There’s nothing more relaxing than getting into the shower after a long day or a sweaty workout and lathering yourself up with your aromatic body wash. You can just feel the dirt and grime washing away down the drain, leaving you smelling fresh and squeaky clean.
Your face can get sweaty and dirty too. And it can be very tempting to put the same body wash on your face, especially when your face feels extra greasy.
Admit it, you’ve probably done that once or twice, when you’ve forgotten to buy new face wash. “What’s the harm?” you think, “It’s just soap!”
But unfortunately, there is a reason why face wash and body wash exist as two separate products.
Can you use body wash on your face? Technically, you can, but if you do it regularly, it’s actually bad for your skin. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on your body, so body wash is too harsh for it. It can lead to breakouts and dryness if you put it on your face too often.
Read on for more information about why you should have a separate routine for your face and your body.
Why Using Body Wash On Your Face Is A Bad Idea
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t use body wash on your face:
- The skin on your face is much thinner than the skin on your body. This means it’s more easily penetrated by chemicals and requires gentle care.
- The skin on your face dries out a lot quicker than the skin on your body, especially if you use chemicals like sulfates and fragrances, which body wash is full of.
- Thin skin is also more prone to irritation. Basically, it’s more delicate. And the ingredients in your body wash are a little too “heavy-duty” for the delicate skin of your face.
- The skin on your face also has a much faster turnover rate. The turnover rate is the speed at which old skin cells die and get replaced by new skin cells, which contributes to it being thinner and more sensitive. The fresh “baby” skin cells are soft and delicate, making your face more sensitive overall. The body, on the other hand, has a much slower turnover rate, which means there are more old and calloused skin cells protecting the “baby” skin cells underneath. That’s why it’s perfectly safe to put stronger and harsher chemicals on the skin of your body – there is a layer of protection.
- Some areas of your body also have callouses and extra layers of epidermis on them. Think of your hands or your feet – they encounter so much friction throughout the day that they develop thick skin. This skin can handle rubbing, scrubbing, exfoliating, and lathering in the way that the skin on your face never could.
- Another thing to consider is that your face is always exposed to the sun (even in cloudy conditions) because you’re rarely wearing any clothes or coverings on your face. The constant exposure to UV rays leaves your skin slightly damaged and more vulnerable to dryness and irritation. This is yet another reason why you want to use specialized face washes on your face: they’re often gentle and contain healing ingredients that help replenish and nourish the skin. Your body wash doesn’t usually have these types of ingredients.
- Ingredients in body wash are designed to clean off sweat, grease, and grime. This is why body wash often contains SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) which is a powerful detergent and lathering agent. It’s really good at removing dirt and grease, but when applied to the face, it will remove the “good” oils that your face needs to protect its moisture barrier.
What Happens If You Use Body Wash On Your Face
If you’ve used some body wash on your face once or twice – don’t worry. You’re likely not going to ruin your face by just doing it once or twice.
Many of us find ourselves without proper face wash from time to time, especially when traveling and staying at hotels.
In those instances, it’s perfectly ok to use body wash on your face. It’s better to have a clean face than a dirty face after traveling, so pick the lesser of two evils! But what happens if you’re using body wash on your face every day?
After a week or two, you’ll begin to experience some effects. The most common issues are:
- Dryness and flaking
- Irritation – redness, itchiness, puffiness
The SLS and fragrances found in body wash will slowly strip away your natural face oils that protect your skin’s moisture barrier. Without the moisture barrier, your face skin will begin to lose hydration and become dry and flaky.
When it has no moisture barrier, it becomes exposed and vulnerable to other chemicals, such as fragrances found in body wash. This could lead to irritation and redness.
With no moisture barrier and the whole balance of your skin being thrown off, your skin will begin to act out – you’ll notice more bumps, pimples, and blackheads.
It’s difficult to repair the moisture barrier on your skin and the process can take weeks. So it’s better to prevent this from happening altogether with a high quality face wash.
Over time, skin that survives with no moisture barrier will start to show early signs of aging and wrinkles. Although it’s not a direct result of using body wash, signs of aging are an unfortunate and inevitable consequence of using the wrong product on your face.
Face Wash Vs. Body Wash
So, what’s so different about face wash that makes it safer to use on the skin of your face? The main difference comes down to ingredients.
We already touched upon some of the ingredients of body wash, namely SLS and fragrances. These ingredients aren’t “bad” – they are just not good for your face. They’re perfectly safe to use on your body!
In fact, they are key to cleaning sweat and grime off your body, leaving your back free from blackheads and your armpits smelling fresh.
Additionally, body wash often contains parabens, sulfates, and synthetic dyes, all of which can irritate the delicate skin on your face.
Face washes are formulated with your facial skin in mind. They are much gentler. They clean your face without stripping your oils because they don’t contain SLS or other sulfates.
Instead, they often rely on natural plant oils to gently remove dirt and bacteria without disturbing your natural moisture barrier.
You’ll notice that most face wash doesn’t create a lot of foam – that’s because there are no detergents, like SLS, in the formulation of your face wash.
A good face wash also won’t contain any artificial fragrances. Your face doesn’t get stinky as your armpits do, so why douse it with an irritating fragrance? Fragrances can irritate and dry out your skin, so most face washes omit them from the ingredients.
A lot of face washes contain additional healing and hydrating ingredients that are not present in body wash. These ingredients include aloe vera, jojoba oil, essential oils, ceramides, and other skin-friendly ingredients (we love this face wash from CeraVe).
The purpose of these ingredients is to balance out your skin, hydrate it, and help maintain its pH balance.
Your body doesn’t really need most of these ingredients. The skin on your body is much less fussy. As a result, most body washes simply don’t contain these healing and nourishing ingredients.
Meanwhile, the skin on your face loves these formulations. They help keep your skin moisturized and healthy, preventing irritation, blackheads, and pimples.
Can You Use Moisturizing Body Wash On Your Face?
Some people have sensitive skin all over their body, which means regular body wash doesn’t work for them either. They can usually find special body wash that is designed to be more moisturizing and less irritating than traditional body wash.
Can this type of “moisturizing” body wash be used on the face?
It’s probably better for your face than plain body wash because it has more hydrating ingredients, but it likely still contains fragrances, which are bad for your face. It might also contain sulfates and parabens, so even though it’s a little better than regular body wash, it’s still not ideal for your face.
Your best bet is to read the ingredients list and see if it contains anything that would normally irritate your face.
The skin on your face is different from the skin on your body, which is why there are different products to wash each of them.
Body wash is usually too harsh to use on your face. Once or twice won’t hurt you, but don’t make it a habit. Some body washes are formulated better than others, so always read the ingredients list.
To prevent dryness, irritation, breakouts, and early signs of aging, it’s best to use a dedicated gentle face wash on your face, which will protect your skin’s natural moisture barrier and provide your skin with hydrating ingredients.