Soap opera

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It’s important to know which soaps or gels are best for keeping your skin squeaky clean and healthy

Just like with every other cosmetic, choosing a soap for your shower or bath can be a multi-choice affair. Body wash, shower gel, anti-bacterial soap, moisturising beauty bar… the list goes on. How do you know what works best for your skin?

Most of us don’t think much about the soap we use for our bathing ritual. If it smells good, or makes us feel fresh, we are okay to go with it. Rarely do we pay attention to a soap’s ingredients or what it does to our skin after the bath.

To find out about the choices we have today, and how we should go about choosing what works best for us, I walked down the aisles of the local supermarket. Sure enough, there were so many options I was utterly confused by the end of it. I finally bought a glycerine-based soap I have used since I was a child knowing it was mild and safe.

But what if you have sensitive skin, or skin that develops dry patches in cold weather, or skin that gets all red and itchy when you give it a good scratch? How then should you choose a soap or gel?

Don’t buy into what the ads tell you

Pay attention to your skin type, try out a few options, then go with whatever product works best. Luckily, these days there are soaps available that work for sensitive and dry skin, and even those that are prone to allergies and rashes.

Lock in the moisture

The end result of using a soap or gel is to clean the skin, but some, while removing the dirt, sweat and bacteria, also strip the skin of its natural oils. So, the first thing to check is whether the soap has moisturising qualities. How do you know if the soap or gel will moisturise? After you have rinsed it off, you will feel as if there is a film coating your skin. This is basically to seal the moisture in, and often those used to harsh soaps might find this sensation a bit alien. They might even think the soap didn’t get washed off. In fact this is a layer of oil/moisture that works to protect the skin and it works for dry, normal and combination skins. Such moisturising bars or gels help to retain the moisture and are your best bet. However, if you feel the layer is making your skin greasy, try out different products to find one that moisturises without leaving a residue.

Don’t get into a lather

Another misconception when it comes to skincare is that a soap or gel must produce a lot of lather. In fact, all commercials show the model using a soap or body wash that almost morphs into a bubble bath! Well, contrary to popular belief, a lot of foam might actually dry out your skin and avoiding a product that produces a lot of lather may work better.

Avoid dry skin

When it comes to bar soaps, the anti-bacterial ones or deodorant ones are the worst culprits in causing dry skin. Unless you have really oily skin all over your body – which itself is rare – avoid using these soaps, even in hot weather. You need to use a moisturiser after the shower if you use such soaps. For guys and girls, the beauty bars – soaps that are mild and don’t dry the skin – are the best to use if you don’t like body washes and shower gels.

How do you know if a soap is harsh? Check if it mentions an ingredient called lye or sodium hydroxide. It is a chemical used to make soaps and its harsh nature can dry the skin. If a soap has natural oils and ingredients it makes the product gentler on the skin.

If you have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, seek the help of a dermatologist and use a medicated soap.

Keep in mind

Shower in cool or warm water, never stinging hot.

Do not apply soap or gel on your body twice during the same shower.

Look out for dry or itchy skin after a shower. If it is happening often, maybe you need to change your soap.

An at-home spa ritual

You can incorporate an old Indian home bath ritual into your weekend showers to keep the skin moist and supply. Have an oil bath before your shower. That essentially means, rub olive oil or coconut oil all over your body like you would during a massage at a spa. Leave on for an hour then shower. This will retain the moisture in your skin and prevent it from drying and is especially effective during winter.