How to tell if you’re using the right type of soap

How to tell if you’re using the right type of soap
by Vonda Sines, July 1, 2009

Over the last few years, soap has developed a tarnished reputation as far as being harsh on the skin. However, today’s high-tech soaps are actually good for your skin. The trick is to figure out whether you’re buying the right type and if you’re using it correctly.

According to Kathy Sena, writing in the April 2009 issue Washington Woman (“Body Shop,” p. 40), soaps today are often customized to fit various skin needs such as providing moisture or treating acne.

Cleansing bars have become more popular in recent years. Reading the soap’s label gives many clues to the chemicals in the product and for which of these skin types and body parts it works best:

1. Oily or prone to acne. You should be on the lookout for soaps containing salicylic acid, a beta hydroxyl acid that sloughs off dead skin cells that could clog your pores. Soaps with benzoyl peroxide help to dry up pimples. While these ingredients are typically used on the face, Joshua Fox, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology, says you can use them on other parts of the body prone to breakouts or oiliness.

2. Dry skin. Look for mild soaps marked “superfatted.” They have moisturizing ingredients to avoid pulling the natural moisture out of the skin on your face and elsewhere on the body. Good ingredients for this type of skin include shea butter, glycerin and vitamin E, all of which add moisture while cleansing. You can also use a light, oil-free moisturizing with them to avoid clogging your pores, Washington Woman reports.

3. Sensitive skin. You need a hypoallergenic soap. This term merely means the product has fewer ingredients known to generate allergic skin reactions than other soaps do. For this type of skin, make sure to use only lukewarm water, steer clear of too much lather and scrubbing and rinse well to avoid irritation.

4. Normal skin. Lucky you. You have a choice of a variety of soaps. If your skin feels irritated, shop for a soap containing lavender. When you need to exfoliate or feel itchy, look for a product containing oatmeal. If your skin type changes from time to time, pamper it by switching to a soap that matches the new condition.

While some people are able to use the same soap on the body as the product they purchase for their face, others find this doesn’t work because their body skin is a different type. If you prefer a deodorant soap, use it on areas most likely to produce odor but avoid your face and neck, which have sensitive skin.

Fox indicates that there’s a marked difference between scented and deodorant soaps. Scented soaps, many of which are manufactured with herbal or natural fragrances, are often easier on sensitive areas of your body because they lack deodorizing agents.

He also suggests that it’s unnecessary to use antibacterial soaps when washing your hands and goes so far as to say that using them might be harmful. He adds that the chemicals that furnish the antibacterial effect can be drying as well as harsh to the skin. Researchers are also currently studying whether the overuse of antibacterials soaps might make an individual more susceptible to resistant bacteria.

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