So to be frank, shower gel and body wash are essentially the same thing. It’s hard to distinguish differences based on a title, but in general, the texture is the flexible factor. Shower gels tend to be thicker and have (you guessed it) a gel consistency. Body wash on the other hand is much more broad: Washes can have varying consistencies from those that are more similar to liquid soap to those that are more creamy and dense. Both formulations contain gentle surfactants that will certainly clean your skin, regardless of texture or foaming potential. Both options, too, can be made without drying sulfates.
“Ideal [shower gels and washes] are made without harsh sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate, that can damage the skin barrier,” board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., tells us. “I also love seeing options that are enriched with soothing, hydrating ingredients like milk, aloe, honey, and oatmeal. Also, any ingredients that restore the barrier and help bring the pH back to the normal range–slightly acidic–are imperative. Our skin has an invisible layer called the ‘acid mantle,’ and we need to respect the pH of our skin to keep it healthy.”
But like all skin care products, what works best for you is what you should use. Some people prefer a foamy wash as it may make you feel more clean, although that isn’t necessarily true. Others prefer a less messy formula like a gel that cleans the skin without the mess. And these aren’t the only names used in the world of shower products–but things like oil cleansers, active cleansers, and body scrubs are different from plain old shower gel or body wash, so keep that in mind.