Bar Soap vs. Body Wash Debate (Or Should You Go Soap-Free?)

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We’re debating the differences between bar soap and body wash and sharing the best toxic-free products.

woman in shower with bar of soap

What’s your version of clean? 🚿

We’re discussing the difference between bar soap vs. body wash and which are the best toxic-free brands to use! Or should you go soap-free?

Have you caught our new clean natural products series yet? After sharing the best natural skin care products, it led our team to a debate about what we use when we shower. Here’s everything we know about bar soap vs. body wash and whether or not you may want to consider going soap-free…

*I’m neither a scientist nor a doctor. This information is based on my personal experience, research, and opinion. You should always consult a healthcare professional before making any changes to your current regimen or if you have questions.

Is bar soap better than body wash?

stack of white bars of soap

While the general purpose of bar soap and body wash are essentially the same, there are some major differences between the two that, in my opinion, make bar soap a better choice for your body and the environment.

For starters, no liquid soap can safely be made without preservatives since it contains water. To keep mold, yeast, and bacteria from growing, preservatives are necessary to extend the shelf life of body washes and liquid soaps. Depending on the preservatives, they can lead to skin issues and other major health concerns.

Bar soaps don’t require the use of preservatives, and there are many options on the market that I feel are safer to use. Bar soap also lasts about 2 – 3x longer than liquid soap, since bar soap is more concentrated than liquids. With cleaner ingredients, this also means bar soaps are more eco-friendly and leave little to no trace depending on where you’re buying your bars. Bar soaps are also more travel-friendly and can offer more botanicals and healing benefits for your skin depending on the brand.

Check out what our team had to say about bar soap vs. body wash:

graphic of hip2save team poll bar soap vs body wash

The majority of our team uses both bar soap and body wash and the least amount of team members solely use bar soap. Are the majority of us washing wrong? 😳

The good news is that there’s really no right or wrong way of washing… as long as you’re following proper body hygiene. 😉 However, it’s important to point out that not all bar soaps are treated the same.

Here are just a few of the chemicals commonly found in traditional soaps you may want to skip:

  • 🛑 Borates A chemical compound with various names including sodium borate (borax), boric acid, sodium perborate, and perboric acid, & more. Known to cause birth defects and negatively affect reproductive organs. 
  • 🛑 FormaldehydeA known carcinogen that can irritate eyes, nose, and throat and is linked to cancers. 
  • 🛑 PhosphatesLinked to cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis
  • 🛑 Phthalates Can impact your natural hormones and lead to lower fertility, development issues, and a higher risk of cancer.
  • 🛑 Synthetic Fragrances, “Parfum”, or “Fragrance” – May cause headaches, breathing difficulties, cardiovascular and neurological problems, mucosal irritation, and contact dermatitis. Higher risk of cancer.

hands holding yellow brown and white bars of soap

Is there such a thing as a soap-free body wash?

You may have heard of “soap-free” before. Essentially, both soap-free cleaners and soap are intended to clean debris off your skin. However, regular soap also strips your skin of much more than what’s required. So using a soap-free cleanser can be especially ideal for those with sensitive skin and it may be an option you never thought of using!

Soap-free cleansers are made of plant-based ingredients (and/or synthetic surfactants) depending on the brand, but organic is definitely more ideal. Unlike traditional soaps, “soap-free” cleansers don’t contain fats and alkaline ingredients which can lead to dry skin and disrupt your body’s natural pH balance. A “soap-free” option will provide more natural humectants which will help with a healthier skin pH balance and naturally hydrated skin. Remember, “soap-free” doesn’t mean “chemical-free” so be sure to check the labels before buying.

The biggest takeaway here? Fewer suds can equal a better skin barrier if you’re using the right product.

