Skin Care

Bar Soap Vs. Body Wash: Which’s Best for Your Skin?



by Lydia


Everyone has a unique showering routine. With that said, most people are torn by this debate between bar soap vs. body wash. Some people usually prefer to lather up a loofah and shower gel body wash, while others prefer bar soap. This is because body wash and soap bars differ even though they perform the same function.

While some people love the post-shower, squeaky-clean feeling that bar soap provides, others argue that it is excessively abrasive and can dry out delicate skin. Conversely, those who use body wash swear by their washcloths and loofahs for the perfect lather; opponents point to these tools as bacteria breeding rooms.

What's the Difference Between Bar Soap & Body Wash?

Besides how these variations of soap are made, they accomplish the same thing: they clean the skin's surface to eliminate dirt and impurities. The main difference lies in how the two products achieve clean skin. Bar soap is often assumed to be a bit harsher than body wash and can strip the skin of dirt and oil and essential proteins and lipids that allow a natural glow.

Conversely, body washes typically contain cleaning agents blended with additional moisturizing ingredients that soothe the skin at the same time. Besides, nowadays, you may purchase bar soaps that are far gentler than you recall. So now, let's check the main differences in terms of benefits and ingredients.

Bar Soap Pros

i). Cost-effective & eco-friendly. 

You get more bang for your money with bar soaps. Some bars are very cheap and can last for several weeks, while body washes are expensive and tend to deplete more quickly.

Conversely, liquid body wash contains water, which is important to consider given that 5 billion people would be affected by water scarcity by 2025. Bar soaps feature a waterless formula that can help with environmental preservation. Therefore, you may save water, product, and the environment with bar soap—a trifecta of sustainable victories from the shower alone.

ii). Fewer, purer ingredients.

When made by clean and natural manufacturers, the soap bar generally includes the active ingredients you require; since the formula does not involve water, no chemical preservatives are required to prevent bacteria from developing. What remains is a high concentration of pure ingredients.

Bar Soap Cons

i). Breeds bacteria when not stored properly

Here's the deal: Bar soap is not inherently unhygienic; instead, it is how you store the bar soap that matters. If you leave them damp (as in a puddled soap dish), the bacteria has a field day. So if you use bar soap, keep it in a dry place and wash it before each use: According to Zenovia Gabriel, M.D., FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist, this lowers the number of bacteria transported back onto your body.

ii). Can dehydrate your skin.

Have you ever used traditional bar soap in the shower and walked out feeling squeaky clean? It's most likely due to the presence of sodium lauryl sulfate, a harsh surfactant that can deplete your skin's natural oils. After showering, your skin may feel tight since bar soaps can dry the skin.

According to Gabriel, the pH levels of bar soaps range between 9 and 10, but our acidic skin's pH level is between 4 and 5. Therefore, when you use such soaps, you may induce a rise in your skin's pH, which may modify the texture of your skin (and if you already have sensitive or dry skin, those soap bars can be extra dehydrating).

All in all, there are natural, conditioning bar soap products that don't utilize harsh surfactants; therefore, if you take the bar soap away, it's crucial to look for those.

Body Wash Pros

i). Moisturizes your skin.

Body washes are often formulated to be gentler and more nourishing for the skin. That's because of the presence of emollients in most formulas, which may fill in micro-cracks in our skin and make it look fuller and smoother. Gabriel explains that emollients assist in softening and cleaning the skin without washing away its nourishing oils. (Ceramides, which seal in moisture and protect our skin from damage, are our current favorite emollient).

According to Gabriel, body washes (as opposed to the squeaky-clean feeling you get from a bar soap) can renew your skin's protective barrier, leaving it supple and moisturized. But, of course, ensure the body wash you're using is sulfate-free too.

"If you have eczema, sensitive skin, or a history of any skin illness, ensure that any moisturizing body washes you use are free of sulfates and artificial fragrances," says board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD. Sulfates usually give your body wash the soapy lather, but they may also strip the skin of natural oils, leaving it dehydrated (particularly if it's already dry).

ii). More hygienic

According to Gabriel, body washes tend to be naturally more sanitary because you're squeezing or pumping out the substance. In addition, the body cleaner is usually not stagnant in a wet soap dish, which reduces the chance of bacterial development.

However, there's a catch: If you use washcloths or loofahs to create a frothy lather, keep those scrubbers in mind. Although the formula won't breed bacteria, it doesn't mean you are completely safe. Ensure you wash your loofahs and washcloths before each usage and replace them every few weeks. These tools, like soap bars, can breed bacteria if left in a damp setting.

Body Wash Cons

i). Can contain iffy ingredients

Checking the labeling, like with other body cleansers, is critical. Since liquid body cleanser contains water, it requires a preservative to keep the formula free of bacteria (water is a breeding ground for bacterial growth). That's where body cleansers get a bit tricky: you'll need to ensure your body wash doesn't have harsh chemicals such as parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.

What Are the Benefits of Bar Soap?

