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9 best face soap bars to cleanse and soothe every skin type

Ditch the bottled products and embrace a simpler, more eco-friendly way to clear, hydrate and calm your skin

Louise Whitbread
Wednesday 07 April 2021 10:52 BST
We tested for scent, texture, ability to cleanse skin and remove makeup, value for money and size
We tested for scent, texture, ability to cleanse skin and remove makeup, value for money and size (The Independent/iStock)

In recent years, the humble soap bar has re-emerged into the beauty sphere, as we ditch the overly complicated skincare routines and opt for a more minimalist approach.

While you may typically associate soap with washing your hands rather than your face, there’s now a new generation of facial soap bars that are packed with skin soothing and smoothing ingredients, such as exfoliating acids and hydrating humectants.

These bars represent a helpful way of tackling plastic waste in our daily regimens, as there’s no tube, pump or bottle top to discard, but simply a bar that often comes in recyclable cardboard packaging. Bars with a vibrant print are also a fun, inexpensive way to add colour to your bathroom shelf.

To help you find one that suits your skin type, whether that’s oily, dry, sensitive or combination, we’ve put a series of soaps to the test to find the top products, spanning everything from budget buys to high-end options.

From scented to fragrance-free, combating breakouts to calming easily irritated complexions, you’re sure to find one for you in our in-depth guide.

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We’ve rated each facial soap bar on scent, texture, ability to cleanse skin and remove make-up, value for money, size and any changes we noticed in our skin with regular use.

And remember, before you pick a new bar, ensure you have a soap dish ready, as once it’s out of its packaging and wet, you’ll want to keep it clean and hygienic in between uses.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism acrossThe Independent.

Superdrug face cleansing scrub bar

Superdrug face cleansing scrub bar indybest.jpg

Best budget buy

We loved this product, and for less than £3 it’s an absolute steal. While it calls itself a scrub, it’s very gentle and won’t do a great deal to slough off dead skin cells, so you’re safe to use any exfoliating acids later on in your routine. It didn’t irritate any areas of sensitivity either, but left skin feeling fresh and looking clear. Upon contact with water it transforms into a gentle, lightweight lather that once washed off, doesn’t strip the skin, nor leave it feeling squeaky or tight.

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La Roche-Posay lipikar moisturising cleansing bar

La Roche-Posay lipikar moisturising cleansing bar, 150g indybest.jpg

Best for dry skin

This is the biggest bar we tried, and is part of La Roche-Posay’s lipikar line, designed for irritated and very dry skin. It’s soap free and soothing to skin, which is ideal if you struggle with patches of dryness or even eczema. It lathers into a creamy texture that has few bubbles, and feels more like a cleansing milk when massaged into damp skin.

Once patted dry with a soft towel, our skin felt calm and softer than it did before use. We think this is a fantastic fuss-free cleansing bar that’s affordable and effective, especially if your skin struggles with any sort of fragrance or is easily irritated.

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Typology purifying cleanser bar with nettle

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Best for acne-prone skin

French beauty line Typology only launched in the UK in 2020, so is a relative newcomer to the skincare sphere; all of its products are handmade in France using naturally-derived ingredients. This green-grey rectangular bar is a blend of eucalyptus, spearmint and nettle powder which work together to regulate oil and sebum production to reduce breakouts. Its promise to reduce oiliness and the appearance of pores is accurate, but not drastic, as our reviewer saw small but significant changes – our shiny T-zone lessened, while breakouts were less inflamed and didn’t reappear.

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Gallinée prebiotic cleansing bar

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Best for combination skin

We saw the quickest change in our skin when using this soap-free square bar from Gallinée. Containing a mix of lactic acid and prebiotics, it’s safe to use on your face and body, and is instantly softening but not drying in the slightest. It causes no irritation, is very gentle, and is a generous size for the price, still looking brand new after two weeks of daily use. It also evened out our skin tone gradually, with dry patches on our cheeks clearing up and bouts of hormonal acne on our chin reducing too.

