The news that consumers are returning to solid soap in order to reduce plastic use delighted market analysts, who immediately spotted these trends.
"For the first time this century, solid soap is making a comeback in the market arena," Kantar Worldpanel Chief Strategy Officer Tim Nancolas said recently. Its rise is in the form of a more luxurious and sophisticated alternative to plastic-bottled shower gels.
One of the most effective ways to reduce your plastic consumption is to ditch the shower gel in favor of solid soap, according to Bea Johnson, a woman of French-Californian descent whose annual, family waste fits in a small jar.
The return to solid soap is the result of a consumer backlash against unnecessary plastic waste. Households are looking for an eco-friendly alternative to everyday items like shopping bags, reusable (and why not lifetime?) coffee cups, unwrapped food available for purchase by weight, and now solid soap instead of shower gel in plastic bottles, some of which even come with pumps.
Bottled shower gel became popular on the mass market in the late nineties when they were seen as a more hygienic alternative than solid soap. Back then, there was also a widespread perception (wrongly) that hard soap harboured germs and dirt. Since then, numerous scientific studies have proven these to be myths and legends i.e. scientists agree that there is no danger of contamination from daily washing with hard soap used by others. Research confirms that frequent washing with soap and water prevents the spread of infection and disease.
The term "liquid soap" is technically incorrect. Only solid soap made by saponifying vegetable oils can legitimately bear the name 'soap'. All others are 'preparations', regardless of their form and purpose. For example, Dove molds are made entirely from synthetic detergents without a gram of vegetable oil i.e. they are not "soaps".
Of course, anyone who has washed their hands or body with any of the moulds currently on the market will wonder what will happen to their face, armpits or inner thighs if they decide to use it in the shower too.
After washing with these soaps, our skin is drier, with a feeling of stretching, and in the colder months we may even notice signs of flaking, and even skin irritations. This is also one of the reasons for the outflow of solid soap sales. But it is the fault of the manufacturers and the big multinational brands who, just to cut costs and increase profits, have stripped this most effective cleanser and moisturiser of its original ingredients. We are talking about vegetable oils and glycerin.
At the same time, in the last ten years, more and more doctors and skin specialists seem to have declared war on soap. Whether you suffer from a chronic skin problem - such as psoriasis - or a temporary skin irritation, their first recommendation is to ditch the soap and replace it with one of the proliferating "delicates" that litter the shelves of drugstores and drugstores.
Let us also note the fact that whoever has taken the trouble to learn the truth about what he buys as personal care cosmetics and has trusted in hand-made soap finds almost immediately that the skin of the body is healthier and, miracle of miracles, persistent skin irritations either disappear or noticeably subside.
Where is the truth in this maze of brand assurances and promises?
And what doesn't work as it should in ordinary soap?
As always, the answers are many, ambiguous and not easy to find at first glance.
Let's start with the fact: there is "soap" and "soap". The industrialisation and standardisation of the soap industry has dramatically changed the composition of the final product we call 'soap' today.
In our world where quantity is more important than quality, ordinary 'soap' has become a preparation of artificially manipulated fatty acids and chemical additives that cleans so well that after washing we feel as if we have been through a programme in our washing machine and tumble dryer. Not to mention the effects on wastewater and the environment...
So what are the conclusions when we compare solid soap with liquid shower gels?
Let's go back to the comparison. Does it mean that our belated efforts to take care of the environment will ruin our skin? And putting aside our altruistic concerns, are we washing properly so as to preserve its natural capital?
Jennifer Rock, skincare expert and founder of online consultancy Skin Nerd believes we're not washing properly. "People spend a lot of time and a lot of money researching all sorts of face washes and creams, and then they jump in the shower and use whatever they can get their hands on."
The unfortunate result, is that we regularly neglect our body's skin. She notes that one of the most common images she receives via Instagram is of acne on her buttocks. "It's a very widespread problem."
Our first recommendation is to think about your body's skin with the same concern you think about your face's skin, such as regimen and product selection. Our second recommendation is to read labels carefully. Look for 100% natural soaps containing coconut, glycerin, olive oil. Run away from products with strong synthetic fragrances and artificial colors.
Other potential irritants are temperature extremes - don't bathe with excessively hot water and don't take a scalding bath. Don't bathe too often or for long periods of time, either.
One of the UK's leading dermatologists and author of the book 'The Skincare Bible', Dr Anjali Machto, recommends that shower duration should not exceed 20 minutes.
If your skin feels the need for body lotion after washing, it means you are not using a high quality soap.
Real natural soap - handmade - is so rich in natural glycerin that it eliminates the need for lotions and creams after washing with it.
So, invest in a quality soap and save yourself the lotions, liquid cleansers and a number of other products that amo fill your pores with no real effect on the health of your skin.