1. Easy way of application

Work into a foamy lather on moist skin type before rinsing. That's all there is to it. Besides, there's no need for washcloths, loofahs, body brushes, sponges or anything else. You may keep using the bar soap until it runs out, eliminating the need to turn a body wash over as the formula depletes.

2. For oily skin, use bar soap.

Without a doubt, creamy body washes are extremely moisturizing. However, if you have oily skin, a bar soap that does not include the oily-based ingredients found in the body wash is your best option. Remember that the squeaky-clean, oil-free effect of the soap comes at a small cost to your skin's natural oils and fats, so follow up with a moisturizing body lotion to restore the good stuff lost.

3. Ideal for sensitive skin type

You might have heard that most people with eczema or psoriasis avoid using the soap on delicate skin owing to skin-drying chemicals. However, we believe that the narrative of bar soap for sensitive skin does not end here. Even if your skin is prone to dryness, bar soaps with plant-based compositions and a balanced pH level will keep you safe. Just ensure you choose companies and products that are open about their ingredients.

4. Ideal for small spaces

Are you running out of room on your fifth-floor apartment walkup? Don't allow a lack of space to keep you from having clean skin! A whole bottle of body wash might take up too much room in your small washroom. Fortunately, a soap bar may readily fit into that little wall crevice. So there's no need to weigh the benefits of bar soap vs. the benefits of your other hair and skincare items when deciding what to keep on the shower shelf.

5. Exfoliation with no need for equipment

Though body washes with exfoliating ingredients and properties are becoming more popular, bar soaps usually give your skin much-needed exfoliation without the inconvenience of using (and washing!) products like washcloths and loofahs. Bar soaps may also include built-in nubs for additional skin stimulation.

What Are the Benefits of Body Wash?

1. Convenient for travel

Soap bars may fit into almost every nook and cranny; however, they aren't the most portable formats. One advantage of body wash is that you don't have to wrap a slick soap bar in paper and carry it in a bag. Instead, seal the body wash bottle lid and store it!

2. Lavish lather

The capacity to indulge in that indulgent, loofah-lather shower sensation is one of the most significant advantages of body wash. As long as you maintain your shower tools clean, you are sure to leave the shower with skin that feels nurtured and revitalized.

3. Ideal for sensitive skin

Body wash usually has a liquid consistency and is frequently loaded with foaming ingredients that create a lather when mixed with water. In addition, certain foaming components might irritate sensitive skin, such as those found in sulfate cleansers. Nonetheless, choosing a body wash with plant-based ingredients and without harsh foaming agents may be a great option for individuals with delicate skin. If you're looking for a body wash for the sensitive skin type, you can rest assured that all of Planet sulfate-free and Love Beauty body washes are enriched with plant-based cleansers.

4. Ideal dry skin

Most body washes come with skin-softening emollients, which eventually keep your skin moisturized and moist. If you have dry skin that requires hydration, a creamy body wash will smooth it and not irritate it while lathering. Therefore, body wash is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

5. All-around hydration

Since bar soaps are frequently drying and might be too abrasive to use on the face, the hydrating and moisturizing ingredients of body wash allow you to lather everywhere you want - including your face - without fear!

Read also: The best body washes and soaps for pregnancy

What Are the Ingredients to Look for & Avoid in Bar Soap and Body Wash?

Bar Soap Vs. Body Wash

There are a few ingredients that are a red flag for whatever type of cleansing product (moisturizing body wash, bar soap, or even shower gel) you use in the shower. Certain common ingredients contribute to the soap being effective, mild, and hydrating for your skin.

Recommended ingredients

i). Glycerine is a plant-based cleaner that usually seals moisture into the skin barrier without removing your body's natural oils.

ii). Natural exfoliants, such as ground apricot pits, finely milled black walnut shells, or oatmeal, can help to exfoliate dead skin cells organically

iii). Some essential oils that are commonly used in scented soaps include:

  • Lemon oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Cedarwood oil
  • Rose oil

iv). Moisturizing oils, such as sweet almond oil and coconut oil, provide skin-softening qualities too

v). Shea butter and coconut butter are commonly featured in some hypoallergenic soap compositions and are safe and shelf-stable for use on your skin.

Ingredients to avoid

  • Parabens- These are chemical preservatives used to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products. There is some worry over whether parabens might cause specific health problems. These preservatives have been linked to endocrine system malfunction; therefore, avoid them if possible.
  • Triclosan- is a potent antimicrobial that the FDA banned in 2016. However, that doesn't mean you won't come across this ingredient in products made in other countries, so ensure you check labels carefully. In addition to triclosan, the FDA has prohibited using eighteen other ingredients that have antibacterial microbeads.

If you have allergies, you should avoid products featuring the words "fragrance" or "parfum" on the ingredient list.

The FDA does not require bar soaps, body washes, shower gels or other cleansers to declare the actual source of the scent in their goods. As a result, allergy triggers may be concealed in the things you use.