Body Wash vs Shower Gel: What's the Difference?

Posted By Raw Sugar on June 28, 2023

Not all shower products are made equal! Learn the key differences between shower gel vs body wash and why it matters to your skin.

Cleansing is an important part of any person's self-care routine, as it helps to wash away any excess oil and sweat that you’ve built up during the day. The skin care product that you choose will decide what kinds of results you get from cleansing, making it important that you select the one that suits your preferences and skin type the best.

When comparing your options, deciding which type of body cleanser you prefer is an important first step. Many people like the convenience of a liquid cleanser that is simple to lather and rinse. Shower gel and body wash both fall under this category, and some people use the terms interchangeably. So, is shower gel body wash? And if not, what is the difference between shower gel and body wash? What is shower gel used for? We’ve got the answers below. 

What Is Shower Gel?

A shower gel is a liquid soap formulated especially for body skin. The name "shower gel" comes from the consistency of this type of body cleanser. Most products have some body to them, so they come out of the tube or bottle like a gel. Many shower gel products can double as shampoo, allowing you to cleanse from head to toe with one formula.  

Today, you can find shower gels in a wide range of fragrances from fruity scents to earthy herbals to florals. The fragrance ingredients in a shower gel are usually concentrated, making the scent prominent and long lasting. You can find shower gel products formulated for men, women and children as well as for-everyone options.

What Is Body Wash?

A body wash is another type of liquid soap that is pH-balanced for cleansing the body’s skin. When you compare shower gel vs body wash, body washes are usually thinner, though consistencies vary. Some body washes are creamier while others are lighter. You can also find foaming body wash products that are very thin but able to be worked into a very rich, frothy lather. (Note: You’ll get the best results using these with a fresh shower loofah).

Like shower gels, body washes are available in an array of fragrances. Scents tend to be subtler, as the fragrance ingredients in body washes tend to be less concentrated. However, products like our fruity Pineapple + Maqui Berry + Coconut Body Wash and our decadent Vanilla Bean + Sugar Body Wash still envelop you in a pleasing scent while you wash. Compared to shower gels, body washes tend to come in more varieties like moisturizing and exfoliating, which we'll discuss in the next section.

Is Shower Gel Body Wash? The Difference Between Shower Gel and Body Wash

The primary difference between a body wash and a shower gel is consistency with shower gels being the thicker option. However, there are other differences between the two. 


Shower gel and body wash have many ingredients in common. Both types of body cleansers usually contain:

  • Water: Used to give formulas their consistency and to dissolve other ingredients
  • Emulsifiers: Thickening agents that give products their body and foaming properties. Shower gels and foaming body wash products typically contain more than other body washes.
  • Detergents and surfactants: The cleansing agents in body washes and shower gels
  • Preservatives: Ingredients that fight microbes and keep formulas stable so that they last for longer
  • Fragrance: Ingredients that give shower gel and body wash their pleasant scents

In addition to the above ingredients, many body washes contain emollients, which increase moisture levels in the skin. Shower gels may also feature emollients, but they're less commonly added.

As you consider the ingredients in body washes and shower gels, it's important to keep an eye out for chemicals that are known to cause skin irritation in some people, such as:

  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Parabens

Ideally, your shower gels and body washes should be organic, sulfate free, and vegan to be sure there are no harmful chemicals.

Can you use shampoo as body wash?

In general, avoid regularly using shampoo in place of body wash or vice versa. While an occasional switch may not pose any problems, consistently substituting one isn’t ideal.


Some body cleansers leave moisture behind while helping to remove impurities from the skin. As previously mentioned, these moisturizing properties typically come from emollients, which are more common in body washes than shower gels.

For those prone to dry skin, a moisturizing body wash can be an excellent solution. Products like our Watermelon + Fresh Mint Moisturizing Body Wash and Avocado + Cactus Pear Moisturizing Body Wash replenish lost moisture while leaving skin feeling clean and refreshed.  

What is shower gel used for?

Shower gel is typically used for cleansing, and it has more body and typically can lather more than body wash. Both shower gel and body wash can wash away sweat, oils and impurities effectively, but their differences in consistency can affect how easy they are to use for cleansing. It really comes down to personal preference. Some people find that the extra body of a shower gel aids in the lathering process, while others think body wash is more convenient to use.

As you weigh your cleansing options, keep exfoliation in mind. Exfoliating is the process of lifting cells away from the outer layer of skin to leave the tissue feeling softer and smoother. Shower gels are more likely to contain exfoliating ingredients like sea salt, oatmeal or microbeads. However, there are exfoliating body washes available, such as our Men's Sandalwood + Lavender Exfoliating Body Wash and Men's Tea Tree + Peppermint Exfoliating Body Wash.

How to Choose the Right Body Cleanser

To select the best body cleanser for your needs, think carefully about your skin's needs and your skin care goals. Are you striving for softer, better moisturized skin? Would you benefit from exfoliating as you cleanse? Assessing what your skin requires to look and feel its best can help you narrow down the options and choose the right shower gel or body wash.

Also, be sure to review the ingredient listings for the potential irritants mentioned above. Raw Sugar products contain only clean, good-for-you ingredients and formulated without parabens, SLS or SLES. Plus, our body washes are cruelty-free and vegan, so you can feel good about adding them to your skin care routine.

Best Body Cleanser for Your Shower Routine

By now, you should have the answer to the question ‘What is a shower gel’? And understand the difference between shower gel vs body wash. As you can see, body wash and shower gel formulas can vary greatly, but generally, when you compare shower gel versus body wash, body washes tend to have a thinner consistency while shower gels are thicker. 

Considering your skin care needs and your preferences will help you select the ideal solution for your daily routine, and carefully reading ingredient listings will allow you to ensure your skin is left truly clean after your shower. Check out our sulfate free, and vegan body washes made with clean, good-for-you ingredients to find the best body cleanser for you. Browse our line of bar soaps and body scrubs for even more cleansing options.

← Older Post Newer Post →


All content provided on Raw Thoughts is for informational purposes only. Raw Sugar, LLC (Raw Sugar) makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site externally. Raw Sugar is not to be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information; nor will be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

Any opinions, comments, recommendations, or advice that is contained within Raw Thoughts Blog Posts does not in any way directly or indirectly represent the opinions, views, beliefs, or intentions of Raw Sugar. Furthermore, Raw Sugar is not responsible for the accuracy, or otherwise, of any of the information posted by guest bloggers, partners, influencer community, etc.. Raw Thoughts’ readers should carry out their own research and investigations regarding any posted blog content. Raw Sugar, specifically, excludes any liability in tort and contract for any loss or damage suffered by any reader who relies upon statements made in Raw Thoughts posts.

Give us a follow

Earn 1 point for every $1 you spend

Join Now

Earn 50 Points

Already a member? Log In