Can I Use Soap Instead of Shower Gel?

Soap has existed for thousands of years, and shower gel only a few hundred. Can you switch the time-tested product for the other without losing benefits? We investigate.

Cleansers, soaps, shower gels, and scrubs. They all have one thing in common: they're formulated to cleanse your skin from impurities.

Does that mean you can switch one for the other and still have the same experience? Does shower gel offer benefits that soap doesn't? We investigate.


Can I use soap instead of shower gel?


What is shower gel?

Shower gels are extremely convenient partners to your loofah. A gel's pourable cleansing properties allow you to lather a workable foam that spreads effortlessly from head to toe. A benefit your ancestors wouldn't have experienced with soap.

Palmolive was the first company—a few hundred years ago—to make this modern shower necessity a mainstream product. The composition of a shower gel is simple: a blend of water, detergents (or surfactants), foam boosters, and moisturisers. A gel's active ingredients dissolve away impurities.

Some Adore Beauty favourites include:

Over the last decade, shower gels have continued to evolve. You can now find shower creams, shower oils, and even shower milks. These formulas are perfect for sensitive skin, being enriched with a high proportion of moisturising actives alongside mild and caring cleansing ingredients.

This is exactly the ethos our daily sensitive-skin cleansers live by:


Can I use soap instead of shower gel?


The question then comes: can the benefits of these showering cleansers be replaced by good old-fashioned soap? Let's take a look.

What is soap? Can it do the same things shower gel can?

Soap has a longstanding history of use, with its manufacture rumoured to date as far back as 2800 B.C. There can be no better testament to its usefulness.

These days, there are two kinds of soap:

  1. Soap that's manufactured the traditional way
  2. Beauty bars, also known as syndet bars, which you may see labelled as 'soap-free'.

Yes, we did just say 'soap-free' when explaining which kinds of soap you have to choose from! Although technically, a soap is only a soap when it's manufactured the same way it was thousands of years ago.

Soap is different from shower gel in that it's not just a mixture of ingredients. To manufacture soap, ingredients must react during a cooking process. Traditionally, soap is made from natural oils, butters, and lye, or sodium hydroxide, which is an alkali.

Science lesson over. Bar soaps cleanse skin just as well as shower gels, if not better. Sometimes, that's good. But sometimes, the strong cleansing action of soap isn't needed daily. Which is when beauty bars take centre stage.

Beauty bars take the principles of soap and mix them with a matched dose of skin-nourishing moisturisers. Perhaps you've heard the rumours that traditional soaps can be drying to skin. This is true for traditional bar soaps but not true for today's beauty bars.

Soap has a very alkaline pH that isn't matched to your skin's acidic pH. This discrepancy can lead to dryness. Beauty bars are different because their pH protects your skin's hydration levels and even helps to boost them.

If you want to add a nourishing beauty bar to your routine, we recommend one of the below:

The bottom line: soap and shower gels are quite similar. Both are great cleansers, and both are available in alternative formulas that also protect, nourish, and hydrate your skin. Let us know which is your go-to and why! We love to hear from you, so drop us an email at


Can I use soap instead of shower gel?