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Bar Soap or Body Wash? Let’s Figure This Out

young woman in showed washing shoulder
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When it comes to the battle between bar soap and body wash, most people are on one side or the other. There are differences and similarities between these two suds, and we’re going to take a look at them.

How Well Do They Clean?

Both bar soap and body wash will get you clean. You could say that bar soap gets you “squeaky” clean, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Many store-bought bar soaps contain lye and other ingredients that can remove your skin’s natural oils. So, while bar soap is getting you clean, it could be drying out and damaging your skin.

Body wash is often made with natural oils that help replenish your skin’s much-needed oil. Skin needs oil to retain elasticity and suppleness. Dry skin can be itchy and painful.

If you prefer bar soap over body wash and want something that doesn’t dry your skin out, get to know which ingredients are drying and which are nourishing. Once you know these things, you can make your own soap or buy from someone that creates handmade soaps with natural ingredients.

According to Skin Deep Natural Body Care, some of the ingredients—aside from lye—that may be drying your skin out include:

  • Polypropylene
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Synthetic Dyes
  • Triclosan

Nearly any natural oil, including jojoba, will help replenish the oils the shower strips away from your skin. Other good oils include avocado, flax seed, coconut, grapeseed, and argan.

What About Bacteria?

Wet soap with foam on a beige background
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If you’re sharing a bar of soap in the shower with other people in your household, you’re making germaphobes everywhere cringe. There is one study from way back in the 80s that says there is little risk of transferring bacteria through bar soap. Even so, many people think twice about sharing a bar of soap. 

Body wash comes in a container that protects it from other people’s body hair, body oils, and other such nasties.

However, there is potential for bacteria buildup with body wash if you’re using reusable items like wash poofs and loofahs to clean yourself. The best bet is to use a fresh, clean washcloth every time you take a bath or shower.

Which Is More Convenient?

Bar soap has its conveniences. A bar of soap, even when you keep it in a travel container, doesn’t take up any more space than a bottle of body wash. Keeping it in a travel container will lengthen its life since it won’t have water hitting it constantly as you’re washing your hair or rinsing.

That travel container also makes bar soap convenient for travel. When it’s in a reusable, sealable plastic container, it won’t get the rest of your toiletry bag wet and soapy.

Bar soap is also convenient because you can use it until it’s completely gone. It offers less waste because you can get it in a recyclable box or—if you buy some handmade soaps—no packaging at all.

Body wash, on the other hand, is conveniently contained in its own bottle. A travel size body wash is easy to take with you on the go. However, it can be difficult to empty the body wash bottle, so you’re potentially wasting some money. On top of that, bottles are bigger additions to your carbon footprint. They are recyclable though.

How About the Cost?

The cost difference between bar soap and body wash depends a lot on the brands and types you’re buying. Typically, bar soap is cheaper than its bottled counterpart and tends to last longer to boot. If you shop for fancy bar soap or prefer the handmade stuff, you’ll pay a bit more.

Depending on how much you use, body wash lasts nearly as long as bar soap for the average person. However, people do tend to use more body wash than they need to. 

You also want to consider which you prefer, because a bottle of body wash at any price for someone that prefers bar soap isn’t going to be a deal.


In the end, whether you choose body wash or bar soap is really up to you. The biggest advantage of bar soap is the lower cost. The biggest advantage of body wash is convenience. Other than that, the differences are mostly subjective. 

Which do you use? Why is that your personal choice?

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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