The Best Body Wash
Get clean without drying out your skin
The best body wash should clean your skin without drying it out too much — which is a delicate balance to strike. After talking through ingredients with three dermatologists and testing 21 popular body washes on our own skin, we found our top picks: Products free of harsh cleansers like sodium lauryl sulfate but chock-full of moisturizers and conditioners, which foamed, bubbled, and left us feeling clean.
Our overall favorite, this creamy gel is free of harsh cleansers, with a light citrus scent and moisturizers that left skin soft.
REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash
Our favorite women's scent, with a sophisticated rose scent and a texture that’s more oil than gel.
Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel
Our favorite men's scent: A woodsy aroma in a thick gel.
The best choice for acne, with 2 percent salicylic acid to help prevent breakouts.
CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash
A good pick for sensitive skin, CeraVe is free of potential irritants like synthetic fragrance and dyes.
Beessential Natural Body Wash
Beessential comes with an abundance of moisturizers to help soothe dry, flaky skin.
The Best Body Washes
Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Cream Orange Blossom
Best for Normal Skin
REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash
Best Women’s Scent
Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel
Best Men’s Scent
Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash
Best for Treating Acne
CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash
Best for Sensitive Skin
Beessential Natural Body Wash
Best for Dryness
Finding the best body wash is all about balance. “Showering with a body wash every day can be a drying process, stripping skin of its natural oils — but obviously you need to cleanse,” says Dr. Annie Chiu, board-certified dermatologist. “The hardest thing about body washes is finding the right balance between cleansing and over-stripping the moisture from your skin.”
If you’re not trying to target particular issues (like dryness or acne), our favorite was Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Cream Orange Blossom. It skips overly drying cleaning agents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and includes dermatologist-recommended moisturizers. It boasts a light, citrusy scent that testers found fairly gender-neutral, and at $5 for a 14-ounce bottle, it’s a bargain.
If you enjoy floral scents, we’d suggest REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash. It will run you $27 for a 6.8-ounce bottle, but has a complex, subtle aroma that reminded us of expensive perfume. For something more woodsy and masculine, try Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel in Cedarwood, a thick gel that comes in a 16.9-ounce bottle and retails for $6.
For treating acne, our top pick is Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, a drugstore staple that includes 2 percent salicylic acid and was recommended by our experts for fighting breakouts. For $7, you get an 8.5-ounce bottle.
Our top pick for sensitive skin is CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash. It’s free of fragrances and dyes, minimizing the risk of skin irritation, and came highly recommended by our dermatologists — $10 for 10 ounces.
If you’re constantly battling dry, flaky skin, we loved Beessential Natural Body Wash. It left our skin feeling soft thanks to a whole slew of moisturizers, including coconut oil, olive oil, and hemp oil, plus aloe and vegetable glycerin — $9 for 8 ounces.
How We Found the Best Body Wash
We started with a list of 273 body washes — turns out, there are a lot of body washes out there. Our list included best-selling brands from retailers like Amazon, Walgreens, Ulta, and Sephora. We also scoured “Best of” lists from beauty publications like Real Simple and Allure.
We cut harsh, drying surfactants.
What’s a surfactant? Surfactants are the cleaning agents that strip away oil and dirt from your skin. They’re also the ingredients that cause soap to bubble.
You know how some body washes leave you feeling “squeaky clean”? That sensation actually isn’t good for you. “The squeaky sensation is your natural protective moisture barrier getting totally removed from your skin,” Dr. Chiu, who runs The Derm Institute in North Redondo Beach, CA, told us. “Use of the harshest surfactants will usually leave you feeling that way.” All of the dermatologists we spoke with suggested steering clear of two surfactants in particular: sodium lauryl sulfate (otherwise known as SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), both common — but extremely harsh — cleaning agents.
Nixing these ingredients knocked a whole swathe of popular drugstore products from the running, including offerings from Axe, Aveeno, Suave, St Ives, Old Spice, Nivea, and Olay.
