Do you use shower gel instead of soap? Both shower gel and bar soap will effectively cleanse your skin, but what's the difference between them and which is better?
Is shower gel soap?
Shower gel and soap are similar in that they both cleanse the skin, but that's where the similarities end, as they're made using completely different processes and from different ingredients.
To make soap you need the right combination of of sodium hydroxide, water and oils or fats to create a reaction called saponification. During this process the oils and water fuse together at a molecular level, and 48 hours later you have soap!
Soap has been around for centuries - in fact, soap making recipes have been found in ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt dating back a whopping 5,000 years! Of course in those days soap was made a little differently from the handmade soap you'll find today. Our ancestors traditionally made soap with the well burnt ashes from wood, together with water and animal fats. These days, soap is essentially made in the same way, but with better quality and a wider range of plant-based ingredients and botanical extracts.
Shower gel, on the other hand, is a fairly newish concept in comparison, invented in the 1970s. Shower gel is made from mostly water along with surfactants (which could be plant or petrol derived), ph adjusters, preservatives, colours and fragrances.
Are natural soaps better than shower gel?
It's all a matter of personal preference! We prefer to use natural soap bars because they're made with beautiful natural oils and butters which work to gently cleanse your skin. The naturally occurring glycerin content from the soap making process will leave skin feeling moisturised after use. However, not all soap is the same and some mass produced soap bars actually strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture. If you've ever experienced dry skin after using a soap bar, take note that commercial soap - as well as being made from some pretty awful 'filler' ingredients like detergents - has had the glycerin removed, so it's not surprising it dries out the skin.
Is soap better than shower gel for the environment?
Most soap bars are plastic free, so that's definitely one up on shower gels which rely on plastic packaging to be transported. Of course, our natural soap bars go one better than plastic free - our soap is wrapped in an innovative plantable paper that's impregnated with over 15 varieties of UK native wildflower seeds - so you can plant it and watch the wildflowers bloom!
Shower gels are also mostly made up of water - transporting water is, we think, wasteful, as with a soap bar all you need to do is add the water yourself!
Benefits of body wash over soap
Some people believe that a body wash or shower gel produces a thicker, more luxurious lather than a soap bar (obviously they're yet to try our natural soap bars!). For sure you'll certainly get more air filled bubbles with a body wash, especially if you use a natural sponge in the shower to boost the lather. Ultimately, as with natural soap bars, the benefits of using shower gel depends on the quality of ingredients and the formulation - so always opt for a paraben and sulphate free body wash to avoid drying your skin out.
Does bar soap or body wash last longer?
Natural bar soap definitely lasts much longer than a bottle of shower gel. It's so easy to squirt vast amounts of shower gel onto a sponge, and half of it ends up down the plug hole. When you use a soap bar you can easily control the amount you use, and if you make sure to keep your soap bar dry between uses, it will last a month or more with several people using it.
And if anyone tells you not to share your soap with anyone because of the bacteria on the surface, we can tell you that we have firsthand information from a Chartered Cosmetic Chemist that bacteria cannot grow on soap due to the alkalinity. Share away!