Reviewed: Rapha Soap
Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It should be treated well for both short-term and long-term reasons. Comfort, performance, and health; to name a few. More importantly, because we enjoy riding, and know that sometimes our skin presents limitations we’d rather not have, we periodically investigate ways to help our skin in an effort to further help ourselves.
We don’t know if this is why Rapha decided to get into the skin care business. Regardless, they decided to get into a realm that only few clothing companies have dared tread before. They’ve designed their own chamois cream, embrocation, and soap. As with all of Rapha’s offerings, they’ve engineered these products to fit into their aesthetic in addition to performing well.
The cream and rub come in cylindrical screw-top tins. Don’t know if this is how the stuff came in the early days of cycling or not, but in a world where plastic and squeeze tubes are common, this departure is welcome. The tins are easy to hold, easy to open and close, and easy to grab a dollop or a few finger-fulls at a time. We’ve been trying to figure out what a good use of the tins will be when we finish the contents. Safety pins are too easy.
The skincare products all come with a seemingly hand-drawn map of Mount Ventoux, and a short story about an exploit on the famed slopes.
The cream, hot sauce, and soap also share herbal ingredients. The aromas will tickle your nostrils as notes underneath the sensations you get from whiffing them. You can sense the heat of the embrocation, the cool of the cream, and the cleanliness of the soap. At the same time, you’ll know that these three products are related.
No, you do not need to use them together. In fact, you don’t need to use them in conjunction with any other Rapha product, though the soap works well with their leather riding gloves. Since they are three products that are related yet separate, we’ll give each their own segment of this review.
Soap is rarely a subject of our attention. Soap has been produced since about 2800 b.c.e, after all. Whether it’s dish soap or hand soap, we typically go for the cheapest products that don’t smell bad and don’t have antibacterial properties. Decorative soaps can be fun, but we don’t understand the point of having a shaped soap that is display purposes only. Initially, we thought the Rapha Soap was in this category.
But then we gave it some thought. While we used to go along with the notion that white soap is “pure,” we’re much less partial to that reading now. We see it more like white bread and white rice; something that probably has been processed and is less worthwhile now that it has been through the process. It makes more and more sense to us that products like soap, bread, and rice have some color in them.
The white soap equals clean metaphor is one we don’t believe, so a soap that comes green, as Rapha’s does, is intriguing. Green is probably the most abundant color in nature, so we like the symbolism of washing with nature to get back to a more natural state. Ostensibly it comes from olive oil, though Rapha doesn’t publish an exact ingredients list.
Then there is the bouquet. It is clean and light without being harsh or medicinal. Another contrast with hand soaps we typically use.
Getting our hands a bit dirtier on the subject, we found that the shape and cut edges make the Rapha similar to traditional Marseille Soap, a hand soap that also utilizes olive oil.
Soap, despite being ubiquitous, is kind of mysterious. There is oil in soap and yet we use it with water to take dirt and oil off our hands. There are tiny solid hydrophilic particles that comprise soap. They cling together until wet, when they combine with water and open up, where the hydrophobic interior grabs onto dirt and oil and allows the water to wash it away.
The Rapha Soap is, not surprisingly, very good at washing away their Winter Embro’. Simple, easy, the lotion and the dirt embedded in the hot sauce after a ride come off in one motion; two if it’s been a really long day. It’s good for getting garden-variety dirt and muck off as well. We like how our hands feel post-washing. The ingredients are not harsh and don’t leave our hands feeling totally stripped. But this gentle feeling also has a downside. It took some work to get dirty bike grease off our hands, though it did come off. If you’re used to using industrial-strength cleaners to remove grease, Rapha takes more time and effort.
Still, whatever ingredients they used to create this 100g, 4.5cm cube of cleanliness, they found materials that break down slowly. After more than two months of using the Rapha Soap more than we’d typically use a bar, we still had a decent quantity left.
This soap is an indulgence. Nothing wrong with that. It’s fun and interesting and different and gives a little pleasure when we wash our hands. Nobody wants a jour sans; if this alters the cleaning routines, we take that as a good thing. Much in the way that Rapha’s ethos is to understate their strengths, we want others to experience the soap as well at our house, but don’t want to leave it in a too-obvious spot.