Here’s an interesting email I received from a mom last year:

“thanks … since we switched to [soap products] this winter, nobody in my family has had dried, cracked skin (esp. around the knuckles), we’d ALWAYS have this problem, every year, during winter. but not this year, despite some intense soap washing (many kiddie outings, germs, etc.). just wanted to let you know since that was an unexpected benefit. thanks again!”

After following up, I discovered that this mom made the switch to soaps for her household after reading the site for other reasons – no one in the household suffered from eczema.

This is a counterintuitive result, but no longer surprising. I hear this from many people, that switching to soaps and other non-detergent products – even when some of the soaps are somewhat drying – overall results in skin that is less dry and needs less moisturizing.

After making the switch, usually the family member with detergent-reactive eczema will experience clear improvements in overall skin quality and dryness. The surprise has been that others experience unexpected benefits as well.

I have seen this in my own skin, even though I have never had any problems with eczema myself. Initially, when we switched our household to soaps, I thought “soaps” were so drying. I thought dryness was a compromise I was going to have to make to keep my son eczema free.

But in my case it turned out initial problems with dryness from soaps were the result of 1) past history of using detergent products to wash my hands and a long-term effect on my skin that I hadn’t realized, and 2) exclusively using an especially drying soap product.

Once we’d made the switch long enough that my son’s skin had healed and become more substantial, I realized that my own skin was less dry and rarely needed moisturizing. When I began mostly using a non-drying soap to wash my hands, I was even able to tolerate the drying soap I’d used before, without the negative effects I’d experienced before the healing period.

Since trying 30+ bar soaps recently, I have seen from experience that there are many, many neutral and non-drying soap products available. In spite of the bad rap soaps have gotten for being drying, I found fewer “drying” soaps than “moisturizing” ones. Finding a product that made my skin feel clean turned out to be a bigger problem than finding a non-drying one.

This effect on skin from exposure to detergents in the months prior to trying something new likely has profound implications for dermatology research, especially since detergents are so ubiquitous in first-world personal care products today.