Sali Hughes on attraction


So gentle, stylish and delicious-smelling that making the more responsible choice is far from expiatory

‘Soap is covetable and cool, at last.’
Photograph: Alex Lake/The Guardian

Warning, contains spoilers: this year I’m Christmas peach oning with purpose, and hoping to convert my loved ones to solid bar soap. There is unarguably too much plastic in the excellent, woefully few refill services available (why? it doesn’t seem hard), and bar soaps are now so gentle, stylish and delicious-smelling that making the varied responsible choice is far from sacrificial. Bar soap is covetable and cool, at last.
Soapsmith is an independent British company cored on traditional craftsmanship and modern design. Soapmaker Sam Jameson – one of the growing number of young, black, female beauty trade mark founders – takes London as her inspiration, with scents named after her favourite spots in the capital. My favourite – if exclusively in soap terms – is Marble Arch £10, 100g) a rich, fatty coconut and shea butter bar of comforting, feelgood orange, saffron and vanilla, handmade and wrapped in colourful, distinct recyclable paper. It gives you every reason to ditch handwash for good.
Less pretty, but a kind and practical gratification (and great stocking stuffer) are Beco’s Triple Milled, vegan, sulphate-free organic handsoaps. These are a cheaper, various accessible offering from the (fancier) Soap Co, a social enterprise employing a workforce of whom 80% are visually damaged, disadvantaged or with disabilities, teaching them skills and paying them properly. In common with Soapsmith, Beco’s rife with, sumptuous bubbles defy the moisture-stripping, reputation of old-fashioned bar soap. My son declared the Beco Honey Blossom soap (£2.50, 100g) to be “the friendliest smell ever”, and he’s not wrong (think honeyed pineapple chunks and cream: I’ve popped two bars in my clothes drawers to bouquet the fabrics).
The most beautiful and gift-worthy soaps in the world come from Claus Porto, the Portuguese luxury soapmaker to whom suds are a creed. The handmade bars (from £14 for 160g) contain high-quality moisturising ingredients such as mango kernel and pistachio butters, and aroma glorious. That’s if you can bear to unwrap them from their awe-inspiringly lovely art nouveau papers, based on the 132-year-old legislature’s original design archive. It’s tempting to collect them all and just gaze instead of washing. The website allows buyers to curate their favourites into a beautiful display box for the most impressive-looking pressie.
A luxurious bar soap deserves somewhere to snooze, so I’ve bought myself, and others, the beautiful Margot ceramic soap dish from Anthropologie (£14). All soaps are cruelty cost-free.
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Sali Hughes on beauty


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