AG Hair Style Shampoo & Body Wash Invigorating Cleanser, American Crew 24-Hour Deodorant Body Wash, American Crew 3-in-1 Tea Tree Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash, American Crew Classic Body Wash, Anatomicals Shower to the People Cleanser, Anthony Invigorating Rush Hair & Body Wash, Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Body Wash, Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash, Aveeno Positively Nourishing Body Wash, Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash, AXE 2-in-1 Body Wash & Shampoo Sport Blast, AXE Anarchy Body Wash, AXE Anarchy for Her Body Wash, AXE Black Body Wash, AXE Black Chill Body Wash, AXE Body Wash for Men Apollo, AXE Charcoal and Clean Body Wash, AXE Cool Charge Body Wash, AXE Dark Temptation Body Wash, AXE Excite Body Wash, AXE Exfoliating Body Wash Snake Peel, AXE Kilo Body Wash, AXE Phoenix Body Wash, AXE Shower Gel Gold Temptation, AXE Total Fresh 3-in-1 Shampoo + Conditioner + Body Wash, AXE White Label Air Body Wash, AXE White Label Body Wash for Men Night, AXE White Label Forest Body Wash, AXE White Label Island Body Wash, AXE You Body Wash, Baxter of California Invigorating Body Wash, Beauty Protector Beauty Wash Body Cleanser, Betres Body Wash Oatmeal, Bliss Lemon + Sage Soapy Suds, Bodycology Moisturizing Body Wash Pure White Gardenia, C. Booth Milk Bath & Shower Cleanser, C. Booth Original Bath & Shower Cleanser, C.O. Bigelow Rosemary Mint Body Cleanser, Canus Fresh Goat’s Milk Caprina Body Wash Original, Caress Daily Silk Silkening Body Wash, Caress Fine Fragrance Body Wash Adore Forever, Carven Le Parfum Gel, Coast Hair & Body Wash Pacific Force, Curel Itch Defense Body Wash, Dermalogica Conditioning Body Wash, Dial Acne Control Deep Cleansing Body Wash, Dial for Men Body Wash Fresh Reaction Alpine, Dial Skin Therapy Himalayan Pink Salt Replenishing Body Wash, Dolce & Gabbana Dolce Shower Gel, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Energy Body Bath & Shower Gel, Dove Men+Care Body & Face Wash Deep Clean, Dove Men+Care Extra Fresh Body Wash, Dove Summer Care Body Wash, Dr. Teal’s Ultra Moisturizing Body Wash, Relax & Relief with Eucalyptus Spearmint, Fresh Sugar Lemon Bath & Shower Gel, Gillette Body Wash Odor Shield, Gillette Hydrating Body Wash, Giorgio Armani Si Shower Gel, Grace Cole Vanilla Blush & Peony Bath & Shower Gel, H2O Plus Body Wash, Herbal Essences Happy Go Lather Body Wash, Irish Spring Gear Skin Hydration Body Wash, It’s a 10 He’s a 10 Miracle 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner & Body Wash, Ivory Body Wash Original, Korres Velvet Orris Violet White Pepper Shower Gel, Lab Series PRO LS All-in-One Shower Gel, Lancome Tresor Perfumed Bath and Shower Gel, Laura Mercier Almond Coconut Creme Body Wash, Laura Mercier Fresh Fig Wash, Le Couvent des Minimes Awakening Shower Dew, Le Couvent des Minimes Fresh Shower Gel, Lush Cosmetics The Olive Branch Shower Gel, Malin+Goetz Eucalyptus Body Wash, Malin+Goetz Rum Hand+Body Wash Pump, Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap, Method Foaming Body Wash Ruby Orange, Molton Brown Pink Pepperpod Body Wash, Mr. Natty Shipwreck Shower Wash, Neil George Body Wash, Neutrogena Rainbath Refreshing Shower and Bath Gel, Nip + Fab Detox Blend Purifying and Detoxifying Body Wash, Nivea Creme Moisture Moisturizing Body Wash, Nivea Men Active Clean Body Wash, Nivea Men Maximum Hydration 3-in-1 Body Wash, Nivea Men Platinum 3-in-1 Body Wash, Nivea Men Sensitive 3-in-1 Body Wash, Nivea Moisturizing Body Wash, Olay 2-in-1 Advanced Ribbons Soothing Creme + Advanced Moisture Body Wash, Olay 2-in-1 Essential Oils Ribbons Moisturizing Body Wash Jojoba Extract + Luscious Orchid, Olay Age Defying Body Wash, Olay Daily Exfoliating Body Wash with Sea Salts, Olay Daily Moisture