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A photo of a hand holding a Kiehl's bar of soap


Can Bar Soap Upgrade Your Shower Routine?

Bar soap is just as effective as body wash—and it boasts other benefits, too. Learn more about bar soap and how to use it for soft, healthy-looking skin ahead.

Whether you prefer self-care showers or relaxing baths, hot water or cool, there’s one thing every body care routine needs: soap. Indeed, soap was one of the first (if not the very first) cosmetic products ever invented. Ancient Sumerian tablets indicate soapmaking has been around for more than 4,000 years, and the first commercially-available wrapped bar soap hit the market in the 1880s (liquid cleansers, by contrast, weren’t widely available until World War II).

Though both liquid and solid bar soaps help keep the skin clean, there are other important factors to consider when choosing your body care products. Ahead, we’ll teach you a little bit about the differences between bar soap and liquid body wash and give you some tips on how to determine which one may be best for you. We’ll also offer a few recommendations on our favorite bar soap formulas. Read on to learn why we think bar soap deserves a permanent spot in your body care routine.

What’s The Difference Between Bar Soap and Body Wash?

The biggest difference between bar soap and body wash is also the most obvious: The former is solid, while the latter is liquid (but you already knew that). Both liquid and solid body cleansers are designed to help remove dirt, oil, and sweat from the skin’s surface. Some may also be formulated to help with the appearance of dryness and to leave your skin feeling soft and smooth (though the specific benefits depend upon the ingredients in the formula).

It’s also worth noting that while bar soap is typically formulated for the body, facial bar soap also exists. These cleansing bars, which are specifically formulated for the skin on your face, are sometimes used in lieu of traditional liquid face cleansers.

Is Bar Soap Prone To Bacterial Growth?

Many assume that because bar soap tends to be stored out in the open, it’s a breeding ground for microorganisms, like bacteria. Thankfully, studies have given us perspective on this belief, which researchers say is a common misconception. If you’re still concerned, you can use a water-proof travel container to hold your bar soap when it’s not in use. Just be sure the container offers adequate drainage: If you leave your soap sitting in water, it’ll start to disintegrate and take on a weird, slimy texture (which, while not dangerous, isn’t particularly pleasant).

Bar Soap vs. Body Wash: Is One Better?

Deciding whether you want to use bar soap or body wash ultimately comes down to a matter of personal preference. After all, they’ll both clean your skin. Solid soap tends to require fewer ingredients to make and may therefore be preferable for those looking to pare down the number of ingredients in their beauty routine.

If you’re looking to make the jump from body wash to solid soap, we recommend looking for a mild yet effective formula, like Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap. This glycerin-based body soap for men is made with oat kernel meal and pumice and boasts a subtle, fresh fragrance. It helps remove dirt and oil while gently exfoliating to energize the skin. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used daily as the first step in your body care routine. And while its name suggests the soap might just be for men, it’s also suitable for women’s skin.

How To Use Bar Soap In Your Shower Routine

If you’re interested in swapping out your body wash for bar soap, we’ll show you the way. Keep reading to learn how to use bar soap in your daily body care routine for soft, healthy-looking skin.

Step 1: Lather Up With Your Bar Soap

There’s no real secret to body soap: You use it pretty much the same way you do shower gel. First, step in the shower and dampen your skin thoroughly. Then, reach for your chosen bar soap and gently massage it over your skin to create a light lather. If you like, you can use a loofah or washcloth to distribute the lather over your skin, though it’s not necessary. After sufficient soaping up, be sure to rinse your body well to ensure no soapy residue remains on your skin.

Grooming Solutions Exfoliating Bar Soap

If you have dry or rough-feeling skin, for example, look for an oil-infused bar soap, like Grooming Solutions Exfoliating Bar Soap. This men’s bar soap with pracaxi oil and jojoba seed powder emulsifies with water to create a rich, creamy lather. It helps remove dead skin cells, dirt, and sweat and leaves your skin feeling clean and smooth.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: If you’re prone to body acne, cleanse your body after washing your hair to ensure your skin is clean and free of any hair product residue (which can clog your pores if not washed off thoroughly).

Step 2: Smooth On a Body Cream

While long, steamy showers feel amazing (especially during the cooler months), they also can be damaging to your skin barrier. Hot water strips your skin’s natural moisture barrier and dehydrates your skin, potentially worsening skin problems like sensitivity.

To help, apply a moisturizing body cream immediately after toweling off while your skin is still damp. For lightweight hydration, try our iconic Deluxe Hand & Body Wash, first formulated in the 1960s. This Kiehl’s favorite with aloe vera and oatmeal absorbs easily and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth. It’s suitable for all skin types and is available in three classic unisex scents: citrusy grapefruit, calming lavender, and herbaceous coriander.

We recommend drier skin types try Creme de Corps instead. Our classic body lotion contains a blend of skin-friendly moisturizers, including olive-derived squalane, glycerin, and cocoa butter. The non-greasy formula absorbs quickly, resulting in skin that feels softer and smoother. With continued use, it also helps improve skin’s texture. It’s suitable for all skin types but particularly beneficial for those with dry or flaky skin.

For especially dry areas (like your hands, elbows, or heels), reach for a heavy-duty moisturizer, like Intensive Treatment and Moisturizer For Dry or Callused Areas. This thick cream designed for dry skin contains an ultra-effective blend of emollients, including avocado oil and shea butter. It helps soften and moisturize even the driest skin. Apply a small amount to dry skin and massage it in thoroughly, blotting off any excess cream with a clean tissue.

Step 3: Complete Your Skincare Routine

After applying your body lotion, allow your skin a few minutes to soak up the hydration before getting dressed. In the meantime, complete the rest of your grooming routine, shave (if needed), and apply any leave-in hair products while your strands are damp.

Then, move on to your skincare routine. For a full rundown of which products to apply (and when), see our article Your Skincare Routine Order: A Step-By-Step Guide.

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