This is why soap is bad for your face

We strongly advocate the use of low pH cleansers for the facial skin here at Project Vanity. It's not just a matter of preference; low pH cleansers actually function to preserve the acidic mantle that keeps our skin healthy. Unfortunately, there are products marketed for facial cleansing that have high pH levels. They may come in the form of bars, foams, creams or even gels but for this discussion, we'll refer to this kind of cleansers as "soaps". If you use soap to cleanse your face, you may want to stop for a moment and read on why it’s doing you more harm than good.

Soap is made through a process called saponification. It involves converting fats into soap by treating it with an alkali, a basic chemical compound with a pH level higher than 7. Soaps are actually formulated to be more alkaline in order to remove dirt easier. This makes sense for cleaning clothes and washing dishes but with skin, it’s a different story.


The skin on our face has a pH of about 4.2 to 5.6, meaning it’s naturally acidic. This acidity (and the environment it creates) is what protects our skin from bacteria and other harmful substances. If you use a soap to cleanse it, the high pH of the cleanser disrupts that healthy balance. It would throw off the natural flora, and may cause inflammation and irritation. Doing this regularly may also cause long-term problems on the skin because it lacks that protective layer. You know what comes next: dryness, acne, excess oil production, and worsening of skin conditions.

We know it’s difficult to change routines, especially when something has been working out for you, but we also know that in the long run, starting the change for a better skincare routine would be worth it. 


First off, it's important to use a separate makeup remover. You can't rely on facial washes alone to remove all the product and gunk that's built up on your skin throughout the day, especially when the makeup formula you used is designed to be waterproof! Whatever type of makeup remover you opt to use, it should remove most traces of your makeup so that the second cleansing step is just a final clean sweep.

After makeup removal, washing your face with a cleanser and water ensures that you have a completely clean base to apply your skincare. A low pH cleanser is definitely the best way to achieve this while maintaining a healthy skin pH. Ideally, choose a gentle formulation that won't leave your skin feeling dry or tight. Some of our faves include In Her Element Low pH Rose Gel CleanserCosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, Human Nature Nourishing Facial Wash, and CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser.  

If you really can’t let go of your bar soaps, you can try looking for ones that are formulated with a pH of 5.5. According to this website, the Aveeno Moisturizing Bar With Colloidal Oatmeal for Dry Skin has a pH close to 5.5, even when combined with water. Sebamed Clear Face Cleansing Bars also have a pH of 5.5 as indicated on the packaging.

Do you know the pH level of your facial cleanser? Have you made the switch to low pH cleansing?


Schmid, M. H., & Korting, H. C. (1995). The concept of the acid mantle of the skin: its relevance for the choice of skin cleansers. Dermatology, 191(4), 276-280.

Korting, H. C., & Braun-Falco, O. (1996). The effect of detergents on skin pH and its consequences. Clinics in dermatology, 14(1), 23-27.

Kuehl, B. L., Fyfe, K. S., & Shear, N. H. (2003). Cutaneous cleansers. Skin Therapy Lett, 8(3), 1-4.

Parker, M. (2017, April 20). Healthy Skin: The pH of Popular Soaps. Retrieved February 13, 2018.