Let’s be honest: Many beauty products are helpful but not necessarily vital. I’m always happy to stock my shelves with plenty of softening serums and purifying masks, but at the end of the day, I know that those products fall squarely into the category of “extras.” When I think about the core products I have that I actually genuinely need in order to wake up every morning and be a functioning human, one thing immediately comes to mind: bodywash.
No matter what, we all use bodywash (I hope, anyway). It may be tempting to just pick up the least expensive bodywash from the drugstore and call it a day, but bodywash can actually make a huge difference to your overall skin health. I talked to Snehal Amin, MD, co-founder and surgical director of MDCS Dermatology and Brendan Camp, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology for the lowdown on all things bodywash.
Bodywash is made of the same basic ingredients like soap, but they’re typically much less harsh on the skin. The ultimate goal of a bodywash is to leave you with clean skin, but many bodywashes provide tons of benefits for the skin.
Camp explains that people with sensitive skin should opt for fragrance-free or dye-free formulas to prevent irritation, while people with acne-prone skin should seek out a bodywash made with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help acne. If you have rough or bumpy skin, go for a cleanser with AHAs that can help smooth it. Amin recommends looking for a bodywash with conditioning agents and vitamin E no matter what.
“Synthetic fragrance or parfum, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents, triclosan, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and mineral oil are all important ingredients to avoid,” says Amin. These ingredients can impact your hormonal balance and potentially cause irritation.
It may seem intuitive, but there are actually some really helpful tips for how to use bodywash better, according to the experts. To start out, you’re probably using too much without realizing it. “You don’t need a lot,” says Amin. “One mistake people often make is using too much. Take a dime-sized amount and work into a lather with water.”
According to Camp, another mistake you might be making is using your hands to apply bodywash. “If you apply a bodywash only using your hands, you will learn that you run through the product very quickly,” he says. “Using a bodywash with a washcloth or loofah will help activate the product so that it forms a lather. Creating a lather will allow you to reach a much larger surface area of skin without using too much of the product.”
With just two different types of bodywash formulas available—a liquid formula and a bar soap—Vanicream is a good option for just about everyone. “This gentle bodywash checks off a lot of boxes: free of fragrance, parabens, sulfate, dyes, cocamidopropyl betaine, and formaldehyde-releasing agents,” says Camp.
Cetaphil bodywashes have something for everyone, and they’re always gentle on skin. If you have dry skin, they even have bodywashes that are soap-free so they are extra gentle and non-drying.
Eucerin is a beloved and trusted brand for sensitive skin. Camp praises its bodywash, particularly the skin calming formula. “This soap, fragrance, and dye-free bodywash contains omega oils to gently cleanse dry or eczema-prone skin,” he says. “This is a very unique formula. Unlike many other cleansers, which list water as the first ingredient, water is the 8th ingredient.”
If you’re a minimalist, Amin says that the brand’s Lipikar Wash AP+ Gentle Foaming Moisturizing Wash is really all you need for both your face and your body. “[It’s] affordable and suitable for sensitive and dry skin,” he says. “Conditioning agents hydrate and restore skin lipids.”
Neutrogena is a classic bodywash brand with tons of different formulas, but their Body Clear line is their heaviest hitter. “It contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, penetrates deep in pores to remove oil and unclog pores,” says Camp.
If you, like me, can’t resist a bodywash that leaves your shower smelling like a spa, Byredo bodywash is hard to beat. They also don’t dry out skin, which can be a problem with heavily scented options.
Fresh bodywash feels more like skincare than a wash-off cleanser. These formulas truly do wonders for skin, leaving it soft and moisturized.
Made with shea butter and coconut oil, Alaffia bodywashes nourish skin while they cleanse. The brand also gives back to women-led cooperatives in West Africa, meaning that every bodywash you buy helps support a good cause.
Dove bodywashes are iconic at this point. Blended with moisturizing ingredients to ensure skin hydration, these formulas are a great option for a luxurious-feeling experience on a budget.
If you’re in search of a more sustainable body care option, look no further than Plus. These innovative bodywash sheets come in dissolvable sachets so you can have a truly zero-waste shower routine—plus, your skin will feel nourished.
What can’t Nécessaire do? Their beloved bodywash is blended with plant oils to nourish skin and niacinamide to brighten.
Amin recommends this drugstore brand, as it doesn’t have any harmful ingredients. Their lemon formula has a fresh scent.
Olay bodywashes are perfect for anyone who wants a more targeted body care routine. These formulas help brighten, anti-age, and moisturize skin.
Amin recommends Native bodywash. This formula works into a dense foam, which helps give your skin a cleaner feeling.
Though Glytone only makes one bodywash, it should be on your radar if you suffer from rough, bumpy skin. Glycolic acid helps buff away bumps, revealing smooth, even skin.