A Better Cleansing Bar Makes a Big Difference

A cleansing bar can be practical and economical addition to any good skin care regimen. But many people have been using the same type of soap for years without ever thinking about why.

Posted on | Elizabeth Tanzi, MD | Comments ()
A Better Cleansing Bar Makes a Big Difference
A Better Cleansing Bar Makes a Big Difference

A cleansing bar can be practical and economical addition to any good skin care regimen. But many people have been using the same type of soap for years without ever thinking about why. 

Scientifically, we know that the skin is constantly changing which is why something as simple as changing your soap can make a big difference in results from a skin-care routine. Formulations of bar soap have advanced significantly from the generic bar that we remember from childhood. In fact, there is a good bar cleanser for every skin type. To make the process a little less overwhelming, I have put together a few favorites, depending on the skin type.


Sensitive Skin: People with sensitive skin have trouble with irritation from many products. Often, the irritation arises from fragrance or harsh detergents in the soap. A favorite recommendation from dermatologists everywhere is Dove Soap for Sensitive Skin. It is unscented and has mild cleansing ingredients that gently clean the skin without excessive irritation. It’s always a good idea to follow cleansing with a gentle moisturizer to soothe sensitive skin.

Oily Skin: To help remove oil without overly stripping the skin, one of my favorites is Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bar. The key ingredient here is glycerin, which has superior rinsing qualities. It cuts through the oil and rinses completely. Although the box says “facial” bar, it can be used on the chest and back in the shower for excessive oil in those areas too.

Acne-prone Skin: For people dealing with blemishes, a good cleanser is an important part of an anti-acne skin care routine. The ingredient benzoyl peroxide has been used for ages against acne because it removes oil, exfoliates the skin, unclogs pores, and kills the bacteria that lead to breakouts. PanOxyl 10% bar packs in a whopping 10% benzoyl peroxide (so it’s very strong) and can be used in the shower for face, chest and back acne. But beware! Since the “peroxide” part will bleach material, I always suggest that my patients use white towels when drying off after using this bar.

Dry Skin: For people with dry skin, the best bar cleanser to use is Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar. This product was actually created by dermatologists to help treat people with the driest skin types. Often, soap will strip the skin of natural oils, leaving it dry and chapped. The Cetaphil bar cleanses the skin gently, removing debris while leaving the important emollient layer of the skin behind so the skin remains soft and supple.

However, some people who think they have “dry” skin on their chest and back do not have dry skin at all. They may have a common condition called Tinea Versicolor. This is a common skin condition caused by excessive amounts of a fungus that occurs naturally on the skin. Although this is a fungus found on everyone’s skin, when it increases to a large amount (caused by heat and humidity), the skin develops discolored, flaky oval patches, typically on the chest, abdomen or back. People may say that their “skin doesn’t tan in these areas” after the summertime. There are a lot of people with this condition wasting money on moisturizers to fight their “dry” skin, as Tinea Versicolor does not respond at all to moisturizers. A good, over-the-counter remedy is to try a cleansing bar containing 2% Pyrithione Zinc (Noble Bar). It works by keeping the fungus in check so the discolored, flaky reaction does not occur.

Blog written by Elizabeth Tanzi, MD
Dr. Tanzi, Co-Director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC, is an internationally...