What is Shower Gel?

What is Shower Gel?

What do you use in the shower to clean yourself? Is shower gel a good option for healthy skin?

Shower gel is a liquid soap. At a glance, it is hard to discern the technical difference between shower gel and a lot of liquid soaps out there on the market like hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent to name a few. 

Shower gel is the preferred body cleaning method for millions of people worldwide. It lathers quickly, is nicely contained in a plastic squeeze bottle or pump, and there are many different varieties and scents available, and it is affordable. 

We’ll cover what shower gel is, how it compares to body wash, and compare some benefits of your different options so you’re in the know.

Let’s talk about the chemistry of shower gel.

Shower gel is perfectly formulated to clean your body. Chemically, shower gel is predominantly made up of what we call a surfactant. A surfactant is a combination of two parts: a lipophilic part, which is fat-soluble, and a hydrophilic part, which is water-soluble. 

So how does it work to clean the body? The fatty part of the shower gel helps dissolve the dirt and build-up. It lifts it up and away from the skin and follicles. Then the water-soluble, hydrophilic, washes it all away. 

There are other ingredients in body wash that all have different jobs. Different brands add additional ingredients to help lengthen the shelf life, keep the gel from separating, and various fragrances or extracts to give it the scents you love.

But how can we know which product is right for our bodies? 

Besides grabbing and sniffing every bottle on the soap aisle to narrow down each brand and type by fragrance, there are two primary descriptors of shower gel to pay attention to:

  • Shower gel
  • Body wash or cream body wash

So what differences do they have? Which one should you choose?

Shower Gel vs. Body Wash

There are only a few differences in shower gel and body wash. 

Besides, the apparent hint in the name, shower gel is a thicker, jelly-like soap. It helps to remove oil build-up from the body in a similar fashion to hand soap. 

Body wash is very similar to shower gel in formulation but is usually less gelatinous, has a creamy texture, and includes even more of the moisturizing good stuff for your skin.

Shower gel and body wash are specifically formulated with a lower pH than bar soap so as not to be as drying on the skin. During the mixing process, humectants and emollients are added into the shower gel or body wash to help keep the skin moisturized while cleansing.

If you’re stuck between shower gel and body wash, then consider which one will benefit your skin the most. For better moisture retention, it is generally recommended to use body wash.

How does shower gel work?

Similarly to bar soap, shower gel lifts the oil and dirt molecules from the skin as you apply friction. The oil and dirt molecules then bind together and become suspended in the watery soap mixture rather than sticking to your skin. 

This helps them simply wash away when you rinse your body, but this also means that the dirt and bacteria can get stuck inside your loofah or washcloth. Be sure to rinse your washing tool thoroughly to ensure you get out all of the gel and residue before it dries.

Is shower gel more hygienic than bar soap?

Yes, because shower gel is self-contained in a bottle. It has fewer chances to come into contact with the bacteria on our skin or in our shower that could make its home in the shower gel. It is because shower gel is tucked safely away in its bottle that it stays clean and bacteria-free.

And most bottles are recyclable! Win win.

However, it is important to note that the tools you use to scrub your body with the shower gel can harbor bacteria if they are not changed out regularly or given enough time to dry fully between uses. It is always good practice to rinse your loofah or washcloth well after cleansing and then allow it to hand dry in a well-ventilated area.

That being said, the most effective and clean way to clean your skin is with a clean washcloth or a clean loofah and body wash. Bar soap tends to have leftover bacteria hanging out on its surface since your last cleansing and is typically stored improperly, not allowing the soap to dry out between uses.

If you do use bar soap, be sure to rinse it off well before using it on a clean loofah, sponge, or washcloth.

We discuss all the pros and cons of bar soap versus body wash here.

Should I choose shower gel over body wash?

This choice ultimately comes down to skin type. Shower gel is more effective than body wash at cutting through grease because it lacks the extra humectants and moisturizers that body wash uses to hydrate the skin.

If you have normal to oily skin, shower gel can help you remove excess oil and dirt without the squeakiness of bar soap. If you have dry or combination skin, a body wash may be more suited to your needs and help you pack in more moisture. 

However, all skin types need added moisture, and a moisturizing body wash can have a better long-term effect on your skin's oil production levels than simply removing the excess oil with a shower gel. It is always better to add moisture back into the skin whenever available to you throughout your cleansing and skincare routine.

When it comes to making the choice of shower gel over bar soap, shower gel wins hands down. 

Still, in our opinion, the benefits of a body wash with more moisturizing components far outweigh the blasé cleansing power of shower gel. Especially when moisturizing is the number one component in healthier, more vibrant, younger-looking skin.

To suds up and get the best cleanse of your skin's life you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Warm up the shower and let it get steamy. Steam helps to soften the skin and will make your cleansing more effective and be gentler on the skin. 
  2. Be sure to use warm water, not hot water. Our skin acts as a natural air conditioner for our bodies. When it gets hot our pores open up so water can evaporate and cool us down. This process is drying and irritating to the skin. Even though it feels awesome it is best to shower a cooler temperature so all that gorgeous hydration already in your skin isn’t evaporating.
  3. Grab your favorite loofah or washcloth, preferably one that has been stored properly, and get it nice and wet. Rubbing your skin with a dry loofah is not going to do you any favors.
  4. Squeeze the shower gel directly onto the loofah, apply more water if necessary, and get it nice and foamy.
  5. Begin scrubbing your body. We like to start with the less grimey and bacteria prone areas first so not to spread even more bacteria around while scrubbing.
  6. Apply more shower gel as needed to keep the loofah sudsy and slippery to get the most effective wash.
  7. Rinse and pat dry with a clean towel. I know that rubbing with the towel feels more effective dry, but gentle pat drying won't tug or pull on the skin.
  8. Finally, apply moisturizer or lotion to the skin while still damp. This will help lock in all the juicy moisture you just applied during your wash and lotion actually absorbs into the skin better when it is damp.

Which cleansing method do you think takes the cake?

We just can't get enough of Spongellé’s Spongology line right now with its body wash infused buffers and back scrubbers. These products take the worry out of clean shower tools ensuring you have enough body wash for up to 20 to 30 + washes depending on which tool you choose.

And, what’s great is we have specific products for your kids or that special man in your life. But, at the end of the day, the buffers and scrubbers are invigorating gifts for anyone you care for.

They even come in a cute travel format so you can slide past TSA with no problems on your next vacay and always have your favorite body wash!

Do you use shower gel, body wash, or hand soap?

Let us know your favorite and why it works for you!