Sans Savon Creates ‘World’s First’ Soap-free Cleansers

Sans Savon is redefining cleanliness by taking the suds out of soap and putting sustainability at the forefront.

According to the research paper “The Influence of Soap and Alcohol-based Cleansers on Human Skin,” frequent use of soap can damage the skin. In fact, soaps can have a pH balance of 10–11, due to a combination of a weak acid (fatty acids) and a strong base (lye), which is much higher—and disruptive—than the skin’s natural pH balance. This imbalance can kill both good and bad bacteria, weaken the skin’s barrier and make it more sensitive to infections. Not to mention soaps can also damage skin proteins and lipids, potentially leading to dryness, irritation, barrier damage and itching.

Adding insult to injury, conventional soap undermines the skin’s crucial role in establishing a protective shield against external threats such as pollution and invasive microorganisms, exacerbating the situation further.

Seeking a healthier alternative to harsh, alcohol-heavy soaps, Eli and Erica Halliwell launched Sans Savon last month.

“Research shows that the soap we use on our hands and body is at least as damaging to our skin as shampoo is to the scalp. While soap has been a wonderful invention, our bodies were not designed for it, so it’s super damaging to our skin,” Eli told WWD. “[With this in mind] we decided to team up with a formulator from Quebec to develop non-soap cleansers for hand and body that meet our sustainability and ingredient values.”

Inspired by the Charlevoix region of La Belle province, Sans Savon, a public-benefit corporation, addresses “all the problems” of traditional soap while providing all its benefits.

Sans Savon—which translates to “without soap” in French—products effectively clean away dirt, sweat, dangerous bacteria and other germs. However, unlike conventional soaps that strip the skin’s protective lipid barrier, these products support the skin with naturally derived humectants, substances that attract water from the air or skin to hydrate hair, skin and nails.

The brand employs an antimicrobial system carefully calibrated to eliminate 99.9 percent of germs while preserving the essential core of one’s microbiome, ensuring it remains dominant and protective against non-symbiotic microorganisms. Sans Savon also incorporates probiotics to replenish beneficial bacteria that may have been eradicated by potent antibiotics and supports these good bacteria with prebiotics to keep them “healthy and thriving.”

Bodybar Secondary

Sans Savon’s body bar.

“Our antimicrobial system targets dangerous bacteria, fungi and other germs, but it doesn’t overclean and strip away the symbiotic bacteria that are beneficial for you. In fact, we include prebiotics to nourish those good bacteria,” Eli explained. “Sans Savon products are also made from plant-based esters and fatty alcohols, which are more acidic and aligned with your skin’s natural pH of 4.5 to 5.5, so they do not undermine the structural integrity of your skin.”

One standout product Sans Savon offers is its hand soap. Retailing for $41, this non-stripping, nourishing, soap-free micellar cleanser contains sustainably sourced essential oils from balsam fir, white spruce and black spruce, with notes of labrador tea and citrus. Other products, such as the body wash ($49) and bar soap ($25), offer the same benefits with different scent options available.

“There is no foam or suds whatsoever. The products leave a soft, slick feeling on the skin that remains without any residue, and the user feels clean and moisturized when exiting the shower,” Eli said. “The difference in the user experience reinforces the unique value props of the products and reminds the user that they are cleansing with something completely different from anything they’ve experienced before.”

To enhance the protective and moisturizing effects of Sans Savon products, the company incorporates naturally derived and upcycled humectants that bind water to the skin.

“I’m guessing other brands use similarly moisturizing additives to their hand and body cleansers, although I’m pretty confident the upcycled nature of our humectants is relatively unique,” Eli added. “All of these innovations combine to create very unique formulations that deliver compelling results along with a differentiated user experience.”

Sustainably sourced

In addition to offering a healthier alternative to traditional soap, Sans Savon is committed to creating green products.

For example, its body and hand washes are sold in “forever bottles” made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.

“They look and feel like glass, but consume much less energy to produce, are much lighter to ship and won’t break if they drop on the floor of your shower,” Eli said. “We have patent-protected their unique design and they are meant to be refilled for years while remaining beautiful to look at on your kitchen or bathroom counter.”

Furthering its eco-conscious efforts, Sans Savon wraps all its bottles in paper bags, free from labels, and reducing the need for excess cardboard. These bags use only a small fraction of the pulp required for cartons, are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified and utilize environmentally safe dyes.

Sans Savon also ensures that the majority of its ingredients are of natural origin. The body and hand washes are over 99 percent naturally derived, while the bar soap is 88 percent. Whenever possible, the brand sources upcycled ingredients; the avocado oil, for example, comes from non-scalable avocados while the grapeseed oil is sourced from discarded seeds at wineries. The olive-derived ingredients are upcycled from olive oil producers and the cedar oil used for scent is thanks to hedge trimmings collected throughout Quebec.

“Additionally, the Boreal Blend scents in our products are 100 percent from essential oils, with no added fragrance,” Eli explained. “This results in a more subtle scent compared to many other hand and body products, aligning with our naturally derived philosophy.”

While Sans Savon has already made sustainable strides, the brand has no plans to slow down anytime soon. In fact, Eli noted that he wants to “build brands” that deliver new and innovative solutions to known problems, incorporate thoughtful and tasteful design in all aspects of their form and function and push new boundaries in sustainability.

“One of the benefits of self-funding a business is that we can build a brand that is 100 percent aligned with our personal values. We believe non-foaming cleansers are the future for healthy skin, and we envision a future where non-soap products are as prevalent in the beauty category as non-cow products are today in the milk category,” he added. “In 10 years, Sans Savon will likely have expanded into more products and a range of scent profiles, will likely be available at both owned- and third-party retail and will still be run by Erica and myself as our personal passion project.”

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