It all started when I was a science major at the University of California at Berkeley—the nightly bath. Complex physics problems were just easier to solve immersed in water. Since then, I’ve learned a quick soak in the tub can solve almost any problem, or least it feels that way. So I’m always on the look out for new bath products.
Kissmyface.com is not new. But the founders of the Gardiner, N.Y.-based bath and body shop recently spun off a new company, which sells a line of organic products called Sudz. The new collection debuts with eight bar soaps, six body washes and two hand soaps.
Each eight-ounce bar, which retails for $5.95, is supposed to help soothe a specific condition. The mandarin-scented C-weed targets “stressed-out skin.” Honey Pot, a blend of honey and hemp oil, helps moisturizes dry skin.
What are most noticeable about the new line are the unusual scents or lack of scents. The translucent lettuce-colored Salad Bar soap smells like a fresh green salad. Bare Naked, a light honey-colored glycerin soap, has no scent or odor.
The deodorizing bar Close Encounter, lichen-filled Rough Seas and The Sports Bar, spiked with eucalyptus, will naturally appeal to active types. Early indicators show the pink-grapefruit-scented In the Pink will be the favorite, says a company representative. “People just love the smell,” he says.
Sudz is now available at brick-and-mortar Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and GNC stores, and in cyberspace at organicsudz.com. Duane Reade, a chain of drugstores, will stock Sudz in September.
The company plans to add other Sudz products this year. Shaving creams and moisturizers are expected to hit the shelves this fall. Shampoos and household cleaning products will follow.
In my search for something new, I re-discovered something quite old. Remember Dr. Bronner’s Castile liquid soap? Well, Dr. Bronner, a third-generation, soap-maker who emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1920s, died in 1997 but his soap lives on. The concentrated biodegradable liquid, which could be used to clean anything from a human body to an old car, is still sold at health food stores including these cyber shops natural-living.com, good-earth.com and shopatethics.biz. An eight ounce bottle sells for less than $2.99 and 16 ounces can run anywhere from $4.50 to $5.99.
The peppermint liquid soap was popular in the 1960s and 1970s. But Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, a mix of coconut, hemp and olive oils and rosemary extract, also comes in almond, aloe vera, eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree oil.
Middlebury-Vt.-based vermontsoap.com makes what it considers a kinder, gentler Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. Like Dr. Bronner’s magical soap, Vermontsoap.com’s liquid soaps contain coconut and olive oils, and rosemary extract. Unlike Dr. Bronner’s, the soap contains whole oils rather than oil fractions plus aloe vera and jojoba, says Ross Conrad, vermontsoap.com’s assistant general manager. Essential oils are added or left out to create scented and unscented varieties.
The liquid soap, which is free of artificial fragrances and preservatives, comes in an 8-ounce container for $3.99 and 16 ounces for $5.99.
Vermontsoap.com is best known for its strongly scented bar soaps, handcrafted in small batches. Cyber shoppers can take a virtual factory tour online. A series of photographs show how the soap is made. Each 3.5 ounce bar sells for $3.69.
Other cyber shops that stock vermontsoap.com products include Altoon, Iowa-based betterherbs.com, barryfarm.com, an old-fashioned country store and newenglandnatural.com, which also has a section for farm equipment on sale.
Castile soap traces it roots to the Castile region in Spain some time around the 17th century when soap makers started to use olive oil instead of animal fat in bar soaps. The olive-oil rich soap bars set the standard for luxury, vegetable-based soaps.
To sample the Spanish-made soaps, click over to tienda.com, a mom-and-pop shop based in Williamsburg, Va. where the cyber shelves are filled with authentic Spanish goods. After jamon Serrano (dried cured ham), soaps were the most requested item when the site first launched, says Don Harris, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, who founded the company with his wife and three sons.
A three-bar pack of pure olive oil Sulasna soap sells for $8.25. Other soaps at tienda.com include La Toja, which contains mineral salts from a small island off Galicia. Three bars sell for $6.50. And then there’s the mysterious black, lanolin and glycerin Magno soap. “Although it is jet-black, it produces a dense white lather that foams in hard and soft water,” says the product description. A 3-pack sells for $8.75.
In my quest for novel bath products, I also unearthed daviesgate.com a relatively expensive brand of natural products that takes simple ingredients, found in the garden, and uses them in new and unusual ways. A “love of gardening and the holistic goodness the gardens and gardening represent” are the backbone of the business established by Ellen Davies in 1992, says Jack Davies, who runs the Irwindale, Calif.-based company with his wife. All of the bath and body products have this garden signature, he adds.
Different collections feature ingredients derived from distinct parts of the garden. A vegetable-based bar soap in the seeds & grain collection contains flax seeds and flax seed oil. The flax seeds help exfoliate the skin and the oil acts as an emollient. A 3.75-ounce bar costs $10. There’s also whole wheat lotion — eight ounces costs $27.50 — and sesame seed bath foam, priced at $25 for 12 ounces.
Daviesgate.com recently introduced its allspice collection. Guaranteed to be a hit during the holidays, the new collection features products made with cinnamon, spice and everything nice. A 12-ounce tin of peppermint powdered sugar bath soak costs $21. The vanilla body lotion cost $20 for eight ounces. Daviesgates.com products are sold online at daviesgate.com and sephora.com.
And there’s also always kiehls.com. The old-style apothecary has been mixing up treats for the bath and body since 1851. The company now makes more than 100 luxurious products. Products range from $5.50 for lip balm to $60 for a 1.4 ounce-jar of lycopene facial moisturizer.
“It’s important to patch test these products because some people have sensitive skin,” says a company representative. She recommends test the inner arm between the wrist and elbow, since its one of the most sensitive parts of the body.
Kiehls.com makes its easy for cyber shoppers to test the products. Consumers can now order samples at the company’s Web site. The 10 ml samples can be used 1-2 times.
Teri Goldberg is MSNBC.com’s shopping writer. Write to her at