Raise the Bar: When it Comes to Soap Stick with the Classic

Showering is something we (probably) do on a daily basis. Hair, face, body is cleaned in one fell swoop. Especially now that we have those nifty 3-in-1 washes! But, and I'm sure you know where I'm going with this, there are some things to think about when it comes to picking body washes over the trusty bar of soap. Sometimes sticking to the classics is about more than tradition, occasionally it's because they just work better.

When it comes to keeping clean, bars of soap do their job. Bars of soap work using a two step process. When you lather, the molecules in a bar of soap attract and make friends with the oil and dirt that has accumulated on your skin. They are then washed away with their new-found buddies when you rinse. It's a simple process that has proven to be sanitary and effective. While some soaps can lead to irritation or dry skin, choosing soaps with moisturizers (such as goats milk) will make sure your skin gets the nourishment it requires.

After thousands of years of using bars of soaps, there has been a new addition to the shower caddy club: body wash. So other than being a multi-talented cleaning buddy, what is body wash? Generally body wash is a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients made to work on the widest range of skin types possible. They use synthetic detergents to clean to prevent drying skin out, or irritating sensitive skin. While they can be more gentle, their composition can make them less effective when it comes to cleaning odor, dirt and oil. To combat this many include microbeads and other agents to assist in the cleaning process.

With a basic understanding of both, let's get down to the nitty gritty: which is better? The answer is... bars of soap. Let's begin with ingredients. Bars of soaps are composed of natural oils and fats, alkali, glycerin and the water used from the shower. Body washes on the other hand are generally petroleum-based and can contain parabens, preservatives, surfactants and pthalates. Also it turns out those microbeads are about as cool as they are big, but more on that in a minute.

Bars of soap are also a champion of the environment. Aside from the obvious fact that body wash requires plastic bottles which end up in landfills and cause pollution, there are other aspects that hurt their popularity with the Planet. Liquid soaps require about 5 times as much energy to produce, use 20 times as much packaging in general, and contain water making them heavier for shipping leading to a larger carbon footprint. Last but not least, those pesky microbeads. These tiny balls of plastic are often smaller than one millimeter, meaning they are not being filtered out in sewage treatment, giving them a one-way ticket to our waterways. Other than adding to the major problem of plastic pollution in water they pose a threat to the entire food web. While microbeads float downstream they can absorb contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. These PCBs can have negative impacts on living organisms being linked to cancer, and cause havoc on the reproductive, nervous and endocrine system of animals. And once these occur in marine life, it isn't long until they are consumed further up the food chain. Yum.

Finally, if you're frugal minded and think that you can justify the purchasing of body wash, you may want to think again. A ten ounce bottle of body wash generally costs $0.17 per wash, where as bar soap is only $0.012 per wash. On top of that, people generally aren't sure how much body wash to actually use, leading to people using more than the recommended amount (costing them more than the $0.17).  

Though it may seem like new technology should lead to better consumer products that are more efficient and cost-effective, it turns out that is not the case. Bars of soap take the cake, and will probably continue to do so for a long time to come.