How To Pick The Best Soap For Sensitive Skin

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

Instead of feeling clean and refreshed after a shower, does your skin feel irritated, dry and/or itchy? If so, your soap may be to blame. Sensitive skin can become dry, itchy and red if it comes into contact with some of the chemicals that soap contains, so if you know you have sensitive skin or have experienced an adverse reaction to soap in the past, it’s time to find the best soap for sensitive skin.


The soap aisle is divided by two products: bar soap and body wash. But which one is better for sensitive skin? Here are the pros and cons for both:

  • Body wash On the positive side, body wash is moisturizing, which is essential for dry skin. On the negative side, body wash tends to be more colorful and fragrance-filled than bar soap, and that’s a problem for skin that’s sensitive to fragrances and dyes.
  • Bar soap To some people, bar soap may seem old and antiquated. It’s terrible tough to hold on to and some people believe that it breeds bacteria, although that’s a myth. But when it comes to sensitive skin, bar soap has its benefits. It’s generally more mild than body wash and it does not contain the fragrances or dyes that body wash does. On the other hand, bar soap has a higher pH, which means that it’s more drying to the skin.

So which is the clear winner? When it comes to sensitive skin, the answer is bar soap. You may be surprised, or a little upset if you’re an avid user of body wash, but bar soap is much more beneficial than body wash. It has less of a chance of irritating your skin and it’s much easier to find bar soap made for sensitive skin rather than body wash. For an in-depth analysis, read Body Wash Or Bar Soap: Which Is Better?

Find The Best Bar Soap For Sensitive Skin

Now that you’ve cut out half of the soap aisle, it’s time to narrow down the choices. You know to look for bar soap, but which kind? The best place to start is the ingredient list. The best rule of thumb for any ingredient list is: If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s probably something you want to reconsider. That same rule applies here. If you have trouble reading through the list or aren’t familiar with the ingredients, don’t buy that soap. Instead, look for a bar soap made with natural ingredients such as oatmeal, almond oil or olive oil. Here are some other tips for choosing a bar soap:

  • Look for bar soap with moisturizers Since bar soap tends to dry out skin, look for one that contains moisturizers. Cetaphil is recommended by many dermatologists because it moisturizes the skin with petrolatum, which is also known as Vaseline. Other soothing moisturizers include aloe vera, vitamin E and sweet almond oil.
  • Try an exfoliating soap If you have excessively dry skin, poor circulation or skin that feels rough and scaly, you may want to try a soap that exfoliates. Choose a natural soap made with oatmeal or orange seed to scrub those dead skin cells away.
  • Choose a soap with glycerin If you have acne, eczema or another kind of dermatological problem, look for a bar soap that contains glycerin. It will cleanse your skin without aggravating your condition.
  • Make sure the soap is labeled “fragrance-free” The word “fragrance” is a blanket term for more than 3,000 chemicals, any of which you may be allergic to (see: Fragrance Allergies). To avoid irritating your skin, make sure the ingredient list does not contain the word “fragrance” or that the soap itself is labeled as “fragrance-free.” If you just can’t stay away from fruit-scented or sweet-smelling soaps, look for ones that contain essential oils like lavender oil, citronella or juniper berry.

Be sure to avoid other ingredients, such as dyes, detergents and preservatives, which can be harsh on sensitive skin.

Final Tips

If you have sensitive skin, you also want to be gentle in the way that you wash it. For instance, avoid using hot water in your shower or bath as it can dry out your skin and cause irritation. When exfoliating or washing your face, use a washcloth. Loofah sponges and sometimes pumice stones can feel too harsh when rubbed against sensitive skin. Always massage the soap into your skin in a gentle, circular motion to work up a lather and cleanse the skin. After your shower or bath, be sure to moisturize your skin with a gentle lotion or cream.

Now that you know what to look for, you should have no trouble finding a soap that works best for your sensitive skin. Once you see a difference in how your skin feels, you may want to consider looking for makeup, lotion and other products that are designed for sensitive skin.


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