Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tis the season for peace, love, and suds...

December is a pretty busy month for me, even more so because I had an international visitor staying with me until the sixth, which was coincidentally the day of my pom squad's competition. Then it was my 21st birthday on the 17th (wooooo!), followed by not only the winter solstice but a lunar eclipse too, and then of course blah de blah, the birth of our saviour;  Nikolaos of Myra/Jesus.

Word seems to have gotten round the globe that I pretend to be a very serious and important soap aficionado who graces the internet with slightly unhinged prose about bubbles.

My international friend decided that 3 bars of soap was equivalent to 2 weeks lodging cost so I've got a bar each of Howling Pig's Sandalwood, Earthly Delights Black Amber & Lavender, and Mistral Pamplemousse and Cassis Rouge (that's grapefruit and red currant to those of you who can't be hypnotised by a little French on the packaging).

My brother got me a bar of Molton Brown Aloe & Karite shaving soap (not pictured). He wanted to get me their exfoliating soap, but they were out of stock and pfft WHO CARES? I OWN A BAR OF SOAP THE SAME PRICE AS A WEEKS WORTH OF GROCERIES.

My SASS Santa (yes, I have stairs in my house) got me a peppermint soap shaped like a sweet, a cupcake shaped vanilla soap, some ylang ylang and tangerine soap from Angel's Spa of Tuscany, and some frankly amazing smelling Placitas plum tree soap from the Sandia Soap Company. It's a little strong, so I think I'll have to store it away from my other soaps (on my bookshelf right now, it's doing a fine job as a room fragrancer). Thank you so much, secret Santa of West Virginia!

My mum got me a natural, unbleached body puff thing, for days when the shower's broken and I have to bucket wash, or just for when I want some more bubbles. 

And finally, the big guy himself left a box of Pears in my stocking. I think he read the line I wrote about soap, socks, and self defence, and wanted to see me try it out. Alas, there have been no Home Alone moments this winter break.

So to you, my handful of readers (who span 6 countries so far), I wish you the best in 2011; peace, love, continued access to bathing in a water-stressed world, and me shutting my mouth before I get all environmentally charged at the end of your new years greeting.

Here's to a new year, and new soap!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Faith In Nature- Chocolate

Yeah... I've run out of excuses for not being a regular blogger. But hey, new soap!

I've seen Faith In Nature soaps in various different independent shops, mini spas, and market stalls all over London, but I don't know how easy this brand is to find elsewhere. They do a wide range of soaps with various different extracts and touting their supposed properties- so the Aloe Vera one is labelled "Regenerating" and the Rosemary one is "stimulating" and so on.   I've never seen chocolate soap before and truth be told, one might describe me as a ~dirty Green & Blacks junkie~, so it seemed like the natural choice.

Price- £1.90 for 100gr off a bloke on Spittalfields Market. On their website they sell individual bars for £1.29 or you can go crazy and get a box with 1.8kg of soap in it for £17.77

First Look- BROWN. A sort of dusty brown. It reminded me of my parents' sofas. In chocolate terms, I'd say it was the colour of Milka.

Dry Feel- strong, but not too hard. It had a very slight melt when rubbed.

Smell- well... it wasn't quite chocolate. I have to say, it reminded me of these chocolate scented gel-pens I had when I was 11. Sort of like someone tried to make a chocolate smell from memory but it got wiped out by a soap bubble. In the shower it was noticeable but not overpowering. A good, balanced fragrance. 

As a body soap- On bare skin it produced a good lather without feeling like it was melting down the plug hole by the second. Left skin feeling lightly moisturised but not greasy.
As a hand soap- great if you're the kind of person who rests their hands near their face a lot, and want the smell of French patisserie/soap factory in your nostrils all day.
As a face soap- good! Didn't leave my cheeks feeling tight and left face refreshed.

Overall- gosh, this soap really can do no wrong. It had the right level of fragrance, left skin feeling moisturised, it made from responsibly sourced ingredients, didn't melt away too fast, has a reassuringly short ingredients list, and is available at a fantastic price. I'm still not too sure about the soapy chocolate smell, but it would be great to try some of the other extracts (the Tea Tree one might help me wake up in these miserable winter mornings). An A grade power bar. GO BUY IT.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Muji- Mandarin

So, I've failed miserably in my blog start promise of updating this weekly in a timely and professional manner. Life tends to get in the way of mad ramblings about soap. Apologies. That bar of Pears lasting 3 weeks didn't really help either.

