Extremely Dry, Torn, Even Bleeding Hands? Your liquid soap may be the culprit.

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably dealing with the same problem I had up until two years ago. The skin of my hands was so extremely dry and tight, it frequently tore and even bled. This wasn’t just uncomfortable and inconvenient, it also posed a risk of infection. Quite ironic, given that this problem mostly resulted from washing my hands too often.

For years I suffered from this problem, especially in Winter. I tried everything I could think of and settled on an especially soft liquid soap, and the hemp hand protector by body shop. The result, you can see in the images below. With other products, it was much worse.

Extremely dry Hands, caused by liquid "soap"

Extremely dry Hands, caused by liquid "soap"

Extremely dry Hands, caused by liquid "soap"

I consulted five dermatologists over the years, all of which helpfully informed me that I had dry skin, and sold me their extremely expensive hand creme of choice, ranging from worthless to “just not as good as the body shop one”.

Eventually, and much too late, I finally realized something about liquid soap and decided to try something everybody from dermatologists to web “doctors” warn against: Bar soap.

The Cause of Extremely Dry Hands: Liquid “Soap”

First of all:

Liquid soap (usually) doesn’t contain any actual soap

Which is (probably) why (in the US) manufacturers aren’t allowed to use the word soap in their labels, calling it “creme wash”, “Liquid Hand Wash Lotion”, or similar. The actual ingredients often list a barrage of chemicals, none of which have anything to do with soap . The soft Nivea soap I had been using came off rather well in the aggressive chemicals department, but go ahead and read the ingredients of your “soap” more closely.

What finally helped: Bar soap.

After a lot of research, I found a bar soap that contains nothing but saponified plant oils and milk fat (to protect the skin): The Arztseife by Speick.

Not only did I immediately notice an absence of the pain I had grown so accustomed to when I first washed my hands with this soap, within two days all the cuts and tears had been closed and after a bit over a week, they had almost completely healed.

Dry hands, tears almost healed after one week of bar soap.

Dry hands, tears almost healed after one week of bar soap.

I couldn’t believe how dramatic the change- and how simple the solution was. For years I suffered from painful, bleeding dry hands and all I needed to do was switch to bar soap, despite everybody’s best advice to use a soft liquid soap. My hands still weren’t, and aren’t perfect, but considering I still have to use liquid soap at work, and I still only use hand cream at night because I can’t stand the feeling of anything but dry, clean hands, my skin is doing remarkably well with this soap. Usually it has time to heal back up over the weekend, ready to withstand another work week’s barrage. Thank you, Speick.

Since then I switched to bar soap for showering as well and have been able to kiss my itchy, dry skin goodbye, mostly. The Hemp Hand Protector by BodyShop (Amazon (Affiliate Link*)) still helps my hands through the roughest work weeks in winter. With these two products, I can finally live a normal life. At least concerning the skin of my hands.

Unfortunately, the soap recommendation doesn’t help you much as it’s a German product and doesn’t seem to be available anywhere in the US, but you should be able to find something similar. Look for a bar soap that doesn’t contain any chemicals beyond soap (see example below), including fragrances. Do not go for something like the Dove Cream Bar, as that seems to be essentially the same as the liquid soap that doesn’t contain any soap.

Some examples that I cannot test myself but that do look promising based on their ingredients are

An finally, the ingredients of the Speick Doctor’s Soap as an example of what a skin friendly ingredient list should/could look like:

  • Sodium Palmate (Saponified Palm Oil – a.k.a. “Soap”)
  • Sodium Cocoate (Saponified Coconut Oil – a.k.a. “Soap”)
  • Aqua (water)
  • Sodium Olivate (Saponified Olive Oil – a.k.a. “Soap”)
  • Glycerin* (refattening agent)
  • Butyris Lac Powder (Dried Butter Milk (refattening agent))
  • Cera Alba (Beeswax (refattening agent))
  • Cetearyl Alcohol*
  • Glyceryl Stearate*
  • Potassium Stearate*
  • Potassium Palmitate*
  • Sodium Gluconate*
  • Sodium Chloride*
  • Sodium Thiosulfate*

*Normal, non-concerning soap stuff

Note that this is not ideal yet, as the ingredients could be organic and vegan, but in terms of skin friendliness this is the best I have found so far. Will update if this changes.

Do you suffer from extremely dry, cracked skin? Try switching to bar soap for a week and get back to us with your results in the comment section below 🙂

*Affiliate Links placed on this site mean that if you click one of them and end up buying a product, roman-reviews will receive a commission on that sale at no extra cost to you. I only link to products I believe in, as you can tell from some of my less favorable product reviews on this site.

