Is Your Soap Making Your Skin Worse?


If you have a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or even acne, you probably think the most important things you can do are to wash and moisturize your skin regularly – after all, good skin care leads to better skin, right? Although that’s what we teach teens when their skin starts to break out, in reality, many of these products may be doing further damage to your skin. From conventional soaps that harmfully modify the skin’s pH to moisturizers that compromise your skin’s natural moisture barriers, those with skin conditions need to be very cautious about what products they use.

Addressing Eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition, affecting as many as 20% of infants and about 3% of adults and children in the United States, and while most outgrow the condition by their tenth birthday, others live with the itchy condition for a lifetime. So what’s the best treatment for eczema? Typically, doctors prescribe ointments and even immune-modifying medications. Unfortunately, these creams can cause additional itching and burning and even blisters, while oral medications can make patients more vulnerable to infections. As for traditional soaps, the dyes and scents can worsen eczema.

Instead of washing eczema sites with normal soap, consider applying prescription anti-itch ointments and then adding a wet dressing over the area. These dressings trap moisture and protect the skin’s natural barrier while also helping to reduce irritation.

Psoriasis Struggles

Another common skin health issue is psoriasis, which can cause unsightly and itchy skin plaques. In many cases, psoriasis is treated with the same corticosteroid ointments as eczema, as well as added vitamin D. But be careful trying to wash these irritated areas. Common soap additives like sodium laureth sulfate, which is used to create lather, can cause rashes and worsen psoriasis, as can any added perfumes.

Rather than soaping up areas of skin irritated by psoriasis, consider applying aloe vera to reduce inflammation and adding fish oil supplements to your diet. Getting a small amount of daily sun exposure on affected areas can also help, but beware of too much sun, which can also cause psoriasis to flare.

Attacking Acne

Finally, if you have acne, or even occasional breakouts, you’ve likely got an arsenal of soaps and scrubs that you use to tame outbreaks. Most of these products boast salicylic acid, but it’s important not to overuse these products. Even if you have serious outbreaks, don’t wash your skin more than twice a day, and beware of added ingredients, even if they’re natural. Many soaps add herbal ingredients like peppermint to make their products smell good without using artificial perfumes, but peppermint can be highly irritating to acne-prone skin. Additionally, traditional soaps made with lard and lye completely wipe out the top layer of your skin, so look for less abrasive cleansers.

Treating skin problems shouldn’t be so hard, but with dozens of products available in the average pharmacy, it can quickly become confusing. So if you’re concerned that your cleaners are making your skin worse, consider just giving your skin a quick rinse with plain water. It’s all you need to stay clean, wash away environmental irritants, and it’s the most natural thing you can apply to your skin.

In the face of all those products, everything you need to care for your skin may already be flowing from your bathroom tap.