Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Dove Soap Bad For You?



Short answer

Dove soap, known for its moisturizing properties, uses a blend of ingredients that are generally considered safe by regulatory agencies. However, it contains synthetic detergents and potential irritants like fragrance, which could be problematic for sensitive skin. Ingredients such as palm oil and sulfates also raise environmental concerns. The brand has fragrance-free options for sensitive skin and commits to sourcing sustainable palm oil. Personal skin type and environmental values should inform your choice between Dove and natural soap alternatives.



Long answer

Ingredients Breakdown: What's in Dove Soap?

When it comes to the products we use on our skin every day, understanding the ingredients is key to determining their impact on our health. Dove soap, widely recognized for its mildness and moisture, has an array of ingredients that contribute to its reputation and functionality. Let's delve into these components:

Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate: This is a detergent agent that helps to clean the skin. While it is synthetic, it's known for being mild and non-drying. It's a key player in Dove's ability to cleanse gently without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

Stearic Acid: Sourced from both animal and vegetable fats, stearic acid is used for its lubricating properties. It helps the soap to maintain its shape and ensures it glides smoothly across the skin. It's generally considered safe for use in skincare products.

Sodium Palmitate: This is the sodium salt of palmitic acid, a fatty acid found in palm oil. It acts as a surfactant and contributes to the soap's ability to lather. However, the sourcing of palm oil can raise environmental concerns regarding deforestation and habitat destruction.

Lauric Acid: Often derived from coconut oil, lauric acid has antimicrobial properties, which can help protect the skin from bacteria and viruses. It's also responsible for the rich, creamy lather that Dove is known for.

Perfume: The signature scent of Dove soap is created using a mix of fragrance components. While this can be an issue for individuals with fragrance sensitivities or allergies, the brand also offers fragrance-free options for those with sensitive skin.

Sodium Isethionate: This is a surfactant and emulsifying agent that works alongside sodium lauroyl isethionate to help water mix with oil and dirt, allowing them to be rinsed away.

Water: Used as a solvent in Dove soap, water helps to dissolve many of the ingredients for a smoother consistency and is essential in the soap-making process.

Sodium Stearate: This ingredient is another surfactant that contributes to the process of lathering and cleansing.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine: A mild cleansing agent that comes from coconut oil, it helps to make the soap less irritating to the skin compared to soaps with harsh detergents.

Glycerin: This component is a hallmark of Dove's formula, providing hydration and a protective barrier to the skin, preventing dryness.

Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate: These are saponified components of coconut and palm kernel oil, enhancing cleansing and lathering properties.

Sodium Chloride: Also known as salt, it's used as a thickener in the liquid version of Dove soap.

Tetrasodium EDTA: This acts as a preservative and stabilizer, preventing the soap from deteriorating and maintaining its clarity.

Tetrasodium Etidronate: It helps prevent soap scum and hard water deposits, aiding in the longevity and appearance of the soap bar.

While the majority of these ingredients are considered safe and are approved for use by regulatory agencies such as the FDA and the European Commission, it's essential for consumers to be aware of their skin's sensitivities. Individual reactions can vary, and what works for one person may not work for another. Understanding the ingredients in your skincare products can empower you to make the best choices for your skin's health.

It's also worth noting that while Dove has established a strong safety record, the presence of certain chemicals like parabens and sulfates has been questioned by some health advocates and researchers. However, current scientific evidence does not support the avoidance of these ingredients due to health concerns for the majority of consumers. Always cross-reference ingredients with your personal health concerns and consider consulting a dermatologist if you're unsure.

Potential Skin Irritants in Dove Products

While Dove products are generally marketed as moisturizing and gentle, no skincare product is exempt from the potential of containing irritants. Even formulas designed for sensitive skin can cause adverse reactions in some individuals. It is important to understand that skin sensitivity varies widely among people, and what might be soothing for one person could be an irritant for another.

