How to Lather Bar Soap, According to a Dermatologist

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Washing with a bar of soap isn’t rocket science, but believe it or not, there are is a right and a wrong way to use it: According to dermatologists, if your soap isn’t soapy enough, it might not get you as clean as you think.

Bar soap contains surfactants that break down oil and dirt on your skin into small, easy-to-wash drops, but that only works if there’s significant suds. “The goal is for the soap suds to pull and trap dirt and grime away from the skin so it can be easily rinsed off with water,” says Ivy Lee, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, California. Instead of just swiping your bar soap over your arms and legs before rinsing it off with water, you want to make sure there’s a nice foamy lather.

The best way to do this is to start the lathering process before your soap comes into contact with your skin. “I recommend wetting your skin and hands and rubbing the bar soap between your hands for 10-15 seconds to work it into a lather,” says Dr. Lee.

As well as helping your soap work to its full potential for cleaning your skin, it will also help you make sure it’s clean and virus-free before you use it (especially important if you’re sharing a single bar with other people in your household). “Although there is a remote 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 detergent particles, and the virus would no longer be infectious,” Juliet Morrison, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology at the University of California, Riverside, previously told Well + Good. “The key is to have a good lather.”

When you are done washing, be sure to rinse everything soap off your skin, as any remaining residue can leave you with that super dry “squeaky clean” feeling you want to avoid.

Dr. Lee loves bar soap because of its simplicity. “It tends to have fewer ingredients, which is desirable for people with allergy-prone or sensitive skin,” she says. “Also, bar soap tends to be more environmentally friendly in its packaging – think paper packaging versus the single-use plastics of body washes.”

And with that, “lather, rinse, repeat” now has a whole new meaning.

Get more shower tips from a dermatologist:

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