Quench Body Wash, Olay Fresh Outlast Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash, Olay Fresh Outlast Crisp Pear & Fuji Apple Body Wash, Olay Fresh Outlast Energizing Lime & White Tea Body Wash, Olay Fresh Outlast Invigorating Champagne Mango & White Ginger Body Wash, Olay Fresh Outlast Soothing Orchid & Black Currant Body Wash, Olay Refreshing Nectarine Moisturizing Body Wash, Olay Sensitive Body Wash Unscented, Olay Total Effects Body Wash Deep Penetrating Moisture, Olay Ultra Moisture Coconut Oasis Body Wash, Olay Ultra Moisture Sweet Peach Body Wash, Olay Ultra Moisture Vanilla Indulgence Body Wash, Old Spice Fresher Collection Men’s Body Wash Fiji, Old Spice Hydro Wash Body Wash Hardest Working Collection Steel Courage, Old Spice Men’s Body Wash Swagger, Old Spice Red Zone Men’s Body Wash Champion, Old Spice Wild Collection Body Wash Bearglove, Oribe Cote d’Azur Replenishing Body Wash, Origins Clear Improvement Purifying Charcoal Body Wash, Origins Salt Suds Foaming Body Wash, Peter Thomas Roth Mega-Rich Body Cleanser, Philosophy Amazing Grace Shampoo, Bath & Shower Gel, Philosophy Loveswept Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath, Philosophy Pure Grace Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath, Right Guard Xtreme Cooling Body Wash Chill, Right Guard Xtreme Defense 5 Body Wash Refreshing, Sebamed Face and Body Wash, Skin Milk Cleanse Shower Gel, Soap & Glory Clean on Me Creamy Clarifying Shower Gel, Softsoap Body Scrub Coconut Butter Exfoliating Body Wash, Softsoap Fresh & Glow Exfoliating Fruit Polish Body Wash Orange & Kiwi, St. Ives Even & Bright Body Wash Pink Grapefruit, St. Ives Nourish and Soothe Body Wash Oatmeal and Shea Butter, St. Ives Soft & Silky Body Wash Coconut and Orchid, Suave Essentials Body Wash Ocean Breeze, Suave Men Body Wash Refresh, Suave Men Body Wash Sport Recharge, The Body Shop Japanese Cherry Blossom Bath and Shower Gel, The Body Shop Mega Wild Argan Oil Shower Gel, The Body Shop Satusma Shower Gel, Tocca Giulietta Bagno Profumato Body Wash, Tone Daily Detox Purifying Body Wash White Clay and Pink Jasmine, Tone Moisturizing Body Wash Mango, Village Naturals Therapy Foaming Bath Oil & Body Wash, Vitabath Original Spring Green Moisturizing Bath and Shower Gelee, Vitabath Plus for Dry Skin Moisturizing Bath and Shower Gelee, VO5 Body Wash Peony & Honeysuckle, White Rain for Men Body Wash Fresh Mountain Spring, White Rain Hydrations Creamy Moisturizing Body Wash, Yves Rocher Organic Oats Shower Gel, Zest Body Wash Whitewater Fresh, Zest for Men High Intensity Body Wash Atomic, Zest FruitBoost Shower Gel Citrus Splash
We looked for at least one moisturizer.
Even mild cleansers, like the coconut-based surfactants used by most of our top picks, will strip a little moisture from your skin, so a good body wash should also have an effective moisturizing ingredient. Our experts suggested looking for at least one of the following: aloe vera, avocado oil, almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, any type of seed oil (like sunflower or grape), oatmeal, ceramides, niacinamides, glycerin, vitamin E, or vitamin B.
Cleanance Cleansing Gel for face and body, CW Begs and Sons Invigorating Shower Gel, Kate Spade Walk on Air Shower Cream, Olay Ultra Moisture with Shea Butter Body Wash, Old Spice High Endurance Pure Sport Body Wash, Wildfox Bubble Bath Body Wash
Then we grouped our remaining contenders into four categories.
From here, we learned that different skin types will react best to different combinations of ingredients. So we split our remaining contenders into four groups: body washes for acne-prone skin, for sensitive skin, and for dry skin — plus a “normal” category for people who want a quality product, but aren’t trying to target particular skincare issues.
