This 50p Soap Bar Is Going Viral on TikTok: So Are Beauty Bars Worth Adding To Your Routine?

Perdita Nouril, Chloe Burcham
·12-min read

Six months ago, if you’d asked me ‘what’s the most coveted beauty product on the market?’, I’d have confidently overlooked the humble bar of soap. Today, however, I’m thinking twice. Beauty bars – as they’re now being called – are washing up in various guises, from cleansing bars and exfoliating blocks to shiny slabs of shampoo.

If you're at all familiar with TikTok, you might've seen the #Dovesoapchallenge making its way around the app over the last few months. Users claim that by ditching their skincare routine, in place of using Dove's iconic Original Beauty Cream Bar, has cleared their blemishes or acne.

Sounds too good to be true, right? We thought so too. So we reached out to Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, Cosmetic Doctor and founder of Adonia Medical Clinic to get some professional skincare insight.

'Cleansing alone without then adding any hydration back into the skin can leave your skin feeling dry and exposed to UV damage,' Dr Ejikeme tells WH.

While the Dove cleansing challenge users might notice a difference in their skin, this could be down to stripping back their over-complicated routines as a whole.

'My advice would be to ditch the 12-step routine for a more streamlined routine,' says Dr Ejikeme, 'without scrimping on hydration.'

Sure, the #Dovesoapchallenge might not be all it's cracked up to be - but beauty bars are a no-brainer for sustainability seekers. For people looking to reduce their water footprint and plastic consumption, product packed into solid form might seem like a great option (most are free from plastic packaging.) But for others, it seems the transition from bottle to bar is a leap too far.

‘Consumers are on board with reusable bottles and abandoning plastic bags, but giving up the luxury of a sudsy pump-action shampoo in favour of an unknown soap bar requires more of a behaviour change,’ says co-founder of the British Beauty Council Millie Kendall, who believes making the switch requires you to break with assumptions about the soaps of old.

Then there’s the lingering myth (dispelled by multiple studies) that bars are unhygienic if used by more than one person. To find out whether beauty bars – with their solid eco credentials and smart formulations – deserve a spot in your bathroom cabinet, I (Perdita Nouril, WH's beauty editor) recruited the help of two beauty writers to test the latest launches.

Bars were chosen for their ability to suit individual hair textures and various skin types, tested for a month and rated on their aesthetic appeal (read: shrivel factor) and, of course, whether they deliver on their promise. Here’s how they fared: no holds... barred.

The Best Haircare Beauty Bars

1. Foamie Intensely Repairing Shampoo Bar for Damaged Hair, £6.99

The tester: Gabrielle Dyer

Hair type: Curly and coloured

The promise: Research shows that intricate haircare routines have a large carbon footprint. Foamie bars are plastic-free, contain no parabens, silicones, mineral oils or SLS (a foaming agent that cleanses but can irritate skin). Instead, the formulas are made with synthetic detergents (syndets) comprised of raw materials including coconut oil, hibiscus flower and nettle leaf extract – all of which have a similar pH level to your skin, so they won’t dry out your scalp.

The verdict: I’m particularly picky with my hair products and assumed a bar wouldn’t measure up to my go-to formula (Virtue Recovery Shampoo, £36) because it contains far fewer ingredients. But it surpassed my expectations. The hibiscus oil is packed with amino acids and it nourished my hair so much that, after just one use, my curls felt smoother and bouncier.

The hardest part of using a shampoo bar is handling it (slippery little buggers), but this one comes with an integrated cotton loop that you attach to your wrist. The bar rivalled mainstream shampoos that are twice the price and, a month in, I’ve still got half of it left. Sold.

2. Hairy Jayne Shampoo Bar, £9

The tester: Akesha Reid

Hair type: Afro curls

The promise: This range was created by a former hairdresser called Jayne (although she’s not actually hairy) after she grew tired of listening to her friends complain about how dry their hair was. It’s a complaint that troubles 60% of British women.

