A nice, natural bar soap for men who aren't macho goons
December 2, 2021 2:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm tired of soap for men with obnoxious, gender reductionist marketing. I'm not interested in like Butch McWussystomper's Whiskey and Axel Grease Soap. I want to smell masculine, but in a sophisticated way. Less Tim McGraw changes the oil on his own F150 and more Mads Mikkelsen enjoys a walk through the forest in a crisp linen shirt. I'd like it to be natural, but in a way that doesn't cost $20 a bar, or dissolve within four washes. I want it to be a bar soap. What do I want to try?
posted by DirtyOldTown to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (51 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I use Kirk's fragrance free bar soap, and if you want to add something that smells nice on top of that, why not choose a cologne that you like?
posted by Dmenet at 2:54 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've used Kirk's Castile soap, for about ten years. It's cheap, has little scent, purportedly uses aloe, and doesn't irritate my skin.

eta: almost simultaneous!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 2:55 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have used Dove MenCare in whatever version 'the green stripe on the box' is for years. My wife's fine with it. That said, I actively avoid most advertising and have a very weak sense of smell so it's possible it fails some other requirement, or maybe I'm just too basic. Worth a shot if you haven't tried it, though.
posted by Alterscape at 2:55 PM on December 2, 2021

Eighth Generation is a store in Seattle that sells items made by Native Americans. I can vouch for the fact that the Sunrise Sage scent is nice and to my nose gender neutral.
posted by brookeb at 2:55 PM on December 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I did the scentless soap/nice cologne combo for years. But in recent years, my spouse has developed a sensitivity to colognes and perfumes. I've given them up, to be courteous. This aversion does not seem to extend to the smells that emanate from soap. And I miss having a scent. Hence, this Ask.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:59 PM on December 2, 2021

I use Kirk's Castile now, but back when my tolerance for scent was better than it is now I liked Dr. Bronner's. The almond and citrus flavors were particularly nice.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:05 PM on December 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

One With Nature bars smell good and last a really long time. I have their "Dead Sea Mud" bar in my shower right now. They might not have enough scent for you though. Do you have a local natural grocery store you could visit and look through their soap collection? You could also check out Etsy (example).

FWIW, Juniper Ridge has a great foresty scent palette but only makes liquid soap.
posted by scrubjay at 3:13 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really like Harry's bar soap (yes, the shave subscription whosit, but Target carries the soaps) in Fig, and I've sniffed the Stone scent (mineral-y citrus) and liked it too. Target also has the Goodfellow & Co and Raw Sugar/Men brands that are for men but not, like, brahs.

If you go to Whole Foods enough for that to be a reasonable supply source, I find that a lot of stores carry handmade soaps from somewhat local soapmakers, and they're not all foofy-scented. When I was in the Dallas area my closest store had a sandalwood goat's milk soap that I really liked.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:15 PM on December 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

Aleppo Soap from Syria. It has a clean, almost medicinal scent, and it lasts forever.

You can get it with different percentages of laurel oil. I use the 40% laurel oil, as I have dry skin, but there are lots of options you can choose from.
posted by essexjan at 3:18 PM on December 2, 2021 [7 favorites]

Go on Etsy and look for cold process soaps. You will find hundreds of options of homemade soap. Buy a few that sound good to you. Generally these small sellers are pretty open about what ingredients they use, right down to the fragrance oils, so once you find a scent that you like, you can keep buying that fragrance from different sellers until you find a soap formula you like.

I particularly like goats milk cold process soaps, they just feel really hearty.
posted by phunniemee at 3:19 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do you like the smell of peaty whisky? Then you may enjoy smelling like Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap! Typically available at the grocery store for less than $5 a bar, I use them until they get annoyingly small and then throw them in my shaving mug.
posted by Jawn at 3:27 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Transman here.

I've been enjoying Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree Oil bar soap for the past few months now. It's not heavily scented, and I really like the herby smell that comes from it. It has also made my face acne better.

