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4 Reasons to Switch From Bar Soap to Body Wash, According to Health Experts

Body wash comes with these added benefits, they say.

Having a healthy skincare routine isn't just for your face—your whole body can benefit from the right skin regimen. That's why some experts are calling into question one popular product—traditional bar soap—and suggesting you trade it in for body wash.

Though bar soaps can provide a squeaky clean with a low environmental impact thanks to their non-plastic packaging, body wash has several advantages over bar soap, according to health experts. Read on to find out why it may be time to switch—ideally to eco-friendly brands with top-end ingredients and recyclable or reusable containers.

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Body wash is more moisturizing than traditional bar soaps.

young woman showering

If you currently use bar soap and suffer from dry or itchy skin, experts say switching to a body wash may help you keep moisturized. "Body washes typically contain moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, which help to hydrate the skin, whereas traditional bar soaps can be drying," says Steven Lane, MD, a representative of the American Cosmetic Association.

Enrizza Factor, MD, a dermatologist for My Eczema Team, agrees that this simple swap can help alleviate unwanted dryness. "A bar of soap cleanses the surface of your skin by dissolving the dirt layer. A body wash works in a similar way; however, it not only cleans the skin but also moisturizes it and addresses other skin concerns," she tells Best Life.

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Body wash is often more convenient.

A young man taking a shower and singing into a shampoo bottle

You may also find body wash more convenient than soap, says Lane. "Body wash is more lathering than bar soap, which makes it easier to spread over the skin and create a rich lather," he says.

Lane adds that "body wash comes in a variety of formulations, including gel, liquid, and cream, and also with different scents, making it more versatile than bar soap." If your skin has any specific needs, speak with a dermatologist to find out which formulations or ingredients may work best for you.

Body wash is less likely to harbor bacteria.

Soap bar and foam on marble plate

Many people assume that because of its ingredients, soap is self-cleaning. However, according to Lane, body wash is "more hygienic [compared to bar soap], as it's less likely to harbor bacteria and mold." Factor agrees that body washes are "slightly more hygienic" than bars. "That's because bacteria can live on bars and remain there from shower to shower and person to person," she explains. "To avoid bacteria buildup, always rinse it between use and allow it to drain and dry completely. With a body wash, it's easier to avoid bacteria buildup since it doesn't touch the skin while in the bottle," Factor advises.

However, Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist currently working with the Schweiger Dermatology Group, says that if you continue to use bar soap, it's unlikely to cause any harm. "Soap is technically 'clean.' Even if a bar soap dries and bacteria find their way onto the bar, they are unlikely to be responsible for spreading disease," she tells Best Life.

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It's often more gentle on the skin.

handsome Black Man Washing Head in shower
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Finally, Factor says that body washes can be gentler on the skin compared to many bar soaps. "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," she explains.

Ilyas agrees that this tends to be true: "Many bar soaps have a pH in the 10-12 range. When these come into contact with our acidic skin, the result is a drying or dehydrating effect on the skin," she explains. "Liquid soaps tend to have a pH in the 8 range. We need the pH of our cleansers to be a little higher than the pH of our skin to allow for a cleansing effect. However, the pH of liquid soaps is not generally as high as bar soaps making them less irritating."

However, all soaps and body washes can irritate your skin if you leave traces of them behind after washing. "Keep in mind that no matter what type of cleanser you use, you'll want to be sure to rinse it off thoroughly when you're done," Factors urges.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more