To help tackle parched strands, this bar is made with hydrating ingredients, such as mango butter and olive oil (staples found in afro hair care). It’s also SLS-free and available in floral, citrus or musk scents, so you don’t miss out on the sensorial experience (think: that Herbal Essences advert) of shampooing. The entire range is plastic-free, too.

The verdict: I normally use a co-wash [conditioner-only] to cleanse my hair, and then opt for a foaming shampoo every two washes to remove product build-up, dirt and grime. Because this bar is SLS-free, I didn’t think it would lather up enough for me to work it through my afro but, happily, this wasn’t an issue.

The bar was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and I didn’t have to work too hard to coat my curls. It didn’t foam, sadly, but the emulsifying olive wax binds water to oil to create a creamy consistency that gives an even spread across the hair. That said, I won’t be switching from my traditional shampoos. Frizz-fighting ingredient keratin can only be formulated with water, meaning bars aren’t able to contain it. After a few washes, my hair didn’t feel as smooth as it usually does.

3. Biovene Barcelona Moisture Volume Biotin & Apple Cider, £4

The tester: Perdita Nouril

Hair type: Fine and straight

The promise: Said to be the antidote for fine, limp-looking hair, this pastel green bar contains natural apple cider vinegar, which combats grease, apple extract, moisturising shea butter, biotin and beeswax, which help to beef up strands so that hair becomes fuller and healthier-looking. This formula is biodegradable, so won’t harm waterways, and the entire range is free from plastic, sulphates, parabens and palm oil.

The verdict: I usually have to wash my hair at least every other day or else the grease piles up and I look slicker than the Fonz. Yet, the apple cider vinegar really helped to slow the flow of oil on my scalp because of its astringent (read: oil-reducing) properties, and I found after a week of using it that I could go four days without looking like I’d just finished a workout – a major achievement.

Granted, my hair didn’t feel or look thicker but, because it was less weighed down by grease, it had more swish to it, so I actually enjoyed wearing it down. After a few uses, I figured out that it was better to rub the bar directly on to my head as it just didn’t lather up in my hands.

The Best skincare Beauty Bars

1. SBTRCT Gentle Foaming Cleanser, £22

The tester: Akesha Reid

Skin type: Oily

The promise: Sbtrct sets itself apart with its eco philosophy, only using natural ingredients if they’re abundant, don’t threaten the environment, wildlife or humankind, and work as well as their chemical counterparts. SLS-free, all its bars are handmade, and the packaging is 100% compostable, negating the need for single-use plastic, whether recyclable or not, making for an exemplary eco profile.

The verdict: I fell in love with this cleansing bar. I’m usually picky with cleansers as I have oily skin, and I was worried the essentials oils would make me break out. Not only is my skin spot-free, I didn’t need to bother double cleansing (something I always do to remove stubborn make-up).

It has a milky texture, but the addition of coconut-derived foam gives it a satisfying level of froth. And while I was expecting it to leave my skin feeling tight and dry – the myth that soaps are drying is a persistent one – my skin is anything but. In fact, while I usually suffer with bouts of dryness in the colder months, they haven’t appeared since I started using this. It’s my new cleansing hero. (Did I mention I liked it?)

2. Avène Cold Cream Ultra Rich Cleansing Bar, £5

The tester: Gabrielle Dyer

Skin type: Dry

The promise: Liquid soaps require five times more energy for their production and 20 times more energy for packaging production than bars. Eau Thermale Avène comes boxed in cardboard packaging, meaning there’s zero plastic. It’s also carefully formulated for dry skin types – enriched with white beeswax to boost hydration levels, so it doesn’t strip the skin. It can be used on both face and body, which means you don’t have to buy as many products.

The verdict: I’ve always swerved face soaps, convinced they’ll dry out my complexion even more, so, naturally, I was wary about trying this one. A pre-trial google tells me cold cream is an age-old formulation that combines emulsions of high concentrations of lipids and wax to cleanse without (because it’s SLS/ SLES-free) compromising the skin’s natural barrier.

