The Difference Between Shower Gel and Body Wash

Jenna Jolls

While soap bars are distinguished easily, body wash and shower gel often confuse people. Thankfully, this article is here to help. Today we're going to look at the difference between shower gel and body wash, and learn more about which product is ideal for our skin types.

With the growing concerns regarding health and sanitation, one of our current goals is to keep our bodies clean and free from any dirt, bacteria, and viruses. Perhaps, because of this, we have cleaned and sanitized our hands much more often than before. Others might even have doubled the times they go to the shower just to make sure they are clean and safe to bond with their families. Some of us may have tried various products just to maintain good hygiene.

But, have we ever wondered whether we compromise our skin with all the various products that we use? Or wondered what our products are truly doing to our skin?

During showers, some use body soaps, some might be using body wash, and others shower gel. But are we using the right product for our skin type? What products work best for dry skin, oily skin, acne prone skin, or sensitive skin? Is there really a difference? Let’s find out!

How Does Body Wash and Shower Gel Differ from Soap?

Before we dive into the differences between body wash and shower gel, let’s look at how these products differ from soap.

  1. Appearance - The most apparent difference is that soaps are solid, while body wash and shower gel are in liquid form. Since soaps are solid, it is usually exposed to the open air once used. On the contrary, body wash and shower gels are stored in containers because of their liquid forms, making soap a little less hygienic than body washes and shower gels.
  2. Contents - Soaps are made through a process called saponification. In this process, fats and oils mix with an aqueous alkali such as lye. Unlike soap, body washes and shower gels do not contain saponified oil. Instead, synthetic detergents are used as surfactants.
  3. Effect on Skin pH - Normal skin pH is around 4.5 to 6.5. A lower pH value, closer to that of healthy skin, is ideal to prevent moisture loss. Soap bars have pH ranging from 9 to 10. A very high pH can cause your skin to dry out. Conversely, most shower gels and body washes are formulated in such a way that they maintain a balance in skin acidity.

Similarities of Shower Gel and Body Wash

Both body wash and shower gels have the same purpose: to cleanse. These cleansing products remove excess oils from your skin but still work to keep it moisturized. Shower gel and body wash also share the following traits:

  1. State - Shower gels and body washes are similar in a lot of ways. Both skin products come in liquid form. However, shower gels have a more gel-like consistency than that of a body wash.
  2. Contents - Shower gels and body washes also have similar ingredients. Both primarily consist of water, which acts as the solvent for the other ingredients. Another main ingredient is a detergent-base chemical. It acts as a mild surfactant to perform the cleaning and removal of grease and oil. A secondary surfactant can be added to create the foamy lather users love so much.
    An emulsifier is also added to ensure that all ingredients are mixed up. Other substances such as fragrances and preservatives may be added to give it a pleasant smell and to make it last longer.
    Body washes and shower gels may also include humectants and emollients. Humectants can bond with water molecules and help increase the moisture content of the skin. Many skin products use glycerin as the most common humectant. Other humectants are salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid.
    Emollients, on the other hand, are moisturizers. Both shower gel and body wash contain emollients as well. Moisturizing ingredients help to soften and smoothen skin without adding any moisture. Oil-based emollients are great for people with dry skin, while water-based emollients for those with normal or oily skin.
    According to a study in 2016, finding the right moisturizer is a trial and error on your part. Hence, you need to make sure that the ingredients in a shower gel and body wash also suit your skin.
    Some shower gels or body washes have exfoliating properties due to the microbeads added to them. However, these tiny particles can cause skin abrasions and make skin drier, so they are not recommended to those with delicate skin.

Difference Between Shower Gel and Body Wash

The difference between shower gel and body wash helps you distinguish one from the other. Their differences also teach you what product works best for specific uses.

  1. Consistency - The most apparent difference between shower gel and body wash is the consistency. Shower gels, as the name suggests, are firmer and appear as a gel-like liquid. Meanwhile, body washes are less viscous and more flowing.
  2. Moisturizing Abilities - A body wash tends to be more moisturizing and hydrating. This means that a moisturizing body wash can help keep more moisture on your skin and is useful in harsher and colder weather. Alternatively, a shower gel tends to be less moisturizing and perfect for those who are living in hot, humid climates with naturally oily skin.
  3. Fragrance - Shower gels tend to have more fragrances than a body wash. This makes using shower gels more pleasing to the senses. Scents can be added as essential oils or plant-based oils.

Different Types of Skin Types

Now that we know the difference between shower gel and body wash, we can determine which products are best for your skin type specifically.  Before using any product, you must know your skin type first. This will help you avoid products that can further harm your skin.

Skin types are classified as normal, dry, oily, and combination.

Normal skin is neither dry nor oily. However, there may be regions that are a bit oily, especially at the T-zone (forehead, chin, and nose). Normal skin has fine pores and is soft.

Dry skin produces less sebum than normal skin. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance. You can think of it as the body’s natural oil. It protects your skin from moisture loss. Due to less sebum production, dry skin retains less moisture. Thus, it has less protection from external elements such as dust and pollution. This type of skin is usually rough and tight.

Oily skin, on the other hand, produces more sebum. People with this type of skin may have enlarged and visible pores. They are also more prone to acne breakouts.

Combination skin is a combination of normal, oily, and dry. The T-zone is typically oily compared to other regions of the face.

There are a lot of simple methods to determine which skin type you have. One of the easiest is the blotting-sheet method. Just gently pat a blotting sheet to your face. If there is little to minimal oil visible, you likely have dry skin. When the sheet has noticeable oil on the T-zone, you have a normal or combination type of skin. Once the blotting sheet is significantly saturated with oil, then you must have oily skin.

Which One Should I Use for My Skin Type?

The difference between shower gel and body wash may not be that big, but it is helpful to know that one may be better for a certain skin type than the other.

A body wash is perfect for people with dry skin since they are more moisturizing and hydrating. A product that uses a lot of fragrances will be harmful to those who have dry skin. Since shower gels contain more scent than body wash, people with dry skin should not use this product.

In addition, people with dry skin should avoid products that use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as a surfactant since it strips more of your skin’s natural oils.

Shower gels, on the other hand, are more suitable for those with oily skin since it retains less moisture but does not strip away all your natural body oil.

How to Apply Body Wash and Shower Gels
  1. Hands - The easiest way to apply body wash or shower gel is through your hands. Just put a small amount on your palm, rub your palms together, lather up a bit, and apply to the rest of your body.
  2. Loofah - Another way of applying a body wash or shower gel is by using a loofah. Simply pour a small amount on the sponge, squeeze it a bit and apply to the rest of your body. The slightly rough texture of the loofah gives an exfoliating effect to your skin. It further helps remove dead skin cells from the surface of your body.
  3. Washcloth - If a loofah is not available, then a soft washcloth can be considered. Put a generous amount of the body wash or shower gel on the cloth, rub it against itself until bubbles or suds are formed. Then, rub it on your body. Same as a loofah, a washcloth can give exfoliating effects to your skin.
    In using a washcloth or loofah, do not rub your skin too much as it will irritate or further dry your skin. You need to observe proper exfoliation techniques so that you can exfoliate safely.


We have unique inherent qualities. Our different skin types prove just how different we are from each other. Thus, it comes without saying that we also have different needs for our skincare regimen. It is important to know the kind of products we are using for our skin.

Although we keep our bodies clean by practicing good hygiene, we might be harming our skin by using incompatible products. Using the right products keeps our skin healthy and prevents us from having any skin problems. Hence, knowing the difference between shower gel and body wash is essential so that we can choose the appropriate product to include in our skincare arsenal.

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