Struggling to pick a new body wash? We’ve all been there. Every drugstore carries a huge selection, and they all tout a huge variety of different benefits – from the ability to heal acne, right through to the ability to cure itching and eczema. This can make selecting a good, everyday body wash a real chore. And that’s a shame, because finding the right body wash for your skin can make a world of difference!
Unlike shower gels or bar soaps, a good body wash can do a lot more than just leave you feeling squeaky clean. Some of the best natural body washes out there can actually nourish and hydrate your skin, or fight eczema, acne and other skin complaints.
This guide is designed to help you pick out the best body washes, and work out which type is right for your skin. It also showcases some of the best natural body washes out there, for those of us that don’t want to wade through pages and pages of Amazon listings.[toc]
Generally speaking, you want your body wash to do 2 things – lift away dirt, and nourish your skin. Unfortunately, most of the body washes that you’ll find on supermarket shelves only manage to succeed in eradicating grime and oil. To make the thick, creamy lather that you’re used to seeing in TV commercials, they use harsh chemical agents that actually dry out your skin by stripping away its natural protection.
Over time, this can create a vicious cycle, whereby you have to shower more to hydrate your skin, but each successive shower actually leads to increased dehydration.
You may also find that the skin on your elbows and knees becomes cracked, or that you find yourself itching more and more between showers. This is doubly true if you have sensitive skin, are prone to acne, or suffer from a skin complaint like eczema.
A good body wash will do the opposite; using natural detergents to gently wash away unwanted contaminants, while leaving your skin’s protective oils intact. A good quality body wash will also use enriching ingredients to nourish and hydrate your skin, leaving you feeling silky smooth between showers, and protecting you from dry skin.
Spotting the difference can be quite hard though, particularly if you’re not familiar with the complicated chemical names that clutter up the ingredient lists on most body washes, and don’t know how to spot the harsh surfactants that cause dryness and irritation.
As such, it’s important to take your time when picking out a new body wash, and read the ingredients carefully. To help you identify the right option, we’ve put together a detailed buying guide, and a list of our favorite body washes, as follows:
Best Body Wash Buying Guide
The best body washes all have a few key things in common: Firstly, they eschew lye soap bases or other strongly alkaline ingredients and instead rely on a water-based formulation combined with some sort of lathering agent. As such, water, or aqua, should always be one of the first three ingredients.
This is because sodium hydroxide or alkaline-based body products use a strongly caustic effect to literally strip dirt from the skin, which leads to the issues with dehydration and dryness outlined above. Water-based products are more gentle, and normally use a combination of emulsifying agents to bind to grime, and lift it away without damaging your skin.
Secondly, the best body washes for sensitive skin will be free from Triclosan and Triclocarban. These two chemicals are powerful antibacterials, but they’re also known to kill a lot of the good bacteria that protects your skin and vascular system from harmful pathogens.
Since many of these pathogens cause irritation, acne and itchy skin, you’ll want to stick to gentler and more natural body washes that leave your own innate protections intact.
You might also want to keep your eyes peeled for any mention of oat-milk, honey, camomile or Shea butter. These are all natural ingredients with highly beneficial properties, including the ability to soothe and calm damaged skin.
If you’re looking for a top quality body wash for dry skin, and need something that you can use safely day in, day out, any product that contains these ingredients is probably going to fit the bill.
Body Washes for acne prone skin should contain an alcohol-free cleanser of some type, to neutralize the bacteria that worm their way into your pores, and cause breakouts. The most common example is probably salicylic acid, which is perfectly safe, and found in a lot of acne-fighting products.
Should I avoid sulfates and other chemical detergents?
If you have very sensitive skin, you might want to steer clear of sulfates, which often appear listed as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate or sodium laureth sulfate on the ingredients list of your body wash.
These detergents are the most common foaming agents found in body washes and shower gels. They have been certified for safe use in almost every country, and they do play a very important part in creating the rich, creamy suds.
However, they are also known to emulsify (and remove) a lot of the peptides and proteins that keep your skin fresh and healthy between showers.
If you have normal skin, they are probably perfectly safe. But if you have very dry or sensitive skin you might want to look for a body wash that’s sulfate free, just to be sure that you’re not going to accidentally irritate dry skin.
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What about Parabens?
Parabens are another common chemical additive, used to extend the shelf-life of body washes and ensure that they meet health and safety regulations. For the most part, Parabens just kill harmful bacteria, fungi, and mold. However, several studies have found high concentrations of paraben compounds in breast cancer cells.
At the moment, there is no definitive science linking parabens to cancer, but there is definitely a correlation of some kind, so it makes sense to avoid any body wash that contains these preservatives.
Fortunately, parabens are very easy to spot; they’re normally listed under names Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, or propylparaben, and are not commonly found in natural body washes.
Are vitamins and antioxidants a good thing?
A lot of body washes boast about their vitamin content, and the presence of certain antioxidant compounds. Some vitamins (namely E, A and D) can be absorbed via the skin, and there may be some limited benefit to their inclusion.
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That said, the general consensus is that you should never pick a body wash because of its vitamin content. There are far more effective ways of getting these all important nutrient compounds into your body, and the chances are that you’ll see little or no benefit from the vitamins alone.
