Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Viddhi Patel (Journalist) on 05th Feb 2021

Body wash or Soaps? Which is better for you?

Body wash or Soaps?

Showering is an everyday activity and not something you pay attention to or ask questions about. It is just a shower. You rub some cleanser on your body, create foam and rinse. But have you taken a moment to analyze what your skin is feeling like? Have you analyzed your cleanser enough? Is your cleanser caring enough to be a part of the "ritual"?

There are two types of people: one type who is ritualistic and quite committed to the same scented soap and one the other type who is quite indulgent. They like the loofah to lather up with foam and have a fruity, hydrating shower.

Soaps have been scrutinized for their hardcore cleansing for a while now, but that too changed when the market saw gentler inventions. Now the question remains, what cleanser out of the many will make your skin love you?

Bar soaps and body washes have been pitted against each other for quite a while now.

We will ignite the debate once again. Okay? Why is it necessary, you ask? Because you cleanse your body with that thing, 90% of your body, to be precise.

Since every cleanser is different, every cleanser will cleanse, yes. But the way they do it, the ingredients they use, the effect they have on your skin, and your skin itself-the type. All of it comes into play and demands your utmost or at least a little attention.

So let's get to it, shall we?  

What are Bar soaps?  

Okay, this is quite simple. Bar soap is the one your mom used, and her mom used, and you used it as a kid. It is a classic cleanser, the one that gives you a squeaky clean feel after a shower. That's because they are dependable cleaning agents that remove dirt, sweat, gunk, and nasty bacteria from your skin cells. Formed of vegetable or animal fats, bar soaps cleanse with the help of surfactants, which are essentially chemical agents that attach themselves to the oil and water between the skin cells and scoop out the impurities when you rinse with water.

However, while cleansing and exfoliating, a bar soap strips the skin of its essential oils and proteins that maintain the skin's moisture barrier, wreaking havoc on its health. The pH of bar soaps plays a vital role since it is relatively higher than your skin's pH- bar soaps- 9-10, skin-5-6.

We can't tag them all to be the same; for one, there are too many soaps in the market to generalize them as drying. Some of these soaps are comparatively softer on the skin; the glycerin ones, for instance, are moisturizing. 

What are Body washes?  

The liquid form of cleanser, body wash, also contains surfactants but milder ones. Some people have entirely discarded bar soaps and gone liquid since body washes are hydrating and gentle on the skin than regular soap bars. That is because the pH of body washes is between 6 and 7. See the difference?

Body washes contain emollients, and this helps your skin feel softer and moisturized. Many body washes have ingredients that treat common skin concerns like clogged pores and flaking in dry skin.

Now, let's pit them against each other.  

Body wash Vs. Bar soap

The most obvious difference is their form. And to dig a little deeper:

Soaps and body washes are different because they interact with your skin in a unique way. All mild soaps cleanse the dirt out from the skin's surface. What differs is the mechanism, ingredients, your skin is left feeling.

So, what exactly makes one better than the other? Let's find out.

What makes body washes appealing? 

1. It will moisturize your skin well.  

The gentleness and the hydrating effect of a body wash moisturize our skin while performing mild cleansing. The emollients are the real deal here since they cleanse without stripping our skin off its vital oils.

A body wash will replenish your skin's protective barrier, leaving your skin soft and hydrated. Just get a sulfate-free body wash, and voila, you have a cleanser that will moisturize, cleanse, and not leave your skin dehydrated.  

2. Your dry skin will thank you.

This is majorly what sets a body wash apart from soap. It is hydrating. The emollients present in a body wash will contain and seal in the moisture. Dry, flaky skin will surely benefit if you keep away the harsher cleansers and go for a creamy, rich body wash that won't irritate your skin while you lather it all over yourself.

3. Sensitive skin also seems in favor of body wash. 

Well, sulfate is a foaming agent that lather when it comes in contact with water, but what it is is bad news, especially if you have sensitive skin. They aggravate delicate skin. So, a body wash can be a great option over a soap (since soap is even harsher) for sensitive skin if you go for a sulfate-free cleanser.  

4. A foamy, bubbly shower.

The loofah lather is quite irresistible. It is a rich indulgence not many can deny. A soap is quite un-lathery if you may. On the other hand, a body wash will make you feel loved and refreshed after a foamy shower.

