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  5. Shower Gel, Body Wash Or Bar Soap: Which Is Best For Your Skin?

You take a shower everyday. But, do you use the right body cleanser for your skin type? From soap to body wash and shower gel, the market has multiple options for bathing our bodies, each with their own benefits. So, how do you choose?

Well, there are some major differences between bar soaps, body washes and shower gels. Let's understand which one is best for your skin, so you can streamline your choice!

What Is Shower Gel, Body Wash And Bar Soap?

1. Shower Gel

Shower gels are liquid body cleansers that contain synthetic detergents derived from either petroleum or plant sources. Shower gels usually have a silky feel on your skin, but can feel harsh and tight on dry skin. For that, you can use shower cream as it has a slick, lotion-like texture and better penetration.

2. Body Wash

Body washes are liquid cleansers, with a pH between 6 and 7, typically formulated to be more gentle and hydrating than shower gels. It works with the same cleansing mechanism to get dirt, excess oil and sweat off your skin, but often contains a mixture of ingredients to help treat common skin conditions.

If you are someone with dry or sensitive skin, you can safely use body wash. It will also help you control skin concerns such as clogged pores and flaking.

3. Bar Soap

Bar soaps are solid cleansing agents made from the salts of vegetable or animal fats. They help to remove dirt, sweat, sebum, and oils from your skin. They do so with the use of surfactants (chemical agents that surround dirt and oil), dissolving them and making it easier for water to wash them away.

As sweat and dirt mix with your body’s natural oils, it can settle on your skin and breed bacteria. Bar soaps break this oily layer apart and lift pathogens away from your skin. However, there are certain soaps that tend to wreck your skin by changing its pH and stripping away vital oils. Opt for soaps that are less harsh and don't dehydrate your skin.

Did You Know?

Our skin’s pH is around 5.5, which is slightly acidic, but most conventional soaps have a much higher pH - around 9-10, and sometimes as high as 11.

Understanding The Differences Between Shower Gel, Body Wash And Bar Soap

Here we break down the difference between these everyday shower products on the basis of certain characteristics:

1. Texture

Shower gels are firm and have thicker jelly-like consistency. They contain a thickening polymer, which increases its viscosity.

Bar soaps are solid blocks available in different attractive shapes, colors, and designs. While body washes have thinner consistency and come with creamy or lotion type texture.

2. Fragrance

Shower gels have long-lasting fragrances with a higher concentration of ingredients that are pleasing to the senses. But, body washes have mild fragrances.

Bar soaps, on the other hand, contain far more fragrance than body wash and shower gel. Their fragrances are meant to last. They can be unscented or contain essential oils or synthetic fragrance.

3. Ingredients

Shower gels are usually formulated with surfactants, water, preservatives, fragrance, emulsifiers and detergent. Water forms the consistency, surfactants form the lather, and humectants add moisturising properties to shower gels. Preservatives help shower gels with longer shelf life.

Body washes typically contain surfactants,emulsifiers,humectants,vitamin E,essential oils, and natural extracts.

Bar soaps are made with oils, fats and an alkaline solution through a process called saponification. They contain sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, sodium palmate and similar ingredients. These are the results of reacting solid fats (tallow, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil respectively) with lye (caustic soda). Fatty acids such as coconut acid and palm acid (the fats in coconut oil and palm kernel oil) are then added to these ingredients.

In bar soaps, sodium hydroxide is used as lye while in liquid soaps, it is potassium hydroxide. The oil and lye are heated together to formulate soap.

4. Purpose

Be it bar soaps, body washes or shower gels - all three are meant to cleanse your body. But, while choosing the right one for your skin, be mindful of the weather conditions and your skin type.

Shower gels are formulated to be pH-balanced and contain gentle and calming properties. They also contain exfoliating properties and can effectively wash away the dead cells from your skin.

Body washes work best to soothe dry skin with their moisturizing properties. Some newer body wash formula comprises a common skin ointment called emulsified petrolatum, which improves dryness while cleansing your skin. [1]

Bar soaps, unless medicated or infused with moisturising ingredients, can dry out your skin. If you use specially formulated soaps made with mild ingredients, they may work. You can also use antibacterial bar soaps to remove body odour and bacteria.

5. Hygiene

Shower gels and body washes don’t have bacteria buildup. Because of the containers, the remaining liquid stays protected from the air and physical contact.

Bar soaps are not a good choice for hygienic use. Studies show that levels of bacteria on used bar soaps are higher than the ones on unused soaps. These germs accumulate on wet surfaces. There are high chances of germs spreading from one person to another. If you use a bar soap, make sure it is only used by you.

6. Suitability

If you have acne, sensitive skin, rosacea [2] or eczema [3], you should be careful about what cleansing product you use for your skin. Whether soap, shower gel or body wash, they should not dry or irritate your skin further.

Avoid soaps, body washes and shower gels that dry your skin. Look for hypoallergenic ones that don't have strong fragrances and will not deplete your skin of its natural oils. Also, mild body washes that moisturise your skin while you bathe are the safest.

Bar soaps are also more suitable for young people - children, teenagers and young adults.

As you get older, moisturising body washes are more suitable for your skin as they keep your skin soft, moisturised and supple for a longer time.

7. Skin Type

For oily skin type, shower gels are great! They are more suitable for oily skin as they wash away excess oil with the help of their clarifying properties. You can use emollient shower gel, which contains skin soothing ingredients like Vitamin E to treat chapped skin conditions.

If you are someone with sensitive skin, you can surely benefit from body washes as they have lower pH level. Body washes usually have essential oils such as lemon, sandalwood or lavender, and moisturising agents such as panthenol (a chemical derived from pantothenic acid) [4], vitamin B 5, and fatty acids that can cleanse without drying out your skin further.

Try using a body wash that contains glycolic acid as it can exfoliate dead skin cells in case you have keratosis pilaris (causes dry, rough patches and tiny bumps) [5].

Bar soaps are quite commonly used. But if you have sensitive skin, avoid using them. They are alkaline in nature compared to your skin’s pH. If you have normal skin, you can try using some mild bar soap. Look for hypoallergenic products, unless your doctor has prescribed medicated soaps for any skin condition.

How To Choose The Skin-Friendly Body Cleansers?

To identify the best body cleanser that suits your skin type, thoroughly review its ingredients. Try and avoid products that contain phthalates [6], sulphates and parabens. If your skin is very sensitive, stay away from products with artificial colours and strong fragrances.

If you are using bar soaps, opt for soaps with high fatty acids like stearic acid [7], lanolin and triglycerides. They form a protective layer on your skin. [8]

Some of the body washes contain vitamin E and other nutrients that are beneficial to your skin. There are also several brands of soaps, body washes and shower gels that are completely eco-friendly. They contain ingredients rich in vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera gel and other collagen stimulating ingredients that are safe and skin-friendly.

Chemical-free handmade soaps are also available these days. Formulated with natural ingredients and fragrances, these soaps can be gentle on your skin and suit your skin’s needs. They also don’t dry out your skin.

Wrapping Up

Your body care routine starts when you step into the shower, which means that deciding what kind of cleanser you lather up with does matter. Each of these body cleansers, be it bar soaps, shower gels or body washes, have their own pros and cons. To narrow down your search for a daily body cleanser, know the in and out of them.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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