Shower Gel vs Body Wash: Which One is Best for You?

People tend to use the terms body wash and shower gel interchangeably, but they are quite different products. Admittedly, they are both liquid cleaners you use on your body, but what sets them apart?

Not so very long ago, bar soap would have been the cleaning product of choice. However, concerns about bacteria led to a bit of a demise in the popularity of bar soap. More recently, bar soap is enjoying a bit of a come-back, largely due to people’s concerns about the environment and a zero-waste lifestyle.  

In this article, we’ll examine the differences between washes and shower gels. With the right information, you can decide which personal cleaning product is best for you. 

Is There a Difference Between Body Wash and Shower Gel?

Is There a Difference Between Body Wash and Shower Gel?

You might think these are the same but some distinct differences are important to understand. Both products accomplish the same task, much the same as bar soap. In other words, they clean your skin of any dirt, dead skin cells, and sweat. 

What is Body Wash?

The body wash is a liquid body cleanser. This personal body cleanser uses mild surfactants that clean your skin. Generally speaking, this liquid soap will be thinner and creamier than a shower gel.

What is a Shower Gel?

The shower gel has a consistency that is very firm and gel-like. Typically, it will have a higher concentration of added fragrances. Sometimes, you’ll find a shower gel formulated so that you can use it on your body and your hair. 

What are the Main Differences Between Body Wash and Shower Gel?

The main difference between body wash body cleanser and shower gel is in the texture. However, there are more and these can be split into specific categories. 

  • Texture and structure: Shower gels are firmer, thicker, and have a more gel-like consistency. They commonly contain a thickening polymer which increases their viscosity. Body washes are much runnier and have a thinner consistency. In essence, they are liquid soaps with a lotion-like and creamy texture. 

  • Fragrance: Body washes tend to be milder, while shower gels have a stronger fragrance. This is because the gels have a higher concentration of ingredients aimed at soothing your senses.

  • Skin type: A body wash has moisturizing properties that make it suitable for sensitive and dry skin. They may contain emollients, fatty acids, vitamin B5, panthenol, and other ingredients for hydrating and soothing your skin. Shower gels have clarifying properties and wash away excess sebum and dirt. This makes them more suitable for oily skin. 

  • Exfoliation: Body washes tend not to contain any exfoliating ingredients. Shower gels may contain oatmeal, sea salt, and microbeads for removing dead skin cells and keeping your pores clean.

  • Ingredients: Shower gels commonly have six main ingredients such as water, detergents, preservatives, fragrance, and emulsifiers. Body washes ingredients include emulsifiers, surfactants, humectants, essential oils, and other natural ingredients. They might also contain antibacterial agents such as triclosan, and ceramides, and plant oils for nourishing your skin.  

When to Choose Body Wash?

When to Choose Body Wash?

Shower gel vs. body wash, when is the right time to use each one? Let’s start by looking at when it’s best to choose this type of liquid cleanser.


If you want to moisturize your skin, body washes will be more effective. They contain ingredients such as fatty acids, emollients, vitamin B5, panthenol, and other hydrating ingredients that will clean your skin but not dry it out. 

Dry or Sensitive Skin

For skin types that are dry or sensitive, body washes will be better than shower gel. Body washes usually have a lower pH than bar soap or shower gel. Traditional bar soaps are also suitable, as long as you find one that’s suitable for sensitive skin. You can also help your skin's hydration by using a body lotion.

Harsh or Cold Climates

Body washes tend to be moisturizing and more hydrating which is what you need if you live somewhere that’s cold or has harsh weather. Body washes contain ingredients that will reduce the risk of the weather stripping moisture from your skin. 

Mild Product Formula

If you’re looking for a milder body cleansing product, body wash is best. 

When to Choose Shower Gel?

When to Choose Shower Gel

It is better to use shower gel in a variety of situations. Here are some examples.  

Oily Skin

If your skin is oily, the clarifying properties of shower gel will be better for your skin. There is also the option of using bar soaps specifically for skin that’s oily.  

Active Lifestyle

Active Lifestyle

If you have an active lifestyle, spend most of your time outdoors, or sweat a lot, you should use a shower gel.

Hot or Humid

If you live somewhere that’s hot or humid, you may find shower gel liquid cleansers are better because they are less moisturizing. 



If you want to remove dead skin and keep your pores clean, shower gels often contain ingredients that will exfoliate your skin. These ingredients might include microbeads, oatmeal, or sea salt. 

Experience for the Senses

Shower gels tend to be more fragrant than body washes, so much so that fragrance is often an essential element of the shower gel experience. Some gel body cleansers contain synthetic fragrances, but those with a natural fragrance or essential oils are better.    

How Can You Choose the Right Shower Gel or Body Wash for Your Skin?

How Can You Choose the Right Shower Gel or Body Wash for Your Skin?

With so many choices out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, here are a few quick tips to help you select what’s best for your shower. 

  • Dry Skin: If your skin is dry, you’ll be better off choosing a body wash because it will be more moisturizing and hydrating. 

  • Oily Skin: If you have skin that is more on the oily side, you don’t need additional hydration, or you live somewhere that’s humid or hot, a shower gel will be the better option. Shower gel will also work for you if you just want to get clean or are looking for a “squeaky-clean” feeling. 

  • Sensitive Skin: If you suffer from sensitive skin, you know how challenging it is to find a product that doesn’t cause an uncomfortable reaction. One factor you have to consider when looking for a body cleansing product is pH levels. Body washes usually have a lower pH which is better for those with sensitive skin. 

Body and Earth have a good selection of body wash and shower gel products and sets if you’re looking for something that will leave your skin feeling soft. You’ll have no problem finding something to suit your budget.   


The differences between shower gel and body wash might seem confusing, especially when you add bar soaps into the mix. Now you’ve got all the information, it should help you decide which is best for you. It’s also important that you learn more about your skin health, its type, and which products best suit it. 


1. Is shower gel or body wash better for dry skin?

Shower gels tend to be more aggressive body cleansing products which means they can overly dry out your skin. A body wash will provide a more gentle body wash and feature moisturizing elements. 

2. Is shower gel or body wash better for oily skin?

Shower gel washes away excess oil and impurities from your skin which makes it more suitable for skin that's oily. 

3. Is shower gel or body wash better for sensitive skin?

Body washes have moisturizing properties and are suitable for dry and sensitive skin. They also contain fewer fragrances. 

4. Can shower gel be used as a body wash?

You can use both in the same way. They are body cleansing products but shower gels are better suited for skin that’s oily while body washes are more suitable for sensitive or dry skin. 

5. Shower gel and body wash - which is better for everyday use?

You can use both every day. Which one you choose depends on your type of skin and what cleansing experience you’re looking for. 


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