Can I Use Shampoo On My Body? Studies, Skin pH (2020)

Natural Pioneers Can I use shampoo on my body, studies, ph

My dad has used shampoo for his body his entire life. But is it good for our skin? We’ve got it all covered, starting with a shampoo’s effectiveness to clean our skin, health parameters like pH, hydration, and moisture, and clever tricks that give shampoo-only-users a clear advantage over most people.

Shampoo can be used to clean your body. While shampoos might use different conditioning agents and slightly harsher detergents, the cleaning agents are identical. Studies show that non-toxic, pH-balanced shampoos with hydrating & moisturizing ingredients are ideal for both, hair and skin health.

Let’s first explore if shampoo cleans our body as effectively as a body wash.

1. Does Shampoo Clean Skin Effectively?

Shampoos all contain the same basic ingredients. While the variety of shampoos in the marketplace seems confusing, the ingredient categories are to a large extent standard. And yes, that includes high-end professional shampoo available in hair salons. Research shows, that there are no ingredients in salon shampoos that you can’t find in regular shampoo products. [1]

Let’s take a look at the list and find out what a shampoo’s cleaning agents are to understand if they are able to clean skin just as effectively.

Shampoo Formulation

  1. Synthetic Detergents: Remove dirt, styling products, sebum, and skin scales from hair and scalp
  2. Conditioners: Leave the hair soft and smooth
  3. Sequestering Agents: Prevent soap scum from forming on the hair
  4. Preservatives: Prevent microbial and fungal contamination of shampoo
  5. Specialty Additives: Provide ingredients for special treatment (for example dandruff)
  6. Foaming Agents: Suds have only one function, to satisfy people’s need for foamy products and have no cleaning power in themselves
  7. Thickeners: Thicken the shampoo, as people feel that a thick shampoo works better
  8. Opacifiers: Added to make a shampoo opaque for aesthetic purposes
  9. Fragrances: Added to give the shampoo a desired smell [2]

I know, it’s a long list. When we take a close look at the formulation list, it’s clear that synthetic detergents are the cleaning agents in shampoo. Interestingly, almost half of the ingredients in shampoos are not required. Hence, foaming agents, thickeners, opacifiers, and fragrances are nice to have, but have no impact on a shampoo’s cleaning effectiveness.

Natural Pioneers Can Shampoo Really Nourish Hair Shampoo ingredients

>> Learn more about shampoo in our article: Can Shampoo Really Nourish Hair?

The question is, do synthetic detergents clean our skin as good as a body wash?

The answer is yes. Synthetic detergents in shampoo clean your skin just as good as a body wash. In fact, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, the most commonly used detergent in shampoos, is also the primarily used cleaning agent in body washes.

How Does Shampoo Clean? Detergents In Action

Synthetic detergents are also called surfactants, which is short for “SURFace ACTive AgeNt”. [3] Think of surfactants as a lollipop. The stick is strongly attracted to dirt or grease and the pop really likes water. That means surfactants have to sides: the pop side is attracted by water, and the stick side repels it.

How shampoo works:

  1. Surfactants are mixed with water when you apply shampoo to your wet hair or skin.
  2. The stick side which loves grease will stick to all dirt it can find. To the point that it covers the entire dirt particle and lifts it off of your hair or your skin.
  3. As soon as you rinse shampoo, the water loving side (the pop side) will connect with the water and the entire dirt and grease particles are rinsed off.

It’s that simple!

Natural Pioneers How does shampoo work - surfactants are cleaning agents

>> Learn more in our article: How Does Shampoo Work?

Differences Between Shampoo And Body Wash

While we found that most body washes and shampoos contain the same ingredients, there are two differences you should be aware of.

First, shampoos contain conditioners that leave the hair soft and smooth and make combing hair easier. [4] Some of the ingredients that condition hair can also provide a nice feel on skin. However, many will not, hence shampoos and body washes use different conditioning agents (also called hydrating & moisturizing ingredients).

Curious how conditioner works?

When we wash our hair, our hair has a negative charge. Think of the negative pole of a magnet. Shampoos contain a small amount of conditioners which are positively charged. That means they are strongly attracted to our hair and evenly stick to it.

This electrostatic interaction lubricates the surface of each hair and makes combing a lot easier. Since the negative charge (-) after shampooing and the positive conditioning charge (+) balance each other out, this also helps reduce frizz. [5]

The second difference you should be aware of is the harshness of the detergents. Since our skin is more sensitive than our hair, body washes generally use slightly less, and also less harsh detergents which can be drying to skin. More on this in the next chapter.

Natural Pioneers Can I use shampoo on my body shampoo vs body wash differences

The Take-Away: Shampoo effectively cleans our skin. Since both, shampoos and body washes use the same ingredients in many cases, it comes at no surprise that shampoo can clean our skin just as effectively as body wash. The differences between the two are that conditioning agents used in shampoo may or may not feel good on our skin. Hence, different conditioning agents are used in shampoo and body wash. Finally, shampoo may be formulated with harsher detergents while body washes use less and more gentle detergents that aren’t irritating or overly drying to our skin.

