Mild soap removes dirt and bacteria without being too harsh for sensitive skin.

©iStockphoto.com/Evgenia Pogodina

Many of us put more thought into washing our delicate items of clothing than we do into washing our skin. Unlike your favorite delicate shirt, skin does not come with a "gentle cycle" tag -- but using a light touch will help keep it in great shape. Your skin has a very important job: It's the main barrier protecting you from the environment. It protects you from the bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that can make you sick. To do this, your skin produces a type of oil called sebum.

The trouble with sebum is that, in addition to moisturizing and protecting your skin, it can also catch some of the dirt and bacteria on your skin. It also holds on to some of your dead skin cells. If you wear makeup, that's mixed in there, too. And particles from cigarette smoke or other pollutants can also build up on your skin's surface.

For healthy skin, you need to be able to remove the dirt, bacteria, pollutants and dead skin cells without sacrificing the natural protective layer of oil that your skin needs [sources: Bouchez, Kunin]. That's where mild cleansing comes in. The idea is to take away the bad particles that are harmful to skin, leaving enough of skin's natural oils for the skin to continue doing its job. If you cleanse your skin too vigorously or use a harsh product on it, you could strip all of the oil off your skin. That will only make skin dry and irritated. And dry, irritated, unhealthy skin will lead to future skin problems.

So, it might be time to rethink your skin care routine -- if your skin did come with an instructional tag, the first thing on it would say, "Wash with a mild cleanser." Read on to learn how to select a soap that's pH balanced for the delicate facial area.