Shower Gels, Soaps & Body Washes versus Traditional Bar Soaps

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

The bathing and showering experience has become not only a task to cleanse the body but a ritual once more. I say once more, because long ago, bathing was a ritual, just research the history of the bath and you'll find that the Romans and Greeks weren't worried about their smelly armpits.

In society today, shower gels, lotions, and specialty soaps offer a "spa-like" experience for the typical housewife on the go. The bar of soap that used to clean your stinky spots now has been replaced with a loofah and a bottle of Aromatherapy shower gel.

Liquid soaps have been around for many years, in the form of detergents for cleaning the dishes and washing your clothes. In the 1980's, the soap industry started moving toward liquid soaps for the body, the first was Soft Soap that was specifically for the hands.

Liquid soaps, gels, and lotions offer convenience, they often hold scents longer than bar soaps, they often lather better than bar soaps, and they are considered better when looking for benefits based upon relaxing, energizing, and moisturizing a woman. They can be considered "cleaner" than bar soaps.

Bar soaps are often used on the body parts directly. As women, we've all seen a hair on our bar of soap and cringed at the thought. Today recent revenues concur with society's changing views. The Liquid soap market, which includes body washes, gels, and lotions, has increased over 4%; while the bar soap market is down 4%.

Women are always looking at ways to help themselves naturally, without additives. With this in mind, the shower gel and body wash market has increased their sales by adding natural oils found in plants and flowers.

Taking this holistic approach to showering is often why body washes and shower gels are chosen over traditional bar soaps. Aromatherapy utilizes the sense of smell by using natural oils, usually found in plants, flowers, roots, etc… Aromatherapy is believed to bring about physiological changes in the body. Gone are the traditional days when soap was purely to make you smell better or wake you up in the mornings. Today the smell and fragrance associated with bath gels and body washes need to offer stress release, peacefulness, and mind soothing benefits.

Women today look for sensory pleasing experiences with multi-beneficial results. Women need soaps to multi-task; clean and produce a fulfilling mind and body experience. The additives used in bath and shower gels, body washes, and bath lotions range from alpha-hydroxy acids; those found in fruits and dairy products, to Vitamin E. All promising to reduce the skins aging appearance, add moisture, and create a new you.

Often times, women add the benefits of bathing tools, like sea sponges and natural loofahs when applying the gels and lotions. These offer exfoliating capabilities and leave the skin smooth and soft.

But never underestimate the soap bar market; those that survive, ride the changing climate waves and adapt to current trends. Because of this, bar soaps are adding Vitamins, moisturizers and often advertising themselves as beauty bars and cleansers; not soaps. Bar soaps are fighting a battle that they may never win.

Although, still bringing in more overall revenue than liquid gels and lotions, their numbers are declining rapidly. The bar soap may never have the notoriety it did at one time, but most likely, they're not going anywhere either. Product trust and reliability are great marketing tools.

Bath gels and lotions offer a faster and perhaps more holistic approach to bathing, creating that spa-like atmosphere. However, you may want to take into account that the average bar of soap costs 28 cents per ounce, while the average ounce of body wash or shower gel costs a whopping 55 cents. That translates into 16 cents per use for body wash and only 5 cents for traditional bar soap.

Experts say that in most cases the small quantities of "added" ingredients like vitamins and oils are minimal in bath gels and body washes. Therefore, the money you're spending on luxury liquid soaps could be going down the drain, literally.

The best suggestion, buy bar soaps with moisturizers. If convenience is what you're after, buy a liquid gel or lotion that is inexpensive; they usually work just as well as the more expensive brands and can save you money. Or you could always make your own. There are dozens of recipes on the Internet for homemade bath gels and lotions. One of the cheapest methods of making your own shower gel is to take gathered up small pieces of bar soaps and soak them in hot water overnight; then blend in a blender and shake well.

No matter what cleansing agent you choose be it shower gel, lotion or traditional bar soap, the similarities are overwhelming and the results are usually the same.