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Using Hand Soaps as Body Wash(What Is the Difference?)

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One of the most common cleaning agents we use to scrub our bodies is body wash. But there are other worthy alternatives, one of which is hand soap.

That brings us to the question of its fitness for body cleaning. And this is what this article is delving into. Join us as we dive deeper to understand the difference between the two cleaning agents.

You will learn their advantages and disadvantages, the manufacturing process, other types of body cleaning alternatives, and more.

The main difference between hand soap, and body wash, is in the ingredients and manufacturing process. Soaps are manufactured through saponification and contain fewer surfactants, while body wash contains surfactants, moisturizers, and other additives. Other differences are their cleaning power, packaging, pricing, versatility, and eco-friendliness, among others.

Is Hand Soap the Same as Handwash?

First, before we proceed, it is essential to understand these two terms. Most people confuse hand soap with hand wash. While the two do the same thing, which is to wash hands, they are technically different. 

Hand soap is a product of saponification that we will explore further below. On the other hand, handwash is a synthetic product from an inorganic agent or technically a detergent.

Differentiating Between Hand Soap and the Body Wash

In general, these cleaning agents serve the same purpose of removing dirt from the body. But exploring deeper, we find some differences, which we are explaining below.

Manufacturing Process

Hand soaps are manufactured through saponification. This is a technical term referring to the process where sodium and potassium hydroxide are reacted with triglycerides, resulting in glycerol and lipid salts, also known as “soap.”

Soaps ingredients are composed of organic ingredients, mainly plant-based oils such as coconut and vegetable palm oil, among others. In contrast, body wash is basically a form of detergent. All detergents are compositions resulting from inorganic chemicals and other additives.

Cleaning Power 

Body Wash contains surfactants, short for Surface Acting Agents, which boost their cleaning power. Surfactant is responsible for softening water, making it lather and become more effective as a cleaning agent. 

They do this by reducing the water surface tension making water more available for cleaning. What happens is a surfactant in body wash clings to the dirt molecules and “pulls” it away from them to allow the water molecules to clear it away.

That contrast with soap which reacts with and is bound by the dirt molecules instead of breaking them. The reaction that happens in hard water results from Mg and Ca ions which bind with soap reducing its cleaning power by forming soap scum.


Mostly soap will perform best in warm water, unlike body wash which can perform in both cold and warm water.


When it comes to gentleness on the skin, soaps are considered harsher than body wash which is due to their higher pH level. At an average of 9-10, the pH of most soaps is higher than the average 6-7 of the skin pH. 

This makes the pH of the body wash, at 4-5.5 places closer to that of the skin, accounting for its mildness. Furthermore, body wash contains other additives meant to lather the water and soothe and cleanse your skin. 

These include moisturizers and skin nourishers such as shea butter, coconut oils, cocoa butter, and vitamin E.

Allergic Reactions

Related to pH is the allergic reaction associated with hand soaps. Mainly due to the harsher pH levels, most people prone to allergic attacks might have trouble adjusting to this soap. That explains why people with eczema and psoriasis opt to body wash when compared to soaps. 


When it comes to environmental friendliness, hand soaps have a bigger edge over body washes. Since soaps are made of organic natural oils, they are considered ‘greener’ than body wash due to their inorganic composition. 

These chemicals include petrochemicals, preservatives, and phthalates, among others. This is supported by the Environmental Working Group, which places soap as having a higher rating among cleaning agents with lower adverse effects on the environment.

Can You Use Hand Soap as a Body Wash?

From the analysis above, there are lots more similarities between hand soaps and body wash than differences. The bottom line is as cleaning agents, the basic work is to cleanse the skin of dirt, dead skin, and other body secretions. 

Other differences arise from enhancements and additives. But these make all the difference highlighting body wash as a better preference to hand soap.

Other Skin Cleaning Options

Closely related to body wash and hand soaps are other types of body cleaning agents for varied purposes. Let us take a look.


In general, shampoos and body washes are closely related as they contain surfactants. But both have marked differences in their composition, accounting for their different uses.

Shampoos are designed to smoothen the hair while the body washes clear oils and dirt. And on the mildness to the skin, shampoos are more acidic, making them slippery and harsher to the skin.

Shower Gels

Body washes and shower gels are the same in composition save for a few differences in their composition. Both contain ingredients for removing dirt and oils and have moisturizing properties, among others, except for their texture. 

While body washes are more fluid, shower gels are thicker and more consistent in their flow. But overall, both can be used for the same purpose, which is skin cleaning.

Body Scrub

These are mechanical abrasives to clear the skin off the debris of dead body tissues. These body scrubs are manufactured with substances such as sugar and salt to boost their cleaning power.

This results in the growth of more smooth and glowing skin.

Charcoal Soap

Charcoal soap is made with embedded soap to increase its skin abrasion effect. This one is especially great with acne and oily skin as it clears oils and dead skin, reducing infection and acne breakouts. In general, charcoal soaps are marketed as medicated soap and are more expensive than a few other soaps.