Here are some ingredients commonly found in Dove soaps and skincare products that could act as potential irritants:

  • Fragrances: While they give products a pleasant scent, fragrances are also among the top five allergens in the world. They can cause allergic reactions and skin sensitivities, leading to redness, itching, and rash.
  • Sulfates: Ingredients like Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate can have sulfate-like qualities that some people find drying or irritating, particularly in individuals with eczema or very dry skin.
  • Preservatives: Chemicals such as Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) are necessary to inhibit bacterial growth, but they can provoke allergic reactions in certain individuals.
  • Artificial colors: Some Dove products contain artificial colors which can cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals.
  • Alcohols: Certain types of alcohol, such as stearyl alcohol or cetearyl alcohol, may be used as emulsifiers and can be drying, leading to irritation or flaking of the skin.

It is essential to recognize that the concentration of these potential irritants plays a significant role in whether they will cause a reaction. Most Dove products are formulated to be hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, meaning they should not cause allergic reactions or acne.

For individuals concerned about irritants, it is advisable to:

  • Perform a patch test by applying a small amount of the product on a discreet area of skin, like the inner arm, and wait 24-48 hours to see if there is a reaction.
  • Review the ingredient list on Dove product labels to identify any known allergens or sensitivities you may have.
  • Consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice, especially if you have a history of skin reactions or conditions like eczema or contact dermatitis.

Research and expert opinions support the notion that individual skin chemistry plays a fundamental role in how a product reacts. A study cited by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology emphasizes that personal history of atopy or contact dermatitis significantly correlates with a higher incidence of skin irritation from personal care products.

In summary, while Dove products are typically formulated to be gentle on the skin, being vigilant about potential irritants is crucial, particularly for those with sensitive or reactive skin types. Understanding the ingredients and how they might affect you can help maintain healthy, comfortable skin.

The Role of Moisturizers in Dove Soap

When reaching for a bar of Dove soap, you might not just be thinking about getting clean—you're also considering the health of your skin. One of the standout features promoted by Dove is the signature one-quarter moisturizing cream infused into each bar. This element is key to understanding whether Dove soap is beneficial or potentially harmful for you.

Dove's moisturizing properties are particularly important in the context of cleansing products. Traditional soaps can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry and prone to irritation. Dove's formula aims to counteract this issue by replenishing moisture and maintaining the skin’s natural moisture barrier. But what exactly are the moisturizing agents at work, and how do they impact the skin?

Firstly, let's delve into what these moisturizers are made of:

  • Fatty acids and oils: Ingredients like stearic acid replicate the lipids found in the skin, creating a smooth, soft surface after use.
  • Glycerin: As a humectant, glycerin draws moisture from the air to the skin, helping to hydrate and maintain skin's moisture levels.
  • Sorbitol: Another humectant that contributes to the soap's moisture-retaining properties, helping prevent dryness.

Given that Dove positions itself as a "beauty bar" rather than a traditional soap, its unique selling proposition lies in its ability to moisturize as it cleanses. But is this beneficial for everyone?

Individual skin types can react differently to the same product. For those with dry or sensitive skin, the extra moisturizing effect of Dove soap can be a boon. Studies suggest that using a syndet bar (synthetic detergent) with moisturizers, like Dove, can be more gentle and less drying than traditional soaps, making it a suitable choice for dry skin conditions (Reference: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).

However, for individuals with oily or acne-prone skin, the added moisturizers might contribute to excess oil and possibly exacerbate acne issues. In such cases, it's crucial to look at the specific needs of your skin and possibly opt for a product specifically designed for oily skin types.

Moving beyond these general observations, it's also worth mentioning that the added moisturizers in Dove soap can affect the soap's pH level. While human skin naturally has a somewhat acidic pH, traditional soaps tend to be more alkaline. Dove's lower pH — closer to that of human skin — is gentle and can help maintain the skin's natural barrier function, as noted by dermatologists.

Finally, while the moisturizers in Dove soap contribute greatly to its appeal, it's worth checking the ingredient list for potential allergens or irritants. Some individuals may react to certain ingredients, even those present in moisturizing compounds, so personal tolerance should always be considered.

