There are as many different types of soap as there are people. There are oils, beans, extracts, exfoliates, moisturizers, and fragrance a plenty to choose from. And these soaps can be fun as long as they work for your skin. But what if you are one of the millions that have sensitive skin and the regular soaps irritate your skin? What is the best soap for sensitive skin?
People are Different. Everyone has Unique Skin
Everyone’s skin is different. Some skin is oily, some dry, some prone to rashes and acne. Some of the lucky ones barely take care of their skin and seem to have no problems throughout their lives. And then there are those of us that have sensitive skin. But even sensitive skin will change throughout one’s life. Saving in the pubescent years will cause no problem and then post-pubescent will break out in bumps and rashes anywhere a razor or sometimes even soap has touched.
So what are we supposed to do? Never shave? Never wash? Use Apple Cider Vinegar for soap? Move to the mountains and avoid all human contact? Or should we find the best soap for sensitive skin and do what we can with the skin that has been given us?
Good things about having Sensitive Skin
First off I want to say that having sensitive skin isn’t bad. How many times do we see in the news about celebrities with sensitive skin? Having sensitive skin sometimes just means that your skin is doing fine without the harsh chemicals that strip away the natural oils and enzymes in your skin. And sometimes it just means that your skin is sensitive to chemicals or ingredients that would otherwise hurt your body. The skin is the first line of defense. Sensitive will keep you out of the sun’s harmful UV rays, keep you from using face peels, and other harmful activities.
And this is very unscientific but just about every case of sensitive skin that I have seen belongs to a beautiful person. Like I said, this might be a confirmation bias but I can’t remember an ugly person having sensitive skin. Skin is what we see of a person. If you have the skin of a lizard then you don’t care about the best soap for sensitive skin or how to shave, you’re a lizard!
Sensitive skin often matures. This can mean your body has a slower rate of losing collagen and elastin so your skin will often look younger than your peers. And if you have stopped the practices that have irritated your skin then your body will have repaired it less. Just like sun damage, your body hasn’t had to repair the tissue in your skin so you will have less wrinkles and less damaged cells.
What to Avoid if you have Sensitive Skin
If we decide that living in society is for us and we’re not going to move to the mountains with our sensitive skin then we best take care of it. This can mean different things for different people. Sometimes we just need to sleep with clean bed sheets and our rashes will disappear. For some it means lasering off the hair that makes your break out every time you shave it. But for the vast majority I believe it to mean using the right soap or using a soap that isn’t a soap (vinegar, salt block, etc).
There a two main commercial soaps. Bar soap is made from sodium hydroxide. Body washes and liquid soaps are made of potassium hydroxide. The science seems pretty clear which one you should be using if you have sensitive skin – bar soap. Bar soap is much less harsh on the skin and will keep mainly of the skins oils intact. Liquid soaps can even leave some film behind. And in many cases that means leaving the skin irritant behind and further clogging you pores. Steer clear of the liquid soaps.
I’ve seen in forums and website how people recommend an exfoliating soap with moisturizers. The moisturizing part I understand as long as it is the right type of moisturizer. What is good for one isn’t necessarily great for another. But for sensitive skin you DO NOT want an exfoliator. Most of the time our main culprit is the cleaning agent. And if you are sensitive to the agent you do not want more of it getting into your pores. So stay away from these miniature cheese graters.
It should almost go without saying to not use soaps that contain Parabens, Sulfates, Triclosan and other artificial ingredients. Long term effects of these chemicals can cause cancer and respiratory damage. Propylene glycol is outright classified as a penetrator and skin irritant. Another trick word that shows up in soaps and body washes is “fragrance”. Basically fragrance can mean anything the company selling the soap wants it to mean. It is a filler ingredient that is meant to protect the company from giving out their secret ingredient. Most of the time it is just another word for harmful chemicals.
Sulfates are very common in shampoos and soaps. You know when you get a little soap/shampoo in your eye? That’s probably the sulfate burning you. I’m not saying that soaps without sulfates won’t irritate you. But nothing stings like sulfates. The International Journal of Toxicology found that not only did Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate cause skin irritation, a 15% solution caused depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, and death in four out of 20 animals.
