Soap and water are the common agents used for cleansing the skin the world over save in certain arid districts in countries, such as Asia Minor, and in the arctic regions, where the air is dry and water is scarce. The scarcity of water is probably not as much the cause for the use of other cleansing agents as are the dryness of the air and its dehydrating effect on the skin. Because of these conditions persons living in arid regions learned to use olive oil and those living in the arctic regions adopted the use of blubber.
Soap, of course, is alkaline, since it is a salt of a strong base and a weak acid and dissociates readily in water. Gardiner1 has shown that all soaps, even those of the so-called neutral type, contain from 4 to 7 per cent of alkali.
Alkaline soaps soften the epidermis and
JONES KK, MURRAY DE. EFFECTS OF CHOLESTEROL IN PETROLATUM ON LOSS OF WATER BY THE SKIN AND ON CLEANSING. Arch Derm Syphilol. 1937;36(1):119–130. doi:10.1001/archderm.1937.01480010123018
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