Instead, we’d always recommend that you opt for a natural body wash that’s been formulated for your skin type. To help you find these oft-illusive, best-in-class products, we’ve provided a run-down of our favorites, including the best body wash for sensitive skin, the best body wash for dry skin, the best body wash for acne and everything in between:
Best Body Washes 2020 (Guide and Reviews)
1. Aveeno Daily Moisturising Bodywash – Best for dry skin
Formulated specifically for dry skin, Aveeno’s daily moisturizing body wash is one of the best natural body washes available. It’s often recommended by dermatologists, and it is often the body wash of choice for people that suffer from eczema and other skin complaints.
A large part of what sets this particular body wash apart is its formulation; all of the active ingredients are natural oils and emollients. What’s more, it also contains oatmeal, which has been proven to act as a potent antioxidant that’s capable of nourishing and preserving the health of your skin.
Some studies have also shown that oatmeal extracts can form a protective barrier for your skin, which means that this body wash is absolutely ideal if you need something that’ll protect your skin between showers.
The only slight downside is the lack of strong detergents, which means that this mild body wash isn’t particularly suitable for those of us who suffer from acne or oily skin.
2. Neutrogena Bodywash for Clean, Clear Skin – Best for acne-prone skin
Another body wash that’s popular with dermatologists, Neutrogena’s offering is formulated specifically for acne-prone skin; producing a strong, foamy lather that can lift away dirt and grime to leave your skin feeling squeaky clean.
Its formulation is also ideally suited to lifting away the oils that clog pores and cause outbreaks, which makes it a perfect choice for those of us that need a deeply-cleansing, daily body wash.
One of the key active ingredients in this body wash is salicylic acid – a natural compound derived from plant hormones. Salicylic acid used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis, and it’s also prescribed as a medicine which means that you can rely on this body wash.
We also found that Neutrogena’s daily body wash is genuinely effective, and we’re a big fan of the rich, soapy lather that it produces. The only slight downside is that it does contain some sulfate-related compounds, which can be harmful to very dry skin.
3. Art Natural’s Essential Bodywash – Best for men
This is definitely one of our favorite natural body washes. Eschewing chemical surfactants for a combination of tea tree, peppermint and eucalyptus oil, Art Natural’s essential body wash is incredibly soothing, which makes it ideally suited to dry or damaged skin. The base is a combination of aloe vera and coconut oil, which is always a big plus.
The absence of parabens is probably this body washes biggest selling point though; Art Natural has always been one of the few brands that commit themselves to producing wholly natural products, free from any potentially dangerous preservatives, and this particular body wash is completely safe for long-term use, irrespective of what science will later reveal about certain harmful preservatives.
The only slight downside is that it doesn’t lather up quite as well as some of the other body washes on this list, probably because of the absence of any sulfates. That’s not to say that it doesn’t clean; it definitely does, but using it day to day won’t fill your shower with the thick lather you might be used to.
4. Nivea Care and Sparkle Moisturizing Body Wash
Unlike a lot of the body washes on this list, Nivea’s Care and Sparkle is made to do one thing; moisturize and soften dry skin. Every single one of its ingredients has been chosen for their restorative qualities and we’re a huge fan of the end result. Lathering it up, we found that it always produced a lot of rich, soapy suds, and the end result is always supple, smooth skin that stays hydrated for days.
The only slight downside is the SLS content – if you have very sensitive or sore skin, these surfactants may cause some irritation. That said, reviews from people with mild skin conditions rate this body wash very highly, so it may well be that the sulfate content is low enough for this body wash to be pretty much risk-free.
This is a good body wash to choose if you like a thick, creamy product too – some of the options on this list can feel quite thin in the palm, but this particular example is every bit as luxurious as the name suggests.
5. Aveeno Skin Relief Gentle Body Wash – Best for irritated skin
The second Aveeno product to make our list, this particular body wash is revered for it’s gentle, soothing properties. The combination of natural oils and oatmeal extracts are perfect for irritated, sore or itchy skin, and the lack of harsh chemicals make it one of the best natural body washes that we could find.
The scent is something of note too: All too often, natural body washes use powerful ingredients like peppermint or tea tree, which can prove to be quite overpowering. This mild body wash is practically odorless in comparison, filling your shower with a soft, gentle coconut scent that’s reminiscent of long summer days on a tropical beach.
If you’re looking for something to hydrate your skin on cold days, or want a long-lasting, moisturizing body wash that’s free from artificial ingredients, Aveno’s skin relief body wash is definitely a firm contender.
6. Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash
The first body wash on our list to boast of a high Shea butter content, Olay’s most popular daily cleanser is all but guaranteed to leave you with soft, supple skin. Specifically formulated for dry or dull skin, it’s full of conditioning agents and soothing natural additives that can counteract red rashes, cracking or even eczema if some reviews are to be believed.
This particular product is free of parabens and other potentially harmful preservatives, and although it does contain a couple of sulfate compounds, they are milder choices, designed to aid in creating the rich lather you might expect to enjoy from an Olay product.
The Shea butter really does make a difference too, leaving a silky, soft residue on your skin that can protect from environmental dryness even after you’ve left the shower, and gone about your daily business.
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Ultimately, settling on the right body wash for your skin will be a process of trial and error. That said, the products listed above are some of the best that we could find, so we’d strongly recommend that you start by giving one of them a go.
Always take care to try your chosen body wash on a small patch of skin before lathering up, just in case you do react, and remember to enjoy yourself! The shower is meant to be a place for relaxation and fun, after all.