6 Best Bar Soaps for Every Skin Type

The wrong bar soap can strip the skin of natural oils. However, choosing the right bar for your skin type can help you avoid dry skin and soothe skin troubles, according to dermatologists.

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The different types of soap

Soap comes in all different types: gel, foam, and even powder. But perhaps the oldest form of soap as we know it is bar soap, and it’s one of the best out there, according to dermatologists.

Like other forms, bar soap helps remove dirt and oil from the skin by trapping them in micelles, spherical structures that allow debris to be removed from the skin, explains Brendan Camp, MD, a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. (Here’s everything you need to know about goat milk soap.)

“The main function of soap is to clean the skin of debris and buildup, but the addition of certain ingredients can expand its functionality,” he says. “For example, shea butter or coconut oil replenish the skin of oils to prevent it from becoming too dry, zinc helps reduce itching and flaking associated with seborrheic dermatitis, and exfoliants assist in the removal of dead skin cells, making skin feel softer.” (Find out if you should be washing your hands with dish soap.)

The benefits of bar soap

Because bar soap is made without water, it doesn’t require the same preservatives in its formulation as liquid soaps, so it can have a shorter ingredient list, which many prefer, says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at NY Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center. (Bar soap vs. liquid soap: here’s what else you should know.)

Another plus is that bar soap is easier to travel with since you don’t have to worry about it spilling or meeting the four-ounce liquid limit on airplanes. Bars also tend to be less costly and more environmentally friendly compared with other cleansers because they don’t require plastic bottling.

There’s a downside, though. Dr. Murphy-Rose says that after the first use, bar soaps can pick up bacteria and other microorganisms. This makes them less hygienic than the bottled varieties.

Choosing the right bar soap for your skin type

According to Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York, those with dry or sensitive skin have been traditionally generally advised to avoid bar soaps because they can be drying and strip the skin of its natural oils. But there are some brands, such as Dove, that have formulated cleansing bars in a way that makes them less drying than traditional bars of soap. “These soaps use gentle surfactants and ingredients to help replenish the skin’s moisture needs and support the skin barrier,” she says. In fact, picking the correct soap is important in protecting your skin barrier.

If you’re shopping for bar soap, choosing the right one for your skin type can make all the difference. Here, dermatologists break down the best bar soaps for every skin type.

Dove Beauty Barvia amazon.com

Normal skin: Dove Beauty Bar

$14 for a pack of 14 bars

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Normal skin is not too oily, dry, acne prone, or sensitive. It’s fairly, well, normal. For this reason, Dr. Garshick recommends the Dove Beauty Bar to her normal-skin patients. “It contains a gentle cleansing formula as well as one-quarter moisturizing cream to effectively eliminate dirt and excess buildup of oil without leaving the skin dry or irritated,” she says. “I love that it is easy to use, can be used on the face and body, and is a great option for all skin types.”

In addition to the classic white beauty bar, the brand makes different formulations with different scents, so you can easyily to find one to suit your skin type.


Sheamoisture African Black Soapvia amazon.com

Combination skin: SheaMoisture African Black Soap

$5

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If some areas of your face are oil-prone, while other areas are dry, you have combination skin. For this skin type, Dr. Garshick recommends SheaMoisture African Black Soap. It combines traditional African black soap, known for its cleansing and clarifying properties, with shea butter, oats, and aloe to hydrate and soothe the skin. “It is a great option for those with combination skin, as it effectively absorbs oil without drying the skin out, and it can also reduce blemishes,” she says.


Cetaphil Deep Cleansing Barvia amazon.com

Oily Skin: Cetaphil Deep Cleansing Bar

$8 for a pack of 3 bars

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If you have oily skin, Dr. Garshick recommends using Cetaphil Deep Cleansing Bar, which offers a deep clean to effectively remove excess oil, dirt, and other impurities. “It contains five nourishing ingredients to keep the skin moisturized and prevent the skin from drying out, and it is gentle enough to be used on the face and body,” she says.


Avene Xeracalm Ultra Rich Cleansing Barvia amazon.com

Dry skin: Avène XeraCalm Ultra-Rich Cleansing Bar

$12

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If your skin is on the dry side, you’re going to need a cleansing bar with hydrating qualities. Avène XeraCalm Ultra-Rich Cleansing Bar cleans without disrupting the skin’s natural microbiome, according to Dr. Garshick, thanks to its I-Modulia, a postbiotic complex from Avène thermal spring water. “It works to restore the natural skin barrier, using evening primrose oil, and is a great option for those with itchy, dry, or eczema-prone skin,” she says.


Cerave Hydrating Cleanser Barvia amazon.com

Acne-prone skin: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar

$7

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When your skin is prone to acne, it’s important to look for ingredients that help pull out oil and clean the skin without clogging pores. Dr. Garshick recommends CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar, which helps eliminate dirt and oil. It’s made with kaolin clay, an ingredient that absorbs oil, and is noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog the pores. “It also contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, which is especially good to help calm and soothe the skin, making it gentle enough to be used on the face or body,” she says.


Vanicream Cleansing Barvia walgreens.com

Sensitive skin: Vanicream Cleansing Bar

$5

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People with sensitive skin should choose a cleansing bar that is hypoallergenic and free of fragrance to replenish the skin barrier with a low risk of irritation, according to Dr. Murphy-Rose. Her go-to cleanser for sensitive skin is Vanicream Cleansing Bar, which is formulated for the most sensitive skin types and is generally very well tolerated.

“This mild, gentle cleansing bar can be used on the face, body, and hands and is free of dyes, parabens, fragrance, lanolin, and formaldehyde, making it a great option for those with sensitive skin,” says Dr. Garshick. “Additionally, it has received the National Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association and can be used by kids and adults.”

Next, here’s the best face wash for every skin type.

Sources
  • Brendan Camp, MD, a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City
  • Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at NY Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City
  • Marisa Garshick, MD, a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on April 12, 2021

Jenn Sinrich
Jenn is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist who writes for a myriad of online and print publications as well as consults for various companies and brands. She has expertise at writing articles, magazine copy, ghostwriting, product description and advertising copy. A Massachusetts native, Jenn currently resides in the suburbs of Boston with her husband and two children. When she's not putting pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keyboard), she's enjoying the most precious moments in life with her husband Dan and two children, Mila and Leo. As a young child, Jenn spent the majority of her free time flipping through the colorful, glossy pages of women's magazines eager to learn all the “do’s and don’ts,” about the movers and shakers in the female sphere, as well as the best looks of the season and the on-trend hair and makeup ideas. She was drawn to anything woman-inspiring and appreciated any publication that celebrated women and encouraged readers to be proud of both their beauty and their flaws. She set out to become a journalism major at Northeastern University and shortly after arriving on campus, she founded the Northeastern branch of Her Campus magazine, serving as her branch’s Campus Correspondent for two semesters and relishing the experience of working with and managing a team of writers. She pursued several internships in New York City, including iVillage, SELF Magazine and Ladies’ Home Journal. Upon graduation, with her bachelor of arts degree in hand, she moved to New York City permanently to continue her passion for magazine journalism, landing on-staff editorial roles at WhatToExpect.com, American Baby, Fit Pregnancy and Fresh Direct.