Is bar soap or body wash right for you?
What you put on the skin, your body’s largest organ, can affect other functions of your mind and body. It’s vital to be mindful with our product choices, especially those we use every day!
Negative associations have hovered over bar soap since the rise of body wash— but are they warranted? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of both cleansers and explore details you may not have considered!
Let’s start with the bars themselves, which contain minimal water. This is beneficial for preserving our environment and protecting the billions of people affected by water shortages.
Bar soap packaging is environmentally friendly, too, containing far less plastic than body wash containers. While the bars are sometimes wrapped in plastic, the boxes are cardboard. This makes them easier to recycle and produce using recycled materials.
Redoux packages its bar soaps in sustainably sourced, 100% recyclable paper packaging. Some natural bar soaps (found at natural grocers or farmer’s markets) are often sold in bamboo or other biodegradable/reusable bags, omitting the need for plastic AND paper.
Pro: simpler ingredients
Historically, all that was needed for “soap” was a mix of lye and oil (more commonly animal fat, outside of the United States). Over time this has progressed to include add-ins like more skin nourishing oils (such as shea, castor, and mango butter), clays, extracts, and essential oils additional benefits. That being said, be sure to check ingredient labels carefully and research anything that’s unfamiliar to you!
Bar soaps carried by general merchandisers (Target, Walmart, etc.) may contain synthetic fragrances, detergents, and other chemicals that lengthen ingredient lists and put your skin at risk for dryness.
Soap itself isn’t what causes dry skin, but rather the specific brands/ingredients you choose to take home. Most handmade or natural bars of soap just contain a base of oils and different additives based on skin concern, such as the turmeric and rose clay in Redoux’s Turmeric Botanical Bar ($16).
Con: requires more upkeep
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding bar soap is that it breeds bacteria. While this can happen, it depends entirely on how you store your soap. A shallow dish with nowhere for the pool of water and residue to go will breed bacteria every time. A raised soap dish that provides space for excess soap and water to land will minimize this risk. If you are looking for ways to better maintain your bar soap, we put together a helpful guide for you :) .
You may have to do more research to find the right bar of soap for any skin concerns you have, versus being able to quickly pick up a creamy body wash marketed for skin hydration. We recommend avoiding sulfates and artificial fragrances no matter what type of cleanser you choose.
Pro: less upkeep
You can drop your body wash without impending fear that it just got covered in shower grime, this is true. You can also use it without ever touching the rest of the soap, which is more hygienic than a moist soap dish. It doesn’t require an extra case to travel with, and the options to choose from seem endless.
Whether the convenience of body wash outweighs its cons (or the pros of bar soap) is entirely up to you.
Many body washes were formulated with the intention of being gentler and more moisturizing. While bar soap can meet these claims, too, liquid formulas commonly support emollients-- which can fill cracks in the skin and make it feel plump and hydrated. They can even replenish your skin barrier, but beware of stripping chemicals.
If you suffer from dryness or sensitive skin, make sure that no matter which cleansing route you take, the ingredients are providing lasting benefits-- not just enhancing the appearance of your skin during/immediately after the shower.
While it’s feasible to repurpose a liquor bottle or the vase from a bouquet of flowers, most people are less inclined to reuse the plastic bottle their body wash or shampoo comes in. Since plastic is made from a wide range of synthetic and semi-synthetic materials, there is usually no way to recycle these bottles post-consumption.
Not only are single-use plastics harmful to the environment, they can also be toxic to humans.
Con: (sometimes) more synthetic ingredients
Long story short, body washes include more synthetic ingredients than bar soap because they’re water-based. Water requires preservatives to ensure it doesn’t become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Since body wash is a detergent (aka synthetic surfactant), and not a soap by legal definition, they are made at least in part from nonrenewable petrochemicals. Essentially, these ingredients are harmful to the environment. Researchers caution against assuming all plastics are safe until proven otherwise-- not only in your body wash but in other products, too!
Natural liquid soaps, such as pure castille soap, guarantee that you’re using an ecological, simple soap. This is a great option if you don’t like the maintenance of bar soap but like the convenience of a liquid body wash. Make sure you know the dilutions for different cleansing purposes, though, because pure castille soap is heavily concentrated.
Navigating unpronounceable ingredient names and flashy marketing to figure out what’s best for you is a journey, we know. We hope we were able to relieve some of that pressure for you. Let us know, what do you prefer--Liquid or Bar?