Is There A Difference Between Soap & Body Wash? Here's What A Dermatologist Has To Say

During college orientation, there was no better way to peg someone's personality than by checking out the body wash in their shower caddy. Were they a SoftSoap-using traditionalist (my roommate), or a fancy Philosophy "Amazing Grace" user (me)? The range of preferences spanned the entire drug and department store spectrum, but one thing was for sure: Nobody had bar soap.

Most people don't even know the difference between bar soap and body wash, but somehow have decided that the former is definitely not for them. Earlier this fall, all kinds of articles came out claiming that "millennials hate bar soap." The consumer-research firm Mintel found that nearly half of U.S. consumers believe bar soap to be “covered in germs after use.” 60 percent of millennials feel this way, as opposed to less than a third of those aged 65 and older. But what gives?

I spoke to Dove Dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara to find out what the deal is with the whole soap versus body wash drama, and as it turns out the main difference between the two isn't their ingredients, cleanliness, or effectiveness — it's actually all about your personal preference, as long as you choose the right soap. Here's what she wants you to know so you can make an educated decision about your personal preference the next time you hit the soap aisle.

1. Soaps Can Be Dehydrating

Dove Go Fresh Cool Moisture Beauty Bar, $5.69, Target.com

In general, bar soap can dry out your skin by stripping the moisture while it cleans, so body washes actually can be better for your skin because many are formulated with extra moisturizer to replace what the cleanser strips away. If you want to use a bar soap, Dr. Gohara suggests the Dove Beauty Bar as it is formulated with DEFI, a mix of mild cleansers and essential skin nutrients, that help hydrate and provide softer, smoother skin.

2. Bodywashes Can Have Scary Ingredients

Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash, $4.69, Target.com

...As anyone who's ever broken out in a rash the minute they've stepped out of the shower knows. "Some body washes contain a compound similar to dish soap," says Dr. Gohara. Look out for harsh surfactants, which strip the skin of essential nutrients. And obviously, don't shower with dish soap. Try something that's definitely safe and has added moisturizer, like Dove's deep moisture.

3. Soap Can Compromise The Barrier Of Your Skin

Your skin is basically the only thing separating your organs from the outside world (in addition to your bones, blood, and some other stuff... I was never very good at anatomy) so it's important to keep it in tip top shape. "Soap has a basic pH it strips the skin of essential proteins and lipids leaving the barrier compromised," Says Dr. Gohara. "This allows for water to evaporate out and irritants to come in." Irritants= dry, flaky, rashed-out skin, which no one wants to deal with.

4. There Are Ways To Keep Your Soap From Getting Gross

Most millennials admit to hating soap because they think it's a breeding ground for bacteria, but there are ways to avoid it getting gross while its sitting in the shower between uses. As long as you don't live in a frat house (or the post-college equivalent), Dr. Gohara advises keeping it out of a moist, environment like a closed container. Otherwise the benefit it is providing to the skin (as long as its moisturizer infused) much outweighs any other risk.

5. At The End Of The Day, It Really Is All About Personal Preference

"Some people prefer to directly apply a bar cleanser on to their pouf, hands or washcloth and some like to have their cleanser bottled," says Dr. Gohara. I personally like a Beauty Bar for my body and a body wash to shave my legs, but even that changes from day to day.

Now, go forth and wash yourself clean with whatever soap you like!

Images: Dove/Instagram; Courtesy of Dove; Bustle