Why Bar Soap Might Be The Body Care Product Your Routine Is Missing

Bar soap works as a surfactant, meaning it uses chemical compounds to decrease surface tension, and these can attach to oil and can remove microorganisms, dirt, and bacteria that get stuck to the skin. Water washes away everything that the soap lifted and dislodged. Some soaps tout their antibacterial properties due to added chemical surfactants, but you don't need an antibacterial soap to experience these benefits. A good ol' bar soap will have you squeaky clean and ready to go.

Bar soap has historically been booted out of the limelight by snazzier body washes and shower gels, but trust that it can hold its own. "The main difference between a bar cleanser and body wash is the form they come in and how they interact with skin," dermatologist Ilyse Lefkowicz, MD, told Real Simple. "Both bar cleansers and body wash will cleanse." There's an old worry about bar soaps that they're excessively drying on the skin, but this isn't a concern anymore. Bar soap formulations have come a long way, and many are gentle and good for the skin.

We're always seeking different ways of caring for our skin, so when we come across different products and hacks, we're intrigued. A skin-soothing oatmeal bath is a life-saver. Plus, a body oil can also provide some much-needed care and hydration. While some aspects of caring for our bodies require more complex solutions, others are remarkably simple. With this mantra in mind, keeping things simple with bar soap is best.

What to look for in a good bar soap

Bar soaps get a bad rap because some strip the skin of its natural pH levels, which can leave you feeling dry and flaky. "A soap is a cleanser with a high pH, one of about nine or ten while the pH of skin is about five. Thus, using a soap on the skin can disrupt its normal pH, causing a barrier breakdown and irritated, dry, skin," dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, told Women's Health. While important, it doesn't mean that bar soaps are off the table. It's just good to find the right bar soap for you. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the real troublemaker, so just make sure your bar soap doesn't have this in it. Classics like the CeraVe Hydrating Cleansing Bar and the Dove Beauty White Moisturizing Beauty Bar are excellent choices. They're also remarkably affordable.

Dove bar soap seems to consistently stand the test of time based on customer reviews. Cosmopolitan ranked Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar as the best for dry skin. Bar soap formulations are much more targeted than they used to be; If you struggle with body acne, look for a bar with salicylic acid that's also free of dyes and parabens, like Clinique's Acne Solutions Cleansing Bar. Aesop's Refresh Bar Soap offers a luxurious experience, with non-stripping ingredients and essential oils. There's a targeted bar for everyone.

The many perks of bar soap

Since bar soap actually touches our bodies (or the sponge or scrubber that we use to clean our bodies), it's logical to assume that bar soap harbors bacteria and is somehow dirtier than body wash, which stays contained in its bottle. However, this fear is an unfounded one. Studies have found that bar soap doesn't transfer bacteria, and there is minimal danger in using the same bar soap repeatedly. It is wise, though, to let it dry. "To avoid bacteria buildup, always rinse it between use and allow it to drain and dry completely," dermatologist Ilyse Lefkowicz, MD, told Real Simple. "With a body wash, it's easier to avoid bacteria buildup since it doesn't touch skin while in the bottle." So the germ concern is a non-issue with bar soap.

Bar soap tends to be much better for the environment, too. As Consumer Reports pointed out, body washes come in plastic bottles with lids or pumps that are difficult or impossible to recycle. Conversely, bar soap tends to come in simple, cardboard packaging. In many cases, customers can purchase bar soap with no packaging and throw the bar in their bags after their purchase. So the waste factor is a huge one. Plus, bar soap is easier to travel with since there's no liquid restriction to be mindful of. So even though bar soap is an age-old bathroom item, it's worth adding to our beauty routines.