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.
Who should buy body wash?
A body wash is a more sophisticated version of a standard bar soap. The liquid form means that it is more amenable to a variety of ingredients, some of which don’t solidify well into a bar of soap.
Perhaps most importantly, body wash can combined detergents and soaps with moisturizers: a traditional soap strips away dirt, grime, and sweat, but can also pull off a lot of your body’s natural oils that keep your skin hydrated.
That’s a sure way to irritate skin that’s already naturally dry; a body wash can combat some of this oil-stripping effect by using hydrating ingredients to restore moisture and prevent further losses of water to the outside environment.
While a good body wash is versatile enough for a wide variety of skin types, the people who will benefit the most from body wash are people with sensitive skin.
If regular bar soap leaves your skin dry, red, or irritated, a body wash might be just what you need. Instead of putting off showering, or rinsing but not using soap, a body wash can remove dirt, sweat, and grime while not irritating your skin, especially when combined with a moisturizer after you are done showering.
How we ranked
Because of the immense number of body wash products on the market, we had some stringent requirements for products to make our list. First off, we only considered products that included both detergent and moisturizing agents.
As with our face moisturizer rankings, we looked for multi-ingredient moisturizers that included occlusives, humectants, and emollients, the three categories of moisturizers that work synergistically to increase the moisture content of your skin.
We also made sure the detergents used in the body wash were not too harsh, and sought out reviews from users who specifically reported having dry skin. Body washes with a tendency to aggravate skin, or cause breakouts of back or shoulder acne, got eliminated from consideration, as did anything that caused skin redness.
Fragrances in a body wash are a controversial topic: some people hate them, partially because of the scent and partially because plant extract-heavy formulations can increase the risk of skin aggravation.
On the other hand, a well-made fragrance is one of the biggest perks of a high-quality body wash, both for men and women. To balance these competing interests, we split the field of products into three categories: fragrance-free body washes, body washes with masculine scents, and body washes with feminine scents.
For the scented products, we had a strong preference for products that used natural plant sources for their aromatic ingredients as opposed to synthetic compounds.
One important thing to note about the fragrance-free products is that they are not completely devoid of any scent—the primary ingredients have their own scents, of course—they just don’t have any additional ingredients that are included only to add an aroma.
Finally, we considered whether the remaining products had additional ingredients with perks for specific skin types or skin conditions. For example, some products include salicylic acid, which is a great acne treatment and can be very useful if you have persistent acne on your back or shoulders.
Others included antifungal compounds which are great for regular gym-goers or combat sport enthusiasts who are exposed to ringworm and other fungus-based skin infections. The top-rated products, though, were the body washes that had the broadest appeal and were usable by people with many different types of skin.
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.
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.
A body wash can reduce dry skin in the wintertime compared to bar soap. Dry skin is often aggravated by cold and dry air in the winter.
The harsh temperatures, plus the extremely low moisture content of the air, pulls water out of your skin at a drastically high rate, and washing with traditional bar soap will only aggravate dry skin.
Could a properly formulated body wash combat skin dryness in the winter? A study published in the journal Dermatological Therapy put that question to the test (3).
A group of volunteers with dry skin were randomly assigned to use either a traditional bar soap or body wash that was formulated with an emollient—a category of cosmetic compounds that softens the skin to prevent cracking and dryness.
After four weeks, all of the volunteers underwent a dermatological evaluation, and the group averages were compared to the baseline scores at the start of the study.
The results showed a significant reduction in all measures of skin dryness in the group given the body wash, and a slight increase in dryness in the group given the bar soap.
The results of this randomized study confirm what we would suspect based on the formulation of each product—basic soaps tend to remove moisture from the skin, while a good body wash with moisturizing agents can help improve skin moisturization.
Body washes with ceramides can be an effective way to treat atopic dermatitis and eczema. Atopic dermatitis and eczema are both common non-contagious skin conditions that are associated with damage to the protective barriers in skin cells.
Treatments for these conditions can range from corticosteroids to eczema honey, but some evidence indicates that a good body wash can be a useful addition to your treatment regimen. Skin dryness is thought to play a role in both conditions, so moisturizing agents added to body washes may be able to help with these skin conditions.
One potent type of moisturizer is a category of molecules called ceramides, which are a wax-like fat molecule. Scientific papers have argued that ceramide-containing skin care products, including body washes, can help resolve or improve atopic dermatitis and eczema.
When it comes to atopic dermatitis, a review article published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in 2011 reviewed the options for ingredients that manufacturers have when formulating a body wash for people with atopic dermatitis (4).