Info here: https://shop.drbronner.com/products/tea-tree-pure-castile-bar-soap
posted by spinifex23 at 3:31 PM on December 2, 2021 [8 favorites]

I've been buying soap from Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve for years - I love them. They have a set-aside section for neutral-to-masculine scented items that might appeal more to men. I can personally vouch for the Coffee and Clove soap, as it's one of my favorites.
posted by darchildre at 3:32 PM on December 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

i love malin+goetz peppermint bar soap. $16 a bar and i'm happy to pay because it smells nice without being fruit or floral. and each bar lasts a while.
posted by bruceo at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

(hereby registering my interest in a soap that smells like Mads Mikkelsen, for reasons.)
posted by runincircles at 3:35 PM on December 2, 2021 [17 favorites]

One of the hottest men I ever dated smelled like oatmeal and tea tree. I still remember that smell 15 years later. No idea what he used, but there are plenty of soaps out there with those scents.

I use the Native body wash in eucalyptus which smells divine, but they have a bar soap as well.

These have some good scents also. I'd love to smell sage or spiced balsam.
posted by greta simone at 3:37 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't have a brand recommendation per se, as I buy my soap from my local grocery, which carries natural bar soap, but after getting disgusted with the entire genre of Musky Woodland Masculinity deodorants etc, I've moved to green tea soap and lemongrass deodorant. I figure if I smell faintly delicious that'll work, and have only gotten good reviews. It shouldn't be hard to find good green tea soap online, and it's a nice interesting but pretty neutral scent. I've used Grandpa's Pine Tar soap in the past and didn't dislike it, but it's a very specific thing, so you need to want to smell like pine tar, which isn't bad but sure is pine tar.
posted by lhputtgrass at 3:41 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Harry’s Stone mentioned by Lyn Never above is my favorite soap ever. The scent lingers on the skin and is very refreshing citrus/mineral. It reminds me a bit of Terre d’Hermes if you’ve ever smelled that cologne. Harry’s has a matching soap/lotion as well.

Other bar soap favorites of mine are the glycerin soaps from Paintbox Soapworks (scents are seasonal but usually at least half will be gender neutral or otherwise not girly). From their Yule collection my favorite is Yuletide Mariner, an amazing spruce and aquatic scent. I also love this Frankincense and Myrrh soap from Bathhouse Soapery. It’s so rich and smoky and lasts on the skin.
posted by microscopiclifeform at 3:50 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Greta simone, it might be the oatmeal soap from Trader Joe's. I switched to it after forty years of Irish Spring and plain Ivory soap, and I really like it.

They sell it two bars in a clear plastic baggie.

You'd have to ask my dog how it smells, though. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 3:54 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Soap and Dagger is a brand local to me. I met the guy at a craft fair of sorts and bought a bar of soap. I have ordered many since. They are all great.
posted by King Bee at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2021

I like Verano Bathery. I ordered three soaps from them early this past summer, and none of the scents triggered by migraines, which was great.

Currently, they have a Winter Forest bar and a Wassail bar that seem like plausible ways that Mads Mikkelsen might smell.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 4:37 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Pre de Provence bar soap. It’s from Provence, has a million different scents, an $8 bar lasts a long time.

If you want to be super classy, Melograno soap from Santa Maria Novella is $32 and is the most amazing soap I have ever used.

Also check out soaps at Fumerie.com in Portland. They have Andy Tauer, Imaginary Authors, Ortigia, and Oriza Legrand.

Luckyscent also has a lot of great independent and luxury brands.
posted by matildaben at 4:49 PM on December 2, 2021

I am a woman but I really like Pacha Soaps. I would say most of their soaps are gender-neutral in scent, but you can definitely find ones that are more masculine. Maybe Balsam & Pine and/or Spearmint Lemongrass?

That's basically all I use as soap and I find them to last a long time, do a good job and smell great.
posted by edencosmic at 4:52 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

My local fancy-schmancy organic grocery has a big selection of fancy bars of soap that range in price but are generally in the $5-8 range and, if you keep them from being sprayed by the shower and/or sitting in water and let them dry between uses, they'll last quite a while. I'd look in your area for that type of shop and check out some of the soaps with scents that include cedar, rosemary, tea tree, or mint. I don't know what Mads Mikkelson smells like for sure, but those would be my guesses.
posted by theotherdurassister at 5:06 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I love CO Bigelow's lavender peppermint bar soap, which they only make in a travel size for fancy hotels, but in my experience it lasts a fairly long time even in the small size (also any bar soap lasts longer if you use it in a soap saver pouch). I'm a straight woman and think the scent is masculine and attractive.
posted by pinochiette at 5:39 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Every Man Jack makes body bars and the cedar scent is really nice and not overwhelming after use.
posted by donut_princess at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding Harry's. They have four scents and all of them are stronger on the bar than on me after the shower. It'll cost you about $15+ shipping to try all 4, and they run from $3.50 to $4 a bar, depending on how many you buy at once. Those are online store prices, but as mentioned, Target carries them, so you can stick your nose in. The same scents are used on other products, so you can smell, say, the body wash in the same scent if the bar-soap is not available.

