How to Find a Soap That Won't Set Off Your Sensitive Skin

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The Best Soap for Sensitive Skin
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Taking a shower isn't always an energizing or a relaxing moment when you have sensitive skin. Using a body soap or body wash with too much fragrance or harsh cleansing agents can be irritating as hell.

However, opting for a body cleanser that's free of potentially irritating ingredients will not only prevent your skin from getting itchy and flushed, your showers will become a zen-like experience.

So, what exactly are the best soaps for sensitive skin? We turned to two dermatologists to find out.

What should you look for in a soap for sensitive skin?

There are a few elements to consider when looking for a soap that won't irritate sensitive skin:

  1. Fragrance-Free: While a floral scent can make your shower feel and smell like a spa, the artificial fragrances in many body cleansers can be triggers for sensitive skin. "Some soap manufacturers believe people want to be enveloped by nice smells when they wash, so they add high levels of perfume to their products," says Dr. Nicole Hayre, aboard-certified dermatologist and founder of the Cosmetic Dermatology Center in Virginia. ”The problem with perfume is it can irritate sensitive skin and cause allergic reactions. One of the first recommendations I make to patients with sensitive skin is to use cleansers labeled 'fragrance-free' or 'non-fragranced.'"
  2. Look Out for Preservatives: In addition to fragrance, certain preservatives can be irritating for sensitive skin, too. Dr. Hayre calls out "methylchloroisothiazolinone" and "methylisothiazolinone" as two specific ones to look out for. She says the latter was named "contact allergen of the year" by dermatologists in 2013.
  3. Avoid Sulfates: Many traditional soaps are formulated with detergents (sulfates) and high pH levels that can be stripping, drying, and irritating. Dr. Hayre says that sodium lauryl sulfate is a popular sulfate in soaps because it creates that satisfying lather. However, it can be drying. "We use soap as a general term now but some brands formulate their 'soaps' with less than 10% soap," adds Dr. Sheila Farhang, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology in Tucson, Az. "An example is syndet cleansers, which stands for synthetic detergent. These aren't not great for all, but much more gentler than soap."

What else can you do to prevent irritating sensitive skin in the shower?

A piping hot shower is guaranteed to help wake you up in the morning, but the higher the water temperature, the more likely sensitive skin will get irritated.

"Lukewarm water is less likely to disrupt the natural moisture barrier of the skin than hot water," Dr. Hayre says. "It is also a good idea to moisturize immediately after each shower with a fragrance-free body lotion."

If you use a bar soap, Dr. Farhang stresses the importance of keeping it clean. This can easily be done by storing it in a bar soap holder.

Now that you know what to look for in a soap, we've rounded up our favorite picks for sensitive skin to help you narrow down the selection process.

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Dove Beauty Bar

Dove Beauty Bar

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This drugstore staple is a favorite among dermatologists, including Dr. Farhang. The scent-free bar soap gently cleanses skin without stripping it of moisture.

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CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

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Packed with nourishing ceramides and hyaluronic acid, this CeraVe formula offers the same long-lasting hydration as its famous facial cleanser – but just for the skin below your neck.

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Skinfix Eczema+ Foaming Oil Body Wash

Skinfix Eczema+ Foaming Oil Body Wash

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While Skinfix's oil-based body wash is gentle enough for those with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, it still offers a luxurious experience. The formula has sulfate-free coconut-derived cleansers that produce a satisfying foam that doesn't dry out skin.

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Aveeno Gentle Moisturizing Bar

Aveeno Moisturizing Bar

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With colloidal oatmeal as a hero ingredient, Aveeno's gentle bar soap soothes dry, inflamed skin.

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Avene Xera Calm A.D. Ultra-Rich Cleansing Bar

Avène Xeracalm A.D Ultra-Rich Cleansing Bar

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This rich bar soap specifically targets inflamed eczema-prone skin. It helps restore moisture to rebalance skin and relieve symptoms like itchiness and dry patches.

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La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Body & Face Wash

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Body & Face Wash

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With the National Eczema Association's seal of acceptance, you can breathe a sigh of relief when using this La Roche-Posay body wash. It's infused with the brand's proprietary thermal water and ceramides to heal and soothe dry, sensitive skin.

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