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Hand Soap vs Body Wash: What’s The Difference for Men?

You might not realize it but there is a huge difference when it comes to hand soap vs body wash. Yes, both will get you clean, which is the goal, but that’s where the similarities end when it comes to your skin’s health.  

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What Is Hand Soap?

Hand soap is basically a cleansing agent that’s vital to your health. It’s one of the best ways to destroy germs and bacteria on your hands and kill the chances of passing on viruses (I’m looking at you, Covid-19) to other people. You only need a couple pumps or squirts of your favorite hand soap and some warm water, and you’ve done your part to stop the spread of germs and bacteria.

Most hand soaps are antibacterial which means they are made specifically to destroy any bacteria it encounters (more on that later). But hand soap is one of the most effective cleansers you can find because it has the highest ratio of active cleansers in its ingredients.

Pro Tip: Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to make sure you’ve eliminated all the germs and bacteria you easily pick up from touching things like doorknobs (the biggest culprit in spreading germs). A few twenty seconds out of your day to make sure your hands are clean isn’t that bad, right?

What Are the Pros and Cons of Hand Soap?

Of course, there’s a boatload of benefits when it comes to hand soap.

  • It’s made with a larger number of surfactants––the agent used to annihilate dirt, grime, germs, and bacteria––than other kinds of soap.
  • It’s more effective at demolishing germs and bacteria than other types of soap because of those extra surfactants in its formula.

But with that extra cleaning kick comes a downside, too.

  • Because hand soap is stronger than other kinds of soap like a body wash or shower gel, it can be a helluva lot harsher, too.
  • The harshness of hand soap can overly dry out your skin.  
  • The extra surfactants in its formula can damage your skin over time.

What’s that saying? Everything in moderation, right?


What Is Body Wash?

Then there’s body washes. They are a liquid cleaning agent like hand soap, but without the added harshness. But they share the same purpose––cleansing your skin of dirt, grime, and bacteria. Where body wash differs from hand soap is in the ingredients and formula. Where hand soap’s main purpose is to cleanse, a good body wash will clean you and do a lot of other things, too.

A lot of body washes come with ingredients like Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, or all-natural essential oils and ingredients to treat skin conditions. And when it comes to the hand soap vs. body wash debate, that’s what I find so cool about body washes. I can’t help but give them extra kudos because they can help treat everything from body acne and KP to overly excessive dry skin. As a matter of fact, we gave you a list of the best glycolic acid body washes for 2022 that helps address those very skin conditions.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Body Wash?

There are many pros and cons when it comes to using a body wash. But let’s start with the pros:

  • Body washes are great for hydrating your skin.
  • They are some phenomenal body washes out there made specifically for addressing skin conditions like KP and body acne.
  • They can make you feel like you’ve turned your shower into a spa.
  • Some body washes will even have you smelling so spectacular your lady won’t be able to keep her hands to herself.

That’s exactly why we gave you a list of the best smelling body washes for men in 2022.

But body washes are super convenient and can have you smelling and feeling like the man, but like hand soap, they have a couple downsides, too. 

  • They’re made with ingredients that focus on scent and moisturizing rather than cleansing.
  • Some body washes won’t unclog your pores or kill built-up bacteria which is the leading cause of body acne and other skin conditions.

Can You Use Hand Soap as Body Wash?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve run out of body wash and have had to make a mad dash to the cabinet to grab a bottle of hand soap to use in the shower (don’t you judge me!). But the truth is that while you can occasionally use hand soap to bathe, when your back is against the wall, I don’t recommend it.

Hand soaps are usually antibacterial, and thus, kills all the bacteria on whatever surface it touches (i.e., your skin.). And that’s not necessarily a good thing. There is such a thing as good bacteria and we need them on our skin to keep it in optimal health. If you’re using a hand soap to bathe or shower with, you run the risk of two things:

1. Drying your skin out to the point of excess. Body washes are usually made to hydrate the skin. Hand soaps are not. So, using it as a bathing mechanism will end up doing more harm to your skin than good.

2. Dislodging all dirt and bacteria on your skin’s surface. We need certain bacteria for our skin to stay healthy and using a hand soap will kill all the bacteria it touches. That’s no good if you’re trying to be clean and have healthy skin.

Hand Soap vs Body Wash: Final Verdict

When it comes to the hand soap vs body wash debate, they both will do their job of getting you clean. But they do serve different purposes. Body wash is awesome for the health of your skin. It’ll moisturize and lock in the hydration your skin needs.

Body washes are pH balanced, too. I’m all about healthy skin and using a pH balanced body wash is vital to your skin’s health. If you’re like me and want to make sure your skin isn’t aging prematurely or drying out and leaving you flaky and ashy, body wash is definitely the way to go.

Hand soap is for getting your hands clean. Its formula is much harsher than body wash because it’s made to kill all the bacteria, dirt, grime, and anything else you touch during the day. It is a beast at killing germs. But if you don’t want to damage your skin, keep it to your hands.

Andrew Phillip Kennedy is a men's style & grooming specialist who has spent years testing his knowledge in the real world on himself to land jobs, get girls, and improve his life overall. Andrew's advice is regarded as the some of the most well-researched and well-grounded in the game. For the perfect combination of men's grooming theory and real world results, you'll want to follow Andrew.