I don't know if you have the shop Muji wherever you are. Muji sell Japanese designed homewares, which seem to mainly consist of white boxes for sorting your office junk into neat piles, loofahs, and plaid slippers. They've got a couple of shops in London and used to have a branch in Reading (I think it closed a while ago though). This soap is available in several fragrances including avocado and lemon.

Price- 99p for 100gr

First Look- slightly more transparent than Pears with a much more luminous orange glow. It's not particularly natural looking.

Dry Feel- Extremely hard, it's like holding a block of wood. I couldn't get it to melt on contact with fingers at all.

Smell- sort of like an orange flavoured gummy bear, flat fruit tones which feel a little artificial, and a soapy but somehow not fresh. It stuck to my skin unlike any of the other soaps I've reviewed.

As a body soap- again, this was hard to melt on bare damp skin. It will melt under a stream of water to produce a few bubbles, but somehow it just felt cheap. It left my skin feeling okay, but after a few days of use I noticed my skin was drier than usual and had some scaly pre-eczema flare ups.
As a hand soap- the strong scent would probably make it a good candidate for a kitchen soap. It feels pretty harsh too so might be good at shifting heavier stains from hands.
As a face soap- very drying. Not recommended.

Overall- I don't know what else I should really say about this soap. If you haven't worked out by now, I didn't like this soap and won't be buying it again. If you've got stronger skin than mine or work in a coal mine or tar pit, maybe this is the soap for you. Happily for me, but maybe not for you if you like it, the soap disappeared surprisingly quickly. Maybe that's the benefit of currently being crammed in my student room with another poor soul.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Naturaleigh- Eve's Moon

It was a panicked morning again today, because I keep forgetting to buy soap. The university week goes so fast that Saturday ambushed me. Luckily, back on October 30th, on my way to watch Royal Windsor Rollergirls do their thing, I stopped in at a hippy shop just off High Wycombe high street to sniff the patchouli and ended up buying this little bar.

Naturaleigh hand make their soap using traditional techniques in Devon. Not only that, but they care enough to skip on the parabens, artificial colours and other assorted nasties that most commercial soap makers throw in. I have to say, I was a little bit sceptical of this soap and did worry that I might end up smelling like some hippy dippy fruitcake, while somehow not getting clean and magically sprouting dreadlocks, but I needn't have worried.

Price- £3.95 for 100g direct from their site. I opted for the 50g bar for £1.95.

First look- the bar is about the colour of uncooked biscuit dough. The surface looked very similar to the Hempline soap I first reviewed, matt with a slight sparkle. 

Dry Feel- melts easily on contact with fingers, but felt strong. Didn't dent easily or crumble.

Smell- the scent was strong enough to pick up through the packet. I don't know quite how to describe it; feminine without being sickly, sweet or girly. I thought it was very uplifting, almost floral and at the same time felt clean and soapy. Something about it smelt luxurious or at least somehow... fancy. The smell didn't cling very strongly to the skin, so you could easily layer perfume over it.

As a body soap- surprisingly, for a handmade soap, it took a while to get a lather off this soap on bare skin (it's sodium lauryl sulphate free). It was a controlled melt, unlike some soaps which feel like washing with butter. For more bubbles, you could try one of those pouffle things. It left my skin, even on my shins, feeling like it had been treated and was lovely and supple.
As a hand soap- great for a bathrooms. It feels like it should belong in someone's fancy guest loo. The scent is probably good enough to cover some cooking odours, but I'm out of food right now so I can't go test it's garlic slaying powers.
As a face soap- left my cheeks less tight than most other soaps I've tried. If you were in a real hurry, it would be fine to use this on your face.

Overall- I like this soap, but for some reason it just feels so fancy to me that I'm not sure if I feel comfortable using it daily. I'm starting to thing I must have had some weird childhood encounter with ylang-ylang in an aunt's bathroom or something. Coincidentally, the 50g bars would make fantastic guest bars if you're the kind of person who has people come and stay in their guest suite and gifts them soap at the beginning of their stay (if you are, CALL ME). 
There's just something about this soap. It's a womanly soap. The kind of soap you lather up with before slipping on a little black dress and going out to dinner with the kind of man you know you can have. A magical hippy love bar, if you will...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Clinique- Anti Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar for Face and Body

Apologies for the lack of update last week. There was a trip home, in which I forgot to pick up any of the soap I have there, extra cheerleading practice in anticipation of our competition this December, a nerve-wracking presentation in front of the whole class and a peaceful protest with 49,999 other student which devolved into trashing Tory HQ. I wasn't smashing windows or throwing fire-extinguishers. I sat in the pub less than a mile away, eating chocolate fudge cake and watching the biased media coverage on BBC news 24. But enough of that.

