod to this soap, which I used growing up and which smells unmistakably, quintessentially, of soap. Nothing artificial, which I like in a soap. A basic, no frills bar.

Pacifica Persian Rose Soap – I’ve been through a few bars of this, and keep extras in my bureau where they gently perfume my clothes. Pacifica is a great natural company, and these soaps have a strong and lasting scent. They feel so nice in the hands, and are more oily than creamy (they are translucent rather than opaque, for example). The Persian Rose has to be my favorite but I’ve also liked the Tuscan Blood Orange, the Tibetan Mountain something something, and the Brazilian Mango Grapefruit. Often turn to this line in the warmer months.

Yardley London English Lavender Soap – a classic, and one that, like the Ginseng soap, smells of soap. The other scents don’t tempt me but I go back to the Lavender again and again.

I’ve liked a number of indie soaps, too (try typing ‘handmade soap’ into Etsy and just see the legion of soap makers), and am always browsing the aisle in Wholefoods, looking for something new. I’ve also liked the vetiver and linden soaps from the Pre de Provence line, Japanese charcoal soap, goat’s milk soaps… Let me know if you have any suggestions.

details: by the soap dish


Hm. So…I have a bunch of vintage posable Care Bears.

I don’t really collect them in a purposeful way. Exactly. I don’t really collect anything. I just, sort of…have them. You know how you just have things? Some I’ve had since I was very small*, and some I got later because I like them, and figure if you ever want something that’s vintage, the sooner you get it, the better (ah, eBay, eBay, eBay. So many curious acquisitions can be traced back to eBay). These are such hardy little toys, the kind of thing I would want on hand if I had a baby.



They are from 1983, like me.

I came across them in storage recently and took them out in a fit of nostalgia. I frequently rearrange my environment, and am always wondering how I can edit it, make it more fitting to the moment. So, for now, vintage Care Bears. They keep me company while I brush my teeth and whatnot. Funshine bear is encouraging me to floss.

[This is the kind of bizarre stuff you can do if you don’t have to share a bathroom.]


And here is the soap of the moment†, the Nancy Boy Signature Body Bar. A nice, classically soapy and unobtrusive scent, all natural, and the bar is a generous size. It’s sitting on my cobbled together soap dish thing, which I really like. My personal environment is an extension of myself, re: style, and it gets the same attentions, bit by bit.

†I like bars of soap, as opposed to some substance that can be dispensed. They are more tactile, more sensual, and there is more art and history behind them.

* As it happens, I really like the wooden Nancy Boy soap dish as well. If you are into soap dishes…