What’s a soap-free cleanser and how do I know if mine is?

What’s a soap-free cleanser and how do I know if mine is?

A good skincare routine starts with clean skin, whether using an oil-based cleanser, a creamy formula, or a foaming face wash. But not all cleansers were created equal… 

While you may think that, as long as it's cleaning your face, the rest doesn’t matter. It does. Traditional soaps or soap-based cleansers may leave your skin clean, but they can be drying and irritating for the skin. Soap-free alternatives are well-loved for their gentleness and effectiveness. They’re a solution for those seeking a thorough cleanse without the potential drawbacks of harsh ingredients. 

But how can you find out if a cleanser is soap free? Well, by understanding the ingredients and differences between the two, so you know what to look for.

What is a soap-free cleanser? 

Soap is made through a process called saponification. This is the reaction of fats or oils with an alkali.

Soap-free cleansers are formulated without the use of these traditional soap ingredients - specifically, they do not contain the fatty acids that react with an alkali (like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) to form soap.

Once soap is created, it acts as a type of surfactant. These are molecules with a special feature: one end attracts water, and the other attracts oil. This allows them to pull oil and dirt from surfaces and dissolve them in water to cleanse the skin. 

So, a soap-free cleanser needs to act as a surfactant without saponification. Instead, soap-free cleansers use alternative surfactants derived from other sources that are known to be less harsh with the skin, whether that’s synthetic or plant-derived.

So what makes saponification harsh for the skin? 

Because of the use of alkalis in the saponification process, soaps have a high pH - around 8-10 out of 14. This is contrary to your skin's lower pH - around 4-5. This difference matters because:

  • Skin's acidic pH helps maintain the skin barrier function, protecting against bacteria and environmental stress. Alkaline products like soap can disrupt this balance, weakening the skin's defence.

  • Soap’s high pH can strip away natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation by compromising the skin's ability to retain moisture.

  • This disruption of the skin’s barrier and oils can cause increased sensitivity and irritation, as the skin's environment becomes more vulnerable to bacteria and inflammation.

And because the structure of soap is narrow and relatively straight, it can make its way into your pores more easily and stay there, prolonging any irritation.

On the other hand, soap-free cleansers use surfactants that have a pH closer to the skin’s natural levels, making them much gentler and less irritating to the skin.

How do I know if a cleanser is soap-free?

Check the ingredients for anything beginning with 'sodium' or 'potassium' and ending with 'ate'. The most common soaps you'll see in facial cleansers are…

  • Sodium stearate
  • Sodium cocoate
  • Sodium oleate
  • Sodium olivate
  • Sodium palmate
  • Sodium laurate
  • Sodium palm kernelate
  • Sodium tallowate
  • Potassium stearate
  • Potassium cocoate
  • Potassium oleate
  • Potassium olivate
  • Potassium palmate
  • Potassium laureate
  • Potassium palm kernelate
  • Potassium tallowate

Remember, when you’re looking at the ingredients list on a cleanser, the higher the ingredient is in the list, the more potent it is in the formula. So a cleanser with a soap as the second or third ingredient may be considerably more irritating than if it were the last ingredient. 

The benefits of using a soap-free cleanser 

Switching to a soap-free cleanser offers benefits for all skin types, not just for those with sensitive skin. Here’s what you can expect from using a soap-free cleanser…

Gentler on the skin

Soap-free cleansers utilise milder surfactants than traditional soaps, which are less likely to strip the skin of its natural oils. As a result, the skin's natural moisture barrier is more likely to stay intact after washing, supporting moisture retention and keeping the skin hydrated.


Soap-free cleansers are often formulated to match the natural pH level of the skin, around 4 to 5, which helps preserve the skin barrier and skin's acid mantle, a protective layer that guards against bacterial and fungal infections.

Better for acne-prone and sensitive skin

Because they are gentler and less drying, soap-free cleansers help maintain the integrity of the skin barrier - this invisible shield on the skin blocks harmful bacteria, retains moisture and shields against irritants. With your skin better protected and moisturised, you reduce the likelihood of acne, breakouts and irritation.

Safe for daily use

Given their gentle nature, soap-free cleansers can be used daily without risking over-drying the skin.

Introducing le savon lune

le savon lune is a soap-free cleansing bar that is 87.8% from natural origins. The surfactants in this gentle yet effective bar cleanse the skin without stripping any oils from it. But beyond that, this nourishing cleanser is enriched with ingredients like DNA HP, which is known to carry ten times more water than Hyaluronic Acid and promote cell regeneration. Antimicrobial Silver Hydrosol reduces inflammation and the growth of bad bacteria on the skin. Cleansing Bentonite detoxifies the skin by absorbing excess oil and impurities.

The intention of le savon lune? To leave you with beautifully clean, hydrated, and blemished skin.

“I have reactive, dry and very sensitive skin and I've struggled to find a cleanser that removes makeup effectively without drying my skin.

However, this magic bar is the big exception. My skin feels MORE moisturised after using and it removes make up really effectively. It also really calms my skin, and seems to clear up spots very quickly.”

Sarah - a happy le savon lune user  


To activate your bar of le savon lune ~ hold the bar under running water for a few moments, then gently lather up with your hands and apply in a circular motion around your face, neck, and jaw line. This deep cleansing action will remove makeup, tighten pores, and leave you with hydrated skin.

A gentle but effective cleanse

By incorporating a soap-free cleanser like le savon lune into your routine, you can ensure a thorough cleanse and radiant complexion without damaging the skin’s well-being. Remember to check the ingredients carefully to avoid soap compounds, and choose the right cleanser that works for you.