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2 Times It's Better to Use Body Wash Over Bar Soap—and 3 Times It Isn't

You think taking a Shower & Bath would be a rather straightforward task. After all, all you need to do is hop under the toasty water, grab a little cleanser, and scrub the day away. But hold on a second—the cleanser you are using might not be the ideal one for your skin.

Sorry to burst everyone's soap bubbles, but there is, in fact, a difference between soaps, body washes, and shower gels, and that difference matters, depending on your skin type and even where you live. To figure out the best product to wash your body with, we asked Ilyse Lefkowicz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in general and cosmetic dermatology, and the global dermatologist for Head and Shoulders, for all the answers.

What is the difference between bar soap and body wash?

"The main difference between a bar cleanser and body wash is the form they come in and how they interact with skin," says Dr. Lefkowicz (she prefers to use the word "bar" instead of "Soaps," since people often associate the latter with something too harsh). "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."

For people with normal to dry skin, or people looking for milder product formulas, Dr. Lefkowicz says body wash is best. For people with oily skin types, living somewhere hot and humid, or people just looking for a very deep wash—like after a workout—she recommends using a bar as a quick and easy way to get clean.

Dr. Lefkowicz also finds body washes to be slightly more hygienic than Bath Bars. That's because bacteria can live on bars and remain on there from shower to shower and person to person. "To avoid bacteria buildup, always rinse it between use and allow to drain and dry completely," Dr. Lefkowicz adds. "With a body wash, it is easier to avoid bacteria buildup since it doesn't touch skin while in the bottle."

What is the difference between shower gel and body wash?

They are similar, but not identical. Both are liquid cleansers, typically made with emollients to soften the skin and mild surfactants that create a rich, foamy lather. The main difference is in their consistencies and concentration of ingredients. “Shower gel has a firmer, gel-like consistency, and typically has a higher concentration of fragrance," Dr. Lefkowicz says. "Body washes tend to be more hydrating and moisturizing, which makes it more useful in harsher, colder weather to help avoid stripping moisture away from the skin, which can open it up to damage."

According to Dr. Lefkowicz, Shower Gel & Bath Jellys are an excellent choice for people living in particularly hot, humid climates or with naturally oily skin. "Because shower gel is less moisturizing than body wash, it's better for those living in warmer climates or for people with oily skin," she says.

There are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) products available to help keep your skin smooth. Be sure to use Skin Care products that are right for your skin type for the best results.

Skin exfoliators. Scrubs can help slough away dead skin cells that can build up on your skin, causing it to feel rough and look uneven. To exfoliate safely, apply the scrub in a slow circular motion using very light pressure, and only exfoliate once a week.

Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). AHAs are plant and animal acids used in skincare products. They exfoliate, promote collagen and blood flow, and improve the appearance of wrinkles for Face Care. They are also used to treat acne and skin discoloration.

Moisturizers. Moisturizer Body Care adds an extra layer of protection to your skin and helps it stay hydrated. Choosing a facial moisturizer and applying it daily can help to keep skin smooth. Do not forget to apply a moisturizing body lotion to help keep the rest of your skin smooth.

Dry brushing. Dry brushing involves using a natural, stiff-bristled brush to exfoliate the skin. Use the brush on dry skin, and brush in long fluid strokes on your limbs, and in a circular motion on your back and torso.

Mild, gentle cleansers. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends washing your face with a gentle, non-abrasive, alcohol-free cleanser in the morning and before bed, as well as after sweating.

This is the season to Gift Set and glow. Lucky for you and your loved ones, we've curated an extra-special list of skin-care gift sets for the 2021 holiday season that cover both bases excellently. No matter who is on your list — or what their skin concerns may be — brightening, firming, hydrating, and blemish-busting kits are all accounted for.

  • Created: 25-11-21
  • Last Login: 25-11-21

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