It’s easy to get lost in the colorful bottles and luscious scents that make up the body soap aisle.
And on closer inspection, you’re likely to get lost in something else entirely: the difference between shower gel and body wash.
Both claim to delight your senses while cleansing the day’s grime from your body. But what makes them distinct from each other?
Read on to learn what separates shower gel from body wash — and to find out which one is best for your skin.
What’s the Difference Between Shower Gel and Body Wash?
Texture: Firm and Dense Vs. Thin and Soapy
The biggest difference between shower gel and body wash is texture.
If you’ve got both on hand, squeeze a little into your hand and see for yourself.
Shower gel is thicker, firmer and more dense than body wash. It’s similar in consistency to toothpaste and holds its shape quite well when squeezed out.
Body wash, on the other hand, is more like liquid hand soap. It’s thinner and runnier than shower gel, spreading more easily on the skin.
Fragrance: Strong and Thick Vs. Light and Fresh
The textural characteristics of shower gel and body wash also apply to their respective fragrances.
Shower gel’s thicker formula means a higher concentration of fragrances. It generally smells stronger than body wash as its condensed nature packs more scent molecules into a tighter space.
Body wash is more liquid than shower gel, which causes the fragrance in it to spread out more. This results in a lighter scent that’s favored by those with sensitive noses.
Hygienic Properties: Exfoliating Vs. Moisturizing
Any shower gel or body wash can be a hygienic, effective cleanser if it contains the right ingredients.
However, each has its own set of skin benefits and properties.
Shower gels are more likely to contain exfoliants like sugar, salt, coffee and oatmeal. The thicker texture of shower gel makes it better able to contain these exfoliating particles.
Body wash’s thinner consistency makes it less than ideal for exfoliating. However, most body washes contain moisturizing and hydrating ingredients that are absorbed more thoroughly due to the more liquid formulation.
The Best Uses for Shower Gel and Body Wash
Both shower gel and body wash are suitable for daily use. But depending on your personal preferences, you may find one more useful than the other.
Shower gel is ideal for those who love the luxury shower experience. The thicker, richer consistency of shower gel makes you feel like royalty as you cleanse, and the strong fragrance lasts on your skin all day long.
Body wash is better for those who don’t care for strong scents but who want to keep their skin looking fresh and young. The moisturizing ingredients in body wash help to prevent signs of aging, smooth uneven patches and brighten the complexion.
Should You Use Body Wash or Shower Gel?
Not sure which type of body soap you should go with?
Let these two factors help you make the best choice.
Consider Your Skin Type
If you want to look your best, matching your shower products to your skin type is critical.
Those with dry skin should opt for a body wash over shower gel. Because body wash contains humectants and emollients, it’s much better than shower gel at restoring hydration and moisture to your skin.
Conversely, those with oily skin may find that body wash is too moisturizing, resulting in breakouts and clogged pores. Shower gel may be the better option if you have overactive oil glands.
There are exceptions to these rules, though. Check the label before using any product to see which skin type it’s formulated for, and choose accordingly.
Choose Based on Your Climate
The climate you live in will also play a role in choosing the best body cleanser.
Body washes are better for those who live in cool, dry climates. That’s because they help your skin restore and retain moisture, so it’s more resilient against dry air.
But those in tropical, humid climates should go with a shower gel instead. They help prevent your skin from overproducing oil and often contain cooling, soothing ingredients that ease irritation from sweat, heat and UV rays.