Bar Soap Vs. Body Wash: Which Is Better?

Remember the good old days before body wash was invented? All we had to do was get the first bar of soap we saw on the supermarket shelves, but now there is an incredible variety of bar soaps to choose from, and with body washes joining in on the competition, there’s a new question in place–bar soap vs body wash, which will you choose?

While some people may already have a strong preference to one of these, others may have a harder time choosing. If you belong in the latter category, this guide can help you understand how bar soaps and body washes score on different fronts. Once you’re aware of this, you may find it easier to choose. So, read on to find out all about what bar soaps and body washes are, and how they compare. 

What Is Bar Soap?

A pile of soap

Image Source: Pixabay

In the bar soap vs body wash contest, the former is the one that a vast majority of the people are more familiar with. Still, let us try to define this product we know so well and love so much. Soaps have been around for ages. In fact, the bar soap is so ancient that nobody really knows its exact origins.

The earliest available records indicating the existence and the use of soap date back to 2800 BC, in ancient Babylon. A formula for soap used by the people of Babylon has even been found on a clay Babylonian tablet dated 2200 BC. The formula consisted of water, alkali, and cassia oil, which is similar to soap as we know it today. Other records of the use of soap in ancient civilizations suggest that the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, and the people of ancient China and medieval Europe all used variations of this formula as cleansing solutions.

Essentially, soap is a long chain salt of a fatty acid and an alkali, with a pH that is usually between 9 and 10. The word “soap” is also used to describe a variety of products that used for cleansing and lubricating purposes. A bar soap can also be used around the house for performing regular chores like bathing, washing clothes, dishwashing, and other routine kinds of cleaning. Soaps in their chemical form are used in industries as thickeners, as components of lubricants, and as precursors to catalysts.

Today, bar soaps come in many forms, including the following:

  • Personal soaps—These soaps are made specifically to meet the needs of personal hygiene and are also called bath soaps.
  • Antibacterial soaps—These bars have specific formulations that help prevent viruses and bacteria from spreading.
  • Body and hair soaps—They are ideal for washing the grime off both body and hair, eliminating the need to shampoos.
  • Novelty soaps—They’re soaps that come in various shapes like ducks, lions, elephants, or other animals and things made to amuse children and encourage them to bathe.
  • Perfume soaps—These are soaps that contain additional ingredients that give them distinct fragrances like roses, lavender, or citrus.
  • Guest soaps—They’re tinier versions of bath soaps, and they often come in attractive shapes like flowers or seashells. They’re typically used in the guest bathrooms.
  • Glycerin soaps—As the name suggests, these soaps contain glycerin, which makes them translucent and infuses a moisturizing property in them.
  • Medicated soaps—This variety includes ingredients like antiseptics and disinfectants that give it a medical edge.
  • Kitchen soaps—These soaps can either have mild abrasives or tougher dish detergents for deep cleaning.

And then, aside from these kinds of soaps, there’s also another variety–liquid soap. This brings us to the next contender in the bar soap vs body wash dispute.

What Is Body Wash?

Body wash

Image Source: Pixabay

Body wash may be new to the scene compared to soap, but body wash has its own edge in the whole bar soap vs body wash debate. But first, it’s important to understand exactly what a body wash is. Body wash is a liquid cleanser that use mild surfactants to cleanse the skin and wash off the dust of everyday life from the pores.

A related product in this conversation is shower gel as it can be easily confused with body wash. Shower gels and body washed use similar chemical formulations, but the difference between them lies in their consistency. Shower gels are thinner, making them better suited for warmer climates, which body wash is generally thicker and more moisturizing, making them better for cool climates.

Another subcategory in the body wash family is the body scrub. These products are body washes that come with tiny granules in their mix, making them slightly coarse to touch. They are typically thicker than body washes, and they work better at scrubbing away dead skin cells on the body, thus allowing moisture to settle in and replenish your skin’s vitality.

Bar Soap vs Body Wash: Major Differences

Both body washes and body soaps are best used with a loofah, a washcloth, or a pouf, but they still have some major differences. To try to settle the bar soap vs body wash dilemma once and for all, let us see how the two compare regarding various parameters.


At first glance, the bar soap may appear to be the weaker contender here, because it’s prone to dust or dirt accumulation, and there’s always a risk of someone else using your bar. Recent studies, however, reveal that there is little risk in using a soap bar used by someone else, because soap is, well-, self-cleaning.

Body washes, however, stay concealed in their bottles and are well protected from outside dust. It’s the loofahs or the washcloths you use with body washes that harbor old dirt, hair, and skin cells from previous baths or showers.

The winner in the bar soap vs body wash battle for hygiene is bar soap, although if you use a clean washcloth or loofah every time you bathe with body wash, it could actually be a tie..


It may seem like bar soaps are obviously the more affordable option, but that only holds true if you go for the most basic kind of bar soap. If you’re looking for medicinal or perfumed soaps, the costs shoot up. Soaps also have a shorter lifespan than the average bottle of body wash, so in the time it takes to go through one bottle of body wash, you could wear out two or more soaps. So, when you do that math, body washes are eventually less expensive in the long run.

The winner in the bar soap vs body wash battle for cost is body wash.

Ecological Friendliness

There’s no contest here. Bar soaps are easily the more ecologically friendly option, as they typically come in paper or cardboard packages, which are easily degradable or recyclable, and they are less wasteful in the shower. Body washes almost always come in plastic containers-we all know how harmful plastic is for the environment-and body washes are more easily wasted in the shower, whether from over-pouring or from users failing to use every last drop of soap in the bottle.The winner in the bar soap vs body wash battle for eco-friendliness is bar soap.

Effect on Skin

It’s an open secret that bar soaps can cause drier skin because they contain sodium hydroxide. This is true in most soaps except the bar soaps that specifically made as moisturizing soaps. Body washes, however, typically are made with a much lower pH, so that unlike soaps, they don’t strip your skin of its natural oils and moisture. Many varieties of body wash also come with petrolatum, which is a lubricant that moisturizes your skin, so body wash is typically ideal for people with sensitive or dry skin.

The winner in the bar soap vs body wash battle for effect on skin is body wash.

Convenience and Compactness

Bar soaps are obviously more compact and take up much less space in your shower, and with a body wash you’ll definitely have to find a spot for a loofah. However, if you’re moving to a new place or traveling somewhere, do you take along a bar of soap or a bottle of body wash? Here, a body wash is obviously the easier thing to take along, despite it being less compact than a bar of soap. This is because you may have to deal with packing a wet bar of soap on your way back, or you might have to throw away a bar of soap mid-use if you don’t like bringing along a wet bar.

It’s a tie in the bar soap vs body wash battle for convenience and compactness, as it depends on the situation.


It turns out the bar soap vs body wash debate is a close call. Both bar soap and body wash products will clean your skin, but each one has its own specific formula and effects, and depending on your personal situation, certain attributes of a specific bar soap or body wash will be best suited to meet your needs.

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