Is Washing Your Face With Bar Soap Bad For Your Skin?


FACT: Using a bar of soap on your face is bad for your skin.

In the past 25 years, bar soaps have received a lot competition from face washing liquids, gels, creams and foams which are formulated to be gentler on the skin by not disrupting the surface moisture barrier. Despite the popularity of these gentler alternatives, there are still a lot of people who prefer to use a bar of soap–probably due to ease and habit.

However, is washing your face with a bar of soap really that bad for your skin?

Yes, I believe it is harmful to the skin to cleanse your face with a bar of facial soap. Although many bar soaps are now better formulated and gentler (due to a lower pH that closely matches the normal skin level), they will still be more drying sulfate-free gels, foams, liquids and creams. (What does sulfate-free mean? Read about sulfate-free cleansers here.) The binders that hold a bar of soap together naturally have a higher pH than products that are formulated specifically for cleansing the face, so they will have a drying effect on the skin. Skin that is dry and parches is bad for the long-term health and look of the skin.

Read: How To Wash Your Face

Why is it bad to dry out the skin? 

When you wash with a foaming cleanser or soap that is too drying, it pulls all the water out of the skin and creates dead, dry skin cell buildup. To compensate for the moisture you removed, your moisturizer not have to repair the dehydrated cells caused from cleansing. (Not efficient at all!) Every product that  your face should be offering something beneficial and not something harmful or potentially damaging.

I’ve experimented with bar soaps through the years on my own skin, especially when I travel to France to visit family. I have tried cleansing my face with the French soaps my sister in-law has in her bathroom because, to me, there is something about a French soap that seems so luxurious and wonderful. However, every single time, my skin is left feeling tight and looking dehydrated.

Read: Are French Women Converting To American Skin Care Products?

Are some bar soaps gentler than others?

Yes, there are bar soaps with moisturizer agents to make them gentler, but they are still a no-no in my book. Foaming cleansers are fine, I just don’t suggest ones in a bar form. Here’s the rule when it comes to foaming cleansers: The more lather and larger bubbles a foaming cleansers produces, the more drying it will be. The less lather with smaller bubbles, the less drying it will be.

Read: My Thoughts On The Clarisonic Brush (Hint: Ouch!)

What if I use a bar of soap and it doesn’t dry out my skin? 

There’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin. People associate dry skin with flaking. Although, people with combination and oily skin types might not ever experience flakiness associated with dryness because the built-in oils in their skin will prevent this from happening. Dehydration, on the other hand, is when there is a tight feeling, which indicates that water has been robbed from the skin. If you have been using bar soap to wash their face for a long time, you might think this tight feeling is normal because you have nothing to compare it to. However, if you use a gentle sulfate-free cleanser, you will definitely notice that your skin doesn’t have that tight, parched feel. I personally use Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel and my skin loves it. It never dries it out and certainly doesn’t feel harsh on my sensitive skin. But not all skin is equal, so choose your skin type here to see which cleanser is right for you.

Read: Five Reasons To Wash Your Face At Night

In summary, I am not convinced there is a bar of soap available that will be as gentle on the skin as sulfate-free cleansers. Formulators of bar soaps will disagree with me, but my experience as an esthetician and skin care expert for 25 years confirms this for me.

That being said, if you love using something, despite the conflicting advice on my blog; go for it. It’s your skin and you have the right to use whatever makes you happy, but I just hope it makes your skin happy, too.

See the entire collection of gentle, sulfate-free, soap-free cleansers here.

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

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