You’ve likely never thought about hand soap more than just browsing the grocery store aisles when you run out. But after almost two years of washing our hands incessantly (at least we hope so), it’s likely that—like us—you probably have some ~feelings~ about the category.
Picking out a hand soap can feel a bit like playing goldilocks… This one is too drying, this one doesn’t suds up enough, this one smells too strong. Yep, there’s more to hand soap than you likely even realized before you became a hand washing aficionado. With all this hand washing you’ve likely also realized that your hands need some TLC too. And it’s true! “My first rule of thumb (no pun intended) is to do unto your hands as you do to your face,” recommends Mona Gohara, MD, a Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist. “Think sunscreen, skin routine (My hands get retioind) and cleanser.” Okay, that may seem like a lot. If you have the time, great, but if you don’t, the one swimple swap you can do for your hands is to switch to a gentle hand soap. “Our hands take a beating with all the extra hand washing going on these days so gentle cleansers are key,” says Dr. Gohara.
So rather than have us pick our personal favorite hand soaps, we decided to tap the skin experts—dermatologists—themselves to have them share the best hand soaps that are also good for your skin. And it turns out that when it comes to that bit about treating your hands like your face, they weren’t joking around. About half of the derms we spoke with prefer using facial cleansers over hand soaps. “After washing my hands with harsh cleansers all day at work, I prefer to use a face cleanser at home because it doesn’t strip my skin dry,” explains Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in West Islip, New York. Worried those facial washes won’t “kill” the germs, not a problem. “Turns out that it’s not the antimicrobial additions to the soap, but the mechanical act of handwashing and moving the hands around for a long enough time that cleans the hands,” says Ranella Hirsch, a Massachusetts-based, board-certified dermatologist.
Here are the best moisturizing hand soaps chosen by dermatologists (and one from me).
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Lipikar Wash AP+ Moisturizing Body & Face Wash
This cleanser was a favorite for two of our experts.
“This is a great body and face cleaner but I’ve been using it for my hands,” says Jenny Liu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Minneapolis.
“This is an especially rich cleanser well suited for extremely dry skin with niacinamide for calming and shea butter for rich moisturization,” says Dr. Hirsch.
Unscented Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
“This product is extremely gentle and specifically is formulated for those with potential sensitivities, so a great all around option,” says Dr. Hirsch.
Aveeno Calm + Restore Nourishing Oat Facial Cleanser
“This one contains oat and feverfew which are both extremely soothing to irritated skin. Gentle effective cleanser at a great price,” says Dr. Hirsch.
Skinfix Barrier+ Foaming Oil Cleanser
“I know this is marketed for the face but after washing my hands all day at work with harsh cleansers this is what I trust my hands with at home. It doesn’t strip my skin and no matter what I am doing running after three boys my hands do not crack and the skin stays intact so I can stay safe as a physician treating patients whose skin I have to touch during the day,” says Dr. Mariwalla.
Dove Deep Moisture Hand Wash
This one was chosen by five of our experts.
“I love Dove’s entire line of hand soaps, especially great for those of us (like moms and physicians) who wash our hands all day long. It has hydrating ingredients like glycerin, and stearic acid (aka proceramides) to help maintain and repair the skin barrier. It is paraben and sulfate free and peta certified (good for our skin and kind to animals too),” says Shari Marchbein, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU’s School of Medicine.
“While washing our hands is important, it can take a toll on our skin barrier, causing dryness, irritation, and rashes. I like this cleanser because it is effective without stripping the outer skin layer. It is formulated with the same types of ingredients found in traditional moisturizers to keep the hands hydrated,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
“This is my go to for those who prefer a pump. Gentle cleansers maintain skin barrier health while whisking away germs in the wash,” says Dr. Gohara.
“The past few years have been a great reminder that hand washing is an incredibly effective method to decrease disease transmission. Hand washing has historically been irritating and I’ve seen a rise in hand dryness and irritation with the rise in hand washing. Dove is a leader in gentle, effective cleansing. Their hand wash is my go to recommendation, especially for sensitive or eczema prone skin,” says Elyse Love, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Dial Clean + Gentle Antibacterial Hand Wash
“I really love Dial Soap’s new Clean + Gentle line. At their core, hand soaps are meant to and should effectively clean our hands, so I tend to opt for antibacterial soaps (especially during a pandemic!). Some antibacterial soaps can be heavily loaded with fragrances or dyes, which can cause skin irritation. I love this one because it really cleans hands well and is also free of fragrance. It works without drying out my hands,” says Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pittsburgh.
Vanicream Cleansing Bar for Sensitive Skin
“Vanicream is great not because of what it does have in it, but because of what it doesn’t. Fragrance free with a gentle surfactant it tends to the hands during cleansing,” says Dr. Gohara.
Esker Calendula Hand Cleanser
“Yes, this hand wash is a little pricier than the average but it also feels like a special treat every time you wash with it. clove, palo santo, litsea and helichrysum essential oils are a natural antibacterial alternative and they float in a a blend of olive and sunflower seed oil. Not to mention it’s just gorgeous. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Guest bathroom soap!” – Chelsea Traber Burns, Beauty Director
Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash Soap for Dry Skin
“When I am on the go, I actuallypurchase a sample size of the Dove’s sensitive body wash. It fits very nicely in my handbag so I don’t have to use the often harsh ones in public restrooms like airports,” says Adeline Kikam, MD, a dermatologist based in Texas.
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