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Eau Thermale Avène ultra-rich cleansing bar with cold cream

Eau Thermale Avène ultra-rich cleansing bar with cold cream  indybest.jpg

Best for sensitive skin

This bar is basic in the best way, and if you’re prone to bouts of redness, breakouts, eczema or any type of irritation, this is ideal. Avène is a French pharmacy skincare brand known for its products that cater specifically to sensitive skin types, so you’re in good hands.

Suitable for both the face and body, it has that traditional chemical soap scent, but that caused no bother, and we saw a gradual reduction in redness with continuous use. We also used it frequently on our eczema-prone hands and found that it worked just as well. It should be noted however, that if you do use it for both face and body, it is on the smaller side, so you may need a new one in a matter of months.

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Drunk Elephant pekee bar

Drunk Elephant pekee bar  indybest.jpg

Best for combination skin

One of the smaller soaps we tried, this bar is shaped in a thick square, which is great for smaller bathrooms. Fragrance free and quick to work, once lathered and massaged into damp skin it left our complexion feeling supple, but not stripped or tight. Enriched with a blend of marula oil blueberry extract and honey, it feels gentle and non-irritating on skin.

While it’s not quite enough to remove make-up thoroughly, it works well when used for a morning cleanse and a second cleanse after you take off your foundation, mascara and lipstick with a micellar water, balm or oil before. Despite its size, it’s quite dense, so we suspect this will last a long time before you need a replacement.

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Ethique superstar! cleansing bar and makeup remover

Ethique superstar! cleansing bar and make up remover, 70g indybest.jpg

Best eco-friendly buy

This is the only facial soap bar that makes removing make-up one of its focus points, as often soaps have too gentle a lather to really break down heavier products such as foundation and concealer. While the product needed a little more massaging into the skin to break down a full face of make-up than conventional cleansers, it removed it well with the help of a lukewarm flannel.

The box comes with three oval-shaped bars, which make it a nice, compact choice that’s slightly easier to store when not being used. It’s a mix of cocoa and kokum butters, coconut oil and castor oil that doesn’t leave any greasy residue,  and the orange essential oil adds a subtle but refreshing scent. The New Zealand-based brand also boasts impressive eco-friendly credentials, being plastic-free, palm-oil free and vegan.

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Herbivore blue clay cleansing bar soap

Herbivore blue clay cleansing bar soap indybest.jpg

Best for transitional skincare

This vegan bar is ideal for the changing seasons, when winter has left skin feeling dry and depleted of moisture. It contains blue clay, lavender and litsea oils, which have a natural but not irritating or overpowering fragrance, and works well to cleanse skin quickly and effectively.

Upon contact with water, it lathers up nicely into a creamy texture that feels luxurious, and it’s a nice, compact size that will fit on smaller sinks and soap dishes. If you tend to have a drier skin type, use plenty of moisturiser or hydrating serum after this bar to keep skin feeling as comfortable as possible.

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Carbon Theory charcoal and tea tree oil facial cleansing bar

Carbon Theory charcoal and tea tree oil facial cleansing bar indybest.jpg

Best for oily skin

Don’t be put off by the fact this bar looks essentially like a chic carbon block, rather than an effective cleanser for oily skin prone to breakouts. It’s packed with tea-tree oil, a natural antiseptic, and charcoal, which helps lift bacteria clogging pores. The added shea butter balances the formula to leave you with skin softer too, so this is also another a great option for combination skin types. Over the course of a few weeks we saw a noticeable reduction in the hormonal breakouts that often decorate our reviewer’s chin, a less shiny T-zone and smoother texture. A triple threat if there ever was one.

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The verdict: Facial soap bars

For value we can’t fault the Superdrug Superdrug face cleansing scrub bar, which was gentle, non-irritating and a great first foray into introducing soap into your routine. It’s also well worth trying the La Roche-Posay lipikar moisturising cleansing bar if dryness is your main concern, and it’s so large it’ll give you months and months of use at a fraction of the cost of most other cleansers. 

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