Clinique, for those not in the know, are a semi-luxury skincare brand, more expensive than Garnier but little less pricy than LancĂ´me. I've been using their 3 step skincare for about 2 years now, but always with the liquid mild soap. A shop assistant pointed out my hideous pustule covered chin and handed over a washbag full of anti blemish samples, including this 50g bar of soap.

Price- a 150gr bar retails at £12.50. Not cheap, but if you're only using it on your face, it should last a while.

First Look- the bar has a matt surface and is a creamy off-white shade. It looks unassuming, like any other run of the mill bar of soap. Almost clinical.

Dry Feel- dense, it has a very strong feel to it and wont mark easily. The surface gently melts on contact with warm fingers.

(I try to take my photos in good sunlight, but the London weather doesn't always cooperate)

Smell- Nothing. Completely neutral. It doesn't even have a soapy smell... like some kind of ghost soap. How do I know it's even there? What if I've imagined this whole bar of soap? To the shower! *Batman scene change noise*

As a body soap- I don't get back-acne, but I do occasionally get a back spot in summer. The soap felt extremely luxurious and gentle on the body.
As a facial soap- it lathered up no problem straight on my cheeks, making a light and silky film. For the love of all that is soapy, DO NOT GET THIS IN YOUR EYES. I felt it was important to test how eye friendly this facial soap wash and happily flicked some lather in my eyes. The burning pain that seared through my tearduct is making my eyes water even now.
As a hand soap- don't bother. It won't shift any cooking smells or real dirt.

Overall- my cheeks felt a little dry after use, but not tight. It also didn't shift a gross little whitehead that was frolicking across my chin but that faded down during the day, so maybe it did work it's magic. I don't need to use this on my body, so I won't, but I feel my face has found a new friend. My face felt much cleaner than usual and there's the added bonus of being able to take this cleanser on a plane as hand luggage. 

Update- It's only been a week since I started using the Clinique Anti Blemish collection, and my skin already looks much better, with a huge reduction in gross chin blemishes. Definitely recommend!

Saturday, 30 October 2010


If you ever get lost in an unfamiliar part of the UK and end up stumbling into a mini mart/village post office/ general store, somewhere amongst the fading tat and curling postcards I can guarantee you will find a bar of Pears soap. The box might be a bit dusty, but inside will be the same lump of amber magic you can find anywhere else in Britain. It's practically our national soap and boasts that it's been a brand for 200 years, although I don't actually know anyone who uses it. Like some weird throwback to the empire, this soap in made by Unilever in Mumbai. Huh.

Price- Boots had a special offer on, so I got a 125gr bar for 41p. You can usually get it for under a pound.

First look- The box told me in no less than four places that this was transparent, but I think Unilever and I have a different definition of the word. It looks like a huge block of amber with the word Pears on one side and Pears Transparent Soap on the other.

That is clearly not transparent.

Pretty though!

Dry feel- hard as a hockey puck and won't melt in your hand easily. Put this in a sock and hit someone with it and you could probably break their nose.

Smell- honestly, it's hard to describe. Imagine someone tried to make Perry from pear juice and alcoholic hand-rub and you're halfway there. It's not unpleasant though, just a bit... weird. Not sweet. It wasn't particularly noticeable in the shower and didn't cling to skin.

As a body soap- makes a very gentle lather with tiny bubbles on bare skin and melts easily but without washing away to nothing. A bar of this could easily last a month of showers.
As a hand soap- fine for the bathroom but won't shift cooking odours. It's also not going to get rid of serious grime without scrubbing.
As a face soap- if I was a lackadaisical man and not a girl with naughty skin, I would probably use this every day on my face. If I ever get launched into abject poverty, this is going to be the only soap I ever use.

Overall- Pears left my skin a bit dry, but it's coming into winter and my skin is dry anyway. At the end of the world when looters have taken all the posh Sanctuary shower gel and Molten Brown has been raided, I'll be plodding along with my salvaged bar of Pears, clinging desperately to 200 years of tradition and keeping a stiff upper lip about dry skin. When I'm out of university and don't have a job or any cash, this is going to be my best bathroom buddy, keeping me clean and moderately presentable.

