Over the last 35 years, synthetic detergents have become increasingly important as skin cleansing agents. With the vast range of soaps and synthetic cleansers available nowadays, doctors and pharmacists are expectedto advise on how to cleanse normal as well as diseased skins. Sound advice must include knowledge of the nature, composition, and action of the available surfactants and cleanser preparations, the physiology and pathophysiology of the skin surface, the microbial ecology ofthe skin, and the factors that control the skin flora. Much of this knowledge is the result of recent research. Health care professionals must be familiar, not only with the benefits, but also with the possible adverse effects of synthetic detergents on the human skin (roughness, water loss, etc.) and on the environment. This monograph draws upon the expertise of numerous scientists to present a comprehensive view of the subject.