Bar Soap Vs. Body Wash: Which Is Better For Your Skin?

Bar soap and body wash both do the same basic thing: They clean your skin. It might seem like they're interchangeable and that it's just a matter of preference for which one you use, but it turns out there's more nuance to the bar soap vs. body wash debate with advantages and disadvantages to both.

One benefit to bar soap is that it is often cheaper and lasts longer than body washes do, per MindBodyGreen. Bar soaps also contain less water compared to body washes and are overall better for the planet. "A recent study on the environmental impacts of soaps and their associated packaging found that bar soaps have a lower environmental impact than liquid soaps in many important categories including carbon footprint, ecotoxicity, ozone depletion potential, and eutrophication potential," Conservation magazine reported. But what's the difference for your skin?

Both bar soaps and body washes work by breaking apart the layer of natural oil on skin to remove the sweat, dirt, and bacteria that accumulates daily, per Healthline. However, bar soaps don't always have the moisturizing elements that are often present in body washes. So, which is best for your skin?

Bar soap is better if you have oily skin

Dermatologist Ilyse Lefkowicz recommends purchasing soap based on your skin type and concerns.

"Both bar cleansers and body wash will cleanse. However, certain bars may be harsher than body wash and can remove essential lipids and proteins, or alter the skin's pH level, which can cause skin irritation," she told Real Simple. This happens because "bar soaps contain a fatty acid alkali salt with a pH of 9 to 10," per Birchbox. The skin's pH is about 5 to 6. Therefore, body wash is the best option for dry skin, while bar soap may be more beneficial to those with oily skin. Not all bar soaps are created equal, though. "There are newer soaps made of shea butter and oils which are better for the skin," Marnie Nussbaum, MD FAAD, told Birchbox. 

Whether you're using bar soap or liquid soap, your end goal is to get clean. Unfortunately, both types of soap come with their own set of issues post-wash. A bar of soap is left out in your shower as compared to a body wash that stays in its container, and the exposed bar can collect bacteria in the shower's humid, wet environment, according to BirchBox. But that same bacteria can collect on a loofah used with body wash, so it's important to wash your loofah frequently. With these things in mind, hopefully you can make the best body wash decision for yourself.