Mark our words – the humble bar soap is making a comeback. Over the past couple of decades, bar soaps were abandoned in favour of bottled shampoos, face washes and shower gels, with beauty brands proffering thousands of other packaged personal care products. But one key issue was overlooked. The wasteful packaging. Even with the ascent of clean beauty, organic and natural products still cause a huge amount of plastic waste. And as avid Green Queen readers know, global plastic recylcling rates are estimated to be less than 20%. In today’s growing anti-waste climate, the sheer amount of packaging these products entail and the lack of efficient, trustworthy recycling channels is making consumers rethink their beauty routines. Zero waste pioneers now extoll the power of soap bars with their low to no packaging formats and their range of care: “solid shampoo” bars, shaving bars, conditionner bars, facial bars, massage bars…there are bars for every need. Which is how one Hong Kong mom came to start her own bar soap brand.
Seeking to simplify and reduce her plastic use after witnessing firsthand the horrors of toxic trash spilling from the mountains and seas from hikes and beach activities, longtime Hong Kong resident Kate Mercurio decided to launch Eko Savon, crafting premium, handmade plastic-free solid soap and shampoo bars. “In our beach cleanups, I would see so many things and think, ‘how on earth did that end up in here?!,'” recalls the Kiwi-born mother of two. “Everything that you do, all your daily decisions – in terms of what you consume – are impacting the environment directly. I looked around in my daily life and one of the things I wanted to do was stop using plastic bottles in my personal care products.” Bar soaps require minimal to no packaging (usually recyclable or biodegradable paper). They are also easier and cheaper to transport, and in Eko Savon’s case, made locally in Hong Kong so for us consumers, they have a far lower carbon footprint than imported products.
But the plastic problem was only one part of the equation. Dissatisfied with the range of bar soaps available in the Hong Kong market, Kate was dismayed to see that even solid soap bars from reputable brands contained synthetic detergents. It’s no secret that all shampoo bottles from grocery stores and salons use synthetic detergents, but consumers who are switching to bar soap might not realize that their new method of sudsing might still contain chemicals, a big factor Kate wanted to abstain from. “People now know to look out for SLS and one or two others [ingredients], but in fact there are possibly up to 200 different names you have to watch out for,” explains Kate. “I call it greenwashing [a marketing term deceptively used to promote the perception that a product claims to be eco-friendly], because something like sodium coco-sulfate might be derived from a plant, but it is still a detergent.” Compelled to create something better, she taught herself to make her own.
Using an old fashioned, back-to-basics cold process method to make soap from scratch, Eko Savon uses only simple ingredients without any harmful ingredients, shunning synthetic colorings, fragrances, detergents and preservatives. Sourcing the highest food grade oils and premium butters, Kate purposefully chooses to refrain from any tallow (animal fat) or palm oil, the production of which comes at a heavy environmental cost. Save for one goat milk body soap bar, the three-month-old company’s products are fully vegan, and Kate will stop selling the goat milk after the current stock runs out.
Cutting out chemical-laden fillers where the harsh pH can strip the skin of its natural lipids and proteins, leaving you feeling dry, cracked and irritated, Eko Savon uses natural exfoliating ingredients like freshly brewed espresso to help with skin cell turnover and gently exfoliate to help rid your skin of flakiness and plant-based oils like cold-pressed rosehip and rosemary oil to aid in skin repair and regeneration. Luxuriously transporting everyday showers into aromatherapeutic experiences with her fabulous formulas, the brand’s labor intensive manufacturing process requires from 4 to 6 weeks for curing, in order to neutralize the lye, or sodium hydroxide. All the products are handmade by Kate herself in her Fo Tan studio.
Encouraged by friends, family and a growing fanbase, Kate has opened up her industrial studio to include educational workshops. Over the course of a two-and-a-half hour workshop, Kate will give you the skinny on soap-making where beginners can learn to make their own cold-process soap using ingredients of your choosing in a fully equipped studio. A return to nostalgia and the essentials of a good cleanser, the classic bar soap is back… best to start making shelf space in the bathroom.
Eko Savon offers a range of solid shampoo bars, shaving bars, hand & body bars and all-purpose soap bars. Shop all on their website. Follow Eko Savon on Facebook to find out about upcoming events and workshops.
Eko Savon: 15/F, Workshop A, 33 – 35 Au Pui Wan Street, Century Industrial Centre, Fo Tan, +852 6380 0292, email@example.com.
All images courtesy of Eko Savon.