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Soaps are sustainable: are these old-fashioned cleansers good for your skin too?

Posted by Lara Schimweg on
Stück Seife in einer Schale

How well tolerated are soaps for the skin? Are soaps also suitable for sensitive skin?

If you want to go through your life in a more environmentally conscious and minimalist way, the current soap boom has certainly not escaped you. They come in all imaginable shapes, colors and scents. Soaps made from ash or china clay. Soaps that are supposed to help with blemishes and others that are supposed to gently care for sensitive skin. Soaps with extra moisturizing for dry skin and the good old curd soap that our grandparents already knew.

But what's really going on with the soap trend?

Should you now also switch to soap to clean your face and body ? Is it true that soap has a positive effect on the skin? Is soap suitable for sensitive skin?

First of all, let's clarify what soap actually is. Because then there will be a little more light in the darkness. Soap has been used for washing for a very long time. It was a very proven cleaning agent. Already in the 3rd millennium BC. Soap was used for cleaning. A real old-fashioned piece, as you can see. Soap production flourished in the 9th century and soap has been produced industrially since the mid-18th century.

When making soap, fats are saponified with caustic soda. This produces strong surfactants . These are the washing substances that are responsible for the cleaning effect. Soap can be made using either animal fat or vegetable oil. Luckily, today most soaps are made from vegetable oils. Incidentally, natural soap is the same as "ordinary" soap. There are tons of DIY soap recipes and ready-made products on the internet. Some are advertised as mild. How mild and tolerable are soaps really?

Soap washes oils from your skin

Soap is supposed to clean. That's why you have them. Maybe you're thinking: Well, I have very oily skin, so I can't go wrong with soap. Better be careful: the surfactants contained in the soap are among the hottest there are. Surfactants not only dissolve dirt and make-up. Your fats in the skin are also washed out. Your skin may become greasy and everything could be out of balance. You can easily check for yourself how your skin is after washing with soap. How does your skin feel?

Does she squeak a little? You may find that very clean. However, healthy skin always has a small film of fat. Not excessively, just enough so that it no longer squeaks. If your skin squeaks after cleaning, it was already too much and anything but mild.

Soap attacks your protective acid mantle

Your skin has a natural acid mantle that protects it from the wrong bacteria, fungi and viruses. The natural pH of your skin is between 4-6 and an average of 5-6.

For comparison: water has a pH value of 7. This is considered neutral. Anything above that is basic/alkaline. Soap is often 9 or more. Anything below 7 is considered acidic. A lemon is really really acidic, with a pH of around 3. The further the pH is away from the natural skin, the natural pH shifts. Even water can slightly shift your skin's natural pH level.

Soaps are always basic or alkaline. As a result, soap shifts the pH value of your skin far too strongly into the alkaline range and thus attacks your skin's natural protective acid mantle. It's important to maintain your slightly acidic protective coat. This is how your skin naturally protects itself against environmental influences. Whenever your protective acid mantle is not in the slightly acidic balance, your skin is exposed to all environmental influences without protection. In the case of sensitive skin, it usually takes even longer for the skin to return to its natural state.

Skin with an intact, healthy protective acid mantle ensures that your skin no longer reacts so quickly with irritation and is less inflamed and irritated. This is because pathogenic bacteria, viruses or fungi have a harder time spreading on the skin.

Fragrances in your soap attack the skin

Unfortunately, most soaps also contain fragrances that are not absolutely necessary for the skin. Of course it smells nice. However, synthetic and natural fragrances, the essential oils, can irritate the skin.

Because the fragrances wash off, they're not quite as irritating in a cleansing product as they are in a cream or serum. However, if you want to play it safe for the sake of your skin - especially for sensitive skin - then avoid fragrances in your cleansing.

Alternatives to soaps

It's totally understandable that you want to wash your skin with a cleanser. With soaps you can save a lot of packaging waste. Fortunately, today there are also natural and equally minimalist and sustainable alternatives: the so-called syndets . There are conventional and natural syndets. These are solid cleaning bars that look like soaps. They are milder than soaps and can be adjusted to the natural pH of the skin. However, you should know that unfortunately not all syndets are adjusted to the natural pH of the skin.
Unfortunately, syndets often contain harsh surfactants in addition to the mild surfactants. As a result, the Syndet foams better, cleans more effectively and sets more easily. Syndets for facial cleansing can be too harsh for sensitive skin because it can dry out the skin. Maybe oilier skin types do a little better with syndets on their face.
Some natural very mild syndets contain vegetable butters and waxes, such as coconut oil or carnabau wax. Vegetable butter and wax help the wash bar hold its shape, otherwise a very mild syndet would melt in your hands. Some people do not tolerate so much vegetable oil and vegetable butter on their face because it can cause breakouts and pimples under certain circumstances.

For these reasons, the Sydnets currently available on the market are very good for the body but not ideal for a mild facial cleansing.

A mild cleansing gel or cleansing milk with mild surfactants is the mildest way to cleanse your facial skin. Especially if you don't tolerate slightly spicy surfactants or fatty butters such as coconut.

If your skin tolerates natural vegetable oils, you can also cleanse your skin with a mild oil cleanser . That's mild too. You should always make sure that the natural oil cleanser contains an emulsifier so that you can simply wash the oil off your face after cleaning. Because with pure oils used for cleansing, you can never be sure that you can wash all the oil off your skin. The emulsifier should be as mild as possible and not greasy. So no PEGs.

Summarized for you

  • Soaps contain very harsh surfactants and will wash too much oil out of your skin
  • Soaps are alkaline and therefore attack your natural protective acid mantle
  • Soap alternatives for the body are natural syndets
  • The mildest form of facial cleansing is a mild cleansing milk or gel
  • If your skin tolerates vegetable oils well, an oil cleanser with an emulsifier is also a mild cleansing option
how do you clean your face Feel free to write it in the comments.
Lara Schimweg

about the author

Lara Schimweg is the founder of Xeno . She studied sports science and health research and is a trained health worker. Lara has rosacea and very sensitive skin.

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