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Are you confused about soap? Don’t worry. You aren’t the only one. When it comes to keeping clean, is there a difference between a bar of soap and a beauty bar? The simple answer is yes, but there is a lot more to it than that. One of the most popular beauty bars on the market is one you may even be using regularly, not realizing that technically, it is not “soap” in the traditional definition of the word. Dove markets their solid cleanser as a “beauty bar,” which may leave some wonder: if it’s not actual soap, then what the heck is it?

The Definition of “Soap"

To be called “soap,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires three specific product attributes (FDA):

  1. The product must be mainly made with the substance formed when combining a lye (ashes) with fats or oils. Alkali salts are formed through this proper “soap” making method.

  2. Its’ cleansing agent must only be these alkali salts. No other cleansers can be included in the formula.

  3. The product can only be marketed as a cleansing soap. For example, if it claims to moisturize, be antibacterial, or deodorize, it is considered a cosmetic by the FDA.

What is a Beauty Bar?

In the skincare industry, beauty bars are referred to as “syndet,” or synthetic detergent. You might be thinking, “Synthetic detergent?! Why would I want to use that?” but don’t let the name scare you! Outperforming any other bar cleanser year over year has been the classic Dove Beauty Bar: a syndet bar (Statista).

In the mid part of the 20th century, bar soap had not evolved into the impressive, varied product it is today. Back then, bar soaps were typically formulated with harsh ingredients, leaving skin dry and irritated. The market has since vastly improved, but in 1957, Dove wanted to provide their customers with a better alternative. Enter the Dove Beauty Bar. Their new syndet bar provided (and still provides) effective cleansing along with the ability to lock in your skin’s natural oils. They simply couldn’t call it “soap” because it didn’t follow the FDA’s three guidelines.
So Which One is Better?

Neither! It is all about personal preference. Bar soap has come a long way since its’ humble beginnings. Today, the vast majority of bar soap companies genuinely care about their customers, and ingredients have been modified to go easy on the skin. Beauty bars do the same job, just with a different formulation. Luckily, our modern personal care market offers formulations in bar soaps and beauty bars meant for every skin type. ● 


Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Frequently Asked Questions on Soap.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 24 Aug. 2020,
Dove. “Beauty Bar vs Bar Soap: 6 Things You Need to Know.” Dove US, 5 Aug. 2021,
Statista. “Brands of Bar Soap Used in the U.S. 2011–2020.” Statista, 2 July 2021,

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