Best Bath Soap for Seniors and the Elderly (What to Avoid Too!)

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Skin naturally becomes more sensitive aging. Learn which soap ingredients are needed for older skin and which you should avoid. Plus, we will share our top picks!

Best Bath Soap for Seniors
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Income Disclosure: Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. Learn More.

The skin of aging adults tends to wrinkle and dry with age. So, you may wonder about the best way to clean their sensitive skin.

Going for just any type of soap isn’t advisable as you may select a bath soap that’s too harsh, stings/irritates intolerably and overly dries existing skin. 

Below, we’ll look into the best bath soaps for elderly skin in detail, but here’s a quick summary:

Top 3 Things to Know About Bath Soap for Older Adults

  1. Choose soaps that contain plant-based oils, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and/or lanolin.
  2. Avoid harsh ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfates, alcohol, strong fragrances, and synthetic dyes.
  3. Our top pick is the Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar because it is gentle with no irritating ingredients and is Dermatologist recommended!

Why Might Older Adults Need a Special Bath Soap?

We physically alter with age, and our skin isn’t any different. As you age, your skin generates fewer oils, it gets thinner, and its elasticity and strength also deteriorate as the year’s pass.

Other than natural aging, environmental variables such as the sun, UV radiation, drug consumption, etc., hasten the aging process and causes skin damage that leaves the senior’s skin vulnerable to bruising and tearing. This creates the need for bathroom accessories for seniors (like soap) that nourish fragile skin.

You can avoid all of this by having a proper skincare plan, and this can only work if you use the correct type of bath soap to keep the skin clean and moisturized.

This need is why you must pick a bath soap unique to your senior’s needs. Go for milder bath soap products that encourage moisture retention.

What Important Features Should Seniors Look for When Shopping for Best Bath Soaps for Seniors?

Not all the bath soaps on the market are the same. You may find that the supposed ‘cleansing’ bath soap for elders is the most damaging to the senior’s skin.

Or perhaps particular ‘traditional’ soaps have properties you shouldn’t use with aging skin. You should note that soaps vary in their clinical effects and chemical makeup on the elder’s skin.

For elders, the wrong kind of soap increases damage to already dry skin. If you know what features in the soap to look for, you’ll be in a much better position to get a custom bath soap that’s gentle on your senior’s skin and will retain moisture.

Here are the features to look for and avoid when selecting the best bath soap suited to your senior’s unique skin care needs.

Ingredients to Look For

Look for Plant Oil

Many soap makers incorporate plant oil into their bath soaps. These plant oils are mild moisturizers and will give off a low creamy lather.

Common plant oils infused into soap recipes (around 5-15%), including avocado oil, jojoba oil, palm oil, olive oil, and coconut butter, are ideal for elders’ dry skin. We recommend you select bath products from this list of organic vegetable oils.

Look for Glycerin

This natural ingredient is a common ingredient of most bath soaps (and other care products). Bathing using harsh cleaning products or hot water sheds the natural oil produced by the skin.

Bath soap products that contain glycerin assist in locking in natural moisture and inhibiting over-drying, particularly if you’ve got dry skin.

Look for Hyaluronic Acid or Lanolin

Bath soaps containing these two ingredients are excellent choices because of their hydrating result. Hyaluronic acid is a hydrating molecule that permeates the skin and keeps it hydrated.

Lanolin – a natural oil produced from sheep’s sebaceous glands – has conditioning and moisturizing properties for the skin and hair. So for elders with dry skin, definitely look for bath soaps containing these ingredients.

Ingredients to Avoid

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Avoid soaps containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is a potent surfactant – a chemical found in various cleansing detergents – that assists in degreasing and washing away dirt, thereby drying out the skin.

SLS is a common ingredient of many facial cleansers, bath soaps, body washes, and shampoos. It’s also responsible for soap froth. It’s a powerful cleanser; some individuals can apply it without experiencing adverse effects.

Elderly folk with dry skin may experience over-drying when they use bath soaps containing SLS.

Fragrances and Alcohol

Steer clear of soaps with sulfates. The fragrance adds scent to the skin product, while alcohol and ethyl make the skin dry and irritated.

Synthetic Dyes

Besides searching for ingredients that help hydrate the skin, you should be cautious to avoid soaps with synthetic colors. Manufacturers tend to compromise their bath soaps’ chemical composition and quality by using synthetic dyes to appeal to customers.

Synthetic dyes are chemically made and generally have a terrible effect on the skin; the results may worsen dry skin complications instead of alleviating them. 

It’s not surprising to see body washes and soaps infused with fragrances. It may appeal to the senses, but it may harm seniors.

