Our Rating: 5 stars

Arcona’s Basic Five (along with Desert Mist, Peptide Hydrating Complex and The Solution Pads) includes a cleanser and exfoliator. But, as always with Arcona, there’s a little surprise in store. First, the cleanser is a soap bar and the exfoliator does more than scrub.

I have to confess that the beauty industry has pretty much indoctrinated me that I should wash my face with a cleanser and that soap is to be distained. But soap bars have been cleaning up their act and Arcona has several that are a real pleasure to use. I bought the Berry Fruit Bar a couple of years ago, seduced by its jewel-like color and so was prepared to like the Toner Tea Bar ($38). It lived up to expectations and its name – this bar truly tones as well as cleanses.

You have to love witch hazel to like Arcona’s products. The company formulates it in almost everything it produces and Toner Tea is no exception. Witch hazel gives this soap bar part of its scent, and the fragrance is rounded out by earthy tea aromas. There are black, white and green teas here for a strong antioxidant effect. Witch hazel is also an antioxidant as well as a useful astringent.

The suds are provided by plant sapponins from yucca and aloe. Saponins are glycosides and form about 3% of an aloe vera plant. They are soapy substances that provide cleansing and antiseptic activity, as well as being antimicrobials against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts. Saponin rich yucca extract – taken typically from the root – is also used for making soaps. Anyway, you can enjoy this soap bar’s foam knowing it is completely free from chemical surfactants.

A word on the price. Compared to many cleansers, $38 isn’t out of whack. In addition to the high-quality ingredients, it is worth noting that based on my experience with Berry Fruit Bar, Arcona’s soaps last a really long time (even when used in the shower!)

I was taken back to my teens when using Arcona Golden Grain Gommage ($42) as it is an oatmeal-based exfoliator (I made my own oatmeal scrubs in a desperate attempt to control my teenage acne). Actually, my take on Golden Grain Gommage is that it is probably effective for breakout-prone skin as it includes glycolic acid and retinol. Arcona has taken Golden Grain’s exfoliation duties very seriously indeed as there is a third class of skin smoother here, plant and fruit enzymes. These work to dissolve (sometimes the adverb “eat” is used) dead skin cells and any other residue that dulls the complexion. Golden Grain Gommage is not something I would use more than a couple of times a week, but I do find overall that it is gentle enough for my sensitive skin.

Ingredients in Toner Tea Bar: Aqua (Water), Glycerin*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Kernel Oil, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Sorbitol, Sorbitan Oleate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein, Alcohol Denat., Camellia Sinensis (Black Tea) Leaf Extract, Camellia Senesis (Green Tea) Extract, Myroxylon Pereirae (Balsam Peru) Oil, Fructooligosaccharides (D-beta), Honey, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Glucosamine HCI (D), Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Oil

Ingredients in Golden Grain Gommage: Agua (Distilled Water), Cornmeal, Oatmeal, Glycolic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycerin*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Retinol, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Allantoin, Fruit Enzymes, Plant Enzymes, Lecithin, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Extract, Grapefruit (Citrus Gandis) Seed Extract