How to Clean Your Skin with Soap the Right Way

Know what kind of soap to get for the best results.

How to clean skin with soap may sound like a no-brainer. Buy a bar or two at the grocery store, hop in the shower, and lather the soap all over your parts. Don’t skip the back! While it sounds simple, there’s a lot more that goes into using soap correctly than choosing your favorite brand. 

The fact of the matter is this: You’re probably not cleaning your skin with soap the right way. The evidence could reveal itself in ways you ignore, such as patches of dry skin or unwanted bacne on parts you were certain you scrubbed. There are many things to consider when washing with soap, from its form to its properties and more. 

Here, a refresher on how to clean your skin with soap the right way.  

Photo by UNSPLASH.

This is how soap really works.  

Commercials have long led us to believe that soap can kill germs and microbes, but strictly speaking, that’s not the case. Soap doesn’t kill microbes but removes them through the mechanical action of hand washing or rubbing your hands together with soap and water. 


Soap and other facial and body cleansers remove dirt, grime, oils, and sebum from the skin through surfactants. If you’ve ever thought what's behind the bubbly action caused by rubbing soap, shampoo, or dishwashing liquid in your hands, that's surfactants. These are commonly found in personal care and household products, so it’s no surprise that they’re in your soap or facial cleanser, too.  

So what exactly are surfactants? Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids. Basically, they break down the interface between water and oils or dirt so they can be removed easily. In the process, surfactants also aid in the natural exfoliation process as they help slough off old cells from the skin’s epidermis or outer layers. 

Your everyday bath or hand soap is not ideal for your face. 

Despite the proliferation of skincare products, a lot of men still believe that their bathroom counter only needs that bar of soap snatched from the shower rack. But they should know better than to wash their face with a bath soap

If your face has ever felt tight and paper dry after washing, you can trace it back to the soap. Know that skin on the face is more sensitive than the skin on your body and a bath soap’s ingredients may be harsher on facial skin, too. The presence of surfactants can strip away more of your face’s natural oils than needed. Other additives such as scents can make your mug prone to irritation and further breakouts, as well.  

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While a soap with a shorter ingredients list may point to a more forgiving formula, the best practice is to buy a facial wash. If you’re iffy about a bottle sitting on your counter, then you can buy a facial wash in a bar version, a product that many brands are happy to provide. 

Photo by UNSPLASH.

Men’s skin is thicker, sweatier, and oilier than women’s. 

That’s not as gross as it sounds. While leathery, sweaty and sebum-afflicted skin is not an attractive idea, it's something you should (somewhat) embrace if you’re a proponent of age-defying looks.

Women’s skin may be daintier, yet this delicate quality may be the reason behind facial aging. Meanwhile, men's skin has more collagen, which keeps them looking younger longer as it delays the onset of wrinkles.

That said, men can have a heavier buildup of dead cells due to their thicker skin—so grab that facial wash (or bar) and start cleaning, stat. 


Check the label first. 

Like other items bought in the supermarket, it is important to read each ingredient before tossing it in the cart. For soaps, be wary of ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and triclosan, the latter of which was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. but not in the Philippines.  

While all of these are legal for use, they are known to irritate the skin or cause harm. Examine each ingredient in your soap or facial wash before making a purchase. Better yet, look up its ingredients online to identify which ones you should look out for, depending on your concerns. 

Your soap may be messing with your skin’s pH levels. 

Bar soaps typically have high pH levels, which can disintegrate the outer protective layer of skin that’s chock-full of hydrating proteins and fatty acids. When stripped of this barrier, it can lead to dry, inflamed skin and breakouts. Check the label again. Look for a pH-neutral soap that’s friendly for facial use. 

Photo by UNSPLASH.

Bar soap or body wash? 

This depends on your bathing habits. Generally, body soap is easier to use, cleans more effectively, and is more economical than its liquid counterpart (because it’s concentrated in a solid format, you don’t use more than you need, just the amount that rubs off on your skin). A bar tends to have little to no fragrance and is environment-friendly, too, due to its cardboard box packaging. 

While body wash can be more wasteful and cause more impact on the environment because of its plastic bottle packaging, it tends to be more moisturizing and gentler on the skin thanks to its liquid formula. It’s also much easier to take with you on travel trips and more sanitary—a practical choice when you live with other people at home.

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Sam Beltran
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