Bath soaps that are excessively fragrant or perfumed are filled with synthetic chemicals and scents to emanate a strong smell to pull in consumers. Safe, gentle bath soaps don’t have powerful smells and are still effective in soothing dry skin.

Best Bath Soaps for Seniors and the Elderly with Dry Skin

If the current bath soap your senior uses leaves their skin feeling itchy and overly dry, here are some top-rated soap brands that may be suitable for the elder’s dry skin.

1. Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

1. Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

from $6.29

This bar soap removes all the residue that may have accrued on the skin and is non-irritating and mild. Its gentle cleansing power allows it to be effective against rash-prone skin or eczema. It’s hypoallergenic and fragrance-free and can be used on the body and face daily.

Dermatologists highly recommend this bath soap for seniors.


2. Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Beauty Bar

2. Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Beauty Bar

from $4.99

This beauty bar soap washes away all the residue on the skin, plus it’s non-irritating and gentle on the skin. It has a mild fragrance and also doesn’t make the skin over-dry.

Despite its light scent, its hypoallergenic nature makes it ideal for the face and the body. You can also use it for bath therapy.


3. Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief

3. Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief

$44.99
as of October 4, 2022 4:11 am

Dove DermaSeries is a mild liquid soap for seniors and people with dry skin. Together with the whole skincare collection from Dove, this body wash was recognized by the National Eczema Association as an effective cleanser for seniors with dry skin.

NEA recognizes that there are potentially irritating preservatives in the product, including:

  • propylparaben
  • phenoxyethanol
  • methylparaben

4. Method Bar Soap Simply Nourish

4. Method Bar Soap Simply Nourish

$27.95
as of October 4, 2022 4:11 am

The formulation of this natural soap consists of shea butter, rice milk, and plant oil(coconut). So that it’s mild on the skin, this cleansing bar is paraben-free, phthalate-free, and aluminum-free.


5. Trilogy Very Gentle Cleansing Cream

5. Trilogy Very Gentle Cleansing Cream

$42.99
as of October 4, 2022 4:11 am

This facial cleanser is mild and can take out makeup and dirt effectively without making the skin excessively dry.

The best part about the Trilogy cream cleanser is that it’s unscented and preservative-free, rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants to strengthen the moisture barrier of your senior’s skin.

The cleanser can be used on the face and contains aloe vera and glycerin, which are hydrating ingredients.

RELATED: Best Bubble Bath For The Elderly (Soothing, Soft & Safe)

Alternatives to Bathing

Although elderly cleanliness is very integral, maintaining this doesn’t have to entail a shower or full bath. A sponge bath that cleans the main places with water and soap will also suffice.

You can expect days when your senior patient doesn’t want to take a bath. In such instances, you can have them simply wipe their faces, private parts, underarms, and feet using a wet towel. (See my list of the best bath towels for seniors and the elderly here.)

But elderly women need to be more thorough than male seniors when cleansing their private areas. For sponge baths, it’s advisable to wipe from the front to the back to prevent the possibility of contracting any urinary tract infections.

Tips for Using Bath Soap for the Elderly Safely

Pre-planning can help to establish a proper and safe bathing routine. Here are pointers you can use to ensure things proceed smoothly:

  • Have a schedule
  • Conduct a safety assessment of the area (lighting, non-slip rugs, handrails, bath benches, etc.,)
  • Buy assistive equipment (hair trays and basins for sponge baths)
  • Use mild bath soaps with moisturizers
  • Ensure the elder isn’t resistant to bathing

Seniors who can’t bathe themselves may require aid from a caregiver, which is the best way to guarantee safety.

When bathing a senior person, remember that they may get cold. To increase the room temperature and turn on the humidifier so that s/he feels comfy and warm.

Begin by washing the upper part of the body. Start from the shoulders and gently apply body wash to cleanse the senior person. Proceed down each side using the bath soap and warm water.

Rinse off the body using lukewarm water with another washcloth and ensure that all the soap is removed from the senior’s body to avoid irritation.

Summary and Final Recommendations

There’s a wide selection of bath soap brands on the market specially made to cleanse and protect seniors’ skin.

Top-tier soap products can assist in making your skin appear rounded and plump, while inferior products can be ineffective and damaging to skin already suffering the effects of aging.

The products you use will determine how successful your skincare routine will be.

To get the ideal body wash for your senior, ensure they are comfortable with the ingredients and any potential scent and residue of the soap. Consider going for antimicrobial bath soaps.

When you consider these factors, it will assist in considerably boosting the senior’s quality of life.

Sources:

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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