Given that most soaps are harsh, and rosacea skin is super sensitive, you might be wondering if there’s such a thing as “the best soap for rosacea.”
Well, the truth is as with all things related to skin care, there is no one-size-fits all. However, there are some basic guidelines that can help you pick a soap that is most suitable for your type of rosacea.
So, in this article we’re going to look at:
- the types of ingredients that are usually in soaps and which ones to favor.
- recommended brands that make rosacea-friendly soaps.
As always, it’s always best to check in with your doctor before making any changes to your skin care routine.
Note: this post contains some affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.
WHAT KIND OF SOAP IS GOOD FOR ROSACEA?
Whether you’re using a bar soap or a liquid cleanser, rosacea skin tends to do better with soap that is:
- Free of harsh surfactants: Surfactants are detergents and they can be quite harsh and irritating. Some of the most commonly used ones to avoid are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. Skip these and look gentler surfactants like sodium lauroyl isethionate, cocamidopropyl betaine and decyl glucoside.
- Made with mildly cleansing fats: In handmade or artisanal soapmaking, soap is made via a chemical reaction between fats and lye. However, some fats – like coconut, palm kernel and babassu oil – produce soaps that can be too cleansing. So instead, look for gentler soaps made with fats like olive oil, butters, sunflower oil, safflower oil, evening primrose oil or hemp seed oil.
- Fragrance free: whether it’s synthetic or natural essential oils, fragrance often worsens rosacea. So it’s best to avoid it completely.
- Botanical based: some natural additives can have a soothing effect on rosacea. This includes ingredients like honey, oats, goats milk, carrots and some herbs (calendula, lavender, neem, chamomile, feverfew, aloe vera, moringa, comfrey, green tea, burdock, turmeric, licorice).
- Free of rosacea triggers: ideally your cleanser should be free of alpha hydroxy acids, synthetic preservatives, camphor, menthol, peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil.
NOTE: there is research indicating that some essential oils may help rosacea skin. These oils are cypress, geranium, helichrysum, lavender, lemon, roman chamomile and rosemary (source). It’s up to you if you’d like to try a soap made with one of these oils.
BEST NATURAL, FACIAL BAR SOAPS FOR ROSACEA: GOAT MILK, AFRICAN BLACK SOAP & MORE
1. Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve
When I don’t have time to make my own soaps at home, this is the company I go to. All of their ingredients are organic and free of weird additives. As for preservatives they rely mainly on rosemary extract to keep the soaps fresh and prevent the oils in the soap from going rancid.
Here are five soaps from this brand that are worth checking out:
Simply Castile: unscented soap that uses only olive oil and sunflower oil.
Castile & Cocoa: unscented soap that contains olive oil, babassu oil and cocoa butter.
Castile & Shea: unscented soap that has olive oil, shea butter, sunflower oil, goat milk, castor oil, lavender and rosemary extract (preservative).
Milk and Honey Baby Soap: unscented soap that features sunflower oil, coconut oil, palm oil, goat milk, extra virgin olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and honey.
Sea Buckthorn & Tea Tree Soap: the reviews for this soap indicate that it’s been beneficial for people with rosacea. The main ingredients include coconut oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, sea buckthorn oil, green tea, turmeric, licorice root powder and tea tree oil (which can be helpful for acne).
2. Garden Path Homemade Soap
This brand has a soap specifically for rosacea that uses olive, palm and coconut oil as its fat sources.
The bar also gets extra soothing properties from three herbs: licorice root powder, aloe and chamomile.
3. Goat Milk Stuff
This family run brand is all about, you guessed it, goat milk! Although they have a variety of goat milk soaps, three of them really stand out as candidates for rosacea skin:
Organic Castile Soap: unscented soap made from raw goat milk and extra virgin olive oil. Any 100% olive oil soap is already super gentle. Adding in the goat milk just gives it more gentle, skin-loving properties.
Calendula Soap: unscented soap made from raw goat milk, olive oil (infused with calendula) and castor oil.
Purity Soap: unscented soap made from raw goat milk, coconut oil and sunflower oil.
4. Dudu Osun’s African Black Soap
African black soap is a plant-based soap that usually contains ingredients like:
- shea butter.
- cocoa pod ash.
- palm kernel oil.
However, as black soap has become trendier it can be difficult to find a brand that still uses many of the authentic ingredients.
That said, there is a Nigerian brand called Dudu Osun that is available in the U.S. You can purchase their bars here.
NOTE: the individual bars are scented while the 10 lb block (which you can cut into your own bars) is unscented.
BEST SULFUR SOAP FOR ROSACEA
Topical application of sulfur is approved by the FDA for rosacea. Although it’s not entirely clear how sulfur actually works, some experts think that it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Overall, topical use of sulfur has been found to reduce inflammatory lesions and (redness) of papulopustular rosacea. In addition, for people who have a mix of rosacea and facial seborrheic dermatitis (which causes flaking and itching), sulfur also seems to provide relief from the dermatitis (source).
Sulfur soaps or cleansers can be obtained over-the-counter or from your doctor (for prescription strength). Below are two over-the-counter options you can investigate for yourself.
1. Heritage Store’s Hot Springs Sulfur Soap
This soap uses olive, coconut and palm oil as its fat sources. It is also infused with sulfur, yellow mustard powder, safflowers (or American saffron), sea salt and rosemary leaf extract.
2. Grisi Sulfur Soap
With 10% sulfur, this soap is one that some rosacea users swear by on some online forums.
Although the higher amount of sulfur makes it more potent, it may also be too harsh for some people.
TOP SOAP-FREE FACIAL CLEANSERS FOR ROSACEA-PRONE SKIN
1. Bioderma Sensiobio Micellar Water
Micellar water is a very gentle cleansing product that can be used as a makeup remover or mild cleanser. The main ingredients are water and small amounts of gentle surfactants.
This particular micellar water is formulated for sensitive skin and it’s from the company that first introduced micellar water to the masses.
2. Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser
The first few ingredients of this cleanser are water, glycerin and cetearyl alcohol (a skin-friend, fatty alcohol) and panthenol (vitamin B5). As for the main surfactant used, it’s cocoyl isethionate, which is considered a mild surfactant.
Overall, this is a gentle formulation and the simplicity of the ingredients explains why this product has so many raving fans.
FAQs ABOUT THE BEST SOAP FOR ROSACEA
What should I wash my face with if I have rosacea?
A gentle natural soap or a soap-free cleanser is generally better for rosacea. In addition, some people with rosacea find that oil cleansing or washing with honey, also provides relief.
Oil cleansing might help some people because it doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oils. In fact, the oils help to restore balance to the skin barrier.
As for honey, it’s anti-inflammatory properties can be very soothing to the skin. In addition, it contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals that may soothe the skin with regular use.
Is Dove, Cetaphil or Cerave okay for rosacea?
According to a paper published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Dove’s sensitive skin bar, Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser and Cerave’s Moisturizing Lotion seem to improve some aspects of skin health in rosacea patients.
However, the paper also notes that the studies done so far have been small and therefore, there is a need for larger studies that are run under conditions that are more scientifically reliable (i.e. randomized, double blind studies).
In addition, the Dove soap was tested together with metronidazole (an antibiotic). So, it’s not clear if the improved skin came from the Dove soap or the antibiotic.
Rosacea is a multifactorial skin condition that some experts believe must be tackled both externally and internally (some would say mostly internally).
So, while changing your soap may not fix your skin overnight, the right soap can support the overall health of your skin and reduce physical irritation that could trigger flare ups.
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