Beyond Soap

I’ve mentioned my struggle with sensitive skin a few times over the years, so when I was invited to take part in an online book tour for Dr. Sandy Skotnicki’s new book Beyond Soap, I jumped at the chance.

I was a teen during the 80’s. If you were there, or if you’ve ever seen an 80’s movie, I doubt I have to tell you how overboard we went on personal care products back then; and I did it all – the makeup, the perfume, the hairspray (oh, the hairspray). Highlighting my baby blue eyeliner with lavender mascara, all while dousing myself in smelly, colourful potions – the cheaper the better.

I’ve had severe skin reactions twice in my life: once to a sunscreen in Mexico, and once following a pre-wedding makeup session at a major cosmetics company. Both times, the skin on my cheeks crusted over and peeled off in giant sheets. The last time that happened, I found myself gradually reacting to more and more of the products I’d previously been able to use – I’d been sensitized to something, and my body wasn’t having it.

While reading Beyond Soap, it felt at times like Dr. Skotnicki was talking about me personally. I’d never met other people whose skin reacted the way mine did, so it was incredibly reassuring to discover that these reactions are extremely common, and ultimately treatable. Turns out I’m not a hypochondriac for reacting to things labelled hypoallergenic, or for finding even “natural”, and organic products problematic – essential oils and plant extracts are some of the worst offenders when it comes to irritants.

What I found most fascinating about the book was her discussion of the skin’s chemistry and microbiome (bacterial colonies). Regardless of what we’re using on our bodies, it’s the often just the process of caring for our skin that causes problems, no matter how mild the products are. Even plain soap (my cleanser of choice until now) throws off the pH and makes the skin vulnerable to its environment. As Dr. Skotnicki points out, “The way we’re supposedly ‘taking care’ of our skin today ends up doing the opposite – damaging the skin’s barrier function.”  

Beyond Soap was an eye-opening read and has changed the way our family cares for our skin. It would have been a life saver when I started down this path, as the “elimination diet” she outlines (as well as her product recommendations) would have saved me months, if not years, of pain and misery. I’d arrived at many of the same conclusions regarding what kinds of things caused me trouble, but my continued use of soap and long, hot baths were still setting me up for occasional bouts of irritation and eczema.

Dr. Skotnicki’s book provides the tools to identify what’s causing your own skin problems (or how to avoid them in the first place), what to use instead, and how to move forward in a way that promotes healthy skin (spoiler alert: a plant-based diet is just as good for your skin as it is for the rest of you!). I think Beyond Soap should be required reading for everyone.

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From the Publisher:

About Beyond Soap

• Paperback: 304 pages
• Publisher: Penguin Canada (May 15, 2018)

In this surprising and remarkably practical book, Dr. Skotnicki reveals the harmful effects of modern skincare habits and provides a step-by-step guide to preserve the microbiome, fight aging and develop beautiful, problem-free skin.

Women, men and children are having more skin problems today than ever before. Sensitive skin prevalence has skyrocketed, and the number of people reacting to cosmetics is climbing. Why? Dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki argues that the cause is a key element of our contemporary lifestyle: the grooming and beauty habits that the advertising and personal-care product industries have encouraged us to pursue. Those miraculous cleansers, creams and balms we’re buying to protect our outer layer may actually end up harming the body’s largest organ.

In Beyond Soap, Dr. Skotnicki argues that the best state for normal skin is the natural state—the one that avoids disturbing the skin’s protective barrier and the bacteria that accompanied the body throughout its evolution. A combination of diagnosis and prescription, Dr. Skotnicki explains the problem with society’s current cleansing and beauty habits, then provides a practical guide on how to fix things with a 3-step product-elimination diet that will help you remove unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients from your beauty and skincare regime, returning the skin to the condition nature intended. Beyond Soap also includes indispensable advice on how to wash and care for the skin of adults, babies and children, followed by a common-sense beauty regimen intended to stave off aging, reduce skin problems and return the face and body to its natural glow.

Purchase Links

Penguin Random HouseAmazon | Barnes & Noble

About Dr. Sandy Skotnicki

As the owner and medical director of the Bay Dermatology Centre, Dr. Skotnicki opened the clinic in 2006 with a goal to provide full-service dermatology that was focused on patients over procedures. Widely regarded as the “go-to” Dermatologist in Canada for skin safety, Dr. Skotnicki regularly provides commentary and contributes to medical journals, media outlets and speaks on skin reactions as they relate to the skincare industry. She is the author of many peer reviewed articles as well as the upcoming book, Beyond Soap (Penguin Random House), an evidence-based roadmap towards improving skin health. Dr. Sandy Skotnicki is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Medicine in the Divisions of Dermatology and Occupational and Environmental Health.

Dr. Skotnicki is a consultant Dermatologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, contributing regularly to medical journals and media outlets on the topic of skin allergies. Active in research and education, Dr. Skotnicki has taught Dermatology, Allergy and Family Medicine residents since 1999 and is a consultant for the Workplace Safety Insurance Board. She is also a member of the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease and has published numerous, peer-reviewed articles.

Dr. Skotnicki received her Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Toronto, followed by her medical degree, graduating with highest honors. Dr. Skotnicki completed her dermatology training at the University of Ottawa and was awarded her fellowship in Dermatology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1997. She is also a Diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology.

Find out more about Dr. Skotnicki at her website, and follow her on Facebook and

(This post is not sponsored, but I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.)

2 thoughts on “Beyond Soap

    1. It was my pleasure, Heather! Even though I had experienced, and more or less resolved, many of the issues she mentions, I still found the information eye-opening. It should be common sense; we have a long way to go to change our habits.

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