Can You Use Shampoo as Body Wash?

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Sometimes we run out of bar soap and body wash, but still need something to use in the shower. It makes a lot of sense to grab shampoo in a pinch.

But can you use shampoo as body wash and still get an effective cleansing experience?

The short answer is yes, you can use shampoo as a body wash. However, it doesn’t contain the exact same ingredients as a traditional body wash. This means that it might not be as effective at cleansing your skin.

a woman pouring liquid from a yellow bottle to her shoulder to start to wash her body

Let’s explore the difference between these two types of products, and see if hair shampoo is a good alternative to body wash. We will also explore other body wash alternatives that you can use when you’re low on toiletries.

Shampoo and Body Wash: What’s The Difference?

Shampoo and body wash are both cleaning agents that remove dirt, debris, and oil, but they aren’t designed equally.

Here are some of the primary differences between the two:

Exfoliating Components

Body wash often contains exfoliants that help to slough away dead skin cells. The shampoo does not typically contain these ingredients.

So you’re less likely to get as smooth of a skin surface with shampoo.

Foaming Agents

a woman massaging her hair with shampoo


Shampoo contains more foaming agents than body wash. This is because your hair needs a good lather to cleanse effectively.

However, too much foam on your skin can actually strip away natural oil and leave you feeling dry.

PH of Cleansers

Body wash typically has a lower pH than shampoo. This helps to protect the skin’s natural barrier.

When the pH of your skin is unbalanced, it can lead to dryness, irritation, and even breakouts.


Shampoo and body wash both come in a variety of scents. However, shampoo usually has a stronger scent since it’s designed for use on your scalp.

If you have sensitive skin, this might not be the best option.


Surfactants are the cleansing agents in shampoo and body wash that help to remove dirt and oil. Shampoo can often contain varying amounts of surfactants, depending on how much or how little oil your hair type produces.

So if you have dry hair and use dry hair shampoo, there are likely fewer surfactants present. This means that the shampoo will have less cleaning power when used as body wash and leave more residue and oils.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES) are two common surfactants found in shampoo.

These ingredients can cause skin irritation, redness, and dryness. If you have sensitive skin, look for these ingredients in your shampoo before using it as a body soap.

Conditioning Molecules

The shampoo contains conditioning molecules that help to keep your hair soft and manageable. The body wash does not contain these same ingredients.

This may leave you feeling slick and greasy after using shampoo as a body wash.

Shampoos To Avoid As a Body Wash Replacement

Now that you know a little more about the differences between shampoo and body wash, let’s explore which types of shampoo you should avoid using as a body wash.

First, avoid any shampoo that is specifically designed for dry hair. These products will likely have fewer surfactants and leave more residue on your skin.

This can lead to irritation and even breakouts.

Second, avoid any shampoo with a strong fragrance. As we mentioned before, the scent of shampoo can be quite strong. If you have sensitive skin, this might not be the best option.

Try not to use any clarifying shampoos. These products are designed to remove build-up from your hair, but they can also strip away natural oils. This can leave your skin feeling dry and irritated.

Finally, don’t use medicated shampoos or anti-dandruff shampoos unless directed by a doctor. These products often contain ingredients that are too harsh for use on the skin.

Other Alternatives for Body Washes

Now that we’ve explored the differences between shampoo and body wash, let’s look at some alternatives you can use when you don’t have access to traditional body wash:

Salt Scrub

Image showing brownish granules beside a jar with the label bath salts


A salt scrub is a great way to exfoliate your skin and remove any lackluster skin cells. Since salt is a natural disinfectant, it can also help to cleanse your skin and remove any dirt or debris.

You can add a bit of oil to your salt to help prevent your skin from feeling too dry. Just be sure to avoid any open wounds or cuts, as salt can sting.

Sugar Scrub

A sugar scrub is another great way to exfoliate your skin. It’s also gentle enough for use on sensitive skin.

Sugar scrubs can help to slough away old skin cells and leave your skin feeling soft and smooth.

Just like the salt scrub, add some oil, water, or plant milk to get the desired consistency.

Banana & Brown Sugar Scrub

This homemade body wash alternative is almost good enough to eat! Bananas are a great source of vitamins and minerals, while brown sugar is a natural humectant.

This means that it can help to lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated.

To make this scrub, simply mash one ripe banana with ¼ cup of brown sugar. Apply it to your wet skin in circular motions and rinse away with

Oatmeal Scrub

Oatmeal is another great alternative for cleansing your skin. It’s gentle and won’t strip away the natural oil from your body.

Oatmeal also contains compounds that can help to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

You can break oatmeal down into finer exfoliating particles by using a blender or food processor. Then, mix it with some honey, water, or milk to create a paste.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are a great addition to any of these alternatives for body washes and shower gels. They can help to add a pleasant scent and can also have therapeutic benefits.