2. Is Shampoo Good For Our Skin?

In order to understand if shampoo is good for our skin – or perhaps equally good as body wash, we first need to understand what our skin really needs.

If we take a look at the University of Washington’s definition,

“Healthy skin is smooth, with no breaks in the surface. It is warm (not hot or red) and neither dry and flaky nor moist and wrinkled. Healthy skin is a mirror of a healthy body.“ [6]

So far, so good, but what characteristics are we looking for?

Studies show, that the most important biophysical parameters are the skin pH, epidermal hydration, transepidermal water loss and sebum excretion. [7]

Alright, there we have it. Let’s see what these 4 terms mean and how we can influence them.

The Importance Of pH For Healthy Hair & Skin

The pH is a scale used to specify how acidic or basic something is. Anything between 0 and 6.9 is acidic, 7 is neutral and anything between 7.1 and 14 is considered alkaline. Studies show, that normal skin surface pH is between 4 and 5 in healthy people. [8], [9]

>> Learn more about the pH of shampoos

Our skin is the first line of defense against microorganisms, wind, pollutants and more. It is our skins acid mantle that really does the job. The acid mantle is a fine film with a slightly acidic pH on the surface of the skin and provides ideal protection.

Natural Pioneers Can Shampoo Really Nourish Hair pH of Shampoo

>> Learn more about the pH of cleansers and face washes

Since our skin is slightly acidic, it probably comes as no surprise that anything we use to wash our skin should not disturb the protective acid mantle.

This is true for hair and skin! Our hair also greatly benefits form an acidic formulation as it leaves the outer layer of our hair (cuticle) closed and healthy, leaving our hair smooth and protected from damage. [10]

The ideal pH of a shampoo or body wash should be acidic, that means it should have a pH of ≤ 5. [11]

Interestingly, studies show that only 38% of popular brand shampoos have an ideal pH. [12] When we look at body washes, we find that except for ph-balanced syndet bars, most soaps and body washes have an alkaline pH of 9.5 and higher. [13]

Consequently, using alkaline shampoo for hair and body, increases friction between the hair fibers and can lead to cuticle damage and breakage. Moreover, it will damage the protective mantle of your skin, which is the foundation of many skin disorders, like acne, psoriasis and eczema. [14], [15]

Fun Fact: Tap Water Has A pH Of Around 8!

While it is important to choose the right product, let’s put this into perspective. Tap water has a pH of around 8. Yes, that means even if you’ve chosen the right pH product, washing your skin with tap water will increase the pH of your skin and outer hair layer. It takes up to 6 h until our skin is back to its natural value of on average below 5.0. [16]

The Take-Away: If you like to use shampoo for hair and body, you have a clear advantage over most people, given you choose a pH-balanced option. Studies show that a pH-balanced shampoo is ideal to keep hair smooth, and healthy. Moreover, when used on your body, it allows your skin to keep its protective acidic mantle for healthy and vibrant skin that won’t lack hydration or moisture. Whereas most people use shampoo and body wash with pH values in the alkaline range, you can surpass that by choosing a pH-balanced product to keep hair and skin healthy, save you some money, and keep things minimalistic with only one bottle. Remember: the ideal shampoo has a pH of ≤ 5.

Epidermal Hydration & Transepidermal Water Loss

Complicated words for easy to understand skin functions!

Our skin has the ability to stay hydrated by itself. Water originates in the deeper skin layers and moves upward to hydrate all layers of our skin. The key is to keep it there and not lose the hydration (TEWL: transepidermal waterloss).

Natural Pioneers Is Natural Soap Better hydrating vs. moisturizing

In short: Most of us shower too often. Dermatologists recommend to shower once a day or ideally even less. [17] When showering, we need to ensure, that we don’t strip our skin’s hydration and moisture. Hydrating means infusing our skin with water & improving our skin’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients. Whereas moisturizing is about sealing the moisture. This allows your skin to develop a protective barrier. [18]

Shampoos and body washes commonly contain hydrating and moisturizing ingredients. However, the trick is to use a pH-balanced shampoo or body wash to leave our skin’s hydration & moisture untouched in the first place.

That being said, it won’t hurt to look for a shampoo with any of the ingredients below, to keep your skin nourished: [19]

Hydrating Ingredients:

  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Glycerin
  • Aloe
  • Honey
  • Snail Mucin
  • Lactic Acid
  • Citric Acid

Moisturizing Ingredients:

  • Nut or Seed Oil (Coconut, Almond, Hemp…)
  • Shea Butter
  • Plant Oils (Jojoba, Rose Hip, Tea Tree)
  • Mineral Oil
  • Lanolin
  • Lactic Acid
  • Citric Acid

The Take-Away: If you use shampoo on your body, do your skin a favor and use one with added hydrating & moisturizing ingredients for healthy & hydrated skin.

