Face Soap 101

Face Soap and Skin Type

Sometimes having too many choices isn't necessarily a good thing. If you've been in the skin care aisle lately, you understand that all too well. The wide range of brands and products can really try your patience and cause your head to spin, especially when all you really want to know is which product will work best for you.

When it comes to face soaps, there isn't a one-product-fits-all formula. What will work best for you depends on your skin type.

If your skin type is normal, you really need just a mild cleanser [source: WebMD]. The cleanser should be water-soluble, which means it should wash off your skin easily without any remaining residue.

If you have oily skin, you probably know there are many acne-fighting cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid [source: WebMD]. These cleansers can be helpful, but if you are already using acne medication, stick to a mild cleanser. Oil-removing cleansing pads can also be helpful in keeping skin from becoming too oily.

If you have sensitive skin, you most likely know all about the flaking, burning or itching that can sometimes happen after cleansing. For you, shopping for a suitable cleanser can be tricky. People with sensitive skin should use a cleanser that is labeled "fragrance-free" because fragrances cause allergic reactions and irritate the skin. Keep in mind that unscented is not the same as fragrance-free. It only means there is no detectable scent; a fragrance might have been added to hide the actual scent.

In addition, lipid-free (fat free) liquid or bar cleansers are good for sensitive skin because of their moisturizing ingredients, such as glycerin, but they aren't especially effective for people with acne. A cleansing cream is also good for sensitive skin because it contains moisture-promoting ingredients such as mineral oil, petroleum and waxes [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Now that you've learned how face soap works, hitting the cleansing products aisle to find the right face wash for you should seem a little easier. To learn more about facial cleansers and what's in them, take a look at the articles below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cutting Through the Clutter: Making the Most of Your Facial Cleansing Routine." (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009)http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/02-21-2005/0003065165&EDATE
  • Bruno, Karen. "What's New: Advances in Face Care." WebMD. Aug. 6, 2009. (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/anti-aging-face
  • CareFair.com. "Your Skincare Guide to Soap." (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009) http://www.carefair.com/Skincare/Your_Skincare_Guide_to_Soap_8014.html
  • Consumer Reports. "Facial Cleansers: Choices Abound." September 2007. (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009)http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/beauty-personal-care/skincare/facial-cleansers-9-07/overview/0709_cleanser_ov.htm
  • History.com. "Soap." (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009)http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=222600
  • The Soap and Detergent Association. "Soaps and Detergents: Chemistry." (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009)http://www.sdahq.org/cleaning/chemistry/
  • The Soap and Detergent Association. "What is Glycerin?" (Accessed Sept. 8, 2009) http://www.cleaning101.com/oleo/whygly2.cfm
  • WebMD. "Skin Care Tips for Teens." Feb. 8, 2009. (Accessed Aug. 26, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/teen-skin-care-tips
  • WebMD. "Understanding Acne -- Treatment." Nov. 10, 2008. (Accessed Aug. 22, 2009) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/understanding-acne-treatment