Many oils are antimicrobial, such as tea tree oil, which can help to keep your skin clean. Others, like lavender oil, can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

And of course, the scents of the essential oils can be combined to create endless possibilities.

Make sure to use high-quality oils and start by blending a few drops into your chosen base, such as the scrubs mentioned above. You can always add more if you want a stronger scent.

Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda is a great way to cleanse your skin without stripping away natural oils from dry skin. It can also help to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

It’s also an excellent solution for removing body odor and can help to brighten and even out the tone of your skin. It will also gently remove dead skin cells without irritating sensitive skin.

To make a baking soda paste, simply mix equal parts baking soda and water. Apply to your wet skin and massage in for a minute or two before rinsing away.

Baby Wash

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to try using baby wash. Baby products are designed to be gentle on delicate skin and can often be used by those who don’t do well with traditional shower gel.

Oil Cleansing

Oil cleansing is a popular method for people with dry skin. The idea is that you can use oil to dissolve the dirt and impurities on your skin without stripping away natural oils.

To oil cleanse, start by wetting your face with warm water. Then, massage a small amount of oil into your skin for a minute or two.

Rinse away with warm water and follow up with a light moisturizer.

You can use olive oil, castor oil, or another type of oil that’s suitable for your skin type. You can also purchase a commercial shower oil or body wash that’s designed for oil cleansing.

Be careful if you have a naturally oily face, as this may lead to clogged pores.

Dry Brushing

A woman holding a dry brush and brushing her other arm


Dry brushing is a popular method for exfoliating the skin. It’s also said to improve circulation and lymphatic drainage.

To dry brush, start by purchasing a natural bristle brush. Then, gently brush your dry skin in circular motions before showering as usual.

Start at your feet and work your way up to your body. Use small circular motions or sweeping motions in the direction of your heart.

Be careful not to brush too hard, as this can irritate the skin.

You’d be surprised by how invigorating this can feel, and may leave you as refreshed as you feel after a shower!

This is because dry brushing can help to increase blood flow which in turn gives you more energy and alertness.

Wet Brushing

Wet brushing is similar to dry brushing. The only difference is that you do this process in the shower.

This can take more time, but also may be more effective as the water can help to loosen dead skin cells.

Repeat the same process as above. If you have extra dry skin, feel free to add some oil during the process. Just be careful not to slip in the shower!

Castile Soap

If you use sustainable cleaning products in your home such as castile soap, you may want to consider using it on your body as well.

Castile soap is a type of soap that’s made with olive oil and other plant-based oils and is considered a non-detergent soap.

It’s gentle on the skin and can be used as a body wash, shampoo, or even toothpaste!

To use castile soap as a body wash, simply add a few drops to a wet washcloth or loofah and massage it into your skin, just as you would with other body washes. Rinse away as usual.

Dried Lemon Peel

If you have dull skin, you may want to consider using dried lemon peel as a body wash. Lemon peel is rich in Vitamin C and can help to brighten the skin.

To use the dried lemon peel as a body wash, add a few pieces of dried lemon peel to a blender or food processor and blend into a fine powder.

Add this powder to a wet washcloth or loofah and massage it into your skin. Rinse away as usual.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Some people swear by apple cider vinegar as a body wash. This is because apple cider vinegar can help to restore the skin’s natural pH balance.

Its probiotic properties can also help to promote healthy skin.

To use apple cider vinegar as a body wash, add a few tablespoons to a cup of water and mix well. Pour this mixture into a clean spray bottle and spritz it onto your skin in the shower.

Be sure to rinse away with warm water afterward. You may want to follow up with a light moisturizer if you don’t have oily skin.

Can Hair Conditioner Be Used as Body Wash?

If you use a hair conditioner as a replacement for body wash, you may be able to wash away some odors and debris from your body.

However, there aren’t the same ingredients in hair conditioners that are in body wash. This means you may be left with an oily or greasy feeling and won’t fully cleanse your skin.

Can Hand Soap Be Used as Body Wash?

Similar to a hair conditioner, hand soap may be able to remove some dirt and debris from your body.

However, it’s not designed for this purpose and you may not fully cleanse your skin. In addition, hand soap can be drying to the skin and may cause irritation.

If you use hand soap instead of traditional body washes, be sure to use a small amount and avoid sensitive areas such as the face, neck, and privates.

It’s also important to rinse away the soap thoroughly and follow up with a moisturizer.

The Bottom Line

Can you use shampoo as a body wash? Definitely! In a pinch, this product is similar enough to keep you clean when you run out of your usual body wash.

So, next time you run out of body wash, don’t fret! You can probably find a suitable replacement in your home.

Just be sure to do a patch test first to avoid any irritation. And remember to moisturize afterward!


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About Emma

Hey there! I'm Emma. When I'm not wrangling kids I like to walk aimlessly around hardware stores and watch HGTV for hours on end.