Bathing is part of daily life. However, not many of us know our bath products, especially soaps that we use on a daily basis. Soaps are cleansing agents made by mixing animal or vegetable fat. Choosing the right bath soap is especially important as it comes into contact with your skin regularly. The skin’s pH level is a major factor contributing to skin problems. We have to keep in mind that ordinary commercial soaps have pH levels between 9 to 11 and increase the skin pH level further, leading to problems.
First of all always remember that soap should not be directly applied to the skin. It should be mixed with water and the lather produced should be applied on the body. Extra care has to be taken while cleaning areas where perspiration or itching is more.
Soaps and cleansers shouldn’t be used frequently on the face as they can make the skin dry and irritable. There are ranges of soaps that are available in the market, like bar soaps, shower gels, anti-bacterial soaps, herbal soaps, aromatherapy soaps, etc. Let’s get to know some of these:
Antibacterial soaps: These soaps have an added antibacterial agent like triclosan or trichlocarbon. The pH is in the range of 9 to 10 and these are available in liquid or solid bar forms. Antibacterial soaps have gained special importance recently. They form the first line of defence against micro-organisms and harmful agents. However, excessive use of these soaps can cause dryness and irritation of the skin. Most of the deodorant soaps contain antibacterial agents. There is a myth among Indian consumers that one should use anti-bacterial soaps for bathing, but they do not know that some germs are good for the body too. They are necessary for the body and we shouldn’t kill them.
Anti-acne soaps: Many soaps with antibacterial, exfoliating and comedolytic (that has inhibit formation of blemishes) properties are now available. Anti-acne soaps are used mainly on the face, chest and back where acne is more prevalent. It may be necessary to use such soaps twice a day. However, overuse can cause red flaky patches on the skin.
Herbal soaps: These contain gentle herbs and plants like chamomile, lavender, peppermint, spearmint, oatmeal and avocado. Olive oil and shea butter can also be used in these soaps. Olive oil, known for its skin regeneration and radiance properties, contains vitamins and antioxidants that keep at bay the free radicals that damage your skin.
Moisturising soaps: Soaps containing olive oil, shea butter, paraffin, glycerine, etc., which lend softness to the skin, are the best moisturising soaps. Olive oil also has an anti-ageing effect on your skin. Shea butter, also known as sheanut butter, contains vitamins and acts as a good moisturiser.
Shower gels: Shower gels are similar to liquid soaps, but come in a gel-based preparation and are used for cleaning the body while showering.
Aromatherapy soaps: These soaps contain essential oils, jojoba and sunflower oil, extracts of chamomile, jasmine and ylang-ylang. They are said to promote a sense of wellbeing and relaxation.
You should always purchase the soap keeping in mind your skin type as mentioned below:
n For dry skin: If you have dry skin, then natural soaps that contain aloe vera, cocoa butter, avocado or vegetable oils are best to choose from.
n For oily skin: People with oily skin should use antibacterial soaps or specific face cleansers. Soaps containing lavender, chamomile and thyme are very effective for oily skin.
n For sensitive skin: If your skin is very sensitive and prone to infections, then medicated soaps are the best to prevent and treat skin infections; soaps that contain vitamin E, jojoba oil are good for dry skin diseases like ichthyosis, eczema and psoriasis.
n Glycerin-based soaps like Pears suit people with a combination skin type.
n Then there are anti-acne soaps, which are used mainly on the face, chest and back where acne is more prevalent. Use it twice a day.
n Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any allergy or infections.
— The writer is senior consultant at BL Kapur Hospital, New Delhi
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