They weren't fast dissolvers compared to my usual, gold dial. I can confirm that, in fact, because when all 4 bars become too thin to use practically, I chucked them into my leftover-soap bin (which was half full of mostly-used dial bars. The bin filled up and I chopped up everything in there and stirred it all into a pot of melt-and-pour soap, which I then molded. The resulting bars are my bathroom hand-soap right now, but I can tell that it's the harry's soap pieces that're dissolving slower than the melt-and-pour and the dial bits.

Before I made these weird melt-and-pour bars, though, I used Kirks as handsoap-- it doesn't mark me with its scent.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:43 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a woman who's not a fan of the overly-floral scented soaps, nor do I like the super-fruity stuff, and "Mads Mikkelsen enjoys a walk through the forest in a crisp linen shirt" is almost exactly my aesthetic.

I literally just ordered a bar of Thyme's Frasier Fir soap for myself for the holidays and when I got the first whiff my immediate first thought was "bingo"; it's that wonderful Christmas-tree smell. Another good couple options to explore - which also may be able to find in inexpensive soaps - are sandalwood, vetiver or patchouli scents; you will find scores of people making soaps in these scents at all price points. Here in NYC I can find them for about three bucks a bar at health food stores and Indian groceries. The only caveat is that with that much variety you may also run into a wide range of formulations for the smell; sandalwood can be a warm and woodsy smell, but some soapmakers like to jazz it up with other scents and that just ruins it (I will never forgive the people who try to mix sandalwood with VANILLA).

Patchouli and vetiver can also be kind of an acquired taste; vetiver especially, because it's got a mossy quality that some people associate with "forest floor" and others associate with "rotting wet leaves". I definitely lean towards the "forest floor" camp, though, and would definitely recommend you at least trying it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Check out World Market's online store. They have a lot of nice soaps, with great, natural smells, and the bars are hard, and last a long time. They are big, and I cut them in half, and use one in the shower and one at either the bathroom sink or the kitchen sink. Their grapefruit soap is nice, and in any cast these soaps, I have tried a few, don't cling, and the smell is nice in the shower, but isn't the primary fragrance 'o the day. They carry soaps from all over the place, and might be on sale and full price for a big bar that lasts for weeks might be as much as $6.50 US.
posted by Oyéah at 6:46 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I really like Sappho Hill's soaps. They are natural, inexpensive, no packaging, and they have nice pine and sandalwood scents.
posted by rachelpapers at 6:53 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really like Moondance Soaps. They're based in North Carolina. I buy them at the farmer's market here, but they do ship.

They have a lot of nice scents while not delving into super perfume-y or cologne-y fragrances, and they don't dissolve very quickly like some natural soaps do.
posted by bananana at 7:15 PM on December 2, 2021

I've always been partial to Trader Joe's Oatmeal & Honey soap. I think it's like $1.50 for 2 bars when I bought it a few months ago.

There's also this other soap that I'm obsessed with, and it's found at Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree, weirdly enough! The bar is humongous and lasts quite awhile (3 months for two people who shower daily). The lather is very rich, and the scent isn't overpowering. I like the lemon verbana the most, but some of the other scents are nice too.
posted by extramundane at 7:16 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Aleppo Soap from Syria. It has a clean, almost medicinal scent, and it lasts forever.

Seconding that one. I use it. Note that this particular soap is made in Calgary, Canada by the Sabouni family from Syria. They've just been set up long enough that their soap is lasting as long as aleppo soap should: it should be dried for a couple of years before use. My last batch was still a little green inside.

