Why should I not use soap on my face?

James M.. Wilmott

You should avoid soap on your face because it is a harsh surfactant which indiscriminately removes good lipids as well as dirt and sebum.  This causes the breakdown of the skin's natural moisture barrier which results in water passing out of the skin more rapidly making it severely dry.  Further, it lets materials into the skin such as irritants, allergens, and unfriendly micro-organisms which can provoke inflammation and the ultimate breakdown of key structural proteins and water-binding carbohydrates like hyaluronic acid.  Soap is also very alkaline (increases the pH of the skin).  This produces a surface that is hostile to the micro-organisms that are needed to maintain the skin's immune system.

It depends the type of soap you use on your face. Some soaps are harsh and strip away your skin's "acid mantle" -- the protective layer that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi. Be sure to wash your face with a pH-balanced soap or cleanser. Skip soaps with colors and fragrances. Dyes can leave a dull residue, and scents can trigger allergies. Tip: If the soap you're using doesn't sting your eyes, it likely won't bother your skin.

For many people, the skin on the face is more sensitive than the skin on the rest of the body. So, the soaps you use on your body may be too harsh to use on the face. 

Soaps contain detergents and usually have alkaline pH. They may also contain fragrances that mask the natural odor of the soap. Moisturizers in the soaps help soothe the skin as it is cleaned. These may be too harsh to use on the face. 

Mild soaps may be used on the face for some patients. They do contain detergents, but they are free of colors and fragrances, so they are less irritating.

Soap free cleansers are usually best for the face. They clean using synthetic detergents, known as syndets. They also have a more acidic pH, closer the skin's natural pH. There are face cleansers designed specifically for different skin types. So whether you are dry, oily, or sensitive, you can find a product ideal for you. Plus, there are different vehicles to choose from including cleansing creams (eg. cold creams), cloths, and even scrubs.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

The harsh cleansing ingredients in traditional soap can strip the skin of its natural moisture, leaving it feeling tight and dry. Keeping your skin hydrated is essential to its health and beauty. Using a mild, moisturizing cleanser or beauty bar can help to preserve skin's natural moisture.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.