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ByJermaine Lecky Production Assistant

The Best Body Washes

The best body washes will clean your skin without drying it out too much — a delicate balance to strike. After talking through ingredients with three dermatologists and testing 20 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.

The 6 Best Body Washes

The Best Body Washes: Summed Up

Best for
Price
Price per ounce
Primary cleanser
Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Crème with Orange Blossom
Normal skin
$24 for 13.5 fl oz
$1.78
Ammonium lauryl sulfate
Ren Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash
Price
Scent (women's)
$18.57 for 6.8 fl oz
$2.73
Decyl glucoside
Every Man Jack
Scent (men's)
$5.47 for 16.9 fl oz
$0.34
Sodium coco-sulfate
Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash
Acne-prone skin
$6.47 for 8.5 fl oz
$0.76
Sodium olefin sulfonate
CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash
Sensitive skin
$10.99 for 10 fl oz
$1.10
Sodium cocoyl glycinate
Beessential Body Wash
Dry skin
$8.99 for 8 fl oz
$1.12
Glyceryl laurate

Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Cream Orange Blossom

Best for
Normal Skin

Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Cream Orange Blossom

Le Petit Marseillais
A creamy gel that lathers well and has a light citrus scent.
Pros
Moisturizing and exfoliating
No harsh cleansers
Crowd-pleasing scent and texture
Cons
Clunky bottle

Why we chose it

Moisturizing and exfoliating

If you’re not trying to target particular issues (like dryness or acne), our favorite body wash was Le Petit Marseillais Extra Gentle Shower Crème with Orange Blossom, a cheap drugstore option that blew us away during testing. It includes two excellent moisturizers — glycerin and almond oil — plus citric acid to exfoliate and promote the growth of new skin cells. An alpha hydroxy acid like citric acid was a must for our “normal” skin picks, with Dr. Chiu explaining that they “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. [They do] this gently, unlike some of the scrubs out there, which really can be traumatic to the skin if used too frequently.”

No harsh cleansers

Le Petit Marseillais skips overly drying cleaning agents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), relying instead on the gentler ammonium lauryl sulphate (ALS) as its primary cleansing ingredient.

Crowd-pleasing scent and texture

Le Petit Marseillais dispenses as a creamy gel that works into a bubbly, foamy lather. The label calls its scent a “floral fragrance,” but our testers thought it just smelled like oranges: a light, citrusy scent that we found gender-neutral.

Points to consider

Clunky bottle

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.

REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash

Best Scent
for Women

REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash

REN
More oil than gel, with minimal bubbles and a delicate rose scent.
Pros
Luxurious look and feel
Complex, delicate aroma
Cons
Less lather than most
Expensive

Why we chose it

Luxurious look and feel

For a more luxurious option, we highly recommend REN Moroccan Rose Otto body wash. It has a smooth, lush texture that left our skin feeling soft and clean, with glycerin and panthenol as moisturizers. 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.

Normal Skin Top Picks for Body Wash

Complex, delicate aroma

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.

Points to consider

Less lather than most

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.

Expensive

For all of its good points, REN is also one of the most expensive body washes we tested. Its relatively small 6.8-ounce bottle retails anywhere from $19 to $27, far more than our other top picks for normal skin (Le Petit Marseillais and Every Man Jack).

Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel

Best Scent
for Men

Every Man Jack Body Wash and Shower Gel

Every Man Jack
A thick gel that produces plenty of foam, with a woodsy fragrance.
Pros
Gently cleans and exfoliates
Popular fragrance with testers
Least expensive wash we tested
Cons
May be drying
Bottle too large for some

Why we chose it

Gently cleans and exfoliates

Every Man Jack Body Wash passed our ingredient cuts with flying colors. It includes glycerin and castor oil as moisturizers, plus citric acid to slough away dead skin. The product comes as a thick, clear gel, which was popular among testers.

Popular fragrance with testers

We tested Every Man Jack’s Cedarwood formula, which uses juniper and rosemary oil to create a woodsy fragrance. While we tend to think of it as a more “masculine” scent, both male and female testers loved it.

Least expensive wash we tested

Compared with some of the more “upscale” body washes we tested, Every Man Jack is an amazing bargain. A large 16.9-ounce bottle retails for about $6, or roughly 36 cents an ounce — almost eight times cheaper than REN.

Points to consider

May be drying

While most testers liked Every Man Jack’s gel consistency, some found it more drying than oil- or cream-based formulas like Le Petit Marseillais or REN. If your skin errs on the side of dryness, we recommend sticking with a body wash like the Le Petit Marseillais.

Bottle too large for some

About the only downside we could find with Every Man Jack is that it comes in a large, heavy bottle. Its size, especially when the bottle is full, may be awkward to handle in the shower.

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash

Best for
Acne-Prone Skin

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash

Neutrogena
Includes 2% salicylic acid for battling breakouts and redness.
Pros
Fights breakouts
Leaves skin feeling soft
Lots of lather
Cons
Thick gel squeezes out quickly

Why we chose it

Fights breakouts

Our top pick for battling acne is Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, thanks to its 2% salicylic acid, the highest concentration permitted by the FDA in over-the-counter treatments. San Diego-based licensed dermatologist Dr. David Lortscher explained that “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.