Below are our top 3 toxic-free bar soap, liquid soap, & soap-free cleanser recommendations if you’re looking to make a cleaner switch:

Graphic of the best bar soap, body wash and soap, free cleanser

  1. Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Pure-Castile Bar Soap – Best Bar Soap
  2. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap – Best Body Wash 
  3. Primally Pure Plumping Bar – Best Soap Free Cleanser

1. Best Bar Soap: Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Pure-Castile Bar Soap

dr bronner's castile bar soaps in rainbow order

Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Pure-Castile Bar Soap – $4.99

How to save: Use your Target RedCard to score 5% off

Shopping from a local soap maker who offers bar soap with very minimal ingredients could be your best choice, but if you need something more readily accessible, we love this soap bar made by Dr. Bronner’s. It’s toxic-free and doesn’t contain synthetic preservatives, thickeners, or foaming agents like liquid soaps. It will also leave the smallest footprint and our top choice is 100% biodegradable making it a great eco-conscious choice too.

This bar of soap also boasts many certifications including being Certified Organic, EWG Verified, and Certified Fair Trade. Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps also come in many different aromas including unscented. It’s gentle for all skin types and moisturizing making it a great choice for shaving as well. Overall, Dr. Bronner’s offers a great bar of soap for every age and skin type.

all one naked bar of soap on white towel

Here are the top 5 reasons we love this bar soap:

  1. ✅ 100% Certified Organic Ingredients (EWG Verified)
  2. ✅ 100% Biodegradable & Plastic-Free
  3. ✅ Hydrating
  4. ✅ No synthetic preservatives, thickeners, or foaming agents
  5. ✅ Multiple certifications including USDA-Certified Organic and Leaping Bunny Certified

2. Best Body Wash: Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap

hand holding a bottle of dr bronners castile soap

Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap – $8.75

How to save: Pay as low as 53¢ per fluid ounce when you opt for the 32-ounce 2-pack or check with your local co-op grocery store/market for a possible refill station.

Dr. Bronner’s is not only a great option for body wash, but it even has an endless list of uses around your house making it super versatile! This soap is 2–3x more concentrated than most conventional products, so you can dilute it to stretch your dollar even more. This product is 100% biodegradable and thoughtfully packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic (or you can grab their new refill cartons with 82% less plastic).

Dr. Bronner’s scented soaps are made with certified organic, fair-trade oils and ingredients and developed using sustainable harvesting. Each product has numerous certifications, including Non-GMO Project Verified, USDA Certified Organic, and Certified Vegan. So even though, this body wash does have preservatives, rest assured, they’re safe for your body.

hand holding a bottle of dr bronners castile soap

Here are the top 5 reasons we love this body wash:

  1. ✅ 100% Biodegradable
  2. ✅ Extremely gentle and versatile for many purposes (18-in-1 uses)
  3. ✅ Thoughtful production & packaging
  4. ✅ Can replace essentially all other household soaps
  5. ✅ Countless certifications

3. Best Soap-Free Cleanser: Primally Pure Plumping Bar

primally pure plumping so free bar with beige background

Primally Pure Plumping Bar $16

How to save: Score free shipping on all orders of $75+

This plumping bar is as pure as they get and doesn’t compromise your skin’s natural barrier like harsh soaps can do. With this Primally Pure bar, you can count on healthy skin and a balanced microbiome. It’s formulated with naturally antimicrobial and healing ingredients that support cellular renewal and refine skin texture.

Primally Pure Plumping Bars are formulated with just 7 organic ingredients that are 100% biodegradable and are sustainably and responsibly sourced. We love that their products are handmade in the USA (Southern California) and use nature’s most precious elements and nothing more. Truly, if you want the most beneficial “soap” for your skin, we couldn’t love this brand more!

While pricey, Primally Pure also offers a dreamy collection of soap-free body washes – all formulated with the same good intentions.

Hands holding a brown colored soap free cleansing bar

Here are the top 5 reasons we love this soap-free cleaner:

  1. ✅ Naturally antibacterial & naturally softens skin
  2. ✅ Organic & 100% biodegradable ingredients
  3. ✅ Doesn’t compromise your skin’s natural barrier
  4. ✅ Sustainably & responsibly sourced
  5. ✅ Handmade in the USA

About the writer:

Sara is a self-taught blogger & photographer and brings 9+ years of experience to her craft. Her work has been featured in numerous esteemed publications, spanning building, travel, and fashion. Beyond her creative pursuits, Sara’s primary mission is to empower others to embrace a toxic-free & sustainable lifestyle.