5. Exfoliation.  

While cleansers often have exfoliating ingredients, soaps too. Body wash hits differently because it has natural or synthetic exfoliants that are finely ground. You use a loofah or the like of it that further helps with exfoliation

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6. A tad bit more hygienic. 

While your soaps are out there melting away in soap dishes inviting bacteria by being stagnant, a body wash is bottled up.

But don't lay back when it comes to loofahs and washcloths since they can breed bacteria too.  

What makes soaps appealing? 

Soaps prove you love your environment.

Well, this is not me going overboard but being practical. Soap comes in more often than a not recyclable box, and when you are done with the soap, it stops existing. But a body washes, well it requires a lot more packaging, a lot more energy.

Bar soaps also all are privy to microbeads and the shady ingredients in them. 

Did you know:

Soapwort is a soap plant that has leaves and roots containing saponin that lathers richly. A block is purer than a bottle of shady ingredients. 

Bar soaps usually contain actives that one needs. And no water in the mix means no preservative needed to keep the bacteria at bay. This means no parabens here. If the manufacturers are clean, your soap will be an amalgamation of pure ingredients.

Soaps are also a better option if you are allergic since there are herbal, all-natural soaps hypoallergenic.  

1. Soap is easy to use. 

Well, this one doesn't need all those extra tools; loofahs, sponges, etc. You also save yourself all that extra work of adding water to the bottle or turning it upside down to get those last drops of liquid on your loofah.  

2. Soap will strip all that grease off your oily skin.  

Body washes are creamier, richer, and hydrating, and they contain emollients; this makes body wash seem higher on the ladder. But you don't want to put oil-based ingredients on already oily skin. So, if you're going to get rid of all that extra oil and clear out your skin, a soap is what you want. Try not to dry out your skin completely and moisturize after that deep cleansing. 

What about the hygiene game here?  

Well, it is okay to use a soap that is previously used by someone; it is proven. But when it comes to the living conditions of soap, it sure is a concern. All that heat and moisture lead to the accumulation of bacteria. But if you store it right, it is okay to use. 

Which cleanser will my skin like? 

This largely depends on your skin type and what you desire.

If you are someone who likes gentleness in their skincare, you can go for a body wash. The body wash is also a better and more viable option if you have dry, rough, flaky, or sensitive skin. Since a body wash with emollients will do your skin good rather than a soap.

Look for ingredients that will moisturize in a body wash, not just hydrate, for instance, hyaluronic acid and petrolatum. If you use soap, glycerin will lock in moisture and cleanse without that unnecessary stripping of skin oils.

On the other hand, if you have oily skin, soap will do you good in aspects that a hydrating body wash won't. Hot and humid weather, post-workout cleansing, and just a liking for a deep cleanse can be rewarded with a soap.

If you are satisfied with your skin and have no issues whatsoever, you can choose a cleanser you like.

But it isn't that simple.

Apart from your skin type, look at ingredients present in your cleanser and avoid products with sulfates, phthalates, and parabens.

Avoid fragrances and colors in your products if you have sensitive skin.

Instead, look for high fatty acids like stearic acid, lanolin, triglycerides in soap. They will create a protective outer layer on your skin. There are also chemical-free handmade soaps with natural ingredients and fragrances; they are gentle and might make your skin feel its best. These soaps will stand firm against the bad rep; they won't dry out your skin.

For a body wash, look for vitamin E and other such nutrients. Body washes also have ingredients like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and collagen-stimulating nutrients that address fundamental skin concerns. So, look for ingredients that your skin needs and the ones that are safe and skin-friendly. 

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Advice by Minimalist 

Well, showering just got a little tricky but didn't worry, it's not rocket science. Try a few, go natural if you can, and go with the flow.  

A few pointers to keep in mind, though. 

Body washes contain water, and to stop that water to breed bacteria, body washes add parabens in their formulas. Check labels for iffy ingredients and avoid products containing harsh chemicals like formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.

If you have particularly sensitive skin, keep away from heavy fragrances or dyes, they are quite irritating to the skin. 

Wrapping up 

What you lather your body with matters, their ingredients matter. And deciding on which one to use is entirely your personal choice, but consider the various elements attached to it before coming to the final decision.

It's more than just the form of a cleanser; it is everything it does on your skin, what it has, and how it leaves your skin feeling.

There's no one good cleanser out of the two; both can be equally questionable and equally natural. Consider your skin type and what you want; a squeaky clean body or a lathery, pampering bath. In the end, what matters is you, so go with your gut.