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While soap is sold to us as an exfoliating must — it removes dead skin cells and carries away oils and dirt — it also might be one of the things that does more harm than good.

It’s been well documentedTrusted Source over the years that conventional soaps, which are made by mixing fat or oil with an alkali such as lye, can wreck skin by changing its pH, obliterating healthy bacteria, and stripping away vital oils.

Healthy skin pH is around 5.5, which is slightly acidic, but most conventional soaps have a much higher pHTrusted Source, sometimes as high as 11.

“When the skin’s pH is too high, your body produces excess sebum to fight back and restore its natural pH levels. However, the soap residue ensures the disruptive pH is maintained,” says independent beauty chemist David Pollack. “The end result is that skin can become too oily. If that isn’t bad enough, soap residue emulsifies or binds to the skin’s lipid matrix.”

How long it takes to damage our skin’s acid mantleTrusted Source (a protective layer of oils, fatty acids, and amino acids) can vary, but signs of damage include increased dryness, itching, irritation, and inflammation. All this can also worsen skin conditionsTrusted Source such as acne, eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea.

And what would help some of those symptoms? The oils that conventional soap strips away!

These oils serve an important function in keeping skin moisturized and intact. Without them, our skin becomes susceptible to cracks, tears, and other irritation that can jeopardize its function as a protective barrier.

Pollack, who has formulated best-selling products for popular brands like L’Oréal, Smashbox, Bliss, and SkinCeuticals explains, “When you rinse your skin, a layer of the protective barrier is actually washed away, leading to even drier skin.”

Basically, our current ingrained cleaning process can actually make it harder for your skin to heal and protect itself. But it’s possible — and really easy — to get your skin back to its optimal, self-sustaining state.

If you’re not sure what’s in your soaps, your best bet is to throw them out. Bar soaps are generally the harshest because they have a higher, more alkaline pH than that of normal skin. Bodywashes and shower gels are made differently, with surfactants or emulsifiers, and are closer to our skin’s natural pH. All three types of soap dissolve and rinse away vital oils our skin needs.

You don’t need to use conventional soaps in your daily hygiene routine.

All you absolutely need, bare bones, to stay clean is water. Just water.

Water does a fine job of rinsing away dirt without stripping vital oils from your skin. Also, avoid those luxurious long, hot showers. Just a few minutes under the spray is enough to rinse away a day’s accumulation of dirt, and any longer might dry your skin.

Make your own all-natural scrub

make one with salts