Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In a Lather Over Pears’ Soap

I found Pears’ soap a few days ago – in all places – in a Dollar Tree store for $1.00. It was the first time I’ve bought it in quite a few years and I’m not sure why. Because I love it!

Well, let me say I used to love it, but this bar is different from the Pears’ Soap I remembered. My curiosity got the best of me so I did a bit of research and found out why it doesn’t feel or smell exactly the same.
This and all images below are vintage Pears' Soap advertising posters via Pinterest

You see, this soap – the world’s first registered brand and therefore the world’s oldest continuously existing brand – is no longer made in England, but by a company known as Hindustan Unilever, in India.

There’s a fascinating history of the company at wikipedia, which provides a  history of the company; details about how the soap is made; and why the current version is different from the original.

My memory of Pears’ dates only to the 1970s, and it’s funny how I came to find it. I was reading a horror novel (yes, I actually read that type material back then!), Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon – a New York Times bestseller that was made into a television miniseries. The novel's narrator made many references to his wife bathing with Pears’ Soap and the wonderful way she smelled following her bath. 

I had to find that soap! This was in the days, of course, before ordering anything the heart desires via the Internet was possible, so I had to inquire at several pharmacies before I found it.

Once I tried it, I was sold on that transparent soap redolent with the scent of clean laundry and herbs (rosemary and thyme) from the garden. And it's such a clean and refreshing feeling after a bath with glycerin soap containing only natural ingredients.   

The following quote is from the Wikipedia article:

“In October 2009 the formula for the transparent amber soap was altered from the original to become 'Gentle Care' wrapped in an inner cellophane covering. The new soap was slightly softer in texture and lasted half as long, but its most noticeable difference was its scent. The aroma of the classic transparent amber bar, which used to be characterized by a mild, spicy herbal fragrance, had been altered to a stronger aromatic scent. The "Hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic" claim was dropped because of the new ingredients. Furthermore, the 3-month aging process described on the original box does not appear on the box of the 'Gentle Care' formula, suggesting that the "improvements" were made so that the soap could be produced more quickly and with cheaper ingredients, therefore increasing profits.

On 6 January 2010, after a Facebook campaign, it was reported in the media that Pears planned to abandon the new formula and that by March 2010 a new version would be available that is "much closer to the original". On 8 January 2010, it was reported in the media that Pears would not abandon the new formula but "make further improvements, by delivering a scent that more closely resembles the original formula. However, this has not occurred.”

It’s sad when products one loves and has grown accustomed to change – all in the name of mass merchandising and higher profits.

I’ll finish the bar of Pears’ Soap but I doubt I’ll buy it again – even if it only costs one dollar.

Have you, or do you use Pears’ Soap? Do you find the current version any way comparable to the old one? What is your favorite soap and why? Please share. Thanks!


  1. I use Pears shop and had noticed that it was half the size - it used to be very chunky - one of the reasons I use it is because I have magnetic shop holders and if I use ordinary soap the magnet corrodes and because Pears has glycerine in it it doesn't, so I reckon it is probably better for your skin too. The scent was quite strong and refreshing but is is definitely just a shadow of its former self now.
    There used to be a painting used in Pears adverts called Bubbles - you can see it here
    H knew the child who was Bubbles in the painting. By the time H knew him he was an old man and H was just a youngster.

    1. I checked out the Bubbles painting; how interesting, esp. that H. knew him.

      Perhaps one day they'll bring back the old Pears soap!

  2. This is the first time I hear of the soap.
    Too bad that the formula was changed. But I guess that the old " brands " ( even the very first registered brand ) have to change to keep up with the trend somehow.
    Just think how many versions there are of the perfume Chanel 5. Wondering, if the very original scent launched, still exists?
    I use liquid soaps ( or buy a refill- bag and pour it into my permanent glass soap bottle.
    I´ve been using Sebamed Olive Body Soap; an all over cleanser, with a very mild scent.
    I have used way more expensive soaps in the past and am now wondering much money spent.
    The marketing men are clever ; ).

    1. I have spent on high-end soaps as well. They do smell wonderful, but I just don't pay $20-35 anymore for a bar of soap!

  3. I've heard of Pear's soap but never tried it. Too bad they have changed the chemistry. I really like the graphics in the old posters. My dermatologist recommended I use Dove so that is what I do.


    1. Beautiful old posters; would love to have one.

      Dove seems to be a mild and definitely a good smelling soap. We use Olay most of the time.

  4. i have not thought about Pears in a long, long time but I remember its fragrance so well and loved it. Sorry to know it's not the same. Seems like all the good things, especially fragrances get changed.

  5. Hello pears.

    I rang your Australian supplier (Pental) on 03 92512311.
    To ask them if the original Pears soap is back.
    The person I spoke to sent me a 3 pack of Pears Transparent.
    The batch number is 1112B655.
    We opened the package, only to be set back with the strong chemical smell. Not very nice at all!
    So we gave it a try, 3 showers later and it was gone!
    We will never purchase it again!
    I am now asking you to please bring back the “original” pears transparent soap.
    The soap with the beautiful aroma that is darker than the new one and lasts for 28 showers!
    Thank you

  6. pears soap is the best soap. I tried all new soaps which came in market but pears and dove is the best one.

  7. Where in London can I get PEARS SOAP mf-erd after 2011 with 8 ingredients?

  8. Ah, what awful news. I adore Pears, and for years, whenever my mother ret'd from the UK she'd bring me bars as we couldn't get it in MA. When I moved to CO, every now and then I'd see some at Rite Aid and would buy them all. I eventually stocked up about 200 bars, which we've been using over the past six years, so hadn't heard about the change. How stupid of Unilever not to listen to consumers, just glad I still have some bars left, which I'll savor - my husband can damn well use Irish Spring ;) - Justine

  9. I have used both the old and the new formulations of Pears and I agree that the new one is not comparable to the old, although I think that the new formula smells closer to the old one than it used to. I cannot give up Pears; it is too deeply embedded in my life. That astringent/herbal/citrusy scent is wonderful in the morning. The only other soaps I use are Yardley and the Vermont Country Store's own brand [very nice soap].

  10. The new one stinks like janitorial chemicals...

  11. Someone started to make soap like the old Pears version since Unilever absolutely refuses to. It's called Brittania Transparent soap. You can buy online But it's annoying that you can't just buy it in the shop. Unilever really ruined a great thing.


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