Body Wash Or Bar Soap: Which Is Better?

By Marisa Ramiccio. May 7th 2016

The sweet scents and bright colors of body wash can be quite alluring, but does body wash clean your skin better than bar soap? This wasn’t even a question decades ago because bar soap was the one and only product made to wash your skin. But nowadays, liquid cleansers are a mainstay of the soap aisle. Being that skin care is a top priority for many people, it begs the question of which is better: body wash or bar soap?

The Pros And Cons Of Body Wash

When you walk down the soap aisle, the first thing you probably notice is the brightly-colored bottles of body wash with alluring fragrances like Tropical Breeze or Citrus Melon. But the sights and scents of these bottles aren’t the only alluring thing about body wash. Here are some of the other pros:

  • It produces a thicker lather – Although the amount of lather a soap produces is not indicative of how effectively it works, some people still prefer a product that produces a thicker lather.
  • It’s better for moisturizing – Body washes tend to contain more moisturizers than bar soaps do, so they’re gentler on the skin whereas bar soaps tend to strip the skin of its natural oils.
  • It’s easier to use – If you use bar soap, you probably spend more time trying to pick it up than actually using it. But a bottle of body wash is much easier to hold than a bar of soap and it won’t get lost down the drain.

But body wash has its cons, too, including these:

  • It’s not environmentally-friendly – The cardboard packaging that bar soap usually comes in is biodegradable. The plastic bottles that body wash are packaged in is not.
  • It’s easy to use the wrong amount – With bar soap, you use enough to coat your skin and then you put the bar back. But with body wash, it’s easy to pour out too little or too much in which case you end up wasting some of the product.

The Pros And Cons Of Bar Soap

Although bar soap tends to be shoved aside in favor of body wash, it still has its advantages. Here are some of the benefits of using bar soap:

  • It’s allergy-friendly – While some bar soaps are scented, many are not or only have a mild scent. This is a much better option for those with fragrance allergies since body washes tend to contain a lot of skin-irritating fragrances. Although fragrance-free body washes do exist, they can be difficult to find.
  • It’s a cheaper option – Bar soap tends to cost less than body wash and you can usually get more uses out of it than a bottle of the liquid stuff.
  • It can be soothing to acne-prone skin – Bar soaps that contain glycerin can be beneficial to those who have acne breakouts or dermatological problems like eczema.

Bar soap has a downside as well. Here are some of the cons of using it:

  • It has a bad rap – Some people avoid bar soap because they are concerned about the bacteria that it breeds. Although studies show that used bar soap does not leave behind a detectable amount of bacteria on the skin, bar soap still has the bacteria-breeding stigma attached to it. For that reason, and the fact that the soap bar may be shared with others in the family, some people would rather use body wash.
  • It can dry out your skin – Although glycerin soaps can be beneficial to those with dry skin, regular bar soaps have ingredients that dry out your skin because they have a higher pH than body wash.

[Related: What Is Antibacterial Soap? Is It Better Than Regular Soap?]

The Winner

In the war between bar soap and body wash, the winner is determined by preference and skin type. If you have dry skin, you should probably stick with the more moisturizing body wash. But if you have fragrance allergies, are money-conscious or just want to be more green, bar soap may be the better choice for you.

Tips For Choosing The Best Soap

Whether your preference is bar soap or body wash, you want to make sure that you are choosing the best product for your skin. Here are some tips on how to choose the right cleanser:

  • Choose a mild product – Many cleansers contain harsh chemicals that can dry out your skin so look for one that nourishes and moisturizes your skin.
  • Oily skin needs an antibacterial soap – If you have oily skin that’s prone to breakouts, choose a soap that contains benzyl peroxide or other ingredients that fight acne.
  • Skip the scent – If you have fragrance allergies, look for products that are fragrance-free or that are made from natural ingredients.

[Related: Best Homemade Facial Moisturizers For Dry Skin]

The great soap debate has finally been put to rest and both bar soap and body wash have been declared winners. However, the true winner is based on your preference and is something that moisturizes, nourishes and is gentle to your skin.


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