The article recommends using ceramide-based formulations, as they have favorable properties when it comes to repairing the lipid barrier of the skin.
In eczema, a paper published in the journal Dermis argues that the addition of ceramides to liquid body wash improves the effectiveness of eczema treatments.
From both of these papers, ceramides appear to be a valuable ingredient to look for in a body wash, which is why you’ll find ceramide-containing products in our rankings.
They are great options for people with eczema, dermatitis, or even just chronically dry skin.
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 (5). 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 (6). This should keep any potential bacterial growth in check.
You can use a body wash every day when you shower, and lather up just like you would with traditional bar soap. The important factors for skin health have less to do with how often you use body wash and more to do with the parameters of your shower.
Skin care experts recommend shorter showers that are not too hot; very high temperatures and very long showers can tend to strip your skin of its moisturizing oils. So, shorter showers are not only better for the environment, but are better for your skin too.
After showering, you can use a moisturizer to lock in moisture even better. For best results, you want to apply a moisturizer to your skin while it is still slightly damp, not after it has completely dried.
Q: What kind of body wash is best?
A: When ranking the best body washes on the market, we evaluated products based on the presence of both detergent agents and the presence of moisturizers.
You’ll need the cleansing action of a detergent to remove grime, dirt, and sweat from your skin, but if you don’t have a moisturizer in your body wash, you’ll quickly end up with dry skin.
Other considerations, like fragrance (or the lack thereof), are important but secondary criteria when it comes to selecting a body wash.
That’s why we put cleansing and moisturizing power at the top of our requirements for the products that made our rankings.
Q: How do you use body wash?
A: You can lather up with body wash in the shower and use it just like you would a traditional bar soap.
Once you’ve washed off your body with body wash and rinsed off the lather, you should wrap up your shower fairly quickly—if you stay in the shower too long, especially if you have the water fairly hot, you can strip off more moisturizing oils from your skin which will leave it feeling dry and irritated.
If you have particularly dry skin, once you get out of the shower, towel your skin so it is a damp dry (not completely dry) and apply a moisturizing lotion or cream.
Doing so will help lock in more moisture in your skin, preventing it from drying out later. This final step is especially important in the winter, when cold and dry air can sap your skin of its moisture much faster than in temperate weather.
Q: What is a body wash used for?
A: Body wash is an alternative to bar soap or shower gel for cleansing your body in the shower. Since body wash is in liquid form, it’s easier to deliver additional moisturizing agents that can help prevent dry, red, or irritated skin.
Skin irritation gets worse when you are exposed to cold or dry air, so a body wash can be especially useful in the wintertime, or in the summer if you live somewhere dry.
A good body wash is also mild enough to be used on a daily basis, since it can cleanse but also moisturize your skin.
Q: What is the difference between a body wash and a shower gel?
A: Body wash and shower gel are similar in design, in that they are both semi-liquid products designed to clean off your body in the shower.
Shower gels, though, tend to have a firmer consistency, but to achieve this, often have to sacrifice some moisturizing power.
The greater flexibility of shower gel formulations allows for more moisturizing agents, like occlusives, emollients, and humectants, that can help combat dry skin to a better extent.
Q: What is the best kind of body wash for dry skin?
A: If you have very dry skin, you want to make sure your body wash has high-quality moisturizing agents.
These come in a variety of forms, including emollients, humectants, and occlusives, but they all help protect your skin cells from losing water to the outside environment, either by fortifying the lipid barrier that prevents water losses, or by increasing the softness and the water content of the skin cells themselves.
High-powered moisturizing agents, like ceramides, can be found in products like our top-ranked body wash, Cerave Moisturizing Body Wash, which provides good cleansing abilities alongside powerful moisturizers.
If your skin is very dry, you should also invest in a moisturizing lotion to apply after you shower.
To get optimal results, apply moisturizing lotion when your skin is still somewhat damp instead of waiting until it is totally dry. Doing so can help lock in more moisture and keep your skin hydrated for longer.
Q: How often should you wash your body?
A: Body wash is designed for daily use. Since it’s not as harsh as a traditional bar soap, you should have fewer problems with skin dryness and irritation than you would if you washed with normal soap on a regular basis.
Thanks to the moisturizing agents in body wash, you won’t lose the protective barrier in your skin that prevents water from skin cells being lost to the outside air.
If daily use of body wash gives you dryness problems, you can try a milder body wash, or apply a moisturizing lotion after you dry off from the shower to keep your skin better hydrated during the day.
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.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 body wash recommendation, click here.