Do You Have Oily Skin? All About Sebum Excretion

Sebum is the oily, waxy substance that our skin produces to lubricate the skin. People with oily skin suffer from excessive sebum production while people with dry skin produce too little sebum. [20]

Natural Pioneers Can I Use Bar Soap To Clean My Face Skin types oily dry sensitive combination skinNatural Pioneers Can I Use Bar Soap To Clean My Face Skin types oily dry sensitive combination skin

>> Learn more about bath salts for dry skin

 “Essentially everyone has combination skin, and I would say you’re on the very low end of that spectrum — your skin is extremely normal all over. The area of the face with the greatest density of sebaceous glands is in your T zone — your nose probably has the most.” [21]

Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD – New York based Dermatologist

Therefore, healthy skin produces just enough sebum to ideally moisturize your skin. But not as much to make it appear oily.

As mentioned before, using a pH-balanced product is key for healthy skin. If we use harsh products, our skin might fight back with excessive sebum production, which leads to an oily T-Zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and an oily neck. [22]

In addition, certain chemicals in shampoo (and body washes) can irritate your skin and harm your overall health. Studies show that products without SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) can achieve this and are advantageous for sensitive skin. [23] Sulfate-free shampoos are the first step towards minimizing the toxic load of shampoos.

>> Learn more about toxins in shampoos here

The Take-Away: To avoid excessive oil production, make sure your product is sulfate-free or ideally non-toxic.

3. The Ideal Shampoo For Hair & Body

So far, we’ve learned that the ideal shampoo for hair & body is pH-balanced, contains hydrating & moisturizing ingredients, and is sulfate-free (ideally non-toxic).

If all of this is new to you, don’t worry about where to find products like this. We’ve got you covered and will show you shampoos that fulfill all of these characteristics while being affordable and available in drugstores and online. Let’s go!

Natural Pioneers Can I use shampoo on my body shampoo recommendationss non-toxic hydrating moisturizing ph balanced

1. Herbal Essences bio:renew Aloe & Hemp Sulfate Free

Why We Love It:

  • Nourishing dry hair & great frizz control
  • EWG Certified
  • pH-balanced and color safe
  • Made with real botanicals

2. Boyzz Only No Nonsense Shampoo

Why We Love It:

  • Gentle high concentrated plant based cleansing
  • pH-balanced
  • Boys love it!
  • EWG Certified

3. Bubble & Bee Peppermint & Tea Tree Shampoo

Why We Love It:

  • No synthetic detergents, just gentle natural soap
  • Vegan & no animal testing

Note: This product is a little bit different to use. Your order comes with one 8 oz bottle of Peppermint & Tea Tree Shampoo, one 16 oz rinsing bottle, and full instructions and information.

4. Attitude Super Leaves Nourishing & Strengthening

Why We Love It:

  • Great smell & a staple in our house!
  • pH-balanced & EWG Certified
  • Bulk refills keep you stocked and reduce plastic waste
  • Buy a product & plant a tree!

5. Be Green DRY Shampoo

Why We Love It:

  • EWG certified
  • With organic ingredients such as arrowroot and kaolin clay
  • This dry shampoo is ideal for busy people or when traveling or camping

4. Conclusion

You can definitely use shampoo to clean your body. With a few clever tricks, you’re even better off than most people who use shampoo and a body wash.

1. Choose a pH-balanced shampoo for healthy hair & skin!

2. Choose a shampoo with hydrating & moisturizing ingredients for glowing skin!

3. Choose a shampoo that is sulfate-free, ideally non-toxic!

Shampoos and body washes commonly use the same cleaning agents. Therefore, shampoo cleans your skin just as effective as a body wash. While different conditioning agents may be used along with slightly harsher detergents in shampoo, there is a way around this.

Studies show that a pH-balanced shampoo is not only ideal to keep hair smooth, and healthy, moreover, when used on your body, it allows your skin to keep its protective acidic mantle for healthy and vibrant skin. Whereas most people use shampoo and body wash with both having pH values in the alkaline range, choosing a pH-balanced shampoo for hair and body will keep hair and skin healthy, save you some money, and keep things minimalistic.

In addition to a pH-balanced product, shampoos with added hydrating & moisturizing ingredients are ideal. Finally, you definitely want to avoid sulfates and toxins that can harm your hair and overall health.

At Natural Pioneers, we partner closely with brands that nurture our hair & body while being completely safe, non-toxic, and pH-balanced for ideal hair and skin health. We specifically recommend these products: Herbal Essences Sulfate Free, Boyzz Only No Nonsense Shampoo, Bubble & Bee Shampoo, and for dry shampoo Be Green DRY Shampoo.