Can You Use Hand Soap to Wash Your Body?

Can You Use Hand Soap to Wash Your Body?

You’ve been there: stepping into the shower only to realize your favorite body wash bottle is empty. Your gaze shifts to that liquid hand soap or bar soap on the sink, pondering if it can come to the rescue. Or perhaps you’ve noticed hand soap on the supermarket shelves, available in larger quantities or at a more wallet-friendly price than your usual body wash. The burning question is, can you really use hand soap to wash your body? And more importantly, is it safe?

The short answer is yes, you can. However, due to the different ingredients in hand soap compared to body wash, the results might vary based on your skin type.

Comparing Hand Soap and Body Wash Ingredients

Bar Hand Soap Ingredients:

Traditional bar hand soaps contain sodium hydroxide or lye mixed with solid fats, such as palm oil or animal fats. This formulation ensures the soap remains solid during use and storage. While effective for hand cleaning, they may not produce a rich lather-like body washes.

Liquid Hand Soap Ingredients:

Liquid versions also contain sodium hydroxide but utilize glycerin, derived from liquid fats like soybean oil. To combat bacteria and prevent fungal growth, many contain antibacterial agents. Some variants prioritize moisturization, incorporating ingredients like essential oils, oatmeal, or milk proteins.

Body Wash Ingredients:

Body washes typically use surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) for cleaning. These agents disperse and remove dirt and oils from the skin. Some body washes use potassium hydroxide, which, like sodium hydroxide, undergoes a “saponification” reaction to cleanse.

Hand Soap vs. Body Wash: The Skin Impact

While both sodium and potassium hydroxide help establish product pH, excessive amounts in hand soaps can be too acidic, potentially causing skin irritation. An overly alkaline pH can strip the skin’s natural oils, damaging skin proteins and disrupting the skin’s protective barrier. Such imbalances might alter skin microbiota and enzyme activity, potentially harming the skin with prolonged use.

Hand soaps with antibacterial properties can compromise the skin’s natural microbiota layer, making it more vulnerable.

In contrast, body washes are generally gentler on the skin. Their formula includes secondary surfactants which soothe the skin during cleansing. With a more skin-friendly pH, they are less likely to cause dryness or damage.

A point to note: bar soaps are sometimes seen as less hygienic since they’re commonly shared, unlike body washes dispensed freshly each time.

Using Hand Soap as a Body Wash Alternative

If you’re considering hand soap as a body wash substitute, opt for those with minimal sodium or potassium hydroxide content. You can also craft your own skin-friendly soap, suitable for both hand and body use. Here’s a simple recipe:

DIY Skin-Friendly Hand and Body Wash


  • 4-ounce bar of natural soap, e.g., Castile soap
  • Cheese grater or knife
  • Essential oil of choice
  • Purified water


  1. Prepare Soap Flakes: Grate the soap bar into fine flakes.
  2. Melt Soap Flakes: Boil about eight cups of water. Turn off the heat and pour over soap flakes, stirring to melt the soap.
  3. Cooling Phase: Let the liquid soap cool for about 12 hours. Adjust its consistency by adding more water or soap flakes as needed.
  4. Infuse with Essential Oils: Add 15-20 drops of your chosen essential oil.
  5. Store: Pour the liquid soap into dispensers for storage and future use.

For a more nourishing soap, incorporate a cup of coconut milk during preparation.

Related FAQs

Does homemade liquid soap offer antibacterial benefits?

While store-bought antibacterial soaps contain specific agents like triclocarban or triclosan, the CDC asserts that regular soap and water are effective for hand cleansing when used correctly. So, your DIY soap should work just as well without the harsh chemicals.

Can you add surfactants to homemade soap?

Certainly! Ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or more skin-friendly alternatives derived from natural sources can be added to enhance lathering.

Out of hand soap, can you use body wash instead?

Absolutely. Just ensure you wash your hands thoroughly for effective cleansing.

In a pinch, both hand soap and body wash can often be used interchangeably. However, understanding their unique formulations can help you make the best choice for your skin’s health and comfort.

Is it okay to use hand soap as body wash?

While using hand soap in a pinch might be alright, it’s not recommended for regular body cleansing. Hand soaps might contain Sodium Hydroxide, which renders the soap more acidic. Prolonged use can lead to dryness or even skin damage. Ensure your hand soap has minimal Sodium Hydroxide if you must use it on your body.

Is it okay to use two soaps for the body?

While using two different soaps might seem harmless, it could cause skin irritation depending on their ingredients. It’s always essential to monitor how your skin reacts and choose products that complement each other.

Can I use shampoo as body wash?

While it might be tempting, experts like Lal suggest not making it a habit. Shampoos are formulated with a different pH and are designed to strip oils more than body washes. This can lead to excessively dry skin. Though an occasional use might not be harmful, it’s not ideal.

Which is better: soap or body wash?

Traditional soap bars might contain harsh chemicals that strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness. In contrast, body washes are often infused with moisturizing ingredients tailored to address skin issues, ensuring a gentle cleanse that helps retain the skin’s natural moisture. Thus, body wash is typically the better choice for maintaining skin health.