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Why did we ever stop using soap? Sphaera has us bringing the solid bar back to the shower

Photography By Studio Best Wishes / Monk House Design & Sphaera

Why did we stop using soap? I don’t mean giving up on body wash products altogether (though shower caps off to anyone who has braved the au naturel approach to hygiene). 

I mean the cultural snubbing of soap bars. At some point, using an old-fashioned block of soap became a social faux pas unless you were over the age of 60.

Of course, some people have shunned soap for legitimate reasons like dry or sensitive skin, or because they’re suffering some sort of Imperial Leather-induced PTSD. But here’s the thing: when you skip the bar in favour of liquid body wash, you add a new plastic product to your bathroom shelf (and the planet).

Can bar soap be saved from its undeserving reputation?

New Zealand beauty brand Sphaera believes that it can. Founded by Ali Johnson and Suni Hermon, the Wellington-based soap makers have managed the seemingly impossible: making soap cool again.

Sphaera

Before founding Sphaera, Johnson studied visual arts, science and complementary health, and drew inspiration for their signature product – a cube-shaped soap – from Plato’s ideas on elemental forms. The brand’s artisan production process was influenced by the oldest soap-making traditions of Aleppo and Marseille, delivering a product that lathers as luxuriously as a liquid. 

“I think many people have memories of cheap, skin drying soap bars from childhood,” Johnson says. “These are factory produced formulas with the natural glycerin removed and are not very nice to use. Cold processed bars [like ours] are much more akin to a rich natural body wash and far more gentle on the skin than a mass-produced soap bar.

“I would encourage people to move away from plastic bottles and give soap bars another go with a quality, handmade cold processed bar.”

Sphaera

Sphaera’s bars feature a combination of plant oils, butters, milks, naturally occurring fine clays and custom blends of essential oils, many of which are sourced locally in New Zealand. These ingredients and Sphaera’s traditional cold process method yields a “true soap”, preserving the components’ gentle cleansing and moisturising properties so your skin will feel soft and hydrated after use, not stripped or sticky – something to note for those feeling nervous about switching back to soap.

Johnson’s favourite Sphaera soap scent is Kawakawa and activated charcoal, a “grounding, smoky blend of woody balsamic elements with green, herbaceous top notes”. It’s one of several elegant combinations offered by the antipodean brand, including pomegranate seed oil and pink clay, wild kelp, sea salt and pumice, and citrus and poppy seed. With added factors for exfoliation and sensitivity to enhance a tangible cleanse, it really is no surprise Sphaera has managed to make using soap enticing again.

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