Understanding Good and Bad Soap Ingredients for Eczema

Derived from reacting fatty acids with a strong alkaline solution which produces a chemical reaction known as saponification, soaps are a great medium in cleansing our body. Different kinds of soap can be made depending on the type of solution used during chemical process. Sodium soaps, which are hard and firm, are produced from sodium hydroxide while liquid soaps come from the reaction of potassium hy-drox-ide.

When applied to your skin, both types of soap dissolves natural insoluble particles in your skin that is easily washed away during rinsing. This is best exhibited when soap cleanses your skin with excess oil that might be contaminated with dirt and dust particles.

Ingredients Review


The cleansing powers of soaps are composed of several ingredients that are both good and bad for your health. One of the good ingredients is a product during saponification. The results of this chemical process will yield naturally 75% soap and 25% glycerine.

Did you know that glycerine is removed from soap found in your everyday stores?


Many will actually add glycerine in home-made creams or soaps as it acts as an emollient or a skin softener because of its ability to retain moisture. The common reason why glycerine is removed is that in the global market, it can be sold as a different commodity primarily as an ingredient for lotions and skin moisturizers.  These skin moisturizers help repair the damage caused by soap itself because of it being stripped of its natural glycerine. Ha, good marketing plan??

Softener Ingredients

Acting as water softeners, the trifactor of pentasodium-pentetate, tetrasodium-etidronate and tetresodium-EDTA lessens the negative effects of dyes and perfumes found in soaps which further prevents the reaction of calcium and magnesium in water. Soaps that do not contain the trifactor compounds will give you a dry and chalky felling especially after bathing. It will also produce a insoluble soap scum.

Fatty Acids

One of the other main ingredients are fatty acids that can be obtained from plants.  High quality soaps use plant oils rather than petroleum based oils (commercially used) .


Plant based soaps will give a rich lather without the negative effects of chemicals. Some of these oils include castor, apricot, avocado, almond, jojoba, hemp and other seed oils except for olive oil which actually hinders the lathering effects.

In fact, my dermatologist has mentioned the negative effects of olive oil on eczema-prone skin so I would not recommend using it as a home-remedy ingredient at all (based on personal experience).

Commercial Soaps Ingredients – Bad?

Now, if you are using commercial soaps, you should be aware that the following common ingredients have a negative effect on your skin.


Sulfates, in the form of sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) when combined with other soap ingredients becomes carcinogenic. What makes it more dangerous is that it can easily penetrates your skin. This cancer causing compound has been found to cause skin irritation and promotes hormonal disruption. Fore more detail information on SLS please have a peek here.


Another potent carcinogen, diethanolamine abbreviated as DEA has the characteristics similar to SLS but has more adverse effects as it is strongly link to the development of kidney and liver cancer. Commonly you will hear bad things about SLS which is often true. In addition, studies have shown that SLS will cause more eczema making it much worse as recalled in my earlier article.


Often found in antibacterial soap, triclosan works contrary to what it should be. Instead of having antibacterial properties, it promotes the growth of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic cleansers. It also produces the carcinogenic dioxin which disrupts our endocrine system (mainly the balance of our hormones in the human body). Triclosan strongly disturbs the female sex hormone which increases the risk of breast cancer.


Parabens is another sex hormone disruptor which is called estrogen mimickers. Once in the bloodstream, your body will mistake parabens as estrogen where the primary effect in both man and woman is the reduction of muscle mass and triggers the onset of early puberty. A very small percentage of us with eczema will experience an eczema-flare up when skin is in contact with parabens according to a study in my earlier findings.  If you are unsure you are real sensitive to it, it is better to avoid it just to be safe. Parabens have been debatable whether it is safe or not depending on the dosage used in skin care & cosmetics.

Labels – Read THEM!

So be sure to read the label before buying soap and take note of the ingredients I mentioned.  Another tip is do not forget to rinse thoroughly so that no scum (residue) will be left in your skin that may contain remnants of the harmful ingredients.

Soap Recommendations for Eczema Sufferers

One of the soaps that most dermatologists recommend is the Hypoallergenic Dove Soap bar made for sensitive skin.  These are fairly affordable and is commonly found everywhere! You can also find natural soap bars (including glycerin soap) in Bulk Barn and any Health Food stores in bulk with lesser ingredients compared to commercial bars. It can randomly be found in some drugstores and grocery stores in health foods (natural foods) aisle in a pack or individually wrapped bars.

Also if you are on a run or prefer liquid form, Cetaphil offers a mild soap-free body wash for eczema-prone skin called “Restoraderm body wash” which is perfect for after a workout if you need that quick wash. In fact, the product claims to be safe enough for as young as 3 months old. I personally do love this one especially that my skin needs that extra skin conditioning during winter time. This is better than Dove soap in my opinion, but it is pricey just to warn you.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser for face & body may not be acceptable as it contains both SLS and parabens as I currently discovered (but not at the time I bought it because there was no ingredients list). I personally bring a small travel pack of it in my bag as a backup for when I go out. I can say that the feeling of it is noticeably different on the hands than regular liquid soap that you find in bathrooms at a workplace/stores/restaurants. It is fairly gentle and more moisturizing on the skin compared to regular commercial brands since it is made for all skin types. Again, probably not the best so keep an eye on how your skin reacts to it. It may vary among individuals.

Other Recommendation from other Experts

I recommend to my clients that they NOT use soap or lotions on their skin, but use a cleansing oil instead. You can use pretty much any organic unscented oil. I prefer Argan oil or almond myself. Also sesame is wonderful and extra healing. I don’t recommend coconut though, especially for those of us with eczema as it can be drying and comedogenic (pimple causing). Actually, I just saw that Trader Joe’s has come out with a cleansing oil in their Frequent Flyer and it sounds like it might be good too, but I haven’t tried it yet. Use a natural bristle brush on your skin, soft or harder as you prefer, but with avoid raw areas or use a soft cloth. Then apply the oil. You can warm it so it feels amazing going on and give yourself a gentle massage as well. Then get in the shower and using a soft cloth, wash your body without soap. The oil will bind dirt and dry skin and the cloth and water will remove it. When you get out, pat dry and apply a light layer of oil instead of lotion or moisturizer. I always laugh when I see lotions that say they ‘contain’ oil. Why do that? Use the real thing. It’s better for you and cheaper too.  Source – Celeste Mendelsohn (Yoga Therapist with experience in using herbs and natural foods as medicine in the Ayurvedic way)

I grew up with a mild to severe case of Eczema. I'm all about skin care tips, good eating, skin cream reviews, and healthy & positive living!