Body wash is like a face wash that’s formulated for the kind of sweat, odor and grime that you get on your body.
It’s a liquid washing agent that combines detergents to carry away oil and dirt, moisturizers to leave skin feeling soft and smooth, and often (though not always) fragrances to leave you smelling nice.
Unlike standard bar soap, which has a tendency to dry out your skin because it doesn’t have much in the way of moisturizers, a quality body wash can be used by a wide range of skin types, from people with dry flakey skin to people with oily skin.
Looking for a good body wash for daily use? Our research team has ranked the ten best body washes on the market.
1. CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash
CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash is the perfect choice if you have dry skin that gets red, irritated, tight, or aggravated with other body washes.
CeraVe is a market leader when it comes to moisturizing products, so it should be no surprise that their body wash specializes in moisturizing as well as cleansing.
The highly effective ceramide compounds help hydrate skin cells so they don’t get dried out when you wash off. This has led to the National Eczema Association accepting CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash as a cosmetic that is not likely to cause redness and irritation, even on hyper-sensitive skin.
If you have sensitive skin that can’t handle most body washes, CeraVe should be your top choice.
2. Puracy Natural Body Wash
Puracy Natural Body Wash is a body wash that focuses on deriving as many ingredients as possible from natural sources. Most of the cleansers are derived from coconuts, and the scent and aroma come from things like grapefruit essential oil and Himalayan pink salt.
These all-natural scents are a hit, as users rave about its fantastic smell. Perhaps because of the all-natural ingredients, it also has a reputation for being very kind to sensitive skin.
Its hydrating properties are middle of the pack, so it might not be the best for extra dry skin, but aside from that, it’s a great choice.
3. Ren Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash
For those seeking out a top-quality feminine scent, Ren Moroccan has got you covered. Based off a rose water solution, Ren Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash is a light, flowery aroma that leaves your skin silky soft.
It includes amino acids to help nourish the skin, and all of its fragrances are from natural sources. Users find it leaves skin soft and moisturized without drying it out like a harsh soap would. This is definitely a luxury body wash, so if you are looking to treat yourself, look no further.
4. Every Man Jack Body Wash
If you want a masculine scent to your body wash, look no further than Every Man Jack. With all-natural ingredients and six different scents, Every Man Jack packs a powerful, fragrant punch into its body wash. The scents come in large part from herbal and plant extracts.
Their signature mint scent, for example, includes spearmint oil, peppermint oil, and crithmum maritimum extract. Its target market is obviously men, so there’s less attention paid to moisturizing, but in terms of cleaning power and aroma, it’s a great choice.
5. Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash
Acne doesn’t happen just on your face. If your shoulders or back are plagued by pimples, cysts, or clogged pores, your best bet is Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash–it’s comprised of 2% salicylic acid to exfoliate your skin and prevent acne.
Salicylic acid is one of the most effective treatments for facial acne, though using it by itself will tend to dry out your skin. If you use Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, be sure you’re also using a moisturizing lotion that will rehydrate your skin without clogging your pores.
Purists won’t like the coloring agents and synthetic ingredients, but that’s not the crowd this body wash appeals to anyways.
6. Kiss My Face Anti-Stress Bath and Body Wash
Kiss My Face makes an aromatherapy-inspired body wash that smells great, thanks to its inclusion of several essential oils and plant extracts.
These include olive oil, aloe leaf juice, fir needle extract, and rosemary extract, to name just a few. However, users find that it’s better suited as a once in a while treat, as opposed to daily use.
The scent doesn’t last particularly long after you’ve rinsed off, and while its moisturizing powers are respectable, they aren’t the best. On the bright side, it does seem to work well with sensitive skin, so it may be worth a try.
7. Nature’s Gate Body Wash
Nature’s Gate Body Wash is a natural solution to washing off in the shower or in the bath. It has a unique combination of plant extracts, like cucumber extract, apricot oil, and sweet almond oil.
This gives it a unique aroma and perhaps unique skin rejuvenating properties, but it also means it may have the tendency to aggravate sensitive skin. The more obscure and numerous the ingredients are, the more likely one may set off an undesirable skin reaction.
Thanks to its numerous exotic oils, it does hydrate skin very well, which has earned Nature’s Gate Body Wash a number of vocal fans.
8. Philosophy Amazing Grace
Philosophy offers Amazing Grace as an all-in-one solution for women. It functions as a shampoo and as a body wash. The pink color betrays its light, flowery aroma.
If you were looking for a super-strong floral scent, Amazing Grace is a lot more delicate than that. It has to be, on account of its ability to be used as a shampoo. If it had a strong scent, the aroma would linger in your hair all day long.
Because it has to do double-duty, it’s not the most effective body wash out there, but it is a good option for travel, since it can function both as a shampoo and as a body wash.
