Body Wash vs. Soap — What’s the Difference, Anyway?

They both get you clean, but the story doesn’t end there.


A bar of soap and a bottle of body wash: They both get your clean, right? Of course! But they also have several big differences that you should be aware of before you next hop in the shower.

Both soap and body wash clean your body because they’re made up of molecules that bind to water and the grime on your skin, which allows the dirt, sweat, germs and so forth to be blasted off your skin when you step back under the showerhead and rinse it off. But the similarities stop there.

Some bar soaps have exfoliating properties, but these exfoliating agents are rarely ground fine enough to be truly effective. And while body wash on its own won’t provide exfoliation, it’s meant to be scrubbed over your body with a loofah or washrag, which is far more thorough than a bar that will rarely be in contact with the entire surface area of your skin. Bar soap has the benefit of being less likely to retain bacteria than a loofah or washrag, but it’s easy enough to thoroughly wash those tools to keep them clean.

The biggest advantage body wash normally has over its competitor is that it’s more likely to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized as it cleans, which keeps your skin looking healthy. It’s an extra boon for people with dry skin, especially during the winter, when the lack of moisture in the air dries out everyone’s skin more than usual (not that a body wash should take the place of your regular skincare regimen, but it’s an excellent addition to it).

That said, a good soap — like our Body Bar, just sayin’ — will also have ingredients like shea butter that help hydrate your skin. It’s almost like we can’t steer you wrong!