This post also appears at the Purely Primal Skincare Guide blog!
Happy Skincare Saturday!
We got some great questions for our Q&A feature, and we’re answering them right here on the blog.
For more information on each topic, be sure to check out the Purely Primal Skincare Guide.
Today’s Q: Do you know of a good moisturizing and healing hand soap? I use Dr. Bronner’s and it is too drying for winter. My hands are cracking and flaking. Help!
Unfortunately, “moisturizing hand soap” is a bit of a misnomer. While some soaps can be less intense based on the addition of emollients and oils, the true purpose of soap is to saponify oils – which basically means sweep away all the oils on your hands! This is amazing for when you’re covered in a bit too much coconut oil (whether from cooking or adventures in oil cleansing) but troublesome when you need all the natural oils and moisture you can get.
When a soap is labeled “moisturizing” and has added moisturizers, you’re probably just “saponifying” those extras and grabbing less of the natural oils from your skin, leaving your hands less intensely cleansed.
Depending on the ingredients, it’s possible that your moisturizing soap might be able to deposit extra emollients on your skin – it all depends.
What we really need to talk about is a safe strategy that takes into account WHY you’re washing your hands! Are you just needing to wash some dirt or cooking crud off in the kitchen? Or are you worried about getting rid of bacteria, say, in the bathroom? (Or worse, the AIRPORT bathroom?)
If you simply need a more gentle soap for everyday use, you can try diluting your Dr. Bronner’s (which is a full-strength soap that leaves nothing behind) with water in a foaming soap dispenser like this one. It’ll be gentler on your skin AND stretch your soap purchase!
From there, you can use a bit of shea butter post-wash to add extra moisture and nourishment to your skin. The benefit to adding that second step and rubbing in some shea butter? It will help HEAL your cracked skin while it nourishes and moisturizes. I like the Essential Depot shea butter (note: pure, unrefined shea has a strong, nutty aroma).
You can also choose a moisturizing soap like Ava Anderson’s hand soap or a bar soap, which I like because the ingredients tend to be more simple. Try soaps with goat’s milk or shea butter, like this one.
Dr. Bronner’s also has a new line of dilute “Shikakai” hand soaps you might look for.
Now, if you’re looking for anti-bacterial action (think airport bathrooms):
Traditional soap (think Dr. Bronner’s) has a purpose that’s a bit different from traditional antibacterial soap. In antibacterial soap, the potentially toxic antibacterial agents – like Triclosan – are actually responsible for the killing of bacteria, not the suds.
If your concern is getting rid of any harmful bacteria without using antibacterial soap, you’ve just got to scrub really well with hot water (sing the alphabet slowly and don’t stop washing until you’re done!)
Unfortunately, while this works, it’s obviously going to dry your skin.
This is where you definitely want to add moisture back after washing, especially during the winter. There’s no “moisturizing soap” that’ll serve the purpose you need here – you need a vigorous clean plus post-scrubbing moisture.
Again, I like to heal and protect my skin with pure shea butter. I fill a tiny jar like this one with a scoop of shea butter and carry it with me all the time! In a pinch, you can also use a great lip balm on the backs of your hands.
You can also try a probiotic cleanser, like this one from PIP Healthy Products, made especially to fight harmful bacteria. Note that this is a cleanser and not a soap; it uses mild, skin-safe surfactants and probiotics to do the job. (I’m told they’re almost out of stock, so hurry to grab your cleanser!)
If you’re a traveler and need some help in airport bathrooms, PIP also has a travel-size hygiene spray that I love.
Hope this helps!