16 thoughts on “Extremely Dry, Torn, Even Bleeding Hands? Your liquid soap may be the culprit.

  • Hey,
    I faced this same problem is now I got the solution. But I have OCD. And I can’t get rid of it. As a student, it affects my health as well as my studies. I have a disabled grandma. She is mostly paralyzed. My mom takes her total care. She changes her diapers and doesn’t wash her hands. She touches everything with those hands even cooks food. This triggers me a lot. I know I should not do this but still a feeling inside me rises and forced me to not touch anything and wash if accidentally touched. I told my parents about my OCD. But they don’t understand my problem. I obviously can’t tell them everything directly. I seriously need help.

    • I’m sorry to hear about all of that, but I’m not a medical professional and not qualified to give such advice, beyond recommending seeking the help of a professional.

      I will say that you don’t have to have OCD to find it gross to change diapers and then not wash your hands. That’s just an (extremely) basic hygiene issue.

      Best of luck to you.

  • I found your article after searching about the cause of cuts on my hand. I never thought that liquid soap could cause this. From now on, I will use bar soap.

  • I have the same issues with super dry cracked hands. I am looking for a soap I can get in the US. Do you have any experience with Dr. Bronner’s soaps? It looks like the liquid soap has the same ingredient as the bar. Any in sight on these products?

    • Unfortunately I don’t know this product, and in general only have access to what is available in Europe.

      I did check out the ingredients on that soap and while it doesn’t look bad, I feel it’s extremely overpriced and I’m not sure it will refatten the skin like Speick’s Doctor’s Soap would.

      I found this, which looks adequate and much cheaper, yet still not really refattening, or this which may or may not be better than Dr. Bronner but looks that way to me.

  • Bruh literally any bar soap except from dove/nivea will do fine. Never had this problem since i dont use liquid soap aka detergent and nobody does in my country.

    • As long as it’s only actual soap, yes that’s better than liquid “soap” and “wash lotion bars” or whatever. BUT the doctor’s soap I used and recommend does something more to refatten your skin which becomes relevant when you wash your hands a lot or have really sensitive skin.

  • Thank you for this helpful information. For more than10 years i have suffered with dry hands and nothing from cheap to expensive creams, natural to not so natural pomades, diet, supplements and sunlight have solved the issue. There were very few things that made it better and one big one was swapping my washing up liquid to method/ecover brand over a year ago.

    Recently just before the lockdown my hands were particularly bad i would try almost everything that would usually ease the symptoms but nothing worked. Then we went into lockdown and i thought my skin would get better. Unfortunately quite the opposite. Then i went back to Google desperately trying to find something that can help. Very quickly i came to this article and i thought right i need to try it and now is the perfect time as i can perfectly well monitor what i use on my skin and when. Did some research into soaps and i was drawn to savon de Marseille and bought a cube. Once it arrived i sliced it into 3 as it was quite big and difficult to use. 1 went into the kitchen, 1 in the bathroom and 1 in the shower. I tried not let my mind run wild and get to excited but i was eager to see what would happen. After about 1 day my skin from extremely bad was more comfortable. By the end of day two it started to be very smooth. And by day 4 i could barely recognise my hands all because i swapped my “good” handwash. I was blown away at how good my skin felt. I placed a bigger order for more soap.

    There were about 3 days in which i had to switch to regular handwash and after no more than 5 washes my skin was starting to be red and itchy. By day 2 it was beginning to crack and bleed and on day 3 the soap arrived before more damage was done and by the following day with no use of handcream my hands were back to the lovely new soft version.

    My biggest regret is that i did not take before and after. Honestly i can’t thank you enough for doing this post. I have no doubts that a lot of people are suffering with dry hand related issues and i hope the read your article and try to change their handwash.

    People give it a try. Find a good quality soap no nasty stuff. what have you got to lose

    • Hi N.N.

      I’m very glad your hands feel better now and I’m so happy I could help someone by sharing my experience 🙂

      All the best to you and your hands!

  • Thanks for the post. I have the exact same problem. I felt like I was looking at my hands in your pictures:). Were you able to find a less damaging liquid soap for work. I too can only use bar soap at home. At work bar soap is very inconvenient

    • Unfortunately not. The one I used to use before switching (Nivea something blabla soft) was already the best option for me, with the results you saw in the pictures.

    • I mentioned it prominently in the post above 😉

      But it’s Speick Arztseife (Doctor’s Soap). Generally any bar soap with only saponified plant oils and a refattening agent like milk fat or beeswax in the ingredient list should do the trick.

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