Washing with a bar of soap isn’t rocket science, but believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to use it: According to dermatologists, if your soap isn’t properly sudsy, it may not be getting you as clean as you’d think.
Bar soap contains surfactants that break up the oil and dirt onto your skin into small, easily-washable drops, but it only works if there’s some serious sudsing going on. “The goal is for soap lather to pull and trap dirt and grime away from the skin so that it can be easily rinsed off with water,” says Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, California. Instead of simply dragging your bar of soap across your arms and legs before rinsing it with water, you want to make sure there’s a nice, frothy lather happening.
The best way to do this is to start the sudsing process before your soap hits your skin. “I recommend wetting your skin and hands and rubbing the soap bar in between your hands for 10 to 15 seconds to build up a lather,” says Dr. Lee.
Aside from the fact that this will help your soap work to its full potential in cleansing your skin, it will also help you ensure that it’s clean and virus-free before you use it (which is especially important if you share a single bar with other people in your household). “Though there is a tiny possibility that an enveloped virus could remain intact on a bar of soap, once the bar of soap is rubbed with water to produce a lather, the viral envelope would be disrupted by the detergent particles, and the virus would no longer be infectious,” Juliet Morrison, PhD, assistant professor at University of California Riverside’s Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, previously told Well+Good. “The key is to have a good lather going.”
When you’re done washing, be sure to rinse off all the soap from your skin, because any leftover residue can leave you with that super-dry, “squeaky clean” feeling that you want to avoid.
Dr. Lee likes bar soap because of how simple it is. “It tends to contain fewer ingredients, which is desirable in individuals with allergy-prone or sensitive skin,” she says. “Also, bar soap tends to be more eco-friendly in packaging—think paper wrap versus single-use plastics of body wash.”
And with that, “lather, rinse, repeat” now has an entirely new meaning.
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