Why Does Soap Make My Skin Dry?

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Keeping skin clean is vital to its overall health and appearance. Cleansing ‘the right way’ with the right products is very important. Perhaps your favorite bar soap is not working so well these days, causing your skin to flake and feel tight. You may be wondering to yourself, ‘why does soap make my skin dry?’

The high pH level found in most bar soaps is what dehydrates the skin. The cleansing agents or surfactants contained in the soap are designed to mix with water and then bind to oil, dirt, and makeup, removing them from the skin. This can strip the surface layer of natural oils, making it feel tight, rough and dry. Therefore, it’s recommended to avoid using soaps that contain sulfates, dyes, perfume or other harsh chemical additives.

Now that you know why soap can make your skin feel dry, let’s explore this topic in more detail below. We’ll discuss why bar soap can sometimes be considered ‘bad’ for the skin, what happens if you don’t rinse it off completely and if it’s okay to cleanse your skin with just water alone. We’ll also explain which soap works best for dry skin and how to use essential oils and other all-natural ingredients to keep skin clean, soft and healthy.

And now, if you’re ready to learn more about soap and its connection to dry skin, then let’s get to it!

Why Does Bar Soap Dry My Skin?

The pH level in a bar of soap is what determines how drying to skin it can be. A pH is a measurement tool used to calculate the ‘hydrogen ion concentration’ present in a water-based or aqueous solution. High concentrations of hydrogen ions contain a low pH whereas low concentrations of ions contain a high pH. There is evidence that says soaps that have a high pH can dry out your skin causing it to be itchy, dry and flaky.

If you have normal or combination skin, you want your soap to have a ‘neutral’ pH, around 7. Anything over 10 is considered ‘harsh’ and only those with oily skin should use soap with such a high pH level. People with dry or sensitive skin should opt for a mild soap with a low pH between 4 and 6.

What Ingredient in Soap Dries Out Skin?

Most traditional soaps contain sodium lauryl sulfate (or SLS). This ingredient acts as a surfactant, which is a cleansing compound that works with water to remove oil and dirt from the skin. Its highly drying to the skin and if used too often, can make dry or sensitive skin feel tight, rough and uncomfortable. Other ingredients found in soap that causing dryness include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s), isopropyl alcohol and salicylic acid.

If possible, choose a product that’s hypoallergenic and free of harsh chemical additives, such as Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. It can be used daily on your face, hands, and body and won’t dry out the skin as traditional soap can. It contains mild cleansers and ¼ moisturizing cream that help protect your skin’s natural moisture barrier. For more information please see below under the subheading entitled: What is the Best Bar Soap for Dry Skin?

What Happens if You Don’t Rinse Soap Off Your Skin?

If you leave soap on your skin without rinsing it off, you run the risk of drying it out and irritating it. Soap is specifically designed to work withwater. When left on, it will make your skin feel tight, itchy and dry. It will also appear red, rough and flaky, which is not only unsightly but uncomfortable as well.

If the packaging around the soap doesn’t specify how long to leave it on, then you should rinse the lather completely off your skin within 30 to 60 seconds of application. Regardless of whether your skin is oily or not, soap should not be left on for any longer than 2 minutes at the most!

What is the Best Way to Cleanse Skin?

The best way to cleanse skin is to use a product that works with (rather than against) it! You don’t want a cleanser that strips the skin of its natural, protective oils. Instead, you want one that has a low pH level (between 4 and 6) and all-natural, if possible. The International Journal of Cosmetic Science says soaps have a deep influence on your skin’s surface pH. Your skin’s average pH is below 5 so when choosing a soap with a Ph that is 5 or lower.

 This means it should be free of perfumes, dyes and other harsh chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and sulfates.

This often begs the question, ‘is face wash better than soap?’ Well, the answer is, ‘it depends!’ The only way facial wash is better than bar soap is if it contains the proper pH level. As many soaps can contain a high pH (between 10 and 12), liquid facial cleanser designed specifically for the face will likely have a lower pH level and therefore, is ‘better’ for the skin.

Try the following 5-step regimen for clean, healthy, glowing skin:

Step 1: Treat Skin

Begin by treating the skin to an all-natural mask. Simply mash ½ of an avocado and add in 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of aloe vera. Blend together well and apply to face. Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.

If you just don’t have the time to make your won mask, there are plenty of very good natural skin masks online to choose from. There are skin masks that are available for all types of skin. You can check them out online at Amazon.

Step 2: Cleanse Skin

Using an all-natural soap with a pH level of 4 to 6 (or a mild facial wash), gently cleanse your face with warm water (never hot, as this will dry out your skin even more). Pat dry lightly but leave a small amount of water on the skin surface for exfoliating purposes.

There is a list of popular pH balanced soaps for all types of skin types towards the end of this article.