I love you Pears, don't ever leave.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Lush- Snow Globe

Every year, Lush give their faithful masses a little winter cheer in the form of limited edition soaps, bath bombs and whatever crazy stuff they're selling nowadays, available only for the Christmas period. Which according to Lush, starts at the beginning of October, when I bought this block.

Price- £1.95 per 100gr, which is pretty reasonable for handmade soap

First Look- Snow Globe gives off some weird glow in sunlight, bringing to mind a variety of Kryptonite. It's an odd, clinical-feeling, opaque pastel turquoise, but depending on which bit of it you choose, yours might have white blobs in it. Mine didn't.

Dry Feel- firm, but it melted easily. I was able to cut it with butter knife and a little bit of pressure.

Smell- when it's dry, Snow Globe gives off a mellow citrus scent which reminded me a little of sherbet lemons. It seemed to hit the back of the nose and make it tingle. When wet, this soap jumps straight to overpowering. It's a very energising scent to snap you into reality on cold winter mornings. The scent sticks with you lightly for the rest of the morning (to keep you awake through breakfast, no doubt)

As a body soap- good light lather on bare skin, lathers up very well on hair. The soap melts really quickly under a hot shower and felt creamy straight away. Didn't leave skin too dry.
As a hand soap- the smell makes you feel like you've given your hands a thorough cleaning, even if you haven't
As a face soap- it'll help wake you up, but won't do sensitive or dry skin much good.

Overall- I don't think I would buy Snow Globe again. It's good value for money, and if you need help waking up then this is the soap for you, but I felt the scent was too overpowering for a scent I didn't particularly like. Of course, I'll probably change my mind as the mornings get darker and I find it harder and harder to drag myself to uni.

I forgot to take a photo of the ingredients list, but you can find it on Lush's site

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Hemp Line- Hempoil and Blueberry

Last December, I spent my birthday in Amsterdam with my best friend and my brother. It was so cold that I don't remember much about the trip because we spent so much of it keeping warm in "coffee shops" (my favourite was The Dolphin if you're ever over there). Well, this soap lived in my underwear drawer with all my other back up soaps until I took it to live with me at university. Check the label, it's handmade in Italy. Truly, the most European of soaps.

Price- I can't remember, but I doubt I paid more than 5 Euros for the 100gr bar.

First Look- it looks like a boiled sweet, or possibly a chunk of lightly dusted Turkish Delight with its strange glistening sparkle.

Dry Feel- very hard. It doesn't melt in the hand or feel greasy.

Smell- Woah, mama; this soap smells gorgeous! The blueberries give it a really rich berry scent, more like cooked blueberries than fresh ones. Sweet without being sickly or overpowering. It leaves a very light odour on the skin which is fresh and clean with a tiny whiff of berry.

As a body soap- lathers up well straight on the skin and feels really creamy and luxurious without being greasy or heavy at all and left my skin feeling balanced.
As a hand soap- got hands clean without drying them out.
As a face soap- I wouldn't use it regularly on my face, but it's fine to use in a pinch.

Overall- I highly recommend this soap, if you can get hold of it (their website is all in German). It smells beautiful and won't leave normal skin feeling tight, dry or greasy. Maybe it's time to go back to the red light district...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Well, I guess this is hello

This is a blog about soap. Bar soap. Not liquid soap, shower gel, shampoo or bath bombs.

This is not a blog about making soap. I neither make nor sell soap. 

It is simply a blog where, whenever I open a new bar of soap, I will take photos, give it a good sniff and a hard squeeze, get into the shower and invite you to experience this soap for the first time with me. The plan is to review all sorts of soaps for all kind of sources- markets, independent sellers (Etsy), supermarkets, bargain basement chemists, souvenir shops etc.

Soap, to me, is wonderful stuff. It brings people together. Soap in bar form is even better- it uses less water and packaging than liquid soap which is diluted and needs to be kept in bottles. You can take it in your hand luggage on an aeroplane, fuss free. You can pretend you're in prison by dropping it deliberately and trying to pick it up without leaving yourself open to backdoor attacks.

Perhaps this blog will help you avoid an expensive sudsy mistake. Perhaps it will find you a new soap-mate for life. Perhaps it will encourage you to go lather up a little more.

Or perhaps it's just an excuse for me to keep buying soap.