Bar Soap Vs. Liquid Body Wash: Which Is Actually Better?

When it comes to keeping ourselves clean, many of us reach for our favorite soaps — whether in a liquid form or a bar. However, liquid body wash seems to be predominantly popular in the U.S., with the product outselling its counterparts by 71% in 2021. In comparison, bar soap trails much, much farther behind. While there is quite a considerable difference between the two, millions of units are still sold year after year, with the product arguably being a modern staple in people's hygiene routines. For many individuals, liquid soap may feel easier and more convenient — simply disperse it into your hands and scrub away. 

On the other hand, many people still prefer bar soap, which could boil down to an overall general preference (alongside other reasons). Some people even use a combination of both soaps. While it is clear which is more popular, which product is actually better?

Bar soap produces less waste

From an environmental perspective, bar soaps produce much less waste than their liquid counterparts. More often than not, bar soaps come in minimalistic packaging and are usually wrapped in paper-like or recycled materials. As a result, soaps produce a minimal amount of waste that is easy to recycle.

On the other hand, liquid body wash is not so environmentally friendly, with packaging usually defaulting to a plastic bottle. While it is possible, plastic is notoriously hard to recycle, and most of it actually ends up in landfill or being burned. Both of these processes pose substantial harm to the environment. For starters, burning plastic releases toxic gases such as volatile organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, dioxins, and furans, among others, all of which pose a threat to the health of humans and wildlife. In addition, it can take up to 450 years for plastic to decompose at a landfill — a staggering amount of time considering 85% of the plastic that we throw away ends up there (via World Economic Forum).

In this case, bar soap is the better option by a substantial amount, posing minimal risk to the environment when compared to liquid body soap. However, another environmental area where bar soap outranks liquid is the impact of its carbon footprint.

They have different moisturizing capabilities

In regard to how they react with the skin, both liquid and bar soaps can interact quite differently. For starters, liquid body wash tends to have stronger moisturizing properties, whereas bar soap can dry out the skin, which may lead to skin irritation. Speaking to Consumer Reports, dermatology resident Nicole Negbenebor M.D. explains that the higher pH levels of the soap bar cause the drying effect of the skin. The body wash doesn't cause this effect because it has a lower pH.

However, you can still find bars of soap that have moisturizing properties, just make sure to avoid the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, as well as any added fragrances. Instead, look for soap bars containing glycerin, plant oils, and hyaluronic acid (via Healthline). Some of the ingredients mentioned are what help to give liquid body soap its moisturizing qualities, making it an excellent option for individuals with dry or sensitive skin. Therefore, in terms of moisturizing properties, liquid soap is certainly more beneficial for those who struggle with dry skin.

On the other hand, both soaps are equally as effective when it comes to cleaning power, but the bar version may be less likely to contain potentially harmful chemical ingredients such as parabens and other preservatives. 

Bar soap usually works out cheaper

If you want to save a buck or two, bar soap could help you to save on cost, reports Chief Medical Officer for WebMD, John Whyte, M.D. (via Insider). This is because bar soaps contain fewer ingredients, some of which may be cheaper. The minimalistic packaging of bar soap likely also contributes to its more affordable cost.

When it falls down to which is better, that entirely depends on what you want out of it. If you aren't overly concerned about moisturizing, want to save some money, and stop plastic waste from entering the environment, bar soap is better. If you want something more moisturizing, body wash will be better for this case. However, when it comes to ingredients, both soaps can contain questionable ingredients such as sulfates and parabens. If that is something of concern, then it's best to find the soap of your choice that eliminates any ingredients you may not be comfortable with.