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Raising The Bar With Soap Designs

You know the drill by now: Don't skip the soap. So why not spruce things up while you're at it with some of the most beautiful bar soaps?

Thanks to all the talk about washing our hands now, soaps are having their moment. But in this age of conscious beauty consumption, perhaps the handmade soap bar seems like a better option the next time you want to pick up that plastic bottle of hand cleanser. According to National Geographic, the beauty industry’s plastic footprint has boomed, with the size of packaging in the United States alone – and not just on personal care items – ballooning by over 120 times since 1960, with almost 70 per cent of that waste piling up in landfills. 

Here is where the fun begins. In the past few years, more independent businesses have sprouted with designs that resemble anything like bars of soaps. Think pieces that look like crystals and colourful jelly blocks. Nupur Khemka, founder of homegrown conscious skincare label Mira shares that artisanal soap bars allow designers to do so because of the cold process method used in the production of these soap bars.

The method combines plant-based oils such as coconut, shea butter and mango with sodium hydroxide lye to form a chemical reaction known as saponification that is slowly cured over four to six weeks. Oils and lye do not contain chemical detergents, hardeners or synthetic lathering agents, which may cause skin irritation and pollution. When using the cold process method, glycerin, a natural by-product that is known for its moisturising effects, is distributed throughout the bar.

Apart from choosing the different types of oils to include in the formula, the cold process method allows further customisation from the scent (by adding essential oils) to the colour (natural colourants like clay and milk are used) and the design. But a word of advice for those switching to the bar movement: Since these products do not contain preservatives, they can only be used for up to six months before you need to purchase a new one.

Here, we list some of the brands to know.

Salt Water Atelier
Founded by Miya Chong in 2017, the homegrown label takes a Zen approach when creating soaps to calm and soothe the mind, body and soul. Its handcrafted soap bars are reminiscent of natural crystals and minerals (some designs have actual crystals embedded in them). Her creations are made with natural ingredients and produced in small batches to ensure freshness. On top of handmade bar soaps, the brand also produces accessories such as guasha massage tools and dry essential oils, further encouraging a holistic self-care ritual.    Price range: $7-$22   Where to buy: Mira Singapore
The homegrown sustainable skincare brand was founded last year by Nurpur Khemkar who was formerly a banker for eight years prior to establishing her own line of beauty products. Her soap designs are often peppered with sprinklings of ingredients like crushed peppermint, whole juniper berries or calendula to create a natural, raw and romantic aesthetic. The brand believes in obtaining its ingredients from its native source (read: its shea and cocoa butter come from Africa) and only uses naturally-derived ingredients such as clays and powdered herbs for colouring. You can also cop loaves of soap bars, which are said to last for up to a year when stored in a dry container.    Price range: $7 to $129   Where to buy: Tetra Soap
Mike Mak, the designer behind this three-year-old Hong Kong label, started the brand as a crowdfunded project on Kickstarter. Today, it is known for its industrial-looking soaps which resemble the tetrahedral concrete forms that help to prevent coastal erosion and protect coastlines. The premise behind the unusual shape is sheer genius: it prevents slippage when washing your hands and prolongs the soap’s shelf life by slowing down the speed in which it dissolves. The soaps come in a cool shade of Concrete Grey which features its original formula and a new Limestone Green that boasts a formula fortified with additional oils ideal for drier skin types.   Price range: $28 to $300    Where to buy:   Studio Ohk
This South Korean design agency is not your traditional player in the beauty industry but in 2018, its Royal College of Art-trained founders – Seung Tae Oh and Meeso Kim – launched Urban Soap collection that was inspired by the architecture and landscapes of Seoul. The playful shapes and colours of the bars of soap took after the traditional tiles and architectural structures of the city’s royal palaces and hanok as well as modern skyscrapers.   Price range: approx $65 for a box of four    Where to buy: Apprenti Organik
Based in Montreal, this three-year old brand specialises in cruelty-free therapeutic body care products formulated with natural and organic ingredients. Ideal for both face and body, the soap bars contain the most gentle ingredients and oils to cleanse without stripping off the skin’s natural moisture. Since only natural ingredients are used, each bar of soap may vary in texture and scent depending on the harvest. The name of the brand is embossed on each bar of soap, which boasts raw and uneven edges and a slight marble effect. Made for those who like the aesthetic of brands like Jacquemus.   Price range: $14 to $17   Where to buy: and Anto Yukon
A Canadian brand founded in 2017 by artisanal soapmaker Kym Rempel, the label is committed to ethical and sustainable small batch production in its own studio, with soaps that are formulated with 100 per cent natural ingredients such as locally collected wild botanicals and aromas that take cues from Canada’s wilderness and vast landscapes. The packaging is also made with recyclable material and comes in the most Instagram-worthy designs. The brand even sells soap ends, which are essentially the remains after cutting the bar of soaps, to promote zero wastage, with each boasting a different scent.    Price range: $10 to $12   Where to buy: