Soap or facial cleanser? What you might like to know…..

Seems a simple enough decision, doesn’t it? What product to use to wash your face with…

The majority of us like to wash our faces in the mornings – helps us to wake up and face the day!

Most of us will use either a facial liquid wash or soap. Does it matter?

I would say that Yes, it does matter, and if you are still using soap to wash your face then you might like to consider the following:

Heard of ‘acid balance’? Nearly a century ago German dermatology researchers coined this phrase to describe the inherently acidic nature of the upper, outer layer of the skin.

Heard of pH? Most of us remember hearing the word pH at school – it’s all to do with the acid or alkaline properties of things. We all know that, for instance, that lemon juice & battery acid are acid, and that caustic soda or bicarbonate of soda are alkaline.

Your skin has a pH of about 5.5 - slightly acid, whereas your body’s internal environment is generally pH 7+, so nearly neutral (neither acid nor alkaline). This slight acidity on the skin’s surface is essential for maintaining skin health – your skin is after all, your barrier from the outside world and your body’s largest organ, with many functions. The acidity of the skin’s surface protects you from infections as well. What’s more, ‘pathogenic’ bacteria (those that can be harmful) like a very alkaline environment.

Maintaining the correct pH, or acid balance, is essential to make sure the skin functions at its best, so what has this got to do with the soap or cleanser argument?

A scientific study looking at the use of soap or cleanser in acne-prone skins found that the number of inflamed acne blemishes increased in the soap users, but fell in those using an acidic face wash!

Here’s the pH of some commonly used facial soaps or ‘bars’ – as you will see, they are all on the alkaline side, although the Dove product is better than the others.


Dove white                         7.53

Johnson’s Baby                 11.9

Palmolive                            10.18

Camay                                  10.38


Here’s the pH of some well known facial cleansers:

Neutrogena Deep Clean Facial Cleanser 4.2

Olay Foaming Face Wash 6.85

Olay Daily Facials – wet    6.9

As you can see these are much more acid so your skin will feel less taut or tight when washing with these, and it will maintain its function much better.

I always recommend a mild wash, but any product that describes itself as ‘pH balanced’ should lie within the correct range of acidity.

Sarah Buckley, By Appointment Aesthetic Medicine  15 Oct 2017