Whether purely utilitarian or full of fragrance and coloring, hand and bath soaps are abundant, and people usually select one based on personal preference rather than health or safety. For people with sensitive skin or allergies to herbs, fragrances or preservatives, soap choices are more limited. Allergy sensitive people may experience dryness, itching and even hives if they use soap with irritating ingredients. A few gentle soap options exist for people prone to allergic reactions such as redness, rash or itching.
Aveeno soap products, in addition to typical soap ingredients like fats, contain oatmeal as an active ingredient (colloidal oatmeal, or Avena sativa). Oatmeal helps soften skin, has anti-itch properties and eases dryness with a silky coating on the skin. Oatmeal soaps like Aveeno are gentle on skin that is susceptible to rashes and can be used as hand soap or bath soap.
Olive oil soaps, particularly those with minimal added preservatives, fragrances or herbal supplements, are also gentle and safe soaps for people with allergies. Olive oil is an emollient--it coats the skin, locks moisture in and blocks irritating substances from contacting skin. Olive oil soothes and heals irritated skin with antioxidant properties, and it moisturizes skin with its fatty acids as well.
Cetaphil products, which include a solid cleansing bar, an antibacterial cleansing bar and a gentle liquid cleanser, are cleaning products marketed directly to people with sensitive skin or allergies. Cetaphil products do not contain a fat-based soap product; they are called non-soap cleansers and do not provide suds like fatty soaps do. Cetaphil cleansers provide gentle dirt removal and coat the skin with glycerin to soften irritated skin. Pediatricians and dermatologists may recommend Cetaphil products for people who experience skin problems even with gentle soaps like Aveeno and olive oil products.
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Nicole Van Hoey is a pharmacist and medical writer/editor in Washington, D.C. She has worked extensively on National Institutes of Health and trade pharmacy publications and is a contributing textbook writer on topics in infectious disease, nutrition and more. Van Hoey currently enjoys applying her drug information expertise to writings on women's health, complementary medicine and pediatrics.