Best Body Wash for Acne-Prone Skin
Our pick for Acne-Prone Skin needed to have either salicylic or glycolic acid. San Diego-based licensed dermatologist Dr. David Lortscher, who founded Curology (an online prescription skincare company offering customized acne formulas), explained, “Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, provides exfoliation that helps to prevent and treat blocked pores, and may help diminish some types of superficial hyperpigmentation.” In other words, it helps keep your pores from clogging and can tone down red splotches. Glycolic acid works similarly, says Dr. Chiu.
Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash, Juice Beauty Green Apple Mousse Hand & Body Cleanser, Kiehl’s Body Fuel All-in-One Energizing Wash for Hair & Body, Murad Acne Body Wash, Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, SheaMoisture African Black Soap Body Wash
Best Body Wash for Sensitive Skin
When it comes to sensitive skin, the simpler the better. “I tell people, if you have sensitive skin at all, be boring!” says Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist with a private practice in the Upper East Side of New York City. “Stick to the boring, plain stuff. No fragrances, no dyes. I know it’s less fun, but it will work and your skin won’t get irritated.”
So for our Sensitive Skin pick, we cut all products with fragrance (or parfum) and artificial dyes — both common culprits behind skin irritation. We also avoided propylene glycol, an ingredient added to many body washes to promote a “slick” feeling — but again, often an irritant. Last, we steered clear of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). While AHAs are good exfoliators for most people, Dr. Green told us that they can cause issues for people with sensitive skin.
100% Pure Gingerade Shower Gel, Babo Botanicals Calming Bubble Bath, Shampoo & Wash, Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Shampoo & Body Wash, Brickell Invigorating Mint Body Wash, CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash, Davines Oi Body Wash, Defense Soap Antifungal Body Wash, Graydon All Over Soap + Shampoo, JASON Smoothing Coconut Body Wash, Montez Renault 3-in-1 Performance Wash, Ology Moisturizing Body Wash Almond & Shea Butter, Origins A Perfect World Creamy Body Cleanser with White Tea, PLANT Body Wash Wake Up, SheaMoisture African Black Soap Body Wash, SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Foaming Milk & Body Wash, SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Body Wash, SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Body Wash, SheaMoisture Sacha Inchi Omega 3,6,9 Rescue & Replenishing Bubble Bath & Body Wash, SheaMoisture SuperFruit Complex Bubble Bath & Body Wash, Ursa Major Citrus Riot Body Wash
Best Body Wash for Dry Skin
For Dry Skin, you’ll want as many moisturizers as you can get. We looked for at least two from our dermatologist-recommended list of ingredients, but prioritizing formulas with more. And again, we cut products with added fragrance or parfum. “Fragrances are sexy and fun and smell great. But they add another drying component to the cleansing process, which is already drying,” Dr. Chiu warned us.
If you have really dry skin, it makes sense to go heavy on moisturizers. But this doesn’t mean everyone needs to follow suit. If you’ve got sensitive, breakout-prone skin, using an abundance of moisturizers can sometimes lead to clogged pores.
100% Pure Gingerade Shower Gel, Alba Botanica Very Emollient French Lavender Bath and Shower Gel, Babo Botanicals Calming Bubble Bath, Shampoo & Wash, Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Shampoo & Body Wash, Beessential Natural Body Wash, Borghese Fango Delicato, Brickell Invigorating Mint Body Wash, CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash, Cetaphil RestoraDerm Eczema Calming Body Wash, Clinique Aromatics Elixir Body Wash, Dear Clark Revitalizing Hair and Body Wash, Defense Soap Antifungal Body Wash, Dr. Bronner’s 4-in-1 Organic Lavender Sugar Soap, Dr. Bronner’s PURE-CASTILE LIQUID SOAP in Almond, Hempz Sensitive Skin Calming Herbal Body Wash, Jack Black Performance Remedy Turbo Wash Energizing Cleanser for Hair & Body, JASON Smoothing Coconut Body Wash, Juice Beauty Green Apple Mousse Hand & Body Cleanser, Kiss My Face Anti-Stress Shower Gel, Lavanila Sport Luxe Healthy Body Wash 3-in-1, Montez Renault 3-in-1 Performance Wash, Origins A Perfect World Creamy Body Cleanser with White Tea, Origins Shower Off Exfoliating Body Wash with Hawaiian Mineral Water, PLANT Body Wash Wake Up, Puracy Natural Body Wash, SheaMoisture African Black Soap Body Wash, SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Foaming Milk & Body Wash, SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Body Wash, SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Body Wash, SheaMoisture Sacha Inchi Omega 3,6,9 Rescue & Replenishing Bubble Bath & Body Wash, SheaMoisture SuperFruit Complex Bubble Bath & Body Wash, ShiKai Moisturizing Shower Gel Cucumber Melon, The Rich + Clean Grey Matter Body Wash, Trixéra+ Selectiose Emollient Cleansing Gel, Ursa Major Citrus Riot Body Wash, XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil
Best Body Wash for “Normal” Skin
For this category, we looked for body washes that had at least one alpha hydroxy acid, like lactic acid or citric acid. “An AHA can promote exfoliation, helping to get rid of dead skin cells along with some of the dirt and oils that can build up on the skin. It does this gently, unlike some of the scrubs out there, which really can be traumatic to the skin if used too frequently,” explained Dr. Chiu.
