How do I clean my skin without soap?

Why Anti-Soap, you ask?

To be clear: I am not advocating for the complete abolishment of soap. Dishes are already a chore enough and I wouldn’t be able to wear white without it.

Our skin, however, is not a dish, a shirt, or a countertop. It is our largest organ and outermost barrier to our environment.

So, what led me to go soap free for the last seven years? 

Redefining Hygiene

What does it mean to be “clean?” The removal of dirt and grime (especially if you work/play outdoors) is for the best. Life get’s messy. Which begs the question, how do we achieve this feat without the aid of soap?

Soap is not a brilliant or evil man-made creation. In fact, it exists within our bodies. Without the use of surfactants (soap) our lungs would literally collapse. Although surfactants are not found naturally on the skin, we sure do put them there. You can find surfactants in most skin products, including lotions, creams, and cleansers.

While soaps are excellent for cleaning our countertops, our skin is not a simple “surface.” It is the biggest organ of our body, and is permeable. Like spongebob.

Before we can tackle the topic of cleanliness we have to talk about our skin. Our skin’s sebaceous gland’s produces a natural oily film on its surface, called sebum. Kind of like serum, but less like semen… it’s secreted all over our body and scalp, except the hands and soles of the feet. (The sebum, not the semen, you filthy animal).


Our sebum forms an “acid mantle” that performs several functions:

  • Antimicrobial
  • Photoprotection (protects from the sun)
  • Delivers antioxidants to the skin’s surface
  • Controls inflammation

So, what happens when we grab our loofa and bring soap to the party?


When skin meets soap

If you’ve ever tried to mix oil and water, take salad dressing for example, even after a vigorous shaking it just doesn’t happen. This is because water is a polar molecule while oils are non-polar, so they repel one another. Think opposite ends of a magnet.

Soaps forces these molecules to play with each other. So if you put a bit of soap in your salad dressing, it would blend. Go ahead, give it a whirl. Tastes great too…

In the same way, soap forces water and our skin’s sebum to play. Yes, in this way water takes away dirt and grime, but it takes our skin’s sebum with it. No sebum, no barrier. It’s literally throwing the baby out with the bath water.

This can also cause underlying cells in our skin to swell, allowing the cleanser to reach deeper levels of the skin—interacting with nerve endings and the immune system.  This is why skin often becomes dry/tight/red after washing, it’s irritated! And angry!!

How to support the balance of your skin’s sebum 

Years of daily washing can throw our sebum production out of whack. This can lead our sebaceous glands to over-produce (oily skin) or under-produce (dry/irritated) sebum, or do both.

Which leads us back to the question of cleanliness: how do we remove yucky residue while respecting our skin’s sebum?


Oil Cleansing

Water may not be able to interact with oily substances without soap, but other oils sure can. “Like dissolves like.”

Using oils removes physical debris from the skin while keeping our sebum in tact. No, this does not result in excess oil and a sticky mess so long as you use the right oils. So please don’t reach for the vegetable oil. Or even the coconut oil (more on this in a later post).

By using oils that match our natural sebum, we not only cleanse the skin—we nourish and rebuild our sebum. This balances oil production, hydrates the skin, and rebuilds are skin’s microbiome—thus treating the underlying cause of skin conditions like dryness, lack of elasticity (wrinkles), and acne.


That is how oil cleansing supports your skin’s natural intelligence.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. Don’t take my word for it, try for yourself! Give yourself a month. Put your soaps/lotions/creams under the sink, and see what happens. If your mind isn’t blown, I’ll send your money back.