Step 3: Exfoliate Skin

Slough off dead skin cells using an easy, homemade scrub. Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with ¼ cup of grapeseed oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Apply this mixture to the skin. Rinse thoroughly with warm water followed by a splash of cool water and then pat dry gently. 

Here again, if you don’t have the time to make your own exfoliator there are some very popular ones online at Amazon.

Step 4: Tone Skin

After exfoliating, apply an all-natural toner. Take 1/2 cup of witch hazel and combine it with ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and ½ cup of coconut water in a bottle and shake vigorously. Dab the liquid onto a cotton ball and then swipe it across your face, avoiding the delicate eye and lip areas.

Here again, don’t have the time to make it? There are plenty of very good toners online at Amazon.

Step 5: Moisturize Skin

Apply a moisturizer suitable for your skin type. It should be water-based and all-natural, if possible. Slather the product all over your face and allow time for it to penetrate completely (5 to 15 minutes) before applying makeup in the morning or going to bed at night.

What is Dry Skin a Sign of?

Dry skin, although annoying and uncomfortable, isn’t usually serious. The causes typically include changes in weather, lack of humidity in the air and using too hot water when bathing or showering. Cleansing with harsh soaps containing a high pH level can also be the factor Switching to a moisturizing bar with a low pH is recommended.

Chronic skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea can also dry out the skin. Type 2 diabetes may also be the culprit. If you notice red, scaly, itchy patches of skin that don’t seem to go away, you should consult with your doctor. A referral to a dermatologist may be required as well as medical intervention and/or treatment.

What are the Best Ways to Prevent Dry Skin?

The best ways to ward off dry skin include the following:

  • Avoid using hot water when showering – opt for warm water instead.
  • Do not soak in the bath for too long – limit your time in the tub to 15 minutes whenever possible.
  • Do not use harsh soaps with high pH levels or those containing sulfates, alcohol, perfume, and other skin-drying chemical additives.
  • Apply moisturizer to your skin immediately after cleansing and preferably while the skin is still slightly wet.
  • Use a moisturizer specifically designed for your skin type and apply it as often as necessary.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and fabrics like cotton and silk, which allow your skin to ‘breathe.’
  • Turn on the humidifier in your home (or purchase a portable unit) to help put moisture back into the air.
  • Avoid smoking, limit alcohol consumption and eat a well-balanced diet.

Is Using Bar Soap Bad for Your Face?

Bar soaps with a high pH level (10 or greater) can damage the outermost layer of the skin by stripping it of essential moisture. The oils found naturally in skin work to protect it from outside aggressors, such as ultraviolet radiation, air pollution, and chemical pesticides. Traditional soaps can strip away these oils and make skin feel dry, tight and uncomfortable.

While dryness is often an issue with many soaps, clogged pores and acne can also result from overuse. You may feel that cleansing often with soap and water helps keep your skin clear, but in fact, it does the opposite! Washing your face too much not only alters your skin’s natural pH balance but also leaves it susceptible to flaking, peeling, scaling, redness and wrinkles.

Is it Okay to Wash My Face with Just Water?

Nowadays, many clinicians believe that using soap and water to cleanse the skin is overrated. In fact, more and more beauty experts feel that using a ‘water only wash’ is the way to go! The idea behind this is that traditional bar soap is too drying for most skin types, except oily, of course. Personally, I can’t imagine feeling clean without the ‘sudsiness’ of a good soap and water wash. To each their own, I guess.

How Can You Cleanse Your Skin without Soap?

Contrary to popular belief, you can cleanse your skin without soap. Essential oils (including lavender, lemongrass, and tea tree), lemon juice, yogurt, and honey can be blended to create a creamy, naturally nourishing cleanser. Pour 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of yogurt, 1 teaspoon of honey and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Mix well and apply to pre-moistened skin. Leave on for 2 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.

Another way to get skin clean is to steam it! Steam works to open and deep clean the pores. It’s a cheap and easy way to cleanse and purify all types of skin. To do so properly and safely, you can invest in a facial steamer or simply fill a bowl with hot water, cover your head with a towel and place your face at least 6 inches above the water, over the bowl. After 10 minutes, splash your face with cool water and pat dry gently.

What is the Best Bar Soap for Dry Skin?

The best bar soap for dry skin has a low pH, is free of sulfates and rich in moisture. Dove Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin is an ideal example. It contains no perfumes or dyes and is dermatologist recommended. It gently cleanses while you’re protecting the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It has a low to neutral pH level (between 6 and 7) and won’t’ leave a sticky, soapy residue behind!

Readily available online at, this soap will help you achieve softer, smoother skin in as little as 7 days! A personal favorite of mine, this beauty bar is great for all skin types and, unlike ordinary soap, won’t dry out or irritate the skin.

Here is a List Popular Bar Soaps That is pH Balanced for Your Skin.

