Bar Soap vs. Body Wash: What’s The Difference?

Take a peek into any shower, and you’ll probably find a bar of soap or a body wash … or maybe both! 

Both bar soap and body wash are used to clean your body during showers and bathtime. But you might be wondering if there’s a difference between the two … and if so, which soap choice is the best for you. We’ve broken down the differences between bar soaps and body washes so you can determine the best cleansing product for your unique skin needs, plus some of our favorites of each. 

What is bar soap?

Bar soap is simply that…soap in bar form! 

Soap is a surfactant, or a chemical that decreases the surface tension between water and oil. To put it simply, this means that when you apply both soap and water and lather them together, it can help loosen and trap the dirt, bacteria, and oil on your skin into those soap bubbles. Then, they can be washed away when you rinse! 

Pros of bar soap

  • Cost-effective: Soap bars tend to be cheaper and more cost-effective than bottles of body wash, especially since you’re usually also paying for the plastic packaging that body wash comes in. If you decide to buy your bar soap in bulk, even better! 
  • Purer: While this can vary from brand to brand, many bars of soap are made with fewer ingredients and additives than body wash brands, meaning a simpler and purer cleansing experience. 
  • More environmentally friendly: Bar soap usually requires much less packaging than body wash, which often comes in single-use plastic containers. In addition, bar soap doesn’t have additional water in its formula, which ultimately helps conserve another precious and non-renewable resource. 

Cons of bar soap 

  • Potential bacteria growth: Because bars of soap are often used directly on your skin, and since they’re usually stored out in the open, they can sometimes encourage the growth of bacteria. However, this can easily be mitigated by storing your bar of soap correctly after use. Keep it in a cool, dry area and avoid letting it sit in a moist area to discourage bacteria or mold growth. (For an easy and attractive solution that keeps your bar soaps off of the counter and allows for more thorough drying between uses, store your bar soaps with our Bamboo Magnetic Soap Holder. Longer-lasting soaps with less clutter? A win-win!)

What is body wash? 

Similarly, body wash is also made with skin-cleansing ingredients soaps that can break down oil, grime, and bacteria. However, body wash is more often found in liquid form, meaning that water is added to the formula. Many body washes are also formulated with more skin-nourishing ingredients, which means they can target specific skin concerns like dryness and sensitivity. 

Pros of body wash

  • More targeted: Because body washes also include other ingredients, you can easily find a body wash that’s specifically suited for your specific skin needs. For example, if you’re looking for exfoliation in addition to cleanliness, some body washes contain physical exfoliants to help scrub off dead skin cells. Or, if you’re looking for a more nourishing and brightening wash, you can find an antioxidant-rich body wash to counter damaging free radicals from the environment. 
  • More moisturizing: Some brands of bar soap can feel harsh and drying after your shower since they strip away the oils on your skin. In contrast, many body washes often contain moisturizing ingredients called emollients, which can help smooth and moisturize your skin in addition to cleansing it. 

Cons of body wash 

  • Less environmentally friendly: Because body wash is a liquid, it needs to be packaged in individual containers, which often means more single-use plastic consumption. In addition, some of the additives commonly found in body wash, like physical exfoliants, are also microplastics that can ultimately end up polluting the oceans. 

Bottom line: Should I use bar soap or body wash?

Ultimately, it totally depends on your own preferences and skin goals! 

If you like pure products that clean effectively, then you might prefer to use bar soap. 

On the other hand, if you have specific skin issues like dryness that you want to address while you’re cleansing, then body wash may be a better choice. 

Either way, both kinds of soaps do a great job of keeping you clean and fighting bacteria! 

Best-selling bar soaps 

Pacha Soap Co. has a ton of bar soaps to target any skin concerns and scent preferences you might have! Even better, our handcrafted artisanal Bar Soaps are zero waste, which means that you’re supporting a sustainable business every time you hop in the shower or wash your hands.

Some of our best-selling bars include: 

  • Dirty Hippie Bar Soap: This OG Pacha blend is made with an earthy, indulgent blend of patchouli essential oils, nutmeg, and rolled oats for moisture. 
  • Almond Goat’s Milk Bar Soap: With a nutritious blend of farm-fresh goat’s milk and almond oil, this bar is a luxurious and moisturizing cleaning experience. 
  • French Lavender Bar Soap: For some much-needed rest and relaxation every time you step into the shower, the French Lavender bar soap is the perfect soothing choice. 
  • Coconut Lemon Bar Soap: The mouth wateringly-delicious combination of bright lemon and creamy coconut milk makes for a nourishing bar of soap. 
  • Clarifying Charcoal Bar Soap: If deep cleansing is your goal, this clarifying activated charcoal bar soap has you covered. Also featured: bright, clean scents of lemongrass and peppermint essential oils. 
  • Golden Chai Bar Soap: This bar is warm, spicy, fragrant, and comforting all at once, and makes for a thoroughly moisturizing and exfoliating cleansing experience. 
  • Salvaged Suds Mystery Bar Soap: For the ultimate environmentally-friendly experience, this Salvaged Suds pack saves all of the perfectly good soap bars that would otherwise be tossed due to slight variations in color or scent during manufacturing. 
  • Pipe Tobacco & Coffee Bar Soap: Looking for a truly complex and distinguished bar of soap? Try this luxurious combination of tobacco and exfoliating coffee grounds! 

Best body washes 

Prefer to lather up with a hydrating body wash? Pacha Soap Co. Body Wash comes in three clean, indulgent scents that leave you feeling fresh and hydrated after your shower. 


Bar soaps and body washes can both get you nice and clean during your shower, but they have slightly different properties and ingredients that can alter how they feel and what they do for your skin. One thing’s for sure: whether you choose to use a trusty bar soap or lather up with a body wash and a loofah, your skin will thank you. 

Photo by Sarah Chai: