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Should You Use Bar Soap or Body Wash? | smarter


It’s unlikely that I’m the only person who has wondered about which bath product to use. So to get to the bottom of this question, I asked experts about the pros and cons of each.

What are the differences among the three?
A bar soap is a solid cleanser, while shower gel and body wash are liquid cleansers. If you have a hard time distinguishing between shower gel and body wash, here’s what to look for: Shower gel has a gel-like consistency, while body wash can be creamier, says Maiysha Jones, PhD, principal scientist in the North American Personal Care Division at Procter & Gamble, a consumer goods company that includes personal care and hygiene brands.

Which should you choose for your skin?
Let’s take the pressure off first: There is no right or wrong selection in using a bar soap, shower gel, or body wash. It comes down to personal preference and understanding which form is suitable for your skin type, says Sabrina Henry, principal scientist at Aveeno, which makes skin care products.

It’s also worth noting that specific products in each of the three categories can be formulated in different ways. That said, here are some generalities about each.


Body washes tend to have more moisturizing ingredients, says Nicole Negbenebor, MD, a dermatology resident at Brown University. But if you just need to get clean or prefer a squeaky clean feeling after you shower, a traditional bar soap or shower gel can be what you need, says Jones.

Just remember that depending on how they are formulated, traditional bar soaps and shower gels can sometimes strip skin of its natural moisture compared with body washes, says Jones. You can, however, look for bar soaps that contain moisturizing ingredients.

pH Level
Traditional bar soaps can be more drying than body washes or shower gels because they are more alkaline than our skin, which is an important point of consideration for those with dry or sensitive skin. Body washes, on the other hand, generally have lower pH levels, which are better for more sensitive skin, says Negbenebor.

Because the pH of our skin is slightly acidic (4 to 5), soaps with pH 5.5 and thereabouts would be best, while anything above 6 would be harsh to the skin, says Yousuf Mohammed, PhD, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland Diamond Institute in Australia.

For body washes and gels, you should watch out for allergens (such as high amounts of fragrances and certain preservatives) that can trigger eczema. Bar soaps tend to have less irritating preservatives in them, but if your skin is easily irritated, make sure to avoid soaps with a lot of fragrances or harsh dyes, says Negbenebor.

Which is more environmentally friendly?
From an environmental perspective, consumers can look for products packaged in recycled materials that they can recycle after use, says Jones.

Bar soap is the greenest option Because it can be packaged with recyclable paper, says Eleanor Greene, editor-in-chief of Green American magazine, a publication from the nonprofit organization Green America, which promotes environmental sustainability.

Shower gels and body wash, on the other hand, can be less environmentally friendly because they typically come in plastic packaging, says Mitch Ratcliffe, publisher of recycling database and sustainability resource However, if a gel or body wash brand offers a robust refill and recycling program, as some brands are doing now, it can reduce waste and environmental impact on the environment in the long run.

If you want to make more of an environmental difference, it’s perhaps more important to consider how long you’re spending in the shower. To save money and energy, you can take shorter showers and lower your water heater temperature to around 120º F, which reduces the need for electricity or gas to heat your shower water, says Ratcliffe.

You can also switch to a low-flow showerhead that uses less water—ideally, one that has a WaterSense label from the Environmental Protection Agency, which can save at least half a gallon of water per minute of showering, says Ratcliffe. And if you want your home to be more environmentally sustainable, here are 10 quick tips to make a greener home.

Staff Vote
As someone who has oilier skin and who doesn’t feel the need for extra skin hydration at the moment (though never say never), I might go back to bar soaps for the time being because anything that reduces plastic usage gets an extra point for I. Oh, and I guess I’ll be taking shorter showers from now on. It’s been real, long showers, but this is where you and I part ways.




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