Smelly soaps that don't smell ...fake?
May 8, 2014 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What are some soaps that have a strong smell that isn't so ....artificial-smelling (like whatever's in Irish Spring)?

Backstory: I suffer from eczema and rhinitis thanks to a combination of numerous allergies and a super-crazy good sense of smell. I use hypoallergenic, non-scented soaps and that's good for me! My boyfriend works a fairly labor-intensive job and likes soaps that are smelly, as to help "cover up" the smell of his sweat from work. However, his soap makes me feel absolutely ill, and he can't even really touch me after he's showered, because my skin gets really itchy.

This makes us sad.

His preferred brand is Irish Spring, and I can feel it/smell it on him for 2-4 hours after he's showered. He's used my soaps (Dove Sensitive Skin, mostly), but doesn't like them because they're kind of "powdery". Lately, we've had some luck with a tea tree body wash from Trader Joe's (I personally can't use it, but the little bit I get from touching him seems to be OK, and it smells really good). However, he goes through body wash pretty fast and generally prefers bar soaps.

The thing is that "synthetic" smells tend to make me sick -- scented candles, perfumes, scented soaps and body washes. Floral and fruity scents in particular are often too cloying for me. But "natural" smells don't -- peppermint, tea tree, vanilla, are all things I think smell awesome.

So, is there some wonderful amazing brand of "natural" smelly soap that will make my boyfriend happy because it's smelly, but also not give me a headache or a rash by just touching him? Bonus points if I can buy a small bar somewhere for him to try, and in bulk later once we find something that works.
posted by PearlRose to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I like Savon de Marseille.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2014

Dr. Bronner's is pretty good, and probably worth a try. It comes in both bar and liquid form, and is available at many grocery stores and drugstores (especially ones with organic/natural sections).
posted by box at 10:24 AM on May 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Dr. Bronner's sounds perfect for you both.
posted by Specklet at 10:24 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

My husband uses Bee & Flower soap - usually the ginseng variety, though he also likes the sandalwood. You can also get them a bar at a time at Asian markets (much cheaper this way too).
posted by payoto at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

LUSH soaps! I like the honeycomb one, but they're really all quite amazing. Maybe the Ice Blue soap would work for you guys.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Pear's soap is awesome. Smells good, has a definite perfume, but it's not artificial-smelling. Herby/Spicy.

(There is some controversy over the current formulation and whether it's as good as it used to be. Meh. It's good enough for me, but maybe I'm just not sufficiently discerning. Whatevs.)
posted by buxtonbluecat at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

nthing LUSH. All natural, so good.
posted by erst at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would suggest going to The Body Shop and poking around, or sending him in, if it smells too strongly. Their stuff is (generally?) naturally scented. I haven't tried their soaps, but everything else I've gotten there has been pretty great.
posted by HermitDog at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2014

I normally prefer unscented everything but I love Korres Basil Lemon shower gel. It's pricey but a little goes a long way and it doesn't irritate or dry out my skin (nor does it leave that slick "moisturized" feeling.) All natural without parabens, dyes, GMOs and other bad stuff.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:43 AM on May 8, 2014

I find Irish Spring to be too strong smelling, but also prefer a deodorant soap. I use Dial gold bars, and I think it would be a good compromise for you two -- not too strong or artificial smelling, not powdery, deodorant soap, available everywhere for a low price.
posted by Houstonian at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2014

I wouldn't actually recommend LUSH for someone with super sensitive skin. I find some of their scents overwhelmingly fakey (and I'm a fan overall). I recommend Doctor Bronner's as well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

I recommend Chagrin Valley soap - specifically, the coffee one. Very scrubby, very clean feeling, and smells good. And you can get samples.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2014

Mama Bear Soaps!
posted by middlethird at 10:55 AM on May 8, 2014

Dr. Bronner's baby mild unscented or Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar. Dove also makes a sensitive skin "man" line of body washes including an unscented one.

Part of the issue is that soaps that he likes, are the kind that strip all the oil and grime out of your skin. This is the opposite of what eczema sufferers need. This is probably the difference in feeling he's describing. With a gentle soap, not everything is stripped off the skin.
posted by fontophilic at 10:58 AM on May 8, 2014

Nearly a decade ago a friend introduced me to the Bay Rum soap made by this lady, Cats in the Cradle of Alton, New Hampshire. It's just incredible: all the other Bay Rum soaps I've tried—both mass-produced and other handcrafted ones—have been completely disappointing and weak and artificial-seeming, like Sanka when you're used to gourmet coffee.