Ahava Hibiscus & Fig Mineral Botanic Cream Wash, Avalon Organics Bath and Shower Gel, Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar Body Wash, Beessential Natural Body Wash, Belli Pure & Pampered Body Wash, Billy Jealousy Triple Crown 3-in-1 Body Wash, Burt’s Bees Fabulously Fresh Peppermint & Rosemary Body Wash, Caudalie Fleur De Vigne Shower Gel, Clean Skin Shower Gel, Cold Cream Ultra-Rich Cleansing Gel, Davines SU Hair & Body Wash, De-Luxe BAIN Body Wash Amber Vanilla, Dove Cucumber & Green Tea Scent Foaming Body Wash, Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash, Dove Dry Oil Moisture Body Wash, Dove Gentle Exfoliating Body Wash, Dove Go Fresh Cool Moisture Body Wash, Dove Go Fresh Restore Body Wash, Dove Go Fresh Revitalize Body Wash, Dove Go Fresh Revive Body Wash, Dove Purely Pampering Body Wash Coconut with Jasmine, Dove Purely Pampering Body Wash Pistachio Cream with Magnolia, Dove Purely Pampering Body Wash Shea Butter with Warm Vanilla, Dove Purely Pampering Body Wash Sweet Cream with Peony, Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, Dove Shea Butter with Warm Vanilla Foaming Body Wash, Earth Therapeutics Purifying Body Wash, Esquire Grooming The 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner & Body Wash, Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Wash, Hempz Age-Defying Renewing Herbal Body Wash, Hempz Triple Moisture Herbal Whipped Creme Body Wash, Jack Black All-Over Wash, Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Cream Orange Blossom, Lierac Paris Sensoriel Milk, Mancave Cedarwood Shower Gel, Method White Tea Natural Body Wash, MOR Snow Gardenia Hand & Body Wash, Moroccanoil Shower Gel, Naobay Protective Shampoo & Shower Gel, No7 Beautiful Skin Blissful Body Wash, Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil, Nuxe Reve de Miel Face and Body Ultra-Rich Cleansing Gel, Olivina Men All-in-One Hair, Face & Body Wash, Phyto Phytoplage After-Sun Rehydrating Hair & Body Shampoo, Rahua Body Shower Gel, REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash, Royal Apothic Bubble Cream, ShiKai Moisturizing Shower Gel Cucumber Melon, Skin & Co. Shower Gel, Soap & Glory Rich & Foamous Body Wash, Soap & Glory Sugar Crush Body Wash, Three Whishes Bath & Body Gel, Thymes Agave Nectar Body Wash, Tiossan Body Wash, Treets Traditions Healing in Harmony Foaming Shower Gel, Whish Exfoliating Body Wash, Yes to Carrots Hydrating Shower Gel, Yuni Flash Bath No-Rinse Body Cleansing Foam, ZIRH Ikon Pure Hair & Body Wash
We tested our top contenders in each category.
From each category, we hand-selected the top brands: Products that came highly recommended by our dermatologists, plus those getting the most love online — whether 5-star reviews on Amazon or frequent recommendations on forums like Reddit. We wanted to see how these top picks actually stacked up against each other during hands-on testing.
- CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash
- Montez Renault 3-in-1 Performance Wash
- Origins A Perfect World Creamy Body Cleanser with White Tea
- PLANT Body Wash Wake Up
- Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash
- Murad Acne Body Wash
- Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash
- Beessential Natural Body Wash
- Cetaphil RestoraDerm Eczema Calming Body Wash
- Jack Black Performance Remedy Turbo Wash Energizing Cleanser for Hair & Body
- Puracy Natural Body Wash
- XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil
- Avalon Organics Bath and Shower Gel
- Burt’s Bees Fabulously Fresh Peppermint & Rosemary Body Wash
- Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash
- Dove Dry Oil Moisture Body Wash
- Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel
- Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Cream Orange Blossom
- REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash
- Yes to Carrots Hydrating Shower Gel
Then we lathered up and rinsed off, taking note of the following qualities:
Scent: Keeping in mind that fragrance is a personal preference, we prioritized formulas that didn’t elicit any extreme negative reactions from testers. Surprisingly, Dove lost a lot of ground here, with testers noting an “overpowering” perfume-like fragrance that lingered for a long time after rinsing.
Lather: We preferred brands that were able to produce at least a light lather. And we learned we weren’t alone: The dermatologists we spoke with all mentioned that consumer tests (and their own experience) show most Americans favor sudsy body washes.
Skin-Feel: We wanted to leave the shower with skin that felt smooth and hydrated, so we gave low marks to products that left behind sticky, tacky films or that cleaned so thoroughly that our skin felt dry and uncomfortable.
Packaging: Our testers preferred products that came with pumps versus flip caps — it was easier to dispense the wash in a wet shower. Tubes with caps on the bottom received the lowest marks. These caps tended to fill up with water in the shower, which can lead to mold growth.
Our Picks for the Best Body Wash
Best Body Wash for “Normal” Skin
If you’re not trying to target any particular skin issue and just want a body wash that will leave skin clean and not too dry, any of our top picks will honestly do. It all comes down to your scent and texture preferences.
That said, our favorite was Le Petit Marseillais Orange Blossom Extra Gentle Shower Cream, a cheap drugstore option that blew us away during testing. We’d never heard of the brand before, and learned it only became available in the US in 2017. Despite the French name, it’s owned by American parent company Johnson & Johnson, of baby shampoo fame.
The label claims a “floral fragrance,” but our testers thought it just smelled like oranges: A light, citrusy scent that we found gender neutral. It also comes with two excellent moisturizers — glycerin and almond oil — plus citric acid to exfoliate and promote the growth of new skin cells. Le Petit Marseillais dispenses as a creamy gel that works into a bubbly, foamy lather and left our skin lightly orange-scented. We particularly appreciated this subtle scent after testing contenders like Dove’s Dry Oil Moisture Body Wash, which was accompanied by a cloying, candy-sweet smell that didn’t budge even after rinsing.
At $5 for a 13-ounce bottle, Le Petit Marseillais is also the cheapest of our top picks, especially compared to luxury options like REN, below, which performed similarly during testing and retails for almost $30. The only real drawback to Le Marseillais is its packaging. It comes in a hefty rectangular bottle that looks like something you’d find in the dollar store. It’s not going to jazz up your shower, but we thought this was a small trade-off for its stellar performance.
Best Women’s Scent
For a more luxurious option, we highly recommend REN Moroccan Rose Otto body wash. In a sea of artificial scents, REN’s floral aroma stood out, reminding us of high-end perfume: complex, feminine, and not overly sweet. “I don’t usually like rose-scented products,” said one tester, “but this actually smells like roses.” REN comes by its scent from a combination of natural fragrance plus oils of damask rose, geranium, and lemongrass.
REN’s packaging is equally well-crafted. You get a slim, cylindrical bottle with a pink and silver color scheme and a small pump-top. The body wash itself is closer to oil than gel; it’s on the runny side and produces fewer suds than Le Petit’s thick, creamy formula. If you enjoy lathering up, this is REN’s one major drawback. But it left our skin feeling soft and clean, with glycerin and panthenol (often used in high-end shampoos) as moisturizers. At $27 for 6.8 ounces, just be aware it’s one of the most expensive body washes we tested.
Men’s products typically feature more woodsy aromas like cedar or sandalwood, while women’s products are more likely to have floral scents like rose or lavender. But if your tastes differ, go ahead and use the scent you prefer. Both categories will get you clean.
Best Men’s Scent
Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel is our pick for a more masculine scent. This product passed our ingredient cuts with flying colors, including glycerin and castor oil as moisturizers, plus citric acid to slough away dead skin. We tested the Cedarwood formula, which uses juniper and rosemary oil to create a woodsy/musky fragrance that was popular with both our male and female testers. The product comes as a thick, clear gel which some testers did find a little more drying than oil- or cream-based formulas like Le Petit or REN. A large 16.9-ounce bottle retails for about $6.
