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A Gentle Alternative to Facial Washes: Soap Bars & Balm Cleansers

By Renée Batchelor

Tung Pham. Styled by Michelle KokFrom left: Seed to Skin The Divine Cleanse, US$92.31 (Net-a-Porter); Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm, US$33.97 (Net-a- Porter); Chanel Sublimage Le Savan de Soin, S$121; Lush Coalface Facial Soap, S$23.

The soap-and-water routine is jokingly referred to as the extent of a men’s skincare regimen. But as more men invest in skincare — be it moisturisers or sunscreen — it is becoming less of a universal joke. In fact, the humble bar of soap is returning back in favour as a good, efficient and eco-friendly cleanser. However most dermatologists will not recommend the supermarket-bought bar soap that you use on your body for your face, as many of these contain harsh surfactants that strip your skin’s natural oils and its moisture barrier, leading to dry and irritated skin.

Instead, specialist facial soaps are a good option. For English skincare and body brand Lush, the benefits of a facial soap are twofold. First, many of these soaps can be sold “naked” to cut down on excessive packaging. They can also be safely used on both the face and body without irritating the skin. The Coalface Facial Soap is ideal for those with oily or problem skin as it contains antiseptic rosewood oil, absorbent charcoal as well as liquorice root to soften the skin. Foaming easily, this has a gently invigorating scent and gives skin a cleansed feeling without a stripped sensation.

Soaps can be as luxurious as other cleansers like whips, gels and creams in terms of their texture and even the whole ritual of cleansing. Because they can soften easily in the bath, it’s best to store them on their own trays or containers to retain their integrity for as long as possible. Always start by lathering soaps in your hands rather than on your face before gently rubbing onto the skin. Chanel recently reinvigorated its Sublimage cleansing offerings with four new additions including the Le Savon de Soin, a soap version that lathers into a creamy foam. The shea butter and humectants in the formula ensures a gentle cleanse, while the vanilla planifolia water protects the skin against free radicals.

Another less common form of cleanser is the balm or solid cleanser. Omorovicza is a Hungarian brand that uses thermal waters to enrich its products. The brand’s Thermal Cleansing Balm also contains Hungarian moor mud that is rich in calcium and magnesium to help draw out impurities from the skin. This ingredient is also what gives it its unique charcoal black colour and scent. Apply it on dry skin, massaging it in well with circular motions. To remove use a damn cleansing mitt or face cloth — this will help gently exfoliate the skin as well. This hardworking balm can even remove makeup and waterproof mascara — it can be used around the eye area — so it’s a good alternative to makeup remover.

Italian brand Seed to Skin was developed from Borgo Santo Pietro, a luxury spa hotel located in what used to be a 13th-century Italian hamlet. Seed to Skin uses sustainably sourced ingredients from its Tuscan farm and prides itself on 100 per cent traceability. The Divine Cleanse is an oily gel that melts into a creamy milk upon contact with water. The detoxifying green clay used to formulate this cleanser is sourced from the quarries of ancient marine beds — the site used to be a healing retreat for pilgrims — and helps to draw out impurities from the skin while marine plankton in the formula boosts collagen production and elasticity for tighter, more glowing skin.