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What’s The Difference Between Shower Gel And Body Wash?

Not all cleansing products are the same.
January 17, 2020

Up until 2020 we were all pretty certain that we knew how to execute the most basic functions of personal hygiene, such as washing our hands and taking a shower. But like most other things, that year brought even those simple processes into question. There was a celeb-sparked debate about how often one needs to shower, and we were all surprised to find out that 20 seconds feels a lot longer than you think (but luckily, the happy birthday song will get you through it). There were even questions about what types of cleanser we should be using to get the best cleanse for our skin

Nearly two years later some are even still trying to figure out if they should stick to their beloved bar soap, a body wash or a shower gel — especially since formulas are constantly getting an upgrade. So to help put minds at ease, we’re breaking down the difference between body wash and shower gel so you can get the clean feeling you’re looking for — no matter how often or not you decide to shower.

Shower Gel vs. Body Wash: How Do They Differ?

Many people believe that shower gel and body wash are pretty much the same thing, but they’re wrong. Sure, if you ask what shower gel is used for, the answer will be the same as what body wash is used for. Both of these products are used to cleanse your body during a shower sesh, but there is one main difference that sets them apart­: texture. Shower gel has a firm, gel-like consistency (hence the name). It also can sometimes be used on both the body and hair, depending on the formula.

On the flip side, body wash has a thinner formula that emulates a liquid soap and may have a creamy consistency, which works to provide your skin with more moisturizing and hydrating benefits. Now, we know that with products constantly being infused with more skin-loving ingredients, those textures can change. So whether you decide to go with shower gel or body wash is up to what you’re looking for and the ingredients your skin craves.

How To Make The Most Of Your Shower Gel Or Body Wash 

Like we said, using a shower gel or body wash probably isn’t a new concept to you. However, when it comes to cleansing your body, there are more ways than ever to do so. New formulas, products, and general bathing techniques are seemingly always cropping up. So we consulted with Miami-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Flor A. Mayoral to answer some of our pressing questions about how to shower best and make the most of our body cleansers. Keep reading for some pro tips to keep this basic routine as simple and effective as possible.

1. Consider Your Environment

Whether you choose to shower daily may seem like a personal decision. But aside from listening to what your body needs, you also need to take your environment into consideration.

“Living in a humid, hot environment, I recommend daily showers to my patients,” says Mayoral. “Some patients that have extremely sensitive skin such as atopic dermatitis or perfume allergies, may require rinsing most parts of their body and using soap only in strategic areas of their skin to maintain skin health.” 

2. Watch Out For Sensitive Areas

Whether you have sensitive skin or sensitive areas on your skin, you want to go with a gentle cleansing option and use the right temperature of water to avoid irritation.

“For people with sensitive skin, I recommend mild cleansers that are void of fragrance,” she says. “They may not be the most lathering products out there, but they help to protect the skin barrier. Use warm or tepid water — not hot water. Stay under water for short periods of time and apply moisturizer to damp skin.”

3. Choose Your Cleansing Tool Wisely

While a loofah or gentle washcloth can help you exfoliate while you cleanse, Dr. Mayoral recommends skipping harsh loofahs, especially for those with sensitive skin. 

Editor’s tip: You can also use your hands to apply your body wash or shower gel — it’s the most convenient and economical option. Whichever product you’ve chosen, simply squeeze a small amount into the palm of your wet hands while you’re in the shower. Rub your hands together to lather up a bit and then proceed as usual, hitting all the important spots. It’s an easy way to ensure that you’re not using harsh tools that can irritate your skin. Washing should never leave your skin looking red or feeling raw.

What To Do After Using Shower Gel or Body Wash

Here’s a fun skin care fact: To keep your skin as hydrated as possible, apply your body moisturizer right after you step out of the shower, while your skin is still slightly damp. No, it’s not counterproductive — it will actually help seal in moisture.

“The top layers of the skin lose water rather quickly and applying a humectant immediately is important for retaining moisture,” Mayoral advises. Thicker moisturizers are perfect in the winter time while lighter options — including body serums — can be your go-tos for the warmer summer months.

Next: How To Turn Your Shower Into A Spa-Like Experience

Written by: Shalwah Evans; Photography: Chaunte Vaughn, Associate Creative Director: Melissa San Vicente-Landestoy, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Associate Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Model: Alexandra Van Zant

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