Environmental In-Box: Barely Native Soap

“Invigorate the way nature intended.”  That’s the motto of Barely Native soaps and after trying the soap myself, I have to say, I feel pretty fresh. 

Barely native soap What is it? Barely Native Organic Soaps are entirely plant-based bar soaps.  They contain no artificial fragrances, dyes, or preservatives.  The line of 12 soaps is made with ingredients like coconut, palm, sunflower, and safflower oils.  Berries, fruits, or herbs provide natural colors and gentle skin cleansers. 

What I like:  The soaps are certified USDA Organic products, cruelty-free, and contain no parabens. 

Barely native soap wrappedThey're wrapped with recycled wallpaper scraps salvaged from material that would otherwise go to a landfill and marked with a very small label.  The pure essential oils make the soaps very fragrant and the natural glycerin retained in the handmade process keeps your skin soft after use.  I used a bar of the Thyme soap and was left smelling great and feeling moisturized.   For ultra-sensitive consumers, Barely Native produces a version sans fragrance and coloring.  If you join the company’s Soap of the Month Club, you can receive a bar of each flavor of soap on your doorstep every month.

What could be improved? Because Barely Native is a small company, it appears you can only order the soap online.  Plus, it is a bit pricey. One barcosts $5.95. Unless you buy six or more bars of the product, you must pay a five dollar shipping cost, bringing the total for one bar of soap to $10.95. Ouch!

Product comparison

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Bar Soaps are similar to Barely Native.  The line of eight scents is made with coconut, palm, and olive oils.  They also contain jojoba, hemp, natural glycerin and fragrance.  The soaps are wrapped in colorful paper that is 10% hemp-flax / 90% post-consumer recycled paper.  Dr. Bronner’s bar soap is certified fair trade, organic, and cruelty free. It’s often available at food coops and natural foods stores.

SkinnySkinny organic soap bars smell good enough to eat. Like Barely Native, the soaps are made from certified organic ingredients like beeswax, avocado oil, and unrefined shea butter. Most of the soaps are made in Brooklyn, New York; they’re packaged in recycled, reclaimed and sustainable materials. At $8 bar, they’re much pricier than Barely Native. However, they’re available in a growing number of stores if you prefer to shop in person rather than only on-line, which makes them a bit more affordable.

Vermont soap Vermont Soap Organics produces Certified Organic handmade soap bars for sensitive skin, liquid soaps for skin and cleaning, and organic shower gels.  The company says, “Our special bar soap process removes excess alkali from the soap, creating a super mild bar for the most sensitive skin.” A useful purchasing guide helps you choose the right soap for your skin type: dry & sensitive, dry, normal, combination, normal to oily, oily. You can also choose a shampoo bar and a deodorant bar. In addition to options like peppermint magic and lemongrass, there’s a bar made from aloe and lavender especially for babies.

In contrast to organic soaps, consider the conventional brands available in your drug store or supermarket.  Neutrogena RainBath shower gel, the brand I've traditionally used, contains both methylparaben and propylparaben.  Parabens act as preservatives in many personal care products, but have raised red flags because they can irritate the skin and have been found in breast tumor tissue.  RainBath also contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate, which can lead to canker sores and skin irritation and has been said to contain 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Irish Spring is among the most popular drug-store brands of bar soap.  Its active ingredient, Triclocarban, is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent that has been linked to endocrine disruption.  Irish Spring also contains synthetic fragrance.  On the plus side, Irish Spring is packaged in a 100% paperboard carton, 35% of which is post-consumer recycled material. 

Price comparison for a bar of soap

Barely Native – $5.95.  If purchased online, $5 flat rate shipping is added to the price, though if you buy six bars or more shipping is free.

SkinnySkinny – $8.00 plus shipping. A free lip balm is included with orders worth $15 or more.

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Bar Soap - $4.19.  The minimum order from the website is $20, but in return you receive free shipping anywhere in the continental United States.

Vermont Soap Organics – $3.95, plus a  $3.99 handling fee per order, along with actual shipping charges.

Neutrogena RainBath shower gel – $8.49 for an 8.5 ounce bottle.

Irish spring – $3.49 for a three-pack.

How can you afford the more expensive soap? Cut back on unnecessary products. If you traditionally use soap, shower gel, body wash, and body scrub, switch to just soap – and enjoy the difference.

How many purses?
Three. We love Barely Native soap, despite its  limited availability and the high cost of one bar. Start asking for it when you shop. Increasing its availability in retail outlets will spare you the shipping cost and help bring the price down.

By Katie Kelleher with Diane MacEachern

Full Disclosure: Barely Native and SkinnySkinny provided free samples for our review.

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2 Responses to Environmental In-Box: Barely Native Soap

  1. Betsy July 14, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Love the idea of someone doing all this research for me! I stand there and face the soap and think “now what’s on sale?” — and then end up with some junk that does NOT feel good on the skin, or stinks. It is SO easy to confuse price with value in the soap aisle!

  2. Diane MacEachern August 9, 2009 at 7:05 am #

    Thanks for the great observations. I’m glad you find the research useful.

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