It’s gentle enough to use daily, and I noticed a marked improvement in the softness of my skin after a week or so.

It’s also a big old bar, one that I reckon could carry me comfortably through the next five months – yep, that works out at £1 a month, folks.

A word of warning, though: it doesn’t deliver on the make-up removing front, so I had to use an oil cleanser first to dissolve my mascara and foundation. it would be better if it came with a protective box like some other brands to prevent it from getting wet.

3. Drunk Elephant Juju Bar, £24

The tester: Perdita Nouril

Skin type: Normal

The promise: This cleansing bar is powered by biocompatible actives – a mix of plant-derived extracts that the skin recognises, then knows what to do with. Thermal mud, bamboo powder and marula oil work together to cleanse and nourish without upsetting the skin’s microbiome – as a product containing SLS would – and all ingredients are sustainably sourced. While the packaging for the juju bar is recyclable, the rest of the range uses pumps that are not.

The verdict: After the first use, I could still see remnants of make-up on my towel, meaning I couldn’t forgo my (water-based, plastic clad) micellar cleanser, so I already feel like I’m failing on the eco front. The bar has grains, but they didn’t seem to do much in the way of exfoliation.

That said, it did create a creamy texture that was easy to massage into my skin and, once dry, my face felt unbelievably smooth and soft. I barely needed any moisturiser afterwards, which is really saying something on a midwinter Monday.

Yes, it’s pricey, but even after a few weeks of use, the bar seems the same size, so I reckon it’s going to last at least three months longer than my usual cleanser, making it great value for money.

4. The nightcream beauty bar

Balade en Provence Solid Night Cream, £12.50

The tester: Akesha Reid

The promise: Balade bars are made using a traditional French artisan process (each product is blended with natural oils and butter before being left to rest for 30 days on wooden shelves, allowing the oils to fuse together), credited with preserving the natural nutrients and properties of the ingredients so your skin can reap the benefits.

The verdict: ‘Using a solid moisturiser felt strange, because I’m so used to the formula being wet,’ says Akesha. ‘But once I got into the habit, it felt like a luxurious self-care ritual; and in the morning, my skin felt supple and plump, thanks to the combination of the ingredients and the stimulation of blood flow while massaging it in.’

The exfoliating beauty bar

Glossier Body Hero Exfoliating Bar, £12

The tester: Perdita Nouril

The promise: Instead of using a hard grain like sugar, Glossier has opted for finely milled, biodegradable bamboo powder, which is powerful enough to slough away dead skin cells, but not so powerful that you scrub yourself raw. The brand has also added a dose of sunflower seed oil and aloe leaf juice; ingredients lauded for their nourishing abilities, which help skin hold on to moisture for longer.

The verdict:Perdita was sceptical: ‘It just didn’t feel like it was exfoliating my skin in the same way my sugar scrub or loofah does. But once I was dry, there wasn’t a flake or dry patch in sight. My skin felt freshly buffed and smooth, and the scent of orange blossom lingered for hours. At this price, it’s a steal next to luxury scrubs.’

The toothpaste

Pärla Original 62 Tabs, £6.95

The tester: Gabrielle Dyer

The promise: Pärla tabs come in a reusable glass jar, and the refill subscription service sends top-ups to your door in a compostable bag every four months – a win, since traditional toothpaste tubes aren’t recyclable. The key ingredient is fluoride, 1,450ppm of it – enough to protect against cavities and decay (toothpastes containing 1,350 to 1,500ppm fluoride are the most effective, according to the NHS).

The verdict: ‘Once you get past the initial texture (it’s a little chalky when you first put it in your mouth), the experience is not so dissimilar from normal toothpaste,’ says Gabrielle. ‘Plus, it’s less messy, because there’s no foam.’

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