Advertisement
We independently evaluate the products we review. When you buy via links on our site, we may receive compensation. Read more about how we vet products and deals.

Is it better to shower with body wash or bar soap? We spoke to a dermatologist to find out

woman using body wash
Bar soap or body wash? What products you use in the shower matter. (Getty)

Are you dealing with a bout of dry skin? We won't tell. But if you're it chalking up to the changing seasons, you may want to take a closer look at the products in your shower. It's a basic question, but what are you lathering up with? And have you ever thought about whether it's better to use body wash or bar soap?

There are tons of options on the market, so you probably gravitate toward what you know and love. Still, to better understand the difference between bar soap and body wash, we reached out to Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. She explained that the difference mainly comes down to formulas, as you'll get clean either way. "Both are effective for cleansing the skin of dead skin cells, dirt, debris and other impurities."

That means you're fine whatever you choose, right? Maybe not. "Body washes have a creamy or gel-like texture and contain added chemical preservatives and moisturizers to inhibit microbial growth and promote hydration," Green said. "In contrast, bar soaps contain minimal ingredients, typically only the essential active ingredients in pure concentrations, and are more likely to strip the skin of its natural oils."

Ultimately, that means that you should let your skin type guide your choice, she said. "Bar soaps are recommended for individuals with oily or combination skin, as these individuals are less likely to experience irritation or dryness after usage. Body wash is well suited for individuals with dry or sensitive skin, as foaming or gel cleansers are packed with hydrating ingredients designed to promote moisture retention. Additionally, many body washes contain soothing ingredients to alleviate irritation in individuals with sensitive skin."

Body wash vs. bar soap: The simple answer

So here's your new cheat sheet: If you have oily or combination skin, try a gentle bar soap. Dry skin? Stick to a hydrating body wash. Regardless of what you choose, it's still "important to look at the ingredients in [each product's] formulation to ensure that they are suited for your skin type and concerns," Green said.

Keep scrolling to shop top-rated body washes and bar soaps that can help you wash more effectively, no matter your skin type.

If you have dry, sensitive skin, this gentle, fragrance-free body wash from Aveeno is worth a try. Made with a blend of oat flour, oat extract and oat oil, it should leave you feeling moisturized. One five-star reviewer wrote, "I have personally noticed I am not using as much lotion after my shower because I towel off and already feel less dry. I highly recommend trying this if you have dry, itchy skin."

$13 at Walmart
Explore More Buying Options
$13 at Amazon$13 at Target

This plant-based body wash is infused with several floral scents — it contains peony, rose water and pink sea salt. It's also made without any parabens or phthalates and is cruelty-free. One fan shared: "I have been buying different body washes to try and this one has been my favorite, it smells very fresh and not overwhelming. It lathers very well and makes your skin very soft."

$11 at Walmart
Explore More Buying Options
$11 at Amazon$11 at Target

Want to treat yourself? This high-end body wash from Salt & Stone is suitable for all skin types, and it won't leave you with that dry, tight feeling. Ingredients include niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, both of which are often found in pricey moisturizers. Oh, and it smells like high-end perfume. "I've been searching for a body cleanser that is light, moisturizing, yet smells wonderful without being overpowering, and Salt & Stone has checked all the boxes," one customer raved.

$36 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$36 at Sephora$36 at Nordstrom

Dove soap is a classic for a reason. Wallet-friendly and gentle, it's packed with nourishing ingredients. Plus, this bar soap has earned more than 25,000 five-star ratings. One pleased customer wrote, "I have been a fan of Dove soap for many years. I especially like the fragrance of the product and it leaves my skin soft after use ... I have rosacea and Dove soap never irritates my skin."

$4 at Amazon

CeraVe's cleansing bar is soap-free and contains extra moisturizing cream to help lock in hydration, making it a good pick for folks with dry skin who still want to use a bar soap. Plus, it's suitable for both your body and face. A five-star fan shared, "This has been really great for my skin. It helps with the dryness and sensitivity and just gives me a good clean without leaving residue."

$8 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$8 at CVS Pharmacy$9 at Walgreens

Lume's triple-milled bar soap promises to last a long time and lather up quickly. It's super-gentle, and this subtle lavender formula is our favorite. "As we age we gain a smell that seems to never go away with regular soap," a reviewer said. "This soap takes that smell away and when you smell it again it’s a wonderful indicator to get another shower to apply the soap barrier again."

$10 at Amazon