A Beginner's Guide to Finding the Best Natural Soap for Your Skin
If you’re just getting into clean beauty, welcome. Whatever the reason (i.e., a lifestyle change, a pregnancy), the good news is that you have plenty of great products to choose from. In fact, we are spoiled for choices these days. The issue is knowing where to even begin, since time and money are limited resources for many of us.
One easy way to start your clean beauty journey? Start small by swapping out just one product that you use the most—like your soap. From there, you can slowly add more products into your new routine as you finish up your existing products.
What is the difference between a natural or organic soap and a non-organic soap?
First, let’s set the record straight. When a product claims that it’s “natural,” it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s also “organic”—and vice-versa. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of mislabeling in the space and the term “natural” isn’t regulated at all, so your best bet is to look at the ingredient list to get a clearer sense of what’s actually in your product.
Note here that ingredients are always listed from the highest percentage of concentration to the lowest, so look for a product where synthetic ingredients are at the bottom of the list (if they’re in there at all).
And if you’re not sure about whether an ingredient is synthetic or natural, look it up. Online databases like Inci Decoder are a free resource for looking up ingredients.
When a product is labeled as “organic,” it means at least some of the ingredients are organically farmed. Here’s where things get confusing: A product can say that it “contains organic ingredients” or is “made with organic ingredients,” as long as they contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. If the product features a USDA, NSF or QAI seal, it means the product contains at least 95 percent certified organic ingredients, which can be a quick shortcut to look for if that’s your primary criteria for choosing a product.
What are the potential benefits of using a natural soap?
Chances are that if you’re making the choice to use natural or organic products, it’s at least partly because you’re concerned about the ingredients that you’re putting on your body.
Natural products typically rely on plant-based ingredients over synthetic ones, which may bring a peace of mind for some. (Natural or not, we still recommend doing a small patch test along the underside of your arm to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions to an ingredient.)
Another potential benefit for using natural products is that oftentimes, these products consider other environmental factors like whether or not the ingredients are ethically sourced or cruelty-free. And, as you’ll see with some of the soaps below, sustainable packaging is frequently used.
And if you’ve made it to this point and are thinking, “geez, I just wanted some natural soap recommendations,” we’ve selected 10 bars across different skin types and budgets for you below.
1. Ursa Major Morning Mojo Bar Soap
Calling all morning shower people: This energizing bar will give you an awakening boost to jumpstart your day. Featuring rosemary and eucalyptus leaf oils, the crisp scent will fill your nostrils (and your shower) as soon as you begin to lather up. The soap also has volcanic rock to gently exfoliate dead skin cells.
2. Herbivore Botanicals Emerald Cleansing Soap Bar
Best for Winding Down
For our night showerers, we’d suggest this soothing soap that’s loaded with nourishing hemp seed oil and 50 milligrams of certified organic full-spectrum CBD to gently cleanse from head-to-toe, while soothing your senses and skin. We enjoy the earthy green color of the bar as well.
3. Kaia Naturals The Underarm Bar
Best for Odor
Despite its name, you can use this mint-scented soap on other body parts that might need extra deodorizing—like your feet. Packed with activated charcoal and apple cider vinegar, the bar is made to manage any body odor caused by bacteria on the skin. To get the best results, wet the bar to create a creamy paste, apply it to your skin in a circular motion, and let it sit for 30 seconds before rinsing clean.
4. UpCircle Fennel + Cardamom Chai Soap
Best for Blemishes
Got a pesky case of bacne? This exfoliating bar uses green clay to clear excess oils, as well as shea butter to moisturize, so your skin is left feeling clean, but balanced. (Remember: Even oily or acne-prone skin needs moisture.) The bar produces a creamy lather and releases a uniquely warm scent that’s very aromatic and grounding. Also of note: All UpCircle products are sustainably made with ingredients and packaging that has been reused and repurposed.
