What’s in a Bar of Soap?

Your skin is constantly absorbing everything that it comes into contact with- dirt, grime, lotion, soap etc. Did you know that you don’t just breathe through your nose but you breathe through your skin as well? What you put on your skin is inhaled and absorbed into your bloodstream. One thing that we have full control over is the soap we choose to wash the dirt and grime away with everyday. So what exactly is in a bar of soap?

We’re going to take a look at a normal commercial bar you would find in any store and compare that to our b.a.r.e. soaps bar. Below you’ll see the list of ingredients for b.a.r.e. soaps and the list of ingredients for a Dove Sensitive Unscented Beauty Bar. Now, I’ve used this Dove Sensitive Soap Bar before and it’s never irritated my skin. From my point it did the job by clearing off all the dirt and debris. But upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that the ingredients are a bit of a mystery and do not sound natural at all.

How is soap defined by the FDA?

The FDA defines soap as a simple combination of oils and fats with a strong alkaline solution. True soap is created through a chemical process known as saponification, which forms a natural byproduct called glycerin. Glycerin actually forms the base for the hydrating characteristics of lotions and creams. It is so valuable that commercial manufacturers sell it to make lotions and creams. The question is, does a Dove bar adhere to this definition of soap?

What does Dove say about its soap?


Dove states on its website that:

“Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar pampers sensitive skin with Dove ¼ moisturizing cream, and a truly mild formula that's fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and unscented. Dove is the #1 cleansing bar recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians.”

Notice that Dove never states the word soap in its bar. It says “moisturizing cream” or “beauty bar”. I’m sure there is some marketing research to back up their wording, but what they’re trying to do is avoid using the word "soap". In reality, they are detergents. By law, commercial brands cannot use the label, "bar soap" if it’s considered a detergent. The word “soap” is heavily regulated by the FDA.

You know that dry feeling you get after taking a shower? You might feel clean but that’s a byproduct of the detergent, which is meant to wash off all your oils, including the good oils that protect your skin. So after you’ve washed, you reach for the brand’s lotion to moisturize. This obviously starts a cycle of using soap to dry out your skin and moisturizing it with lotion. Detergent makes sense if you need to wash clothes or dishes, but it’s definitely not something that should be put onto your skin.

What is in the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar?

There is huge debate with the synthetic chemical additives listed in a typical “cleansing” bar. Let’s take a look at the list of ingredients for Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. We found the details of each ingredient from Ethereal Aura Spa. Check out what each ingredient means:

Sodium lauroyl isethionate is a surfactant/detergent used as a cleansing agent and to help lather onto your skin. You’ll find this in shampoos, body washes, facial care, and toothpastes. This chemical can irritate your skin depending on how sensitive your skin is.

Sodium Isethionate is another detergent that is an eye irritant in high doses.

Water is water.

Sodium Stearate is a traditional soap ingredient made of sodium salt of stearic acid.It's a stabilizer and a thickener used in soaps. This ingredient does have a long history of safe use

Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a synthetic surfactant that strips oils from your skin. It can irritate your skin if used in high concentrations.

Sodium Cocoate is also a common soap ingredient that strips your skin of oil, making it irritating.

Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate are traditional waxy soaps that bind to oil and dirt and wash them away. These ingredients are very outdated. Now that the science of skin is advancing, we understand that pulling out all of the oils in the skin does far more harm than good.

Lauric Acid is a great cleansing ingredient that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This would be great if it wasn't combined with detergent and tallow.

Water (no definition needed here)

Sodium Stearate is another traditional soap ingredient that strips the skin of all of its oils.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a synthetic surfactant which strips oils from your skin and in high concentrations is a skin irritant.

Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate are also common soap ingredients that strip skin of oil, making it irritating.

Sodium Chloride is common table salt, which is used as a binding agent.

Tetrasodium EDTA and Tetrasodium Etidronate are chelating agents and preservatives that can irritate skin conditions, particularly eczema. Depending on who you ask, they are either safe or carcinogenic.

Maltol isn't technically a fragrance... it's a "flavor enhancer" that is used for adding sweetness to foods.

Titanium Dioxide is a great sunscreen but has no use in a rinse-off product.

What’s in b.a.r.e. soap’s Black Tie Affair Bar?

Let’s take a look at
b.a.r.e. soaps' black tie affair. We aim to choose the highest quality, natural ingredients. Notice that our list is significantly shorter compared to Dove’s Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. While both bars clean, Dove’s bar is packed with ingredients that strip your skin and dry it out, while we work to keep your skin moisturized.

Saponified Oils (Palm & Coconut) Saponification is a process that is used when making true soap. It’s a chemical reaction that occurs in oil and glycerin. The oil used is carefully chosen based on what type of soap you’d like (coconut oil lathers more compared to olive oil). Also, note that we use only sustainable palm oil that is Rainforest Alliance certified, which adheres to strict rules to prevent deforestation.

Water is water.


Glycerin* is a moisturizer formed from vegetable oils. It actually forms the base for the hydrating characteristics of lotions and creams.

Sodium Chloride is common table salt, which is used as a binding agent.

Sodium Gluconate is a natural preservative, derived from corn

Eucalyptus Essential Oil is extracted from dry leaves and is a pure essential oil. You can check out more about Eucalyptus essential oil here.

Goat Milk is milk from goats

Activated Charcoal is a natural absorbent that is produced by heating wood. Want to learn more about activated charcoal? Check out our blog post here.

What’s Next

Something as simple as Googling your beauty products can save your skin from long term health not only externally but internally. You’ll find resources you need to choose the best skin care products for your skin. How do you choose the best soap bar for your skin? Is there a checklist you go by to choose the best skin care for yourself?


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