She offers many other soaps and comes out with new ones regularly. I assume they're good but I've never tried anything other than the Bay Rum.
posted by XMLicious at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2014

Be careful with LUSH. Despite the impression that they give, most of their products are NOT "all natural" and most of them contain artificial fragrance, linalool (a common eczema trigger), parabens, and preservatives. They also tend to be extremely strongly scented.

If you have a farmer's market near you, there is often a soap seller there--and you can ask questions about the soap and maybe buy a small amount. Whole Foods often has handmade soaps, and in some places they have ones where you can cut off a small piece to try and later buy a big piece.

I also like some of Trader Joe's bar soaps (read ingredients carefully).
posted by wintersweet at 11:32 AM on May 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Trader Joe's has a great Oatmeal & Honey soap. It's cheap, gentle, all natural, and has a nice gender-neutral scent.
posted by susanvance at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

He's probably going through body washes quickly because he's just squirting a bunch in his hand. I realize they don't look super-macho, but the stuff lasts way, way, way longer when you use one of those bath puff things. And it exfoliates better, which can feel "cleaner" after. It looks like Amazon might at least have some that are in more guy-ish colors than traditional.
posted by Sequence at 12:08 PM on May 8, 2014

I see you are in Tallahassee - the Mangrove Soap Company is a soap maker that is local to you that looks like it would have some nice options. It looks very similar to a shop that is local to me that makes fabulous strongly-scented natural-smelling soap.
posted by gatorae at 1:11 PM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: Nthing the Dr. Bronner's -- even the scented ones that smell really strong in the shower don't linger overmuch on your skin. (The peppermint one does sting a little on, er, sensitive areas, so be careful about that, but otherwise, it's great stuff!)
posted by sarcasticah at 3:56 PM on May 8, 2014

Jo Malone soaps smell good.
posted by Kazimirovna at 4:31 PM on May 8, 2014

I don't know your price range (although I imagine it's not too much) but I think seeking out locally-made/handmade soaps may be the way to go and may be able to help you answer some of these questions.

Companies I like are Herban Lifestyle and Bunny Butt Apothecary because they have a good range of manly/gender-neutral scents, but I'm guessing there are some near you (Etsy turned up a couple). It may be worth checking out some craft fairs/farmers markets for this. (And most should be happy to offer samples so you can try things out before buying an entire bar.)
posted by darksong at 4:46 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I tried a few different soapmakers online before settling on Haus of Gloi as my personal choice - I found that her bars lasted a lot longer than the average and didn't irritate my husband's sensitive skin. If you like a mint scent, I would try Madcap Garden.

Alternately, if you're willing to shell out more money, the L'Occitane Verbena scent is a nice lemony/herby/natural one where you can probably try it out in a mall.
posted by tautological at 4:59 PM on May 8, 2014

Seconding the Bee and Flower Sandalwood soap - my husband buys big boxes of it at an Asian grocery - 8 or 10 bars for about 7 bucks.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:23 PM on May 8, 2014

Tom's of Maine makes soaps with strong, natural smells. Their deodorant soap smells of sage and lemongrass from sage leaves and lemongrass oils.
posted by jilloftrades at 5:28 PM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: You could buy from soap makers. Just ask for soaps scented with essential oils instead of fragrances. Or just Dr Bronner or other specialty soaps.
posted by Neekee at 10:10 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rocky Mountain Soap has nice soaps - good scents, good combinations, nothing nauseating or artificial - but the scents don't linger on your skin post-shower. You just smell 'clean', so I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for.

I can VERY strongly recommend their foaming wash, which does leave a little more scent behind and does a fantastic job of making hands clean but not dry (I assume this would work for other body parts too). The only reason I don't have it going now is that it's, errr, rather expensive.
posted by Nyx at 12:19 AM on May 9, 2014

Zum bar soaps are very strong smelling, but are also made with all natural ingredients. I don't use bar soap, but if I did, I'd buy Zum's great smelling soaps. I have used them as underwear drawer sachets (lightly wrap in a tiny bit of fabric before placing in drawer). I live in Mpls and they are often carried in Lunds stores. Every time I went to Lunds, I'd always make a trip to the Zum soap aisle, to stop and smell their soaps just for fun. They always give me a lift.

If you want to go and smell them yourself, (based on your profile and the Zum store locator), they are carried in many Whole Foods and also in New Leaf Market.
posted by marsha56 at 4:18 PM on May 9, 2014

Best answer: Tom's of Maine Daily Moisture with olive oil and vitamin E has ended my 20 year search for the soap you describe!
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 8:56 AM on May 11, 2014

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