5. SkinOwl Matcha Bar
Best for Dry Skin
If you’re about that zero-waste life, this all-in-one bar is a solid choice. Made with the namesake matcha green tea (which is packed with antioxidants), plus cocoa and shea butters, and olive and castor oils to hydrate dry skin and hair, you can use it on your scalp all the way down to your toes. The mildly minty scent is pleasant and not overbearing.
6. Herbivore Botanicals Pink Clay Soap
We love using this gentle soap after a sweaty workout in the summer just as much as we enjoy using it after a day spent sitting next to a heater in the winter. The pretty pink bar is formulated with French Pink Clay to cleanse your skin of any impurities without drying it out; the added coconut and olive oil also helps to hydrate. The subtle rose scent is calming, not cloying.
7. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Bar Soap
If you’re looking for one bar for the entire fam, try this unscented pure-castile bar from Dr. Bronner’s. Safe for most skin types and made with vegan, certified fair trade, and organic oils like coconut, olive, hemp, and jojoba, the nourishing soap is as effective at cleansing as it is at moisturizing. The only note of caution we’d give is for those with extremely acne-prone skin since coconut and olive oils can clog pores. Otherwise, we have no bones to pick with this bar. It lathers well, rinses clean, and leaves our skin feeling soft, not tight. (Bonus: Every bar is packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.)
8. Public Goods Bar Soap
At three bucks a bar, you can’t go wrong with this all-purpose soap. Free of parabens, synthetic fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfates, phthalates and formaldehydes and full of orange, geranium, mandarin, grapefruit, and vetiver essential oils (to name a few), it has a naturally mild scent that’s slightly citrusy and slightly herbal. We’ve found it to be especially helpful lately, as it doesn’t dry out our skin despite how often we wash our hands these days.
9. Nubian Heritage African Black Bar Soap
Best for Combination Skin
This bar has a cult following for its ability to deeply cleanse excessively oily skin and help heal blemishes and even certain skin conditions like eczema. This can perhaps be attributed to its blend of ingredients like exfoliating papaya enzymes and plantain peel extract, soothing oats and aloe, and hydrating shea butter.
10. Mild by Nature Raw Shea Butter Soap
Best for Sensitive Skin
Everything about this soap is mild, mild, mild. The milky bar produces a rich lather that feels creamy on your skin and the soap itself is loaded with raw shea butter and vitamin E to soften any dry patches. Plus, there’s little to no scent to speak of, which is helpful for sensitive skin types as many fragrances (natural or synthetic) can cause irritation.
11. EiR NYC Travel Shampoo and Body Bar
The brainchild of a female pro surfer, this triple-milled bar lathers generously on your hair and your skin, making it the ideal multipurpose cleanser. Loaded with coconut oil, rosemary extract and shea butter, it's also highly hydrating (and it comes wrapped in 100% compostable plastic-free packaging to boot).
12. Palermo Body Grapefruit & Juniper Soap Bar
For those with active lifestyles, we'd point you to this deeply cleansing bar that quickly whisks away any sweat and surface grime, so you don't end up with a case of clogged pores. Activated bamboo charcoal draws out excess oil, while grapefruit and juniper oils clear up any congestion and lend a crisp, energizing scent.
13. Palermo Body Tea Tree & Mint Soap Bar
Best for Exfoliating
Another favorite from Palermo, we love this clarifying soap because it offers just the right amount of exfoliation thanks to the tiny poppy seeds embedded within the bar. Add tea tree and peppermint oils to help clear any blemishes, and some shea butter to moisturize, and well, you've got yourself a new shower staple.
14. Alder New York Cleansing Body Bar
Best for Dull Skin
If your limbs are looking a bit dry and flaky right about now reach for this bar. Made with one percent glycolic acid and jojoba seeds to buff off dead cells, and sea kelp and shea butter to nourish, it delivers an ultra-rich lather that rinses off clean to leave you with smoother, brighter skin.