Dermatologists have long warned that the bar soaps that Mother used to scrub behind your ears can dry skin, stripping it of essential oils and leaving it dull and itchy.
But if you ban soap from your bath or shower, you may find it’s your friendships and love life that start to dry up.

Enter bath and shower gels, a kinder, gentler breed of cleansers that aim to clean the body while keeping the skin glowing and moist. Chosen carefully with the individual’s particular skin type in mind, they can be a helpful addition to the bath-time regime.

“I recommend bath and shower gels quite a bit,” said Dr. David Greenstein, a Boston dermatologist and clinical instructor at Tufts and Boston Universities. “They are safe to use on a daily basis and can be used on the face as well as the body.”

That’s good news for many bathers — especially women — who trudge to the tub with a bucket of beauty aids specifically targeted for either face or body. Many of the gels and body washes on the market today are formulated to be milder than bar soaps, making them good all-over cleansers.

And products made by established brands, including Caress, Dove, Lever 2000, Ivory and Oil of Olay, are available at any major supermarket or drugstore.

Treating patients in the cold, dry New England winters, Greenstein said he often suggests gels and body washes.

“In particular, patients with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and patients with very dry, sensitive skin benefit from this,” he said.

Shower and bath gels often contain lighter cleaning agents and are easily rinsed away, which discourages damaging scrubbing of the skin.

Some brands contain moisturizers that reduce the need for a post-shower lotion he usually recommends for healthy, glowing skin.

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