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Is Dove trying to trick you?

Do you think this Dove commercial is deliberately trying to trick you?

Click the link below to watch it before reading my analysis. Go ahead, watch it now. I’ll wait…

Ok, so what did you think? Did they prove that Dove is more gentle than other soap bars? I say no for two reasons:

1. Most people aren’t aware of the technical definition of “soap.”

The commercial compares Dove to soap bars. Isn’t Dove a soap, you ask? No, it’s not. Soap, in case you didn’t know, is specifically defined as fatty acids that are neutralized by an alkali such as lye. But Dove is not soap – it’s what is known as a Syndet bar (which stands for synthetic detergent.) And it’s true that these synthetic detergents are less drying and less damaging to skin proteins.

But here’s the first reason the commercial is misleading: when they show Dove is better than “baby soap” or “face soap” or “family soap” they don’t tell you that’s only true for true soaps. There are plenty of other “soap” brands besides Dove which use synthetic detergents. The commercial relies on the inherent confusion in knowing that a “soap bar” may not really be soap.

2. The demonstration is one-sided

I couldn’t believe this: The damage is only shown for soap bars NOT for the Dove bar. That’s right! The first time I watched the commercial I thought it was strange that the degree of destruction of skin (as implied by the test paper) was so extreme for the soap bars and so minimal for the Dove bar. In fact, it didn’t appear that Dove damaged the paper AT ALL.

Upon a second viewing I realized that they’re only showing test results for the “regular” soap bars – they don’t show the how test paper behaves on the Dove bar at all! Watch it again – you’ll see that they show how the test paper dissolves with regular soap. They show a quick series of time lapse images of the dissolution of the test paper on face soap, baby soap, and family soap. Then they cut to a picture of the test paper on the Dove bar. But it’s not the same series of images showing how the paper changes over time. It’s just a static shot of the test paper on a Dove bar.  The sequence clearly implies that soap is harsher than Dove but they don’t actually show how Dove affects the test paper.  Does it dissolve just a little bit? Or about as much as regular soap?  There’s no way to tell! That’s not a fair demonstration because it’s slanted to make you believe that Dove is better.

So what do you think, is this commercial misleading to consumers? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community. 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jenni December 23, 2013, 11:15 am

    This was an interesting read. I am extremely allergic to Dove. Every time I’ve used it, my face develops horrible red rash. I never understood why, but I wonder if it has to do with it being a “Syndet bar.” I only use pure castile soap now and haven’t had a problem since.

    • Dian March 23, 2020, 11:37 am

      Soap > detergent

  • Mokhe December 23, 2013, 1:35 pm

    This is anecdotal, but personally I find true soap (that is superfatted and still has the naturally occurring glycerin in tact) to be more gentle and less drying than syndet bars. I know a few people with dry skin or eczema who find some relief in real soap!

    • Randy Schueller December 23, 2013, 7:03 pm

      That’s surprising, Mokhe, since properly formulated syndet bars are known to be milder than soap.

      • Mokhe December 24, 2013, 12:52 am

        Must just be a difference in skin preference!

      • true facts January 7, 2020, 6:18 am

        Synthetic detergents milder than real soap, once you learn how soap is made how can you even entertain that thought.

  • Andrea December 23, 2013, 11:58 pm

    Marketing trickery makes me think product trickery. I’m not a faithful Dove user but you can be sure I’ll avoid it now, if only for the smarmy ad.

  • Wade December 24, 2013, 7:33 am

    You know what is also funny, Dove contains Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate… WHICH ARE BOTH SOAPS. ;D

    • Randy Schueller December 24, 2013, 8:49 am

      @Wade:You raise a good point. Many syndet bars also contain a small amount of true soap.

    • so true February 11, 2020, 12:17 pm

      I have extremely dry skin and ALL soaps natural and otherwise dry out my skin. Dove works wonders for me and also leaves less scum in the tub! it really does depend on the skin because some of these all natural soaps are as terrible as it gets no matter how “pure” they are.

  • Peb April 10, 2015, 4:30 pm

    It’s not totally static…you can see the bubbles moving around. Hard to say if it’s an equal comparison, tho.

  • Ethel May 8, 2015, 6:28 pm

    1. Well, that explains my experience with Dove. Firstly, I only used it for showering twice because it felt like it left a film on my skin – my daughter experienced the same thing.

    2. If anyone has ever had the experience of tomato things, especially pasta sauce, having a very annoying way of gravitating towards white clothes in particular, then this is for you. About three years ago, when I had tried a couple of other things to remove one of these stains, my eyes lighted on the bar of Dove that was sitting on the bathroom basin. I grabbed it – and – voila! One spotless, white garment.

    No wonder! It must be because it is a Syndet bar.

    Thank you Perry, for posting this.

  • thepinch November 9, 2015, 10:36 pm

    The purpose of a syndet formula is a clean finish. Soap formulas bond with minerals in water, and can leave a residue on the skin, particularly in hard water areas. It’s harmless, but it feels and looks a bit rough and dull. That is why most soaps make lousy shampoos.

    Syndet formulations are essentially solid shampoos. Like shampoos, they are designed not to bond with minerals and leave a residue – or at least much of one. This is why they are particularly helpful treating conditions such as acne, where the skin must be very clean, with little residue blocking pores.

    Syndet bases are not produced from inexpensive ingredients, as soap is. Often the syndet base must be imported from a subcontractor, and this is an expensive process. This is why a small amount of regular soap is sometimes mixed in to keep expenses down. One way or another, syndet formulas are generally more expensive to produce, and that is passed on to you in the form of higher prices.

    The culprit with Dove may be an exceptionally high fragrance level. It’s nice in a drawer, but it’s very strong on the skin. Even the unfragranced version contains ingredients to mask the odor of the tallow base notes from the soap portion, which in this case is quite cheap and nasty.

    An exceptionally good facial quality syndet bar with minimal fragrance is the Avene Cold Cream type. Yes, you will pay more, but it is a lovely quality cleanser with microfine bubbles and a wonderful feel.

  • Phil February 22, 2016, 3:40 pm

    What is the clinical test that the paper preforms. it acts like skin? How does the test show it strips moisture? That is what they claim in the commercial. How did that paper test prove that.

  • beth April 15, 2016, 4:09 pm

    when i was yonger i try the dove body was and it gave me a rash ,itch & bruning feeling even now that im oldder it still bothers my skin it makes me itchy & bruning feel with slit redness even thought they say it wount irritate your skin

  • Madison January 27, 2017, 10:07 am

    I’ve always felt those commercials were whack anyways, I mean I get that whatever you wash with should be gentle on your skin but isn’t it a little bit much to ask that a solution of water and soap of any kind not breakdown some paper? I mean I’ve gotten paper’s wet at work on accident and they dissolve…that’s what paper and water do anyways.

  • Jezabelle February 15, 2017, 3:45 pm

    I used to use Dove, both on my face and in the shower, but I still had to apply what I can only describe as an insulting amount of moisturizer. I had patches of “crocodile skin” on my body and my face was a dry, flaky mess if I forgot to moisturize.

    In the last few years I’ve started making my own soap and I’ve stopped needing moisturizer at all.