Soap 101: A Guide To Lathering Up

Soap: It’s one of those household staples that everyone shops for, but not always with the proper focus toward the best choice for one’s personal needs. We all are careful about choosing cosmetics, shampoos, and facial treatments designed for our specific concerns, but when it comes to the bar or bottle of soap we reach for in the shower—how do you select the product you use every day?

organic handmade soap

If you haven’t given much thought to what you lather up with, here’s a primer on soap features for a variety of common skin types and issues.

Dry Skin

dry skin

Dry skin is a very common problem that can strike people of all ages, and ranges in severity from milder symptoms such as flaking or “tightness” all the way up to deeper issues like scaling, peeling, cracking/bleeding, and itching. Additionally, it can be exacerbated by weather (particularly drier winter months). Dry skin that is not properly cared for can develop conditions such as eczema, cellulitis, and inflamed hair follicles.

It’s critical to choose a soap that has moisturizing properties—and, specifically, a designation on the label for dry skin. Many of the most popular commercial brands offer soaps in bar and wash form that are made especially for dry skin. Avoid strong fragrances and dyes to minimize irritation. You may also wish to look into natural soaps made of ingredients such as beeswax or goat’s milk, which are gentle on the skin.



Similar to dealing with dry skin, lathering up eczema-prone skin can be quite tricky. Individuals with eczema have what is considered “poor barrier” skin, meaning that it loses its natural oils easily; and also absorbs substances on contact, to deeper levels of the epidermis, resulting in irritation. Both plain water and traditional bar soaps tend to further aggravate the condition by drying out the skin, thus creating an even worse situation for the eczema sufferer.

In addition to keeping baths and showers very short in length, those with eczema should look for a liquid soap or wash with emollients that will help the skin retain its natural oils. Avoid bar soaps entirely, and also look for products without added perfumes, fragrances, and/or essential oils which can further irritate eczematous skin.

Acne-Prone or Oily Skin

People with oily skin know that acne is by no means a condition limited to the facial area only! Acne can pop up on the back, shoulders, chest, and even the lower parts of the body, so those who battle this problem are in need of a soap that can help control the problem all over. Just as there are specific soaps made for facial acne, there are also body washes that include pore-clearing, oil- and bacteria-controlling ingredients which also exfoliate the skin, such as salycilic acid. Antiseptic ingredients such as mint, eucalyptus and tea tree oil can also help. You can try using your favorite acne facial bar on your body as well—it should be just fine to use all over, so long as you are careful to steer clear of sensitive body areas (keep a milder soap handy for those places).

Normal Skin

If you have normal and/or non-reactive skin, you probably select your soaps based on aesthetic or price qualities. This means you definitely have the luxury of more fun when shopping for suds! Since you don’t have to worry about any specific conditions or potential reactions, you may wish to try a formula that some of the other types cannot use—such as shower gels, which due to their formulation and, often, very vibrant perfumes, can be too drying or irritating for others. Those with normal skin can enjoy experimenting with different fragrances and formulations, making every morning a spa-like experience in the shower!

No matter what kind of skin you have, buying the right kind of soap will greatly increase your overall dermatological health, as well as make your showers or baths more pleasant.

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About the Author

Jeff Chiarelli
Jeff Chiarelli is the Head of Marketing for Ogle School. His responsibilities include leading Ogle School's marketing and branding strategy to amplify Ogle School's passion for helping create future beauty professionals in the communities Ogle School serves.