Bar Soap vs Body Wash: What’s the Difference? - Public Goods Blog

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Bar Soap vs Body Wash: What’s the Difference?

The shower, while supposedly relaxing, can be a stressful place.

a bar of soap and plant leaves

This mainly comes down to products. Shampoos, conditioners, facial cleansers, moisturizers, toners, exfoliants, loofahs, sponges, ayate washcloths! There is a nearly endless variety of things we have to use to get a good clean. Naturally, all these possible products beg the question: which stuff should we use?

One of the oldest battles in the shower is that of bar soap vs body wash. Both are essential to cleansing dirt and bacteria from your skin. But each accomplishes this process in slightly different ways.

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What’s the Difference Between Bar Soap vs Body Wash?

Bar soap and body wash, while accomplishing the same cleansing task, go about it in different ways, as the two are made very differently from each other.

What is Body Wash?

Body wash is generally a mild liquid soap that is designed to be applied to a loofah or sponge and then rubbed against the skin. This process removes dirt from your skin, and, depending on the loofah or sponge, is likely to naturally exfoliate it as well.

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What is Bar Soap?

Bar soap is generally a solid soap made in part by fatty acid alkali salts and oils after saponification (soapifying). Bar soap is designed to be rubbed against the skin, where it will lather and remove dirt and oil from the skin’s surface.

When Should You Use Body Wash?

Body wash is an increasingly common choice for most people when choosing a body soap. It offers many great benefits that address and accommodate many common skincare routines.

If you have dry skin

One of the major differences between bar soap and body wash is in their hydrating properties. Namely: bar soap tends to dry out skin, while body wash generally contains ingredients to help hydrate and replenish skin moisture. If you often find yourself with dry or scratchy skin, look for a body wash that moisturizes, especially ones with hydrating ingredients like aloe vera or shea butter.

If you have sensitive skin

One advantage body wash has over soap is a pH closer to that of the human skin. Our skin has a pH of between 5 and 6. Applying anything to the skin with a pH wildly outside 5 or 6 can lead to skin problems, especially for folks with more sensitive skin.

Most quality, natural body washes have a pH of between 5 and 7. Soap, on the other hand, often has a pH of 9 or 10, due to one of its main ingredients: fatty acid alkali salt. While necessary to create soap, this fatty acid is very basic on the pH scale and can lead to skin issues.

bottle of public goods body wash, public goods shampoo bar, white bath towel

If you need to exfoliate

Many body washes contain natural exfoliating ingredients, more so than those found in bar soaps. Not only that but by using a loofah or sponge to lather your body with a wash or body cleanser, you are naturally going to be exfoliating your skin much more than when using soap.

When Is Bar Soap Better than Body Wash?

Classic and timeless, bar soap still has plenty of advantages to keep it relevant in the new age of shower cleansers and skin products.

If you want something simple and accessible

One of soap’s most enduring, valuable qualities lies in its simplicity. All you have to do with soap is rub it against your skin to create a lather. No pouring, pumping, loofahs, scrubbing, nothing. If you want to keep your shower routine simple and light on products, bar soap is 100% the way to go.

If you are worried about bacteria

Contrary to popular belief, bar soap is often the more sanitary option when compared to body wash. The culprit here is not either wash itself, but the loofah and sponges often used when using body wash. Loofahs and sponges are well known breeding grounds for bacteria and mold, requiring frequent (and often forgotten) cleaning to maintain cleanliness.

If you have specific allergies

Bar soap generally has less ingredients than body wash. If you are searching for hypoallergenic, all-natural, or herbal skin cleansers, bar soaps are the way to go. Bereft of most shelf-stabilizers and parabens, bar soap ingredient lists are definitely easier on the eyes when compared to liquid body wash.

Bar Soap vs Body Wash: Which Is Better for the Environment?

We all want our product choices to be the best they can be when it comes to the environment.

And when it comes to environmental friendliness, bar soap is the clear winner. Soap is made with much less material cost than body wash. Bar soap is packaged in simple, recyclable paper boxes. Better yet, when they “run out,” there is no byproduct.

The bar dissolves completely, leaving no physical waste behind. Compared to body wash, which is usually packaged in plastic bottles, bar soap is a much better choice for environmentally-minded consumers.

Ingredients to Avoid

Regardless of what type of cleanser, there are some ingredients you are going to want to avoid.

Avoid triclosan

Once used as an ingredient for antibacterial soap, triclosan was banned by the FDA in 2016. You might still find it, however, in internationally-made products. Be sure to check your product’s ingredients list and avoid any that contain triclosan, sometimes represented as triclocarban.

hand with soap lathered on it

Avoid parabens

Used as a shelf-stabilizer, parabens help cleansers last for years and years while remaining fresh. They are also, however, harsh chemicals that affect your skin’s natural oils and pH level, depending on your skin type. Avoid products that contain common parabens like methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.

Safe Ingredients to Look For

There are plenty of safer ingredient options, such as saponified oils that protect your skin and fragrance-free natural bar soap with skin-softening effects.

Kick chemical cleaners to the curb by using bars and soaps that contain plant-based glycerine instead of chemical cleansers. Botanical ingredients like coconut oil, argan oil, aloe vera, and shea butter nourish and moisturize the skin without causing irritation. If you’re looking for scented cleansers, look for a cleanser that contains a natural essential oil like rose or lavender oil.

The Final Verdict? Every Body is Different

If you are still undecided, try a body wash and a bar soap. Quality ingredients are available in both forms if you are willing to keep a discerning eye on the ingredients list. Just remember that everyone’s skin is different!

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