Others to Consider
This option has a sharp, minty smell that will “perk you up if you’re a morning shower person,” noted one tester. It did cause slightly more burning than usual when we got it in our eyes, so we’d suggest investing in a separate facial cleanser if you go this route — $8 for 12 ounces.
A dark brown gel with a slightly gritty texture that comes from cocoa pod ash, a traditional ingredient in African black soap that functions as a gentle exfoliator. It offers a warm vanilla scent, which some testers said lingered longer than options like REN or Le Petit — $10 for 13 ounces.
If you want to go (mostly) organic, Avalon Organics Nourishing Lavender Bath & Shower Gel was another popular option with testers. The gel has a strong, herbal scent that we enjoyed, though it did leave our skin a little drier than picks like Le Petit and SheaMoisture — $9 for 12 ounces.
Best Body Wash for Acne-Prone Skin
Our top pick for battling acne is Neutrogena’s Body Clear Body Wash. You’ve probably walked past this one in the drugstore: It features Neutrogena’s classic orange gel, which has a thick, slightly viscous texture that some testers found a little off-putting. But it lathers into a healthy foam with lots of bubbles and has a mild, clean scent that reminded us of fresh laundry. Neutrogena also came highly recommended by Dr. Lortscher, who suggested trying a salicylic acid-based product first if you’re battling acne.
In fact, Neutrogena stood out because it had the highest salicylic acid content of all our finalists, at 2 percent (versus the 1 percent offered by Murad). Two percent is the highest concentration permitted by the FDA in over-the-counter salicylic acid treatments, and studies suggest a higher concentration is more effective than low-dose formulas.
Neutrogena also surprised us by feeling quite gentle. It took extra scrubbing to clean away dirt, but unlike contenders such as Murad, our skin felt soft afterward — not stripped dry. At $7 for an 8.5-ounce bottle, it’s also considerably cheaper than Glytone, our runner-up (which retails for $32).
Runner-Up for Acne
Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash, with glycolic acid instead of salicylic acid, is an excellent high-end option. Be warned it’ll run you $32 for a 6.7-ounce bottle, but it came highly praised by Dr. Green. Though Glytone is marketed for dry, cracked skin, “the glycolic acid actually makes it work amazingly for people with body acne,” she told us.
We weren’t wild about the scent, which reminded us of baby powder, but if you haven’t had much luck with salicylic acid, it’s worth switching up your routine to see if your skin responds better to a different active ingredient. The gel did leave a slippery film on our skin, but we found this vastly preferable to Murad Acne Body Wash, which had a rough, grainy texture and left us feeling splotchy and itchy.
Best Body Wash for Sensitive Skin
CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash is a drugstore product that looks like something you’d get from a dermatologist. It comes in a compact, opaque bottle with a heavy flip-top lid. Even up close it’s totally fragrance-free, with a texture closer to lotion than body wash. But once you add water, you’re treated to a bubbly foam that left our skin feeling soothed and moisturized.
The ingredient list is free of irritants like dyes and fragrances, and this brand also came highly recommended by Dr. Green, who points out that even if you don’t have sensitive skin, it’s a great option because it’s so gentle and moisturizing. A 10-ounce bottle retails for about $10.
Runner-Up for Sensitive Skin
The only reason we demoted Origins to runner-up was the design of its tube. It stands upright, atop a flip-down cap, and if you shower regularly, you know the sensation of opening this type of lid only to be met with a drizzle of cold, stale water (and possibly mold).
But if you have room to store Origins on its side and leave the cap ajar, our testers loved this product’s light, astringent scent. Origins comes by its fragrance naturally, via ingredients like white tea leaf extract and rose flower water. If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than CeraVe but still free of synthetic perfume, Origins is the perfect compromise. It comes in a pearlescent cream that lathers into a thick, dense foam. Just be warned that it is on the expensive side, at $31 for 6.7 ounces.
