A quick saunter down the hygiene aisle will reveal that there doesn’t seem to be much debate anymore. Choosing between organic bar soap and body wash was a decision people made in 2004. Examining sales figures, body wash clearly won. Or did it? Despite the cornucopia of liquid gels, soaps, and moisturizers flying off the shelves, bar soap has retained a loyal following. Men overwhelmingly prefer it, and many eco-conscious and cost-conscious women are coming back on board. After reigning unchallenged for hundreds of years, the sudden abandonment of bars surprised many in the soap world. People began asking why body wash surged so quickly in popularity. Once they found out, many began wondering how it was ever able to surpass bar soap in the first place.
Photographed at any angle, nothing about organic bar soap seems alluring. It has a reputation for slipping out of hand during a shower, and after a day of basking in standing water, it disintegrates into a horrible, sloppy goop. When people mainly took baths, that wasn’t an issue, but after showers became the preferred system of cleaning, bar soaps have become less practical. That was the marketing body wash manufacturers first sprung for. “This product is easy.” Early commercials conjured up the old saying: a bottle in hand is worth more than two goopy bars sliding across the shower floor. It was the only selling point many people needed, and once chemists realized the greater potential for body wash ingredients, the competition ended. Almost as quickly as it first appeared, body wash emerged victorious.
Any commercial or label for body wash will essentially promise the same things: a clean, moisturizing experience. Because they’re liquid, these shower gels can have both cleansing and skincare ingredients like lotion and a variety of vitamins. Being solid, bars don’t have the same properties to moisturize. Many brands of body wash can improve the health of skin over time, something few organic bar soaps can similarly claim. Instead of using numerous products to clean and enrich skin, the people who choose body wash needn’t do anything more than lather up in the shower. On an economic and sensible level, that appealed to consumers. Much more than the image of a mushy bar of soap in their bathroom, the concept of a one-stop-shop boosted body wash sales to an exorbitant level. Unfortunately, the people who do opt for a liquid clean often use lotion and other skin care products regardless. And like most things in advertising, the moisturizing differences between a body wash and organic bar soap were exaggerated. For all of its dated, traditional elements, evidence shows that bar soap still gets people cleaner, and it costs significantly less to do so.
Milder than soaps in the past, present-day organic bar soap doesn’t dry out the skin. In fact, it regularly holds other solid materials like ground oatmeal to exfoliate and improve the health of skin. Moreover, it remains economically smart. One bar of soap results in about as many washes as a ten-ounce bottle of cheap body wash, and it can be bought for much less than a tenth of the cost. For those who still want to ensure their skin is getting moisturized, buying a bottle of lotion doesn’t alter these savings. And for those who worry about floating plastic islands in the ocean, without ornate packaging bar soaps are environmentally sensible too. As long as it’s stored in a wire shower basket, soap won’t dissolve into a gloppy mess, which remains the only reasonable argument against it. When it’s better for the earth and a budget, organic bar soap deserves a resurgence in hygienic popularity.