Leaves skin feeling soft

Neutrogena’s gentle feeling also surprised us. It took extra scrubbing to leave our skin clean, but unlike some other acne-treatment washes we tested, our skin felt soft afterward — not stripped dry.

Lots of lather

This product 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.

Points to consider

Thick gel squeezes out quickly

Some online reviews note that it’s easy to dispense a little too much of the thick, viscous gel in one squeeze. A little goes a long way, so if you’re used to absently squeezing a dollop on your hand or washcloth, you might have to pay closer attention to avoid using too much.

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

Best for
Sensitive Skin

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

CeraVe
No potential skin irritants and totally fragrance-free.
Pros
Totally irritant-free
Dermatologist-recommended
Cons
Low lather

Why we chose it

Totally irritant-free

When it comes to sensitive skin, the simpler the better. Our top pick for sensitive skin, CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash, has zero fragrance or artificial dyes — both common culprits behind skin irritation. “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.”

Dermatologist-recommended

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash is a drugstore product that looks like something you’d get from a dermatologist. And indeed, it came highly recommended by all three of our dermatologists. Dr. Green points out that even if you don’t have sensitive skin, it’s a great option because it’s so gentle and moisturizing.

Points to consider

Low lather

CeraVe has a texture that’s closer to lotion than body wash, and it creates more of a bubbly foam than a rich lather, in part due to the absence of any harsh surfactants. It still left our skin feeling soft, soothed, and moisturized, but the lathering experience wasn’t quite as satisfying.

Beessential Natural Body Wash

Best for
Dry Skin

Beessential Natural Body Wash

Beessential
A thick, lavender-scented gel with lots of moisturizers
Pros
Ultra-moisturizing
Feel-good company
Natural ingredients
Cons
Somewhat low lather

Why we chose it

Ultra-moisturizing

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 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.

Feel-good company

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.

Natural ingredients

Beessential is preservative- and sulfate-free and is comprised totally of plant-based soap, moisturizers, and scent. The lavender scent we tested was light and herbal, and it 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.

Points to consider

Somewhat low lather

Some may consider less lather to be a plus, but as our experts reminded us, Americans tend to expect a thick, rich foam from their body wash. Beessential is less frothy than typical shower gel, though we still really enjoyed its sudsy, fragrant wash.

How to Find the Right Body Wash for You

Choose a price range

The price of body wash varies more than you might think. Our favorite men’s scent, Every Man Jack, is almost eight times cheaper (per ounce) than our favorite women’s scent, REN. Depending on how often you use your body wash, the added cost can accumulate quickly. The good news is that there are still great, affordable options for every skin type; you just might end up sacrificing some glamour in order to keep a bottle in your shower.

Avoid potential irritants

We discarded products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), both common surfactants that have the potential to irritate skin. But if you have particularly sensitive skin, or specific allergies, you’ll want to take a close look at the ingredients list on any potential body wash. It’s also worth noting that even products you’ve used before can cause temporary contact dermatitis — a reaction in which your immune system overreacts to chemicals that are normally harmless.

Know your skin type

If you have normal skin with no discernible sensitivity, you can afford to go with your favorite fragrance and at least one alpha hydroxy acid, like lactic acid or citric acid. However, if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to avoid AHAs, as well as fragrance and artificial dyes. For dry skin, you’ll want as many moisturizers as you can get. And if you’re looking to treat acne, you’ll need either salicylic or glycolic acid.

Pick a scent

Keeping in mind that most fragrances also have the potential to irritate skin, you may want to steer clear of aroma altogether. But if you look forward to the smell of your body wash, there are practically infinite options. 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. If your tastes differ, go ahead and use the scent you prefer — both categories will get you clean.

Body Washes FAQ

Does more lather equal a better wash?

Surfactants, the ingredients that strip oil and dirt from your skin, are also what cause soap to bubble. But having a rich, foamy lather doesn’t necessarily mean a better wash. That’s because the “deepest cleaning” surfactants (which create the thickest foam) can also completely remove your skin’s natural protective moisture barrier, leaving it dry and itchy.

What's the difference between body wash and shower gel?

Both body wash and shower gel are liquid cleaners and the difference between the two is basically about texture. Shower gel has more of a gel-like consistency that excludes many of the moisturizers that are found in most body washes. Body washes are more hydrating than shower gels, which focus more on preservatives and fragrances and run the risk of drying out your skin.

Is body wash better than 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 that this difference is negligible. “Mostly it’s just about personal preference — if you prefer it, using a bar soap is fine!”

Should I use a loofah?

The directions on most body washes contain 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.

How important is lotion after a shower?

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.

Our Other Skin Care Reviews

Looking for more of the best bets to keep your skin clean, moisturized, and youthful-looking? Read about some of the top products we’ve found:

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