There are more chemicals in artificial soaps than it makes sense to mention here. The best soap for sensitive skin can cause one person a problem and not affect another because of skin allergies. But a useful guide is this deep skin database. Know and keep track of what types of soaps effect you the most.
Foam is fun and makes you feel like you are really cleaning. But for those that have sensitive skin you don’t want more foam. Less is more here. In 90% of the soaps you’ll buy at Walmart you will find sulfate. Not only are they skin, lung, and eye irritants they can lead to kidney damage. Some believe that sulfates can cause balding. If you are using natural homemade soaps then stay away from the abundant lather and the soaps that bubble up. Soaps made from coconut oil, palm oil, and animal fats will lather and cleanse your skin of its natural oils and can cause further irritation. These type of soaps are alternative to laundry detergent. That’s not the best soap for sensitive skin.
From the totalbeauty.com website: “Read this guide on how to find the best soap for sensitive skin:
Purpose Bar Soap and Aveeno oatmeal soap are both recommended because they are gentle on skin but offer deep cleansing properties at the same time.”
From the symptomfind.com website: “Find The Best Bar Soap For Sensitive Skin:
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.”
That would be the exact opposite advice I would give.
Best Soap for Sensitive Skin
So now that we have covered many of the soaps and ingredients that we shouldn’t use for sensitive skin, we’ll cover now what can be the best soap for sensitive skin.
Use natural ingredients – Life was very similar for humans for thousands of years. And it certainly hasn’t been as different as the changes we have seen in the last 100 years or so. Technology is great. But we are changing our planet. We are changing our food, our soil, the air that we breathe, and the products we put on and in our bodies. We simply haven’t had the centuries that we humans need to adjust and adapt. I can’t point to a scientific article that can blame all our woes on pollution and artificial ingredients in our food and products. But to me it makes sense. Our bodies are used to the products from the earth not made in a laboratory. If chemicals work for you in your soap then great. I would prefer soap and other household products to be as natural as possible. And I think this is even more important if you sensitive or allergy prone skin.
Use a “low cleansing” soap – This is not what it seems. A low cleansing soap will still clean you. In many cases it will do so better than big foamy soaps. The word cleansing when used when talking about soap is the soap’s ability to attach to an oil. If you are a coal worker or a fry cook you want a high cleansing soap. The best soap for sensitive skin is one with low cleansing. Simply because you want as little irritation as possible.
Moisturizing – This one is important not to get wrong. You do want a moisturizing bar of soap but only if you know your skin isn’t sensitive to it. Someone’s best soap for sensitive skin might be another person’s worst. Honey and shea butter seem to help keep the skin soft and supple and work great for me. But if you have tried natural soap and are staying clear of Parabens, Sulfates, Triclosan and other artificial ingredients but still get irritated by a soap made with shea butter use a coconut oil soap.
The best soap for sensitive skin is one that avoids harmful ingredients. That alone is 90% of the battle. Once you get rid of those soaps that mask their harmful ingredients under the label “fragrance” then you’ve reduced the majority of skin irritants. Natural soaps are the best soap for sensitive skin and simply work better. They also help with skin irritation. It’s best to use natural soaps made from the following natural oils. These are the oils mixed with lye during the saponificiation process.
Palm Kernel Oil
Most natural soaps are scented. I’d recommend an essential oil simply because it is a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and is (normally) pure of other ingredients. You basically just get the plant and nothing else. And sensitive skin is less reactive to essential oils. But even essential oils can cause skin irritations. And just about anything overused or overdosed can cause an irritation. These are some of the milder essential oils and ones that can even help sensitive skin. They also make a nice smelly soap:
To sum it up use soap that has doesn’t have the chemical like Parabens, Sulfates, Triclosan and other artificial ingredients. Don’t trust soaps that will use the word “fragrance”. And the best soap for sensitive skin is one that is made from natural, gentle oils.