The Best Body Wash
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
To help soothe dry, flaky skin, Beessential comes with an abundance of moisturizers.
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.
Don’t forget the lotion! Our top picks all contain moisturizers, which help minimize the drying effects of body wash. But no matter how gentle your wash, it will still strip moisture from your skin as it cleans. The American Dermatological Association recommends always moisturizing after your shower to avoid dry skin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 has a smooth, luxurious texture that left our skin feeling soft and clean, with glycerin and panthenol as moisturizers. At $27 for 6.8 ounces, just be aware it’s one of the most expensive body washes we tested.
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. Thanks to its inclusion of peppermint oil, the bottle does carry a warning to “avoid contact with eyes,” and when we tried washing our faces with it, it left our eyeballs with a distinctly menthol burn. 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 leave our skin clean, 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).
Otherwise, testers loved it. Origins has a light, astringent scent that it comes by 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.
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.
Loofahs can be a bacteria trap
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.”
These bath accessories make your body wash lather up more than it does in your bare hands or in a washcloth — good if you like lots of bubbles. But Dr. Green warned us that 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.
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.