Join The Discussion

Comments 18

  1. Sarah

    I think you need to check some of your facts. I use natural products so your posts are always of interest to me. However, you have stated some things that are in doubt. Triclosan was banned in the U.S in 2016. And the only place I am aware it is still used is in some brands of toothpaste because it helps fight gingivitis.
    Also, fats do not dry out skin. It is true that natural soaps can be drying. That is why they are loaded with good fats like coconut oil, shea butter, goat milk etc.
    I know your post was written with well meaning intentions as is my comment. Natural products helped clear up excema in my family. Reading posts about new products that are healthy is really enjoyable for me!

    • Liza (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi there, Sarah! Our Sara is off today, so I wanted to hop in and respond on her behalf. It does appear that triclosan has been banned from most OTC products in the US, though it appears it’s still found in some things. I’ve removed that mention from the post.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and am happy to hear that the natural products series has been of interest to you! Hip’s owner, Collin, has also dealt with eczema, so she has been following this series, too, in hopes of finding products that help her. I’m not sure if you follow us on Instagram, but she frequently talks about her eczema journey over there, if you’re interested!

      Thanks again for your comment! ❤️

    • Nicole

      Agree! I too am looking for eco friendly and natural products, but there is definitely a need to double check against biased and outdated info. (One of my red flags was citing EWG as a neutral source)

      Keep on posting green 💚

  2. Lana

    We use organic handmade safflower oil soap and have used it for twenty years or more. It is nondrying and fragrance free and everyone who comes to our house wants to know what it is because they love it.

  3. jen13289

    I hate most fragrances, try to stick to something light or unscented My dermatologist asked me if I used a bar or liquid, at the time she told me to stick to bars because there is less problematic ingredients in bars of soap. When I worked in the hospital families would bring in soap for their loved ones because they didn’t like what we provided…we were only allowed to accept liquid soaps, no bars allowed…

  4. amanda josker

    if you have Marshalls nearby, i always find 32oz dr bronners body was around 12-13$ various scents!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Sweet! Thanks for the heads up on where you’ve spotted the Dr. Bronner’s soap at near you, Amanda! 🤗 Good to know to keep an eye out there.

  5. cruise

    Thank you for posting…would like to see more of these! I also appreciate the comments…it can be confusing to know if the products I’m using are a good choice chemically. If there are other soaps/washes that are rated “safer” could you please share?…hoping to find a better value than $5 per bar.

    • Sara (Hip Sidekick)

      Hey there! Thank you so much for the sweet comment! Everyone Soap is a great non-toxic liquid soap that you may find is more budget-friendly. I hope this helps!

  6. Misshampton


    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      You’re very welcome! 💕

  7. JD827

    A Star Hip2Saver is a recognized member of our Hip2Save community hand selected by our team for demonstrating a long history of engagement with helpful & friendly comments across and our social channels. Our Star Hip2Saver badge acts as a verification for readers who know the ins and outs of all Hip2Save sets out to accomplish — assisting our community to live extraordinary lives on ordinary budgets. Readers cannot pay or provide any sort of exchange in order to earn this badge. Rather, they are invited to participate by a member of the Hip2Save team and opt to have the Star Hip2Saver badge added to their profile & comments.

    If you use bar soap, place your soap on top of an ordinary sponge. No soapy mess all over and no scrubbing soap residue off the soap dish!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s SO smart, JD827! Thanks for sharing this helpful tip. I’ll have to do this soon! ❤️

  8. Marinova

    I know someone who only uses dial bar soap. He even washes his hair with it. It’s all he needs to shower. He’s been doing this for over 40 years and has the shiniest hair of anyone I know. Just sayin.

  9. Ihearthip

    I am pretty attached to my Irish Springs bar soap, but I do use exfoliating body scrubs from time to time. I also really like a natural/mild bar soap for hands.

  10. Rita

    Does Dr. Bronner have a shampoo?

  11. Melissa

    Bend Soap is amazing! Been a loyal customer since 2015. The bars last a long time. Some even use it as shampoo, I don’t tho.

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