9. Dove Body Wash Dry Oil Moisture
Dove Body Wash Dry Oil Moisture is a mainstream moisturizing option that uses argan oil, a high quality moisturizing agent, to help keep moisture inside skin cells while the detergent agents in the body wash are carrying away grease, dirt, and sweat.
Unfortunately, as you might expect from a low-cost product from a major corporation, the actual argan oil content is very low; it’s one of the last ingredients. As such, it’s not likely to be effective at its objective of moisturizing, and it may end up leaving your skin dry and flakey anyways.
It’s one option, but there appear to be several other moisturizing body washes out there that do a superior job.
10. ArtNaturals Pure and Natural Body & Foot Wash
ArtNaturals makes a body wash with a special formulation of essential oils that is designed to kill off skin fungi that cause itching and redness.
The usual way to deal with these maladies is with an antifungal soap or cream, but these tend to be used as treatments for a localized area only.
The essential oils in this body wash (eucalyptus,peppermint, and tea tree oil to name a few) are thought to combat skin irritation generally as well as skin fungi specifically. It formerly had a stellar reputation, but a recent reformulation has many previous fanatics recoiling in horror–until ArtNaturals sorts out their mixup, steer clear of this one.
Body wash benefits and side effects
Body wash for many people functions as a superior replacement for standard soap. Soap has a tendency to leave skin dried out; it does its job too well for people with sensitive or naturally dry skin.
Body wash solves this problem by combining the cleaning power of soap with moisturizers that help keep skin hydrated. Some body washes are also suited for special applications, like treating dry skin with a milder cleaning agent and a more potent moisturizing agent, or treating acne with special pore cleansing and exfoliating agents.
One of the primary benefits of using a body wash over normal soap is its ability to moisturize your skin. According to research published in 2004 in the scientific journal Dermatologic Therapy describes the characteristics of an effective body wash (1).
The key, the authors write, is to cleanse the skin of sweat, oil, grease, and debris without compromising the moisture barrier on the skin.
Part of this has to do with the strength of the cleansing agent; as you might guess, a cleanser that is too strong will strip away all of the protective barriers of the skin and lead to water loss.
However, this is not the only thing that influences whether a body wash will keep in skin moisture. Another aspect is whether the body wash deposits hydrating compounds, also known as moisturizers.
Finally, the body wash also needs to maintain a relatively neutral pH. If the solution is too alkaline (as is the case with some standard bar soaps) the skin’s lipid layer will be disrupted, even in the presence of moisturizing agents.
Aside from moisturizing, a body wash can also be a highly effective way of treating acne on the chest, back, and shoulders.
A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology investigated exactly how salicylic acid assists with acne prevention and treatment by examining how healthy skin samples responded to increasing concentrations of salicylic acid solutions (2).
The researchers found that exposure to salicylic acid dissolved some of the cement-like compounds that hold the outermost skin cells onto the rest of the body. This means that a salicylic acid body wash essentially acts like a chemical exfoliant, stripping off dead skin cells that would accumulate and clog up pores.
This also explains why these salicylic acid body washes can aggravate sensitive skin–if the outer layer of skin isn’t mostly dead and dying skin cells, stripping away these cells could cause a lot of localized irritation–it’d be the chemical equivalent of a rug burn, more or less.
With a body wash the main adverse effect you want to look out for are adverse reactions from your skin. Since, unlike a deodorant, it’s not sitting on your skin all day, the chance of an adverse reaction is fairly low.
Still, some people have issues with redness or irritation as a result of the body wash that they use. This seems like it is more common with people who have sensitive skin and who also use body washes with a great many ingredients. Even a natural body wash can be problematic if it has a lot of unusual plant and herbal extracts in it.
Another potential side effect from using a body wash doesn’t come from the body wash itself, but from how it’s applied. Often, people use a loofah to apply body wash, but these are notorious for being breeding grounds for bacteria. Bacteria love damp, dark places with lots of surface area for the bacteria to multiply; that describes a loofah to a T.
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology describes how loofah sponges can act as a reservoir for potentially harmful bacteria (3). By keeping exfoliated skin cells trapped in the loofah fibers, the loofah accelerates bacterial growth far above what it would be naturally (and even above what it would be in a sterile loofah).
What can be done about this loofah contamination? The scientists who authored the paper recommend regular decontamination of your loofah with a 10% bleach solution.
Dr. Melissa Piliang at the Cleveland Clinic recommends soaking a loofah (whether it is natural or synthetic) in a bleach solution once a week for five minutes, and replacing it once a month (4). This should keep any potential bacterial growth in check.
A body wash offers a superior alternative to normal soap. By simultaneously cleansing and hydrating, it helps keep skin from getting dried out and flakey.
People with sensitive skin will especially like hydrating cleansers on account of their ability to provide extra hydrating power, and people prone to acne on their chest, back, and shoulders can opt for a body wash that includes salicylic acid.
Indeed, even if you are just looking for something fragrant and aromatic to spice things up, there are body washes that are perfect for you, whether you want a light, floral smell or something strong and masculine.