Best Body Wash for Dry Skin
When we went hunting for a dry skin pick, we knew we wanted as many moisturizing ingredients as we could find. Our top choice, Beessential Lavender with Bergamot Moisturizing Body Wash, is chock-full of them. The first five ingredients on its list (after water) are coconut oil, olive oil, hemp oil, vegetable glycerin, and aloe, moisturizers that came highly recommended by our dermatologists. In fact, given that there are only 11 ingredients total, most of what you’re getting in Beessential is moisturizers. The formula includes honey, too, a powerhouse ingredient that studies have found does everything from slow the formation of wrinkles to — you guessed it — moisturize. We also loved that Beessential is made in small batches on a family farm in Ohio. The honey in the body wash is from beehives on the farm.
It might sound like one of those products that’s too good to be true, but it lived up to its promise during testing. The lavender scent was light and herbal, and put us in mind of an aromatherapy session. Unlike the slightly sticky feeling left behind by contenders like Puracy Natural Body Wash, Beessential also had no noticeable residue. And we loved its inclusion of a pump top – $9 for 8 ounces.
Runner-Up for Dry Skin
If you’re in the market for something a little different, we also really liked Avene’s XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil. This French product was recommended to us by Dr. Chiu, who noted that though it was a cleansing oil, “it lathers a little bit, so it’s a nice in-between for people who want that foam but still gives the gentle cleanse of an oil.”
XeraCalm doesn’t feel greasy, just thinner than a traditional gel or cream. We did notice a slight mineral scent when we first applied it, but this completely dissipated by the time we rinsed off. A 13.5-ounce bottle will set you back $31, but the beautiful white pump design and elegant label help lessen the sting.
The texture you look for in a body wash depends mostly on personal preference, but Dr. Lortscher told us, “Oils are more occlusive and seal in the moisture of the shower more effectively” than creams or gels — making them a good bet if you’ve got dry skin. On the flip-side, Dr. Green tipped us off that oils are more likely to cause break-outs — not such a good choice if your skin is sensitive.
Runner-Up for Dry Skin
Jack Black stands out thanks to its inclusion of menthol — a peppermint extract that, despite smelling like a punch in the nose, is non-irritating to skin. The effect is a strong, sinus-clearing shower gel that will wake you up quickly. The product features a more traditionally masculine scent that testers described as “bright” and “herbal,” and the gel has satisfyingly thick texture that put us in mind of honey. For $23, you get a 10-ounce bottle, though be warned that, like Origins, it features a “flip cap on the bottom” design that’s guaranteed to collect shower water.
Did You Know?
Lotion after a shower is a must
While moisturizing ingredients in a body wash can help offset some of the moisture-stripping that comes with using a cleanser, that doesn’t mean you’re done with your skincare routine once you hop out of the shower.
“Because you’re rinsing off the body wash and you don’t have it actually on you for that long, there’s only so much those moisturizers can do,” Dr. Chiu told us. “One of the most important things you can do to protect your skin is to always moisturize after you get out of the shower.” Chiu says she also recommends that patients concerned about over-drying their skin avoid showering more than once a day — and just hit key spots with their body wash (face, armpits, groin, and feet), relying on water to rinse the rest of your body. “Most people who just have an office job or maybe hit the gym but don’t do any extreme activities that get them very sweaty or very dirty don’t need to overdo it with body wash everywhere,” she says.
To loofah, or not to loofah?
If you read the directions on most body washes, you’ll find some variation of: “Squeeze product onto a loofah, pouf, washcloth or into your hands; massage into a lather; rinse.” But does a loofah or pouf make a difference?
These bath accessories mostly just make your body wash lather up a bit more than it does in your bare hands or in a washcloth. In fact, Dr. Green said there’s some danger in using a loofah or pouf. “If you don’t wash and dry your loofah after each use, you’re really just spreading bacteria over your skin every time you use it,” she said. Ick. We’ll pass on the bacteria shower.
What about bar soap?
Do you even need a body wash? Why not just use bar soap? Dr. Lortscher said that bar soap, with a higher pH level than most body washes, is more likely to feel drying on your skin, but noted that some studies suggest this difference is negligible. “Mostly it’s just about personal preference — if you prefer it, using a bar soap is fine!” he told us.
Dr. Green agrees, adding that bar soap seems to be largely an American trend, while body washes and cleansers are more common in Europe. But, “I have to imagine that a bar of soap sitting in a puddle of water in your shower might be breeding some bacteria, too,” she cautions. If you opt for a bar, keep it in a spot where it can fully dry, like a wire-frame shower caddy.