Soap substitutes

Normal healthy skin has potential of hydrogen (pH) range of 5.4-5.9. If you use a soap that contains a high Ph, it can cause an increase in the Ph on the skin, which in turn can make the skin dehydrate and irritable. Sadly, most of the soaps and shampoos available do not disclose their pH so choosing a suitable soap or wash product if you have a skin condition such as eczema.

An interesting study entitled Evaluation of pH of Bathing Soaps and Shampoos for Skin and Hair Care was carried out by Tarun, Susan, Susan and Criton and published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology in 2014. It looked to assess the pH of different brands of soap and shampoo available to buy. Results showed that most soaps have a pH within the range of 9-10, far more than that of healthy skin, with the majority of shampoos having a pH of 6-7.

Soap can be drying to the skin. It is advisable if you have eczema or dry skin to use an emollient based soap substitute.The study concluded that before a healthcare professional recommends a soap to a patient, particularly those with a dry skin condition, they should give consideration to the pH factor because of the potential drying effect on the skin. It is certainly advisable to discuss the option of a soap substitute with your doctor.

There are a range of soap-substitutes available that can be applied before or during bathing, showering or washing.

Goats milk soap is one alternative for consideration. Some people with eczema and other dry skin conditions say it is beneficial and helpful for their skin. It is easily absorbed into the skin and keeps it moisturised and supple.

Components of goats milk soap that are beneficial for eczema sufferers include vitamins A, B, C, D and E. Goats milk contains naturally occuring glycerin, which is gentler and kinder to dry and sensitive skin.

Emollient soap-substitutes are one option your GP may recommend – they do not foam but are just as effective as cleaning the skin with soap. Emollient soap substitutes may take a little while to get used to. It is not essential to have bubbles to clean the skin and emollient washing creams are very effective at cleaning the skin. More natural plant-based soap substitutes work for some. Some plants are high in saponin levels (a chemical compound) and produce more of a lather to aid washing.

There are several soap substitutes with active ingredients available over the counter to buy or some can be prescribed by your doctor. Most are light, non-greasy and provide a layer of oil on the surface of the skin to prevent water evaporating from the skin’s surface.

It is advisable to talk with your GP or dermatologist who can recommend the best option for you.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 24 October 2017

Next review: 24 October 2020