In conclusion, the moisturizers in Dove soap are there to provide a cleaning product that doesn't leave your skin feeling tight and parched. Whether this is beneficial for you depends on your particular skin type, concerns, and whether you have sensitivities to specific ingredients. As with any skincare product, understanding your skin's needs and reactions is the key to figuring out if Dove soap and its moisturizers are right for you.

Environmental Impact of Dove Soap Ingredients

Discussing the environmental impact of personal care products like Dove Soap is becoming increasingly relevant as consumers seek eco-friendly options. The ingredients in these products often end up in waterways and can affect ecosystems. Let's delve into some specific ingredients and their environmental repercussions.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a common ingredient in many soaps and cosmetics due to its moisturizing properties. However, it's important to note that the cultivation of palm oil can contribute to deforestation, habitat loss, and biodiversity reduction. Expansive palm oil plantations have led to significant environmental concerns, particularly in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Dove's parent company, Unilever, is aware of these issues and claims to source palm oil sustainably. Still, the scale of global palm oil demand means that even sustainably sourced palm oil can have environmental implications.


Some soap products contain microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic designed to act as exfoliants – which have been a major environmental concern. However, Dove products do not contain microplastics in the form of microbeads. It's worth mentioning that other forms of plastics, such as those in packaging, can contribute to plastic pollution if not disposed of properly.


Sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are surfactants found in many cleaning products, including Dove Soap. While they are effective at creating lather and removing dirt and oil, their biodegradability and environmental impact have come under scrutiny. Sulfates can be toxic to aquatic organisms, and consistent, long-term release into the environment can lead to disturbances in aquatic ecosystems. However, Dove has been taking steps to use more environmentally friendly sulfates and reduce their concentrations in products.


Parabens are preservatives used to prevent bacterial growth and prolong shelf-life, but their environmental safety has been challenged. Studies have suggested that when parabens enter the aquatic environment, they can have an estrogen-like effect on wildlife, potentially leading to reproductive issues for certain species. Dove has phased out the use of parabens in many of its products as part of its commitment to using safer and more natural ingredients.

Chemical Sunscreens

Although not a primary ingredient in Dove Soap, it's worth mentioning for those considering other Dove products, such as Dove's moisturizers with SPF. Chemicals commonly found in sunscreens like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to harm coral reefs and marine life. Hence, the choice of sunscreen ingredients also plays a vital role in environmental care.

Animal Testing

Another aspect of environmental impact is the ethical consideration of animal testing. Unilever has made public commitments to reducing and replacing animal testing, and Dove has been certified by PETA as a cruelty-free brand. This positive step is part of the company's efforts to align with more ethical and eco-conscious standards.

Corporate Sustainability Efforts

Besides examining specific ingredients, it's essential to consider the broader sustainability efforts of the brand. Dove is part of Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to halve the company's environmental footprint by 2030. These efforts include water conservation practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving the biodegradability of their products.

In summary, while individual Dove soap ingredients can have an environmental impact, it is also evident that Dove and Unilever are taking steps to mitigate these effects. Consumers should stay informed about product ingredients and corporate sustainability practices, and seek products that align with their environmental values.

Comparing Dove Soap to Natural Alternatives

When we look at Dove soap, it's essential to understand its composition and how it stacks up against natural soap alternatives. The traditional bar of Dove is marketed as a 'beauty bar' rather than a soap because it contains moisturizing cream to hydrate the skin. People often turn to Dove as a gentle option for cleaning their skin, but let's delve into how it compares to its natural counterparts.

Ingredients Overview

Dove soap is known for having a blend of synthetic ingredients along with mild cleansers. Some of these ingredients may include:

  • Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate: A synthetic detergent that helps to emulsify and clean the skin.
  • Stearic Acid: A fatty acid that can also serve as an emulsifier and helps to harden the soap.
  • Sodium Palmitate: This is similar to sodium lauryl sulfate and can serve as a surfactant, which helps to create lather.
  • Water
  • Sodium Isethionate: Another detergent that works as a moisturizing agent.
  • Sodium Stearate
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine: A synthetic surfactant derived from coconut oil that can aid in foaming and cleaning but can also cause skin irritation in some people.
  • Moisturizing Cream: Dove claims that one-fourth of the beauty bar is made up of a moisturizing cream.

