Zero waste AND fragrance-free soap bars might be harder to find, they do exist. And I tested some.
If, like me, you are allergic to fragrance and/or essential oils but would still like to be a bit more sustainable in the bathroom, you soon discover the average shampoo and soap bar are packed with essential oils and fragrance compounds. Great for the environment, not so much for your skin.
But if you put some effort into researching fragrance-free and essential oils-free options (which I am used to by now), you do find a couple of options to wash your hair and body with. Like these new and trusted ones. Tested and approved of by yours truly.
Before I move into the products themselves, this. What makes solid cosmetics sustainable. By wrapping them in paper or putting them in a cardboard box, you skip producing and throwing away a plastic bottle. (Nowadays, more and more brands like Garnier and L’Occitane are offering refills for their plastic shampoo and shower gel bottles. So you can reuse those but you still have to throw away a refill bag, which is harder to recycle than paper or cardboard.)
Furthermore, solid beauty products in general last you longer than their fluid counterparts. One shampoo bar is supposed to be the equivalent of two plastic bottles of shampoo. And some solid beauty formulas are free from water to boot, which is a nice bonus in times of water shortage.
But wait a minute, doesn’t soap dry out skin, you might wonder? That depends. On its formula and on your skin. In general, plant-based oils and glycerin are added to soap formulas: they help keep skin nourished and help keep moisture in skin. I always apply bodylotion after showering and am not under the impression that my skin is extra dry because I wash it with one of these soap bars.
L’Occitane’s Bonne Mère Solid Soap Extra Pure, 6 € (for 100 grams)
The brand is known for its soap bars with all sorts of nice Provençal smells but it does offer a fragrance-free one, too. It is hypoallergenic, pH neutral, suited for the entire family (for people from 3 years upwards) and contains olive and coconut oil and glycerin that offer skin some nourishment.
I am currently using this one in the shower (and keeping it on a soap stand). After using it for about two months now, there is still plenty of soap left. So a little goes a long way.
Bonus: even though the formula is free from fragrance and essential oils, the ingredients in this soap give it a very soft and gentle smell.
You have to be quick for this one: this body soap is a limited edition to celebrate Kiehl’s birthday. Glycerin helps keep moisture locked in skin and counters the drying effect soap might have. Chrysanthemum Parthenium Extract/Feverfew Extract helps soothe skin but it can make skin react if it contains parthenolide. (I assume Kiehl’s uses the parthenolide-free version.)
If you like your soap fragranced: you can buy this one with the Fresh Herbal scent.
Avène’s XeraCalm A.D. Ultra-Rich Cleansing Bar, 6,90 €
I used this ‘soapless soap’ last winter: I have nothing bad to say about it apart from the fact that I thought it did not last as long as other soap bars do. I doubt whether it is the equivalent of 2 bottles of shower gel.
Its formula promises to cleanse (very) dry and/or itchy skin gently and to soothe it thanks to its I-modulia complex and a lipid phase that contains evening primrose oil. It is suited for the entire family, babies included.
Good to know: ‘soapless soaps’ do not contain saponified ingredients but use surfactants like sulphates to get rid of dirt and create a lather. Those can dehydrate skin, depending on your skin type. Avène uses disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate (DLS) in this soap bar, which is supposed to be more gentle for skin than sulphates like SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate). I did not notice any dryness after using it.
Helemaal Shea’s Babassu Haar- & Bodyzeep, 9,49 €
This handmade soap with babassu oil turned out to be way too rich for my hair: it still looked unclean after I washed it and thoroughly rinsed it. My body liked this nourishing soap though.
You can find my review on this Dutch soap here.
Tip: if essential oils and/or fragrance compounds aren’t a problem for your skin, Helemaal Shea offers an impressive assortment of shampoo and soap bars and solid conditioners. All is made by hand in the Netherlands.