7 Exfoliating Hand Soaps That Will Soften Calluses and Banish Bacteria
We don't need to tell you that washing your hands is important. But some of the formulas we rely on to remove bacteria from our hands also double as skin care—we're talking about exfoliating hand soaps, of course.
Exfoliating hand cleansers are exactly what they sound like: They are soaps with exfoliating properties that make your skin soft. They also help with the absorption of other products, like lotions, and remove excess dead skin cells (think tough calluses) or hard-to-remove debris (like caked-on dirt from the garden). "Exfoliation can be physical or chemical, but in the case of hand soaps, exfoliation is usually physical, achieved with fine particles of pumice or other abrasive exfoliants," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. "I recommend looking for a formulation that includes humectants, emollients, and occlusives to moisturize and support the skin barrier during and after exfoliation."
How to Use an Exfoliating Hand Soap
You should use an exfoliating hand soap the same way you would a regular one, but Dr. King advises applying light pressure when you scrub to avoid damaging the skin. Gently rub the formula into your hands before rinsing thoroughly to remove the product—and only turn to it once in a while to prevent over-exfoliation. Keep a regular hand soap next to these formulas; you'll use these non-exfoliating options most of the time.
Use Exfoliating Hand Soaps Sparingly
While exfoliating hand soaps are generally safe, not everyone needs one. Erum Ilyas, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, says that there is a risk of irritating and inflaming skin when you over-exfoliate. "Bacteria can enter any raw, open areas and place the skin at risk for infection," says Dr. Ilyas. "Hand soaps that contain ingredients for mechanical exfoliation are reasonable to use when dirt and debris need a little help to be removed, [but] products that use chemical exfoliation are ideally used under the guidance of your doctor to avoid misuse."
With all that in mind, we asked our experts—Dr. King, Dr. Ilyas, and Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine—to share their recommendations for the best exfoliating hand washes on the market.