How Body Soap Works

Antibacterial Body Soaps

When you think of antibacterial soaps, liquid hand soaps most likely come to mind. You wash your hands several times a day, so why not boost up the germ-fighting power of your soap? After all, cold and flu season seems to last all year long.

Before you load up your cart with germ-busters, however, remember that the effectiveness of antibacterial soaps compared with that of regular soaps in everyday use has not been proven [source: National Institutes of Health]. However, antibacterial soaps are sometimes useful when it comes to cuts, abrasions and some skin disorders, because they can slow the growth of bacteria on the skin.

If you're considering getting a deodorant soap, those with antibacterial properties are designed to kill off odor-causing bacteria [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. This sounds great for those needing an extra breath of fresh air from their soap. Keep in mind, though, that deodorant soaps can be harsh and drying, so be on the lookout for changes in your skin's chemistry.

Soaps marketed as acne-fighting also come in antibacterial forms, which shouldn't be surprising since bacteria are a leading cause of acne. As long as the cleanser is mild and does not aggravate your breakouts further, there is no need to worry. Remember that acne-prone skin is often more sensitive to irritants, so keep your cleansings gentle and use warm water.

When it comes right down to it, you're still going to have to search the cosmetics aisle for the perfect soap for you. Hopefully you're ready to grab a package and read its label like a pro. You can also explore the links below to learn more about the ever-growing world of body soaps.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dry Skin & Keratosis Pilaris." (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Bruno, Karen. "What's New: Advances in Body Skin Care." WebMD. Aug. 5, 2009. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for a Soft Body." WebMD. Aug. 6, 2009. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for Your Face." WebMD. Aug. 10, 2009. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Downs, Martin F. "Safety of Antibacterial Soap Debated." WebMD. May 29, 2008. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Draelos, Zoe Diana, M.D. "Skin and Hair Cleansers." eMedicine. May 14, 2009. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Hunt, John A., PhD. "A Short History of Soap." The Pharmaceutical Journal. Vol. 263, No. 7076. Dec. 18, 1999. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Atopic Dermatitis (eczema)." Aug. 22, 2009. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Contact Dermatitis." July 31, 2009. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • National Institutes of Health. "Giving Germs the Slip." October 2007. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Ophardt, Charles E. "Soap." Elmhurst College Virtual ChemBook. (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • The Soap and Detergent Association. "Soap Chemistry." (Accessed 9/1/09)
  • WebMD. "Skin Conditions: Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)." March 1, 2007. (Accessed 8/25/09)