Written by: Holly Troupe
Ah, Grandpa’s Wonder Pine Tar Soap. The brand makes me think of an older, vaguely Amish-looking man standing over a cauldron of boiling soap, stirring it with a long wooden paddle and a smile. What makes it a “Wonder” soap, though? What can an over-the-counter soap really do besides get you clean to varying degrees? Well, quite a lot, actually.
Pine tar doesn’t evoke images of sunshine and spring-time freshness–as a matter of fact one typically thinks of the black gloppy substance used to seal cracks in roofs and boat decks, but pine tar is a remarkable soap additive. It contains anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, so it deodorizes naturally. It is said to be an excellent treatment for skin irritants, like dandruff, psoriasis, eczema and acne. Dog owners swear that it kills fleas mercilessly while being gentle on a dog’s skin. Outdoorsy types (campers, hikers, gardeners, etc) find that it effectively removes dirt and grass stains and soothes flare-ups from stinging nettle, poison ivy and poison oak.
Grandpa’s Wonder Pine Tar Soap contains saponified coconut and palm oils, pine tar and vegetable glycerin. No fragrances are added, so the Pine Tar Soap smells exactly like what it contains (more on that later). It is brown in color, but the lather is very rich and white (I have used other natural niche soaps in the past and they lathered up the same color as the bar, staining my shower in an annoying fashion). The 4.25oz bar will last one person using twice per day (I use the same bar once in the shower and once as a face wash in the evening) nearly two months, so the $2.80-$5 price range isn’t terribly expensive. For the six months I have been consistently using this soap, I have noticed a significant reduction in break outs (I have very oily skin and have been acne prone since I was 11) and my skin is far softer; I no longer have that tight feeling that made me slather on lotion immediately after stepping out of the shower. I find it to be an effective, oil, dirt and makeup dissolving cleaning agent that is also remarkably mild. I do not use this as a shampoo, so I cannot testify to its effectiveness in combating dandruff. However, I did recently burn my hand (minor, but painful) and I noticed after I washed the area with my Pine Tar Soap that the pain had diminished dramatically and the redness and swelling had reduced. This is perhaps due to the anti-inflammatory properties in pine tar.
The smell. Some might consider the smell a drawback. It smells of, well, pine tar. People who expect the soap to smell like a crisp pine forest or a Christmas tree will be sorely disappointed. Pine tar is the extract from the pressurized carbonization of pine wood resin, so it retains little of the fresh, piney scent. It has been described as bacon-y, like sawdust, beef jerky or a forest fire. When I first purchased the product, I noticed that the smell overwhelmed the bathroom, which I didn’t find objectionable, but others did. Gradually, we got used to it, although that might not be an entirely good thing. I have not noticed the smell of the soap lingering on my skin after I step out of the shower, but then again I use colognes and scented detergents which may adulterate the aroma a bit.
Ultimately, the wide variety of benefits make this soap extremely useful to have around the house and certainly worth the money; you might not want to use a perfume laden designer bath gel if you burn yourself, develop a rash or any other skin irritation. While the smell is strong, unusual in a soap and, to some, obnoxious, Grandpa’s Wonder Pine Tar Soap cleans gently yet effectively, it soothes minor skin irritants, it deodorizes naturally and it lasts a long time. In short, Grandpa’s Wonder Pine Tar Soap might truly be a wonder.