According to a recent report from Mintel, a consumer products and market research firm, liquid body wash now accounts for the largest segment -- nearly 40% -- of the total soap, bath and shower market.
And sales of liquid body wash are expected to surge 35% from 2009 to 2014, Mintel reports. For many consumers, body wash has replaced soap, the market research firm says, because of its ease of use and convenience: There's none of the goopy mess often associated with a bar of soap.
But what are the price and results difference between body wash and an old-fashioned bar of soap? We dipped into the suds of the matter to find out.
Behind the Foam: Body Wash Vs. Soap
Just how do these dueling cleansers work on your skin? By definition, body washes are made not only to cleanse but to moisturize and improve the condition of your skin, Rolanda Johnson, PH.D, a senior scientist with Proctor & Gamble Beauty, told WalletPop. P&G makes both body wash and soap, including Olay brand body wash and Ivory brand soap.
"The novelty of body wash is that you can place skin-improving ingredients within the formula," Johnson says, including vitamin E, glycerin and soybean, which can be effectively deposited on the skin during a wash.
This will not only provide an immediate improvement in the look and feel of your skin, she says, "but a body wash can improve your overall skin health over time." And contrary to some reports, she adds, "Body washes have been known to clean as effectively as bar soaps."
While body washes might be all the rage, soap still has a loyal following, particularly among women and older people, experts say. That's because when it comes to getting clean, soaps really do the trick. "Many traditional soaps are formulated to cleanse the skin very well," Johnson says, removing both dirt and oils.
And although soap has a reputation for being drying, today's soaps are milder -- some even provide some moisturizing capabilities. But soaps can't moisturize as effectively as body washes, Johnson says, because in its solid form, soap can't hold the same moisturizing properties.
But what are soap's benefits over body wash? For one, it's less bulky to travel with than a bottle of body wash, Johnson says. And there are soaps on the market with nubs that massage -- something a body wash just can't do. What's more, according to the Mintel report, some bar soaps have exfoliating properties that are generally not found in body washes.
If, for some reason, you're interested in something that doesn't provide a high level of moisturization, Johnson says, you might want to opt for soap.
The Price Face-Off
When it comes to price, how do soap and body wash stack up?
Johnson estimates that a 10-ounce bottle of body wash will yield about 29 washes (though results will vary depending on who's washing and how much body wash they use). With a 10-ounce bottle of Olay body wash priced at $4.99 at Drugstore.com, the Olay body wash ends up costing about $0.17 per wash.
Meanwhile, one bar of soap, typically a scant 4.25 ounces, yields about 27 washes, Johnson says. Bar soaps are mostly sold in packs of two to 12 bars; they are less frequently sold individually.
Our research found a WalMart in Indiana selling a three-pack of Ivory soap for 97 cents, or about $0.32 per bar, which works out to be just about $0.012 per wash.
Though body washes and soap prices will vary greatly depending on the brand and the retailer, it's clear that in the price wars, soap is the hands-down, bargain winner.
Skip the Lotion and Save
If you're still a fan of body wash, you can save money by skipping the lotion afterward -- after all, many body washes both cleanse and moisturize.
"The popularity of products that combine [several] functions into one product shows that consumers are willing to pay more than they would for just the basics, but only if they feel an item is truly worth it," according to the Mintel report.
So how much can you save by forgoing the lotion?
A visit to Walmart.com turned up body lotions that ranged from $2.87 for a 16-ounce bottle of Suave's Skin Therapy Lotion with aloe and cucumber to a 16.9 ounce bottle of Eucerin's Dry Skin Therapy lotion for $10.97.
A 16-ounce bottle of lotion will last you roughly between three and four months, so if you cut out the inexpensive lotion, such as Suave's $2.87 item at WalMart, you'll save about $11.50 if you're buying four bottles a year.
And if you're purchasing one of the pricier lotions, such as the Eucerin for $10.97, you'll see savings of roughly $43.90 if you're used to buying four bottles a year.
Use Less and Add a Shower Puff
Still looking for ways to cut cleansing costs? Use a shower puff: It will make your body wash and soap last a lot longer.
"If you use only your hand or a wash cloth to create lather, you'll create a lot less and distribution won't go as far," Johnson says. "You'll save by using a puff."
A single recommended usage of body wash equals about two teaspoons, Johnson says. But many people use twice as much. And the fact of the matter is, most people really only need to use a little less than one teaspoon of soap to get the cleansing job done right.
So cut back on the amount you use and scrub up with a shower puff to extend the life of your cleansing products.
The proof is in the numbers: Old-fashioned soap is just plain cheaper. A 10-ounce bottle of body wash will cost you approximately $0.17 per wash, while a single bar of soap will cost you just $0.012 per wash.
If you're looking for ways to justify your body wash splurge, choose from the wide variety of moisturizing washes and forgo the lotion, which can save you as much as $45 a year, depending on the product cost.
And whether you're using body wash or soap, apply the cleanser with a shower puff to make the product last longer and help save you money. Happy bathing!