Rinse. Add soap. Lather. Make clean and smooth. In the name of good skin we all do it, we’ve all done it. But do we over-do it?

Exactly how much and what kind of soap is necessary for clean skin? Or maybe, just maybe, soap is really not what our skin requires to stay healthy, toned, and glow-y. Maybe we’ve been doing it all wrong. Maybe our skin isn’t the same as a kitchen countertop. And yes, maybe, we should be rethinking the way we wash our face. Here now, we present to you: The Case Against Soap.


Get a handle on your mantle

The skin has as its very outermost layer what is called an “acid mantle”. It is a very thin protective layer that is made up of sebum (the skins natural oils), amino acids, fatty acids (mostly omega 6), lactic acid, perspiration and the skins own natural moisture. This layer has a PH that is acidic, between 4.5 and 5.5. Basically the acid mantle is an acidic envelope or layer that acts as protection between you and the environment. Some of the primary functions of the acid mantle are:

  • Protection against environmental assaults like harsh weather and pollution
  • Helps to keep skin soft and hydrated
  • Reduces risk of infection and/or occasional breakouts
  • Works with the skins own immune system to produce antigens that keep bad bacteria away
  • Helps keep skin cells tight and flat, promoting a smooth, strong barrier
  • Prevents against water loss

In other words, your acid mantle is important. Don’t mess with it.


Fight Club

But mess with it we do. Most of us are typically using a soap or soap derivative product on our skin. Surprisingly, the PH of these products is not acidic but alkaline (somewhere around 12 depending on the product). While it is generally true that alkalinity is good for us internally (disease thrives in an acidic environment) it is the very opposite with our skin. Applying an alkaline product such as soap on our skin will over time change it’s PH and disrupt our delicate acid mantle. The skin becomes noticeably drier and drier, its natural moisture and lipids slowly stripped away. So you may notice that over time the more you wash, the drier your skin will become. We notice this perhaps most with our hands. Ask anyone working in a hospital or school where frequent hand washing is the norm- your hands become dry, cracked, and no amount of hand cream seems to help. Thus begins the vicious cycle. No relief in sight, you begin that elusive hunt for the ultimate cream or moisturizer as a counter balance to all the dryness. But nothing seems to really work.

Now in addition to this dryness you may also experience redness, breakouts and larger pores. Now things are really bad. Over time this dryness progresses into skin that has more fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. Again, this is most likely because you have compromised your acid mantle in the first place. Madness ensues.

Here are some of the common symptoms of a disrupted acid mantle:

  • Dryness and flaking
  • Tightness
  • Excessive oil
  • Breakouts
  • Sensitivity
  • Redness
  • Temporary irritation and itching
  • Reactivity
  • Premature signs of aging (fine lines, wrinkles, sagging)
  • Pores that appear larger


Is your skin THAT dirty?

So now we have to ask the question: exactly how dirty is your skin? You may come across guidelines in mainstream magazines as to the proper protocol for washing your face. The usual advice is that a good skin ritual should include a proper morning cleanse. Wash, tone, and moisturize. That my friends, is vicious cycle step one. Call us radicals, but we do not believe that a night of quiet slumber requires that we use soap the morning after. A good rinse with water followed by a gentle toner and moisturizer is all that is required. No suds needed.

By contrast, your evening skin routine should include some kind of cleanse. While many of us have makeup to remove, perspiration to be free of, and other random environmental residues to deal with…. The question is: exactly how dirty is our skin at the end of the day? Coal miners and construction workers aside, most of us spend our days in the relatively safe confines of indoor spaces. Yes, we sweat. Yes, we get a bit oily. But do we need soap to rectify this problem? We think not.


So then, what is the solution? There are many acid mantle, PH friendly cleansers on the market now for your consideration. They are much more balanced in PH and do not upset that delicate outer layer that we should all be doing our best to preserve. Here are some choices we love in the anti-soap crusade.

French Girl Organics Cleansing Wash: this very delicate facial wash has an aloe vera base and incorporates charcoal to produce a very gentle but effective cleanser. Smells great as well. Handcrafted in Seattle. $32.00 www.frenchgirlorganics.com

Tata Harper Purifying Face Wash: this oil based cleanser actually suds a little when applied but is not drying at all. Excellent ingredient list and all organic from Vermont. $62.00 www.tataharperskincare.com

Living Libations Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever: the oil cleanser par excellence. This Jojoba and seabuckthorn based oil is both a cleanser and moisturizer. Apply a few pumps to the skin and massage with a warm cloth to dissolve your dermal debris. Very effective Ayurvedic method of skincare. $30.00 www.livinglibations.com

SW Basics of Brooklyn: with only 3 ingredients (rose water, glycerin, tea tree oil) this cleanser is very effective and very gentle at the same time. Recommended for very sensitive skin. Organic. $22.00 www.swbasicsofbk.com