On the other hand, natural soap alternatives are crafted from saponified oils and fats, which means oils or fats have been treated with a strong alkali to produce a soap and glycerin. Common ingredients in natural soaps include:

  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil (preferably from sustainable sources to address environmental concerns)
  • Shea Butter
  • Essential Oils for fragrance
  • Water
  • Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) for saponification, which is not present in the final product

Irritation and Sensitivity

When it comes to irritation and sensitivity, natural soaps are oftentimes considered milder than conventional options like Dove. This is because they typically do not contain sulfates, which can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause irritation. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science found that sulfates can damage skin proteins and lipids, leading to irritation. Natural soaps, meanwhile, retain glycerin - a humectant that draws moisture into the skin and can promote better hydration.

Environmental Impact

Consumer choices increasingly reflect concern for environmental sustainability. Natural soaps commonly have an edge over commercial soaps like Dove in this arena. Natural soaps are biodegradable and often come in eco-friendly, minimal packaging. Moreover, they lack the petrochemicals found in some synthetic detergents, which can be less desirable from an environmental perspective. Synthetic ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), commonly found in mainstream soaps, can have detrimental effects on aquatic life when they enter the waterways.


In terms of cleaning power, there can be a misconception that natural soaps are less effective. However, natural soaps are quite efficient in cleaning the skin while also providing additional skin care benefits through the natural oils and glycerin they contain. Nevertheless, some may prefer the feeling and lather of Dove's synthetic detergent ingredients, which can make the skin feel smoother immediately after a shower.

Personal Preferences and Skin Types

Ultimately, whether Dove soap or a natural alternative is better for you can be influenced by personal preferences and individual skin types. Sensitive skin may respond better to the fewer ingredients found in natural soaps, while those with very dry skin might appreciate the added moisturizers in Dove. It's important to look at the specific needs of your skin and how it reacts to different products. Remember, what works for one person's skin may not work for another's, and it's worth trying a few options to find what best suits your skin's needs.

In conclusion, assessing whether Dove soap or a natural soap alternative is better for you requires consideration of ingredients, skin sensitivity, environmental impact, and personal preference. A thorough analysis allows you to make an informed choice that aligns with your skin care philosophy and values.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, Dove offers fragrance-free variants of its soap, intended for those with sensitive skin or fragrance allergies. These products are part of Dove's Sensitive Skin line, which is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic, providing the same moisturizing benefits without added perfumes.

Most Dove soaps are formulated to be hypoallergenic, designed to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. Nonetheless, people with sensitive skin or known allergens should review the ingredient list, as certain components like fragrances or preservatives, even in trace amounts, can trigger allergies. Conducting a patch test can also determine your skin's tolerance to the product.

Dove soap has a neutral to slightly acidic pH level, which is closer to that of human skin, generally ranging between 4.7 and 5.75. This makes Dove more gentle on the skin's natural barrier compared to traditional alkaline soaps, helping to maintain the skin's acidity and contributing to overall skin health.

Dove soap is generally marketed as non-comedogenic, meaning it's formulated to not block pores. However, due to its moisturizing agents, those with oily or acne-prone skin might find it too rich for their needs. It's always important to assess how your skin responds to a product and consider choosing cleaners specifically tailored for acne-prone skin if Dove soap seems to exacerbate oiliness or acne.

Ask a question about Dove Soap and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • mild irritation
  • allergic reactions
  • dryness
  • itching

Ingredients to be aware of


  • cleansing
  • moisturizing
  • gentle on skin

Healthier alternatives

  • natural soaps
  • non-sulfate cleansers
  • fragrance-free options
  • eco-friendly packaging
  • sustainable palm oil products

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 01-02-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 01-02-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!