Knours – D-5 Calming Facial Soap

  • For All Skin Types
  • pH Balancing Facial Bar Soap Cleanser
  • EWG Verified Natural Ingredients
  • Wash away impurities, balance skin’s pH levels, and target breakouts without irritating the skin.
  • Natural Colors, GMO-Free, Phthalates Free, PEG Free, Silicone Free, Paraben Free, No Animal Testing
  • Shop Knours Bar Soap at Amazon

NaturesPlus Natural Beauty Cleansing Bar

  • Our bar is enriched with 500 IU of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is known to help skin maintain its youthful glow and reduce the appearance of scars.
  • Natural Cleanser, Made with Organic Ingredients
  • Its also formulated with a pH of 4.5 to protect your skin’s “acid mantle.”
  • This bar is made from natural, organic ingredients and is free of the harsh, skin irritating ingredients typically found in soap.
  • State-of-the-art manufacturing facilities maintain continuous adherence to cGMP compliance, superior standards, and are FDA and NSF registered.
  • Shop Naturel Plus at Amazon

Gallinée Prebiotic Cleansing Bar – A Radiant Glow from Head to Toe

  • Soap-Free & Gentle, Cleanse, Soothe, And Nourish Your Skin with This Patented Complex of Prebiotics  Lactic Acid. Gentle Enough for Face & Body
  • Gallinée Cleansing Bar Is Formulated At pH 5.8, Respecting Your Skin’s Natural pH Levels
  • Nourishes & Protects Your Skin’s Good Bacteria While Removing the Bad, Leaving Your Skin Looking Radiant, While Cleansing, Soothing, And Nourishing.
  • It Made WITHOUT Soap, Colorants, Parabens, Mineral Oils, Silicones, Microbeads, Phenoxyethanol Or Methylisothiazolinone
  • Shop Gallinee Prebiotic Cleansing Bar at Amazon

Mild by Clinique for Unisex Soap

  • A mild beauty soap Instantly provides a gentle cleansing
  • Helps soften & soothe your complexion
  • Leaves skin feeling perfectly clean & soft Suitable for all skin types
  • Dermatologist recommended
  • Shop Clinique soap at Amazon

Here is a List of Popular Low pH Body Washer That is Balanced for Your Skin

Tree To Tub

  • Gentle, Moisturizing Body Wash for Dry Skin by Tree To Tub
  • 5.5 pH Balanced Body Wash for Sensitive Skin
  • Pure Lavender Soap for All Ages with Wild Soapberries, Organic Shea Butter, Aloe Vera
  • Shop Tree To Tub at Amazon

The Crown Choice

  • 100% Natural Vegan Liquid Bath Soap, pH Balanced Body Wash for Sensitive Skin
  • Has Aloe, Spearmint, Lavender, Manuka
  • Naturals Non-Toxic Shower Gel for Men Women
  • Shop The Crown Choice at Amazon

The Crown Choice

  • Sensitive Skin Body Wash Natural
  • pH 5.5 Neutral Balanced
  • Best Non-Irritating Shower Gel for Men and Women
  • Lemon Zest Essentials Oil
  • Shop The Crown Choice at Amazon

What Soaps are Drying to the Skin?

As discussed earlier, soaps with a moderately high (8 or 9) to a high pH level (10 or more) are very drying to the skin. There are so many varieties available on the market today that is can be difficult to decide which one to choose! I’ll try to simplify matters by listing some examples, along with their perspective pH levels. The brands that should be avoided (in my opinion), unless you have very oily skin that tends to sweat a lot, include the following:

  • Camay – 10
  • Coast – 9
  • Dial – 9.5
  • Irish Spring – 9.5
  • Ivory – 9.5
  • Jergens – 10
  • Lever 2000 – 9
  • Lux – 12
  • Nivea – 10
  • Safeguard – 9
  • Tone – 10
  • Zest – 10

It’s important to note that the above-mentioned soaps aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ for your skin. It all depends upon the type of skin you have (dermal tolerance), how often you bathe or shower and your own personal aesthetic preferences, such as fragrance, color, texture, ease of use, etc. Affordability and convenience may also be contributing factors. In the end, only you can decide which product is best for your specific skin-cleansing needs.


To conclude, the high pH level found in traditional bar soap is what dehydrates the skin, making it feel taut and dry. Harsh surfactants (like sulfate) found in most soaps are usually the culprit. Created to mix with water and then bind to oil, dirt, and makeup, these cleansing agents often strip the skin of natural oils and leave it feeling rough and tight.

Choosing a soap with a low to neutral pH level (between 4 and 7) is recommended. It should also be hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested and free of harsh chemical additives. There are other ways to combat dryness such as using warm (never hot) water when cleansing, taking shorter baths or showers and applying moisturizer daily.

Hopefully, this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading and cheers to beautiful skin!