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Bar Soap Is Totally Underrated

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Liquid soap can go eff itself.

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Rows of Fresh bar soap Photo: Fresh

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A few weeks ago, Buzzfeed published a list of all the things millennials are not buying. Bar soap is one of them. This is based on a CBS news report from last summer noting that bar soap sales are down, possibly because “millennials believe bar soaps are covered in germs after they are used.” Then it pointed out that the biggest consumers of bar soap “tend to be over 60 years old and men.”

As a long-time bar soap aficionado who is definitely not a male baby boomer, I was horrified by this. Bar soap is elegant! It smells good! It doesn’t come in a plastic bottle!

But I was also curious, because I’m not a millennial: Is bar soap really going to go the way of the Palm Pilot? I asked a bunch of my co-workers, millennials all, and now I have faith in the future of humanity, because a lot of them feel the same as I do. Here are all the very interesting ways we here at Racked buy and use bar soap — the most underrated beauty product, bar none (SEE WHAT I DID THERE).

A bar of wrapped soap from Fresh
Fresh Sugar Lemon, $13

I’ll start: I grew up in a household using unscented Dial and Ivory. I would go to my friends’ houses, where their families used the much more fragranced Zest or Irish Spring, and became smitten. My soap preferences have gotten progressively fancier over the years, but my all-time favorite, which I gift to everyone, is Fresh’s Sugar Lemon soao ($13). Also, don’t sleep on Whole Foods. It has a great selection of beautiful soaps cut into colorful chunks usually positioned right in front of the beauty department. —Cheryl Wischhover, senior beauty reporter


African Black Soap
Shea Moisture African Black Soap, $3.99

I use a Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar ($9.99 for three) for my face after having a dermatologist completely revamp my skincare routine; turns out that I was breaking out because my other cleanser was too harsh. I also use Shea Moisture African Black Soap ($3.99) bar once a week for a deeper cleanse. I'm also obsessed with the Soap With Sponge ($7.50) from Philly company The Soap Box. It has a sea sponge inside the bar, so you can grab it and wash with it in the shower. —Annemarie Dooling, director of programming


Bars of honey almond goat milk soap
Goat milk soap, but not THE goat milk soap.

Right now, under my bathroom sink, is a stockpile in case of emergency. It is not a first aid kit, nor is it a collection of pills; it is three bars of almond-honey-goat's milk soap, in case for some reason I can never find it again. It comes packaged in a brown paper bag and I do not know the brand. All I know is that I buy it at farmer's markets in the summer and in little towns in upstate New York in the fall, and it makes my skin feel so much better than any body wash could ever dream of. I've long been a fan of bar soap. It feels like it gets me cleaner without that squeaky-stripped feeling, and it smells (forgive me) more natural, even though that is not usually a factor in my beauty regimen or diet. Soap is a good gift for you, and for other people. It's honest. It's firm. Also, whenever I'm told that I hate something because I am a millennial, I just double down in my fervor for that thing. (See: stocks, rules, groceries.) —Alanna Okun, senior editor


A bar of Michel Design soap
Michel Design Beach Baby A Little Soap, $4.99

I put [bar soap] in my sheets and underwear drawer because they smell so good — does that count? (I use body wash in the shower and liquid hand soap at my sinks. I hate how grimy bar soap gets.) Right now I'm obsessed with Michel Design Beach Baby A Little Soap ($4.99). My mom put it in my stocking for Christmas and it smells amazing. There's also a Bulgari one ($55 for six) at the Four Seasons Hotel (my dad used to work there) that I'd hoard. —Britt Aboutaleb, editor-in-chief


Dove soap
Dove Bar Soap, $9.39 for eight

I grew up in a Dove bar soap ($9.39 for eight ) household — it's probably the product I've used the longest and most consistently. I love how clean it smells and feels! It's also easy in a way the rest of my beauty regimen is not. Conversely, body wash is trash. It doesn't suds appropriately, can leave a film, and is weirdly annoying to handle in the shower. Noooo thanks. The only issue I have with bar soap is that it doesn't travel well. Sometimes I buy one of those small travel bars and throw it away at the end of my trip, but that feels wasteful for short weekends away. All these years later, I'm still trying to figure out the least annoying solution to this. —Julia Rubin, executive editor


A bar of olo coconut oil and shea butter soap
Olo Dark Wave Soap, $12

Oh hell yes I use bar soap. I have other soaps in my shower, too, mostly because I’m a sucker for pretty packaging, but the bars are what I prefer. Right now I’ve got Herbivore Pink Clay Soap ($12) for my face and Olo Dark Wave Soap ($12) for my body. I’m known to have something like Dove or Dr. Bronner’s (in rose, lavender, almond, or baby unscented) on hand, too. I also love giving bar soap as gifts, but I usually go for something extra fancy and colorful, like Wary Meyers glycerin soap ($14) or those beautiful gem-shaped soap rocks ($13). Cory Baldwin, shopping editor


A bar of Irish Spring soap
Irish Spring, $6.15 for three

There's got to be a reason humans have been using bar soap for, like, ever — because it really works. Body wash (or its cheaper-sounding fraternal twin, shower gel) may smell nice and come in pretty colorful bottles, but it's more style than substance. Show me a body wash that can truly tackle dirt and grime, or an even tougher challenge, deodorant. Bar soap literally just works better. I use Irish Spring ($6.15 for three) mostly because my dad buys it in bulk, and every time I'm home in the 'burbs, I sneak into their bathroom, reach under the sink, and grab a few. They last me for months. —Ellie Krupnick, managing editor


A bar of Kiehl’s face soap
Kiehl's Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap, $15

I love Kiehl's Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap ($15)! I know it's technically men's, but you can't go wrong with Kiehl's, and the price is pretty good, too. It's a good exfoliator, smells great, and gets very foamy. I prefer bar soap in general because I think those loofah things probably breed germs? I have one, but always prefer bar. —Chavie Lieber, senior reporter


Timo Weiland Soap
Timo Weiland-Marianella Moroccan Fig and Bergamot, $16

I do not have a favorite, but I was recently given a fancy bar soap — Timo Weiland Marianella Moroccan Fig and Bergamot ($16) — and discovered that it's actually a pretty great thing as long as you can guarantee that nobody else is using it! —Eliza Brooke, senior reporter