Do you recommend soap for skin care?

How should it be used? What is the role of antibacterial soap?


We recommend Dove Sensitive Skin & Cetaphil soap for general cleansing the skin. Soaps with perfumes should not be used as they can dry out the skin. If the skin is broken due to cracks and/or fissures, the patient may use an antibacterial soap such as Dial Soap or Cetaphil Antibacterial. The patient should bathe with a soft washcloth. After bathing apply medicated creams &/or moisturizers.

Answer provided by:
Melinda Showalter, RN, BSN, OCN
Nurse Coordinator
Simon Cancer Center
Indiana University Health


Generally I recommend sensitive skin soap for all patients; especially for those patients with an “impaired skin barrier” as can be found commonly in patients with cutaneous lymphoma. Dove sensitive skin bar soap, Aveeno sensitive skin, and Cetaphil cleanser are some soaps that tend to be better tolerated and gentle to already irritated skin. Antibacterial soaps tend to be very drying, leading to further skin irritation, and I do not frequently recommend using them. That being said, in circumstances where a patient has a significant superficial bacterial infection, and if I feel their skin can tolerate the dryness, I will recommend using hibicleanse soap a few times a week. For patients with very inflamed and open skin, any soap can be difficult to tolerate. A quarter or third cup of bleach in a full bathtub, soaking for 10-20 minutes can be of help.

Answer provided by:
Laura Y. McGirt, MD
Director of Dermatologic Oncology
Levine Cancer Institute
Carolinas HealthCare System


We do recommend soap for skin care. However, it is important to use the correct type of soap. Soap, in itself, can dry and irritate the skin. Thus, it can be the case where in trying to clean the skin you are actually causing harm and drying it out. There are two factors we emphasize with soap: how to use it and the type of soap to use. Soap should be used sparingly. It is usually only necessary to use in areas like the groin and the armpits. It should not be used in areas of skin that are already dry. We usually recommend unscented soaps like Dove or Cetaphil. These are typically not irritating and sufficient for bathing.

Answer provided by:
Charles Vainder, MD
CTCL and Teledermatology fellow
Department of Dermatology
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center