Al'Ard Nabulsi soap (made in Nablus, Palestine) smells of olive oil. It comes in rough-cut blocks and is somewhat like washing with a brick.
posted by scruss at 7:21 PM on December 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Dr. Squatch may be worth checking out.
posted by hannahelastic at 7:53 PM on December 2, 2021

Mitchell's Wool Fat Soap. It smells like soap. When you use it you smell clean, like soap.
posted by FungusCassetteBicker at 8:00 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another idea is savon de Marseille, a six hundred-year-old soap. The one I get is around $5.50 a bar.
posted by middlethird at 9:48 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’ve tried everything from black shaving soap to local organic bars to use in shower. Finally found
OliviaCare Bath & Body Green Tea bars.
The smell is subtle in the shower and spouse doesn’t smell it anytime after.
Mads would approve.
The bars are oval shaped which I like, not squared off.
They last a decent time. 4 to a box, $14 on amazon.
posted by artdrectr at 10:36 PM on December 2, 2021

I looked into Dr. Squatch a while ago and was baffled by their labels. They proudly brag about not using "harsh chemicals" but their ingredients list explicitly contains essential oils and lye. I would be cautious about their marketing claims.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:19 AM on December 3, 2021

I must recommend the Karma bar soap from Lush. It's orange-patchouli, a very warm woody scent that doesn't smell like the barefoot hippy associations I used to have with patchouli. It's been around for ages and is the company's most popular scent. It doesn't overpower, but it makes your shower smell amazing and a little hint of the fragrance lingers on your skin. Love this stuff, been using it for years.

Fun story: as each of my sons moved out on their own, they each independently would call me after a couple weeks of turning up their noses at Irish Spring or whatever and ask, what's that soap you always had in the shower? Can you send me some? Haha it's a family affair now.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:56 AM on December 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

A second vote for Dr. Bronner's. They make bar soap versions and of course it's widely available. (I am particularly fond of eucalyptus.)
posted by desuetude at 6:34 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

> They proudly brag about not using "harsh chemicals" but their ingredients list explicitly contains essential oils and lye.

Oh, lye is an ordinary and essential part of soap-making. It causes a chemical reaction that transforms fat/oil into soap, but the lye itself is neutralized in the process. (My bigger complaint about Dr. Squatch is the "especially formulated for men's needs" marketing.)
posted by desuetude at 6:46 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have tried Dr. Squatch. Some of them smell very good, but they are a mild-to-moderate offender in the "soap for men!!!" category and a serious offender in the "I know this wasn't cheap, but it doesn't last long either" category.

I'm masculine, but not in the way I need to crush beer cans on my head or frantically declare it to everyone. I feel like my ideal soap would work not just for Mads Mikkelsen, but maybe for k.d. lang, too.

So many promising suggestions here. I've ordered the Thyme Frasier Fir and the Karma bar soap for now, as I liked the aesthetic match of the former and the long term enjoyability as described in the second. I'll probably also dink around the "cut yourself a block of natural soap" section of my local upscale grocery at which I had previously turned up my nose.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:52 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Caswell-Massey soaps are nice! Classic scents that aren't pushy.
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Critical to any slightly fancy soap purchase: get a draining soap dish and mount it up high out of the shower spray.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Our local dollar stores have several Hispanic brand soaps that have minimal ingredients (no unnecessary chemicals or colors, as far as I can tell) that smell neutral, clean, and definitely not feminine (though very nice). Not sure whether chain dollar stores carry similar soaps, or if it depends on the region. Worth checking though!
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2021

I wasn't sure Method made their (ugh, I know, I know) Method Men's body wash in a bar soap form, but I looked and they do. This scent, cedar and cypress, was the first thing I thought of when I saw your description--it's absolutely Mads walking through a Danish forest in a linen shirt. If you're willing to get past the marketing approach (at least it's somewhat subtle?), it sounds like you'd enjoy it. You can often find their stuff at drugstores, but I haven't yet seen the bar soap versions.

(also, how has no one made the eponysterical comment in this thread?)
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:42 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

L'Occitane makes both regular soap and "men's" soap; both are good.

Bronners is easy to find, and works well. Tea tree and eucalyptus are good, peppermint is opinionated.
posted by talldean at 2:40 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I like many of the Beekman's Copa Soaps scents, and thought the price/durability was reasonable.
posted by sepviva at 3:56 PM on December 3, 2021

Response by poster: Update: I did try the Thymes Frasier Fir soap. It maybe tilts a little more forest and a little less linen, but I do like it a lot. What's more, I am very impressed with the soap itself: absurdly luxurious suds and the bar is very solid and not at all wasting away quickly. Not sure if this is my scent, but I am very, very impressed with the brand.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Amending my recommendation of vetiver - if you found the Fraiser Fir to not be "linen" enough, you likely would not be into vetiver. It's a little too....earthy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on December 9, 2021

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