Often, we use the term "soap" to mean any kind of cleanser, even though many of these are not actually soaps at all. True soap is made from fats, oils and salts, and it works by attaching to dirt and some bacteria, allowing water to rinse them away. Soap has a high pH level, generally around 9 or 10, but your skin generally has a slightly more acidic pH, usually about 4.5 to 6.5 [source: Draelos]. Using a product that alters this pH, such as soap, is not good for your skin and can lead to dryness, itching and irritation.
Although true soaps are not good for cleansing skin -- especially facial skin -- many other types of cleansers might be a better option. Liquid cleansers, which contain glycerin, cetyl alcohol or propylene glycol as their main ingredients, are commonly used by people who need a mild cleanser, such as those with problem or sensitive skin [source: Draelos]. Sometimes these liquid cleansers have a more neutral pH that won't affect the pH of your skin. They rinse clean and usually do not cause irritation.
Another option is for you to use a cleanser that has a moisturizing cleanser. These tend to have the words "cream," "lotion" or "milk" in the name and often contain mineral oil or other oils. These products can cleanse the skin of excess oils and impurities without drying it out [source: P&G Beauty & Grooming].
Once you've selected the proper cleanser, it's time to read the second instruction on your skin-care label: "gentle cycle only." To learn techniques for freshening up without the use of force, read on.