What is the Difference Between Shower Gel and Body Wash?

J. Beam

Shower gel and body wash are both forms of liquid soap that are appropriate for cleansing the body. The primary difference between the two is texture. Shower gel has a firmer, gel-like consistency, while body wash is more like liquid soap or dish soap. Another difference between the two, though slight, is their concentration. Much like the difference between perfume and eau de toilette, shower gel frequently has a higher concentration of fragrance and tends to go farther.

Shower gel has a firmer texture than body wash.
Shower gel has a firmer texture than body wash.

Both types of soap are popular alternatives to bar soap for cleansing, especially among women. Their preference could be attributed to how easy they are to use and store, but is most likely because of the wide variety of scents available. Both may also be more appealing than bar soap because they frequently include moisturizers.

Body wash has a similar texture to dish soap.
Body wash has a similar texture to dish soap.

Most people find it best to apply these products with a bath sponge or mitt. A washcloth can be effective, but sponges and mitts tend to produce more lather. There are differences in the quality of gels and washes as well. Less expensive drug store brands clean as effectively as the more expensive bath store products, but tend to produce less lather. There are exceptions, but bath store products typically have a wider variety of fragrances.

People use bath sponges to help create a rich lather from their shower gels and body washes.
People use bath sponges to help create a rich lather from their shower gels and body washes.

Shower gel and body wash are available for women, men, and even children and infants. Infant body wash is very mild and can be used on skin and hair. There are a wide variety of fragrances available in all varieties, including designer fragrances and those made specifically for men.

Body wash and shower gel are available for men, women and children.
Body wash and shower gel are available for men, women and children.

The best way for consumers to find the bath product that they prefer is to experiment with different varieties and fragrances. Products are available for sensitive skin and with extra moisturizers, so shoppers can simply read the labels and ingredients before buying. Parents should avoid using either product on babies and young children unless it is specified for that use, as adult cleansers can sometimes be too harsh for young skin.

Shower gel and body wash are particularly popular among women who prefer alternatives to bar soap.
Shower gel and body wash are particularly popular among women who prefer alternatives to bar soap.

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Discussion Comments


@StarJo – Dollar store shower gels may work as well as the more expensive ones, but I don't think they smell good at all. Every bottle of shower gel I have sniffed at cheap stores smells gross, and I wouldn't want it on my body.

I don't mind paying $10 for a bottle of nice shower gel from a more upscale store. The product is definitely more concentrated, and you only need to use a small amount for each shower to get plenty of fragrance.

However, I probably wouldn't pay the same amount for a bottle of body wash, even if it smelled great. It seems that I have to use much more body wash per shower than shower gel, so it just would not last long enough to justify the price tag.


I actually prefer dollar store shower gels to the more expensive ones. I was able to get a big bottle of shower gel from the dollar store on clearance, and it only cost me a dollar and a few cents.

This shower gel had microbeads in it, and these are great for exfoliating. I like to use the gel after a day at the beach, because it rubs the sunscreen off of my skin.

I use spray-on sunscreen, and it sticks to me like glue. Body wash cannot remove it, but shower gel with scrubbing beads can.


I never even notice whether a bath product is a shower gel or a body wash when I am shopping for one. I just lift the lid and sniff all the different ones, and I choose which one I like best based on the scent.

I just figured that the choice by the company to call it either a shower gel or a body wash was based on which they thought would sound best. It does make sense that something called a gel would be thicker than something termed a wash, though.


I haven't known many men to use shower gel. The ones I know usually use the kind of bar soap with scrubbing beads that makes them feel really clean.

However, my husband decided to try a scented shower gel for men once. He liked the brand, because he had a cologne by the same name, so he assumed that he would like the shower gel, as well.

When he used it, the scent filled the entire bathroom. It was overpowering! He went to bed right after the shower, and I had trouble sleeping because of how strong the scent was!

He decided to try a body wash for men instead. It smelled basically the same, but it was way less intense, and it left a pleasant aroma behind that didn't overtake the sinuses.


Does an organic shower gel lather as much as regular shower gel? It seems like some of the organic products I have used do a good job of cleaning, but don't lather as much.

I have noticed this with the organic shampoo I have been using. I am trying to switch to organic health and beauty products, but find that I do miss the lather.


I usually prefer a shower gel because I like the thicker texture. Using a bath sponge also gives a really nice lather, and the fragrance is so uplifting.

I have different fragrances depending on what kind of mood I am in. If I am really tired and need something to get me going in the morning, I like to use something that has peppermint in it.

If I am taking a shower right before bed, I like to use a shower gel that has more of a relaxing fragrance like lavender.


It has been years since I have used a bar of soap in the shower. The bottles of shower gel or body wash are so much more convenient, and make less of a mess.

My favorite place to buy a body wash is at Bath & Body Works. They have a fantastic sale twice a year where you can buy some of their products at awesome prices. I find myself really stocking up, both for myself and for gifts.

This is also a great way to try new fragrances. The hardest part is deciding which ones to try since there are so many of them.

I haven't seemed to notice much difference in the way a shower gel works as opposed to a body wash. Both of them lather nicely and one gets me just as clean as the other.


I always thought that shower gel and body wash were essentially the same thing. If I like the way it smells, I will give it a try.

We have more than bottle of shower gel in our shower. One is a masculine scent for my husband and the other is for me. He doesn't like the floral, feminine scents I buy, and I can't say that I blame him.


Shower gel is awesome, but I think that sometimes people forget how strongly it can really smell. It's kind of how people can't really smell themselves -- your brain just filters out the shower gel smell because you smell it all the time.

That can really be a problem if you start using a perfume that doesn't match with your shower gel -- or you layer on thick, intensely scented lotion when your shower gel is already pretty strong smelling.

So even if you get the best shower gel in the world, make sure that you don't overdo it on scent. Case in point -- I have a friend who uses that opium shower gel, which smells amazing -- except then she douses herself in the opium perfume as well, since she can't smell the shower gel on herself.

So remember, subtlety is key -- and don't forget to match your perfume and shower gel!


I am totally in love with this new organic strawberry shower gel that I got for my birthday -- it smells so good that I don't even want to use a lotion or perfume afterwards. With shower gel like that, you just don't need one.

Besides the delicious scent, I really do love the way it makes my skin feel. It has a lotion built into it, so every time I come out of the shower I feel like I've been in a spa for a moisturizing treatment, and the Vitamin A and C from the strawberries is great at fighting free radicals.

It is definitely the best shower gel I've ever had.


I love shower gel, don't get me wrong, but I think it's a little crazy how much people are willing to pay for a shower gel just because it has a brand name on it.

I mean, it your Versace or DKNY shower gel really going to clean your body that much better than the Fa shower gel you can get at the drugstore?

Of course, that's not to say that sometimes getting a nicer brand doesn't make a difference. Some of the fancier brand gels really are worth it because of unique or expensive ingredients that they include -- but I'd venture to say that most of them aren't.

That's why it's a good idea to learn about the basic shower gel and body wash ingredients so that you can compare the cheaper ones with the fancy ones, and make sure that you're getting the best deal -- and not paying 50 dollars just for a label.

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