Shower Foam

These skin cleaning agents are already formulated as foamed, so you don’t have to work it up into a lather. All you have to do is pump it straight from the container. Due to its unique formulation and packaging, it may appear as a plaything, which is great for encouraging shower time for children. 

That is not to underrate the cleaning power of shower foams. Shower foams are quite effective in penetrating deeper and releasing dirt than most other skin cleaning agents.

Traditional Soaps

Like the hand soaps, traditional soaps are also made from the process of saponification we explained above. Let us take a look at the types of traditional soaps.

True Traditional Soaps

These form the true definition of saponification. No synthetic chemicals are other than the traditionally used ingredients such as oils, alkalis, and water.

Superfatted soaps

As the name suggests, these are soaps with a higher level of oils than the other soaps. They are formulated to boost their moisturizing and skin-soothing abilities.

Transparent Soaps

These are so-called for their translucent appearance. They are manufactured with glycerin making them milder to the skin and more moisturizing compared to other traditional soaps. This is due to additive oils such as jojoba and shea butter.

Combination Bars

Combination bars are soaps made from a cocktail of different soap types, with an aim of blending the different benefits associated with other types of soaps. The combination boosts their cleaning power while making them more soothing to the skin.

Factors to Consider in Choosing a Body Wash

Skin Type

People have different skin types, with some having oily skins, dry, sensitive, normal, allergic, or a combination of the above. It is up to you to know your skin type to match it with the right body wash. 

For those with skin problems such as eczema, or psoriasis, you would want to check the ingredients to avoid skin-reacting additives such as retinoids, lanolin, and ethanol, among others.


Price is critical for any product. Since brands price their products differently, it is not uncommon to see the same quality soaps having different prices. That is why it is always crucial to shop around for the best value body wash for your money.

Effects on the Skin

Some body washes are designed to thoroughly clean your skin. That includes sweat, natural oils, germs, and flaked skins, among others. Once the natural oils are removed, the skin is stripped of its protection from elements, which causes flaking and cracking. 

To restore the protection, it is prudent to use a body wash with moisturizing features. This is especially critical for people with oily skins to avoid cracking and exfoliating problems.

Check the Ingredients

Great body wash should have skin hydrating and nourishing ingredients. A common example is vitamin E, for moisturizing, cocoa shea butter, and coconut oil to smoothen the skin. 

Other critical ingredients are aloe vera and sweet almond oil for protection against germs, sunburns, and skin pH leveling. In contrast, you should avoid body washes with chemicals such as triclosan, sodium Laureth, and propylene glycol, among others.

Lifestyle Compatibility

A good body wash should complement your lifestyle. For example, if you’re a swimmer, you want a body wash that cleanses your body off swimming disinfectants, essentially chlorine. In addition, it should have natural fragrances to expunge the swimming pool water smells from your skin. 

For sportspeople, body washes with muscle-soothing essential oils such as eucalyptus and chamomile oil will be more helpful.

Generally, depending on your occupation and lifestyle, you should know whether your skin is exposed to conditions that are harsh to your skin and, if so, what protective ingredients you need in your body wash.

Avoid Synthetic Scents

While some washes contain nice-smelling fragrances, not all of them are good for your skin health. Most of them are synthetic scents from the use of chemicals that will react with your skin. Such reactions cause dry skin, rashes, and itches, among others.

To be sure, check the ingredient label to ascertain that the body wash contains only natural scents.

Go For Certified Body Washes

All body washes should be certified for safe use by the FDA. To pass this certification, the manufacturers go through a rigorous manufacturing process, ruling out the use of harmful chemicals. 

Some of the banned chemicals include fluorosalan, clorflucaban, and iodine complex, among others. The chemicals have been attributed to contact dermatitis and other skin reaction problems. So, to be safe, go for body washes with regulatory agencies’ marks of approval.

Next, you can check out my guide on using soap for washing clothes, or learn if you can use shaving cream for cleaning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is the Best Way to Apply Body Wash and Scrub?

There is no formula for applying body wash. All you have to do is to squeeze a sufficient amount of body wash in your hands or wash clothes and get scrubbing.

Also, how you scrub depends on your skin sensitivity and the type of scrubbing material. With the many types of wash materials available, you can only get spoilt for choice. From light netting and sponges, among others, you can take your pick.

Can I wash my face with hand soap or body wash?

It is not advisable to wash your face with hand soap or body wash. This is because their pH is much higher than facial pH.

This leads to drying out or itchiness and can also cause other issues such as break out of acne. Instead, you should use facial soaps which are specifically formulated with the ideal pH required for your face.

Can Hand Soap Cause an Allergic Reaction?

Hand soap only cannot cause skin allergic reactions. Most soaps naturally are made without any synthetic chemicals, which may trigger allergic reactions.

That is not to say you cannot develop reactions if you have prior sensitivity to soap-related allergens. 

This is because some manufacturers may cut corners and include some irritating ingredients in violations of the regulatory requirements. Be sure to always read through the ingredient label to rule out any allergens you’re sensitive to.


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