As with bar soaps, there are also pros and cons to using liquid soaps. One strike against liquid soap is waste. With bar soaps, it's fairly easy to know when you have acquired enough on your washcloth or loofah to get the job done. Because liquid soaps usually come in pump-action or easy-to-squeeze bottles, overuse is common. Factor in the higher cost for liquid soaps, and you end up with a lot of waste that you don't typically get with bar soaps [source: Bartels].
If you're a body wash enthusiast, though, don't give up hope. There are some pros to using liquid soaps. Unlike their bar-shaped counterparts, you never get that mushy pile of soap scum that often occurs when bar soap is left in standing water, although you can mitigate that problem with different soap saver products on the market. And while it's easy to lose bar soap down the drain, you're less likely to lose a bottle of liquid soap. In addition, liquid soap tends to create a richer lather, which many people prefer over thinner bar soap lathers.
Strong bar soaps, especially those designed to act as deodorants, can be too harsh for some people, stripping away important oils and leaving the skin irritated. Many liquid soaps and body washes contain moisturizers, however, and they tend to be milder than bar soaps. Women can benefit most from liquid soaps containing moisturizers -- their skin is typically more sensitive than men's, and using a deodorant bar soap can leave dry spots and cause itchiness.
The bottom line is that using liquid soap or bar soap is a personal choice. More than the method of delivery, the most important thing for you to be aware of is how you react to certain additives, such as fragrances and moisturizers. Whichever one you choose, note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled in 2016 that the benefits of using antibacterial soap haven't been proven and that the antibacterial active ingredients triclosan and triclocarban also have not been proven to be safe for daily use [source: FDA].
If you're interested in learning more about bar soaps, liquid soaps and skin care, see the links below.
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Moisturizing and Cleansing Key to Treating Atopic Dermatitis." (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/moisturizing_cleansing.html
- Baranda, Lourdes, Roberto Gonzalez-Amaro, Bertha Torres-Alvarez, Carmen Alvarez and Victoria Ramirez. "Correlation between pH and irritant effect of cleansers marketed for dry skin." International Journal of Dermatology. (Sept. 2, 2009) http://pt.wkhealth.com/pt/re/ijdm/abstract.00004342-200208000-00007.htm;jsessionid=KfRbrY6MCLSLNQTcVLn4CLMzXsM0v2ThGYpKmyXmLDK2jjBP28x6!224925659!181195629!8091!-1
- Bartels, Eric. "Liquid soap vs. bar soap." Portland Tribune. (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.portlandtribune.com/sustainable/print_story.php?story_id=120793661306810000
- Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for a Soft Body." WebMD. (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/moisturizer-toning-cream
- Cosmetics Info. "Soap." (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/product_details.php?product_id=36
- Ivory. "Pure Fun: History." (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.ivory.com/PureFun_History.htm
- Heinze, J. and F. Yackovich. "Washing with contaminated bar soap is unlikely to transfer bacteria." Dial Technical Center. August 1988. (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3402545
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Is It a Cosmetic, a Drug, or Both? (Or Is It Soap?)" (Sept. 2, 2009) http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm074201.htm
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Antibacterial Soap? You Can Skip It -- Use Plain Soap and Water." Sept. 2, 2016. (July 26, 2017) https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm