In an era of frequent handwashing, it’s more important than ever to pick good, clean, natural soaps. Washing my hands 20 times a day with generic office soap has made my skin dry and chapped, so I’m always on the lookout for gentle, natural soaps to soothe my over-scrubbed skin.
What’s the difference between a good soap and a bad soap?
Let’s take a step back and first look at how soaps are made. Soaps are produced by combining oils or fats with a chemical called lye, causing a chemical reaction called saponification. The lye is broken down so that only soap molecules and glycerin remain. “Good” bar soaps are then poured into molds and allowed to set for a few weeks, while many conventional "bad" soaps will replace the glycerin with salt to speed up the hardening process and then add preservatives, foaming agents, and other unnecessary chemicals.
As we’ve learned, many personal care products and cleaning products use potentially harmful ingredients that can damage your skin, your health, and the environment. That’s why many people opt for eco-friendly brands, as they typically use healthier and safer ingredients.
While bar soaps are the most sustainable in general, as they use no plastic tubes or bottles, at Monteverde we get that sometimes people just prefer liquid soaps. Sometimes we do too, so no judgement. In that case, it’s best to buy in bulk and use refillable soap dispensers, which will save you money and cut back on packaging waste.
No matter your soap preferences, here are some of the best natural, clean soaps to keep your skin and the environment healthy and happy.
Dr Bronner's pure-castle soaps are known for being the “swiss-army knife” of soaps because they can be used for almost anything: hand soap, dish, soap, shampoo, you name it! The family business has been making low-impact soaps out of organic oils since 1858, so they know what they’re doing.
Tom's of Maine aims to provide natural alternatives to many chemical-filled products. All of their ingredients are sourced and derived from nature, and they give 10% of their profits to national nonprofits and community organizations dedicated the health and the environment.
Friendly Soap creates cruelty-free, vegan, and palm-oil free soaps in the UK, using the old-school cold manufacturing process to ensure there are no by-products.
Soapwalla is one of the first natural skincare brands, offering natural, vegan choices to clean and soothe your skin. All soaps are made by hand in small batches using safe and organic ingredients that are sustainably and ethically sourced.
Scents: activated charcoal & petitgrain
Osmia Organics makes great, gentle products with natural scents for those with sensitive skin conditions. They use an only-the-essentials approach to promote wellness for your skin, your senses, and the earth.
Herbivore uses all-natural ingredients with no fillers to create gently clay-based soaps that don’t dry out your skin. Their skin treatments are formulated with therapeutic ingredients like essential oils, minerals, and botanicals to soothe your skin.
Dr Bronner's in addition to the bar soaps listed above, also makes liquid soaps sold in plastic bottles made of 100% post-consume recycled plastic.
produces products guaranteed to be effective, free of harsh chemicals, and natural enough to break down safely in the environment. Their hypoallergenic soaps are made in the US with high quality ingredients that will not dry out your hands.
Beessential is a line of natural wellness products made in small batches by beekeepers, using honey, beeswax, and other natural ingredients that are good for us and the world. They create a lovely foaming soap that feels light and airy on the skin.
Method is a staple in many American homes, for good reason: it’s cruelty-free, uses renewable energy and eco-friendly packaging, and sells safe cleaners, detergents, and soaps to leave your home clean.
Mrs Meyers creates effective and lovely-smelling natural products that get the job done. They even have an ingredient glossary directly on their website so you can know exactly what has gone into each product.
Seventh Generation has been a leader in the green cleaning movement for decades, and produces everything from detergents to all-purpose cleaners to hand soaps.
All images via the brands mentioned.