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Can You Use Body Wash As Shampoo?

It looks like shampoo, and it certainly smells like shampoo. But can you use body wash as shampoo? You might want to pause for a second before you dump that bottle of liquid soap in your hair.

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Can You Use Body Wash As Shampoo?

In general, you shouldn’t use body wash as shampoo unless it’s specifically formulated as a 2-in-1 product (same rule applies if you want to use shampoo as body wash).

If you’re naked in the shower and weighing the pros and cons as we speak – sure, it’ll make your hair smell better, and it won’t necessarily cause any damage. That’s enough for some guys. But body wash does one of two things when you use it on your hair: it’ll either dry out your scalp, or it won’t quite get your hair clean. Both, if you’re unlucky.

Body wash leaves that soapy residue behind when you use it. It’s meant to protect your skin, but it won’t feel good in your hair. It’s also not always as good at cleaning your scalp as shampoo is. Your hair traps a lot of dirt and oil; shampoo knows how to clean that debris away without ruining your hair.

The confusion often stems from the fact that shampoos and body washes contain lots of the same ingredients. It’s the proportions that are slightly different. 

I’m going to assume for a second that you’re reading a men’s grooming blog because you want great hair and skin, not average or OK hair and skin. Shampoo goes the extra mile for your hair. Body wash just doesn’t quite cut it.

Is Body Wash The Same As Shampoo?

Body wash and shampoo contain many of the same ingredients, especially if you buy all-natural products. They both have surfactants, which clean your skin. And they’re often packed with plants, butters, essential oils, and more to make you smell and feel great.

But body wash is not quite the same as shampoo. Shampoo deals with your scalp and hair at the same time. Your scalp is one of the thickest and oiliest parts of the skin on your body, so it needs a little extra cleaning oomph. But you probably want your hair looking soft and thick – that takes a gentle touch. 

Body wash is only designed for your skin. It’s rarely strong enough to clean your scalp, and it’s never gentle enough to give you soft, glossy hair. 

An all-natural body won’t hurt your hair, but it’s not a long-term substitute for shampoo. It won’t quite get you clean.

What Are The Differences Between Body Wash And Shampoo?

Here are just a few differences between body wash and shampoo:

  1. Many shampoos contain stronger surfactants a.k.a. cleaning agents

It’s not a universal rule, but most of the shampoos you see at the grocery store are stronger cleaners than body washes. (If you’re using an all-natural shampoo, it’s milder than your body wash.)

  1. Body washes and shampoos have different pH values

pH measures how acidic or basic something is. Shampoos are often more acidic to match the chemistry of your hair, while soaps are more basic to match the chemistry of your skin. Swapping the two can leave you with dry hair or greasy skin (neither is very fun).

  1. Body wash is harder to rinse out of your hair

Like any soap, body wash leaves residue. It won’t rinse easily if you put it in your hair, and it’ll be a pain to detangle. (If you make the mistake of using body wash on your hair and stumble into this problem, try a great detangling shampoo.)

  1. Body wash is designed for skin care. Shampoo is designed for hair care.

You probably wouldn’t use shampoo to treat eczema, oily skin, acne, psoriasis, calluses, flakiness, or any other skin condition. So why would you use body wash to treat dandruff, frizziness, hair damage, hair loss, or any other hair condition? 

What Happens If You Accidentally Use Body Wash As Shampoo?

It won’t be catastrophic if you accidentally use body wash as shampoo, just don’t make a habit of it.

Interestingly enough, the shorter and thinner your hair is the less of a difference you’ll notice. Guys with short hair have an easier time rinsing out the body wash, so they see fewer side effects.

Guys with long, thick hair often say that body wash makes their hair limp, leaves residue, and doesn’t clean their scalp well enough.

At worst, some men report rashes, dandruff, and breakouts when they use body wash on their heads. Bald men make that mistake all the time. (You should actually be using a face wash or a shampoo for bald men if you don’t have any hair up top – your scalp is pickier than you’d think.)

So don’t freak out if you swap your shampoo and body wash for one night. If it becomes a habit, consider investing in a 2-in-1 product that can handle both your skin and hair.

Can You Use Shower Gel As Shampoo?

Shower gel is equivalent to body wash, so using it on your hair begs the same question we’ve been answering here – can you use body wash as shampoo?

The main difference between body wash and shower gel is the consistency. True to their name, gels have that slimy texture, but they’re not as runny as washes. For that fact alone, you really shouldn’t use it on your hair. It’ll cause the same problem as body wash, times ten.

Shower gel will be even harder to rinse out of your hair. They will leave more residue. And if your scalp decides that it doesn’t like the thick texture, the gel may cause a breakout. (Treat it with the best shampoos for scalp acne.)

What Can I Use If I Run Out Of Shampoo?

If your body wash is all-natural, gentle, and has many of the same ingredients that your shampoo contains, you can probably get away with using it instead of shampoo for a shower or two.

But an even better solution is to rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar. Maybe you have some sitting around in a kitchen cabinet somewhere.

ACV is great for your scalp and hair. It’s antimicrobial, so it’ll rinse bacterial and fungal particles almost as well as shampoo. Lots of shampoos even use it as an ingredient to make your hair look shinier and softer.

If you’re balking at it’s scent, don’t worry! The vinegar smell dissipates once your hair is dry.

Some men and women use ACV every week as a hair treatment. It’s a good stand-in while you order your next bottle of shampoo.

Can You Use Body Wash As Conditioner?

You should NOT use body wash as a conditioner. That one is a huge no. You’d be better off skipping conditioner entirely.

Shampoo isn’t “supposed” to dissolve the oil in your hair (as you’ll hear marketers say), but the truth is that most shampoos do. It’s part of helping your hair smell nice, since oil is really, really good at trapping bad smells.

But those natural oils are important for keeping your scalp and roots hydrated and healthy. So conditioners steps in to save the day, adding moisture back to your hair to fix any mistakes that your shampoo made.

Like shampoo, body wash will dry out your hair. (Some will even dry out your hair more than shampoo.)

So assuming you’ve just used shampoo, and you’re tapping the conditioner bottle right now, trying to squeeze out that last drop…just skip the conditioner. Your natural oils will work as a substitute, NOT body wash.

Can You Use Hand Soap As Shampoo?

If you have a nice, all-natural bar soap with lots of plant-based ingredients, technically you can use hand soap in your hair. It’ll help it smell good, but it won’t do much beyond that.

Liquid hand soap that you bought from the grocery store and pumped straight from the bottle is going to be awful for your hair. You’ll feel waxy and dry afterwards, and the soap acidity won’t match the acidity of your scalp.

Besides, most hand soaps just don’t smell that great. They’re supposed to clean germs from your hands, but they don’t do much besides that.

At the end of the day, the best thing for your hair is shampoo, not soap.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.