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But, we know what you’re thinking: How can I find the right body wash for my skin? From where we sit, that’s an impossible question to answer, but we’re confident you’ll find the ideal body wash with just a little knowledge about how to start shopping for one. That’s why we reached out to Dr. Michele Green, a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist and expert on all things skin, for her tips and advice.
What To Look For in Body Washes for Sensitive Skin
There are no ingredients in the history of grooming products that haven’t been subject to complaints about skin irritation. Even so, there are a few ingredients known to be more suitable for sensitive, dry, irritable skin.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal has long been known for its soothing properties on skin. If you ever had chickenpox, you know it’s true.
Aloe vera: This plant has soothing, moisturizing properties. It’s one of the most common ingredients in sensitive skin products and burn-relief products. “Aloe vera tends to soak in quickly, even in its natural form, and it is great for sensitive skin,” Green says.
Glycerin/Glycerol: This simple yet highly versatile chemical compound works on your skin as a humectant, which is just science jargon for a thing that retains moisture. It also has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, making it useful for treating minor wounds and burns too. “Glycerin is a safe, effective, and lightweight ingredient for hydration that works with any skin type,” Green says. “As a humectant, glycerin draws water to the top layer of your skin from deeper layers of skin and the air. It also promotes retention of moisture, reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier and keeping it healthy and hydrated.”
Shea butter: Shea butter has been a popular moisturizer forever and its hydrating and protective qualities make it perfect for sensitive skin. “These benefits are tied to shea’s fatty acid content, including linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids,” Green says. “Shea butter has significant levels of vitamins A and E, which means it promotes strong antioxidant activity … It is appropriate for nearly any skin type.”
Panthenol/Vitamin E: This is an organic molecule with moisturizing and wound healing properties. It’s also an antioxidant, protecting skin against free radicals. “Vitamin E has restorative properties and is able to repair the skin at its cellular level, accelerating the production of collagen and elastin,” Green says. “It can reduce skin inflammation and redness, and it’s known for its ability to improve skin texture.”
Allantoin: This is a compound with multiple rejuvenating properties. It helps skin retain water, clears away dead skin, promotes new cell growth and healing and is generally non-irritating.
Squalane: This is an organic compound, non-irritating emollient and moisturizer common in moisturizing cosmetic products.
Essential oils: Many essential oils aren’t used for fragrance but for their restorative and skin-protecting properties, including argan, jojoba and rosehip oils. “Rosehip oil is packed with antioxidants such as vitamins E, A and C and linolenic acid, all essential components of the skin’s barrier function,” Green says. “Rosehip oil contains omegas 3, 6 and 9 in addition to vitamin A, which improves skin’s elasticity and promotes cell turnover.”
Though the above and below lists aren’t exhaustive, they’re a great starting point if you want to dig deeper into the causes of your skin irritation. Fortunately for you, we already did that and rounded up multiple contenders for the best body wash for sensitive skin. We can’t promise this or that product won’t cause any irritation, but we promise your odds of finding the best body wash for sensitive skin are a lot better below than wandering the minefield of the drugstore aisle.
1. Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash
This sports a formula with soothing oat to ensure your body’s natural moisture barrier doesn’t become unbalanced during use. This wash can be used on a daily basis and will help you achieve softer, smooth and healthier-looking skin. You can also combine it with to help lock in the provided moisture for up to 24 hours.
2. Nivea Men Sensitive 3-In-1 Body Wash
The is more than just a body wash. As the 3-in-1 name suggests, it’s a body wash, shampoo and skin-soothing application. This particular product is also free from soap, dye and drying alcohol, which is great news for your sensitive skin. Plus, the key ingredient in this Nivea Men body wash is bamboo extract, which works to soothe skin. As an added bonus, the formula produces an impressive lather for widespread use to leave your skin clean without removing too much moisture.
Related: Best Unscented Body Washes
3. Vanicream Gentle Body Wash
Vanicream has a simple but highly effective strategy for making sensitive skin products: Skip the unnecessary additives and known skin irritants. In hindsight, it makes sense then that the Vanicream Gentle Body Wash will be a godsend for those with sensitive skin.
Users praised it for its gentle hydration and cleansing. In some cases, switching to this body wash singlehandedly stopped their itchy, dry skin and rashes.
4. Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash
Aveeno won’t do you wrong, whether it’s our favorite Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash or the Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy Body Wash. Green recommends the latter, saying it’s great for sensitive skin thanks to the colloidal oatmeal.
5. Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash
HIGHLY RATED ON AMAZON
Though the Dove Men+Care line is great, if you want the best body wash for sensitive skin that Dove offers, you have to go for the regular Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash. Users raved about this body wash, with one calling it the “only sensitive [body wash] that truly doesn’t bother my skin.” And they rated the Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash accordingly, with 87% five-star ratings, an absurdly high ratio when most Amazon products land around 75% or lower. It’s also one of Green’s favorites: “The Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash gives your body an extra dose of care, helping moisturize and nourish even the most delicate skin.”
6. Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash
ALSO HIGHLY RATED
If you grew up with a sister, mother or father who was just really into skincare, then you’ve seen a bottle of Cetaphil lotion lying around. That’s because Cetaphil specializes in moisturizing products, including those for people with sensitive skin.
The Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash, designed for sensitive skin, relies on aloe vera and panthenol to work its magic, leaving skin gently cleansed and rejuvenated.
7. St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Wash
JUST OATMEAL AND SHEA BUTTER
You might not have to worry about chickenpox anymore, but oatmeal-based body washes can still help if you’re dealing with chronically dry, sensitive skin. The St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Wash delivers the soothing power of oatmeal and the moisturizing benefits of shea butter straight to your skin, leaving it soothed and refreshed.
8. CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash
BEST DRUGSTORE BODY WASH
Available online and in drugstores everywhere, the CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash can gently cleanse and hydrate even the most sensitive skin. Green also recommends this body wash for sensitive skin, saying it’s fragrance-free and relies on ceramides and hyaluronic acid, two key moisturizing ingredients.
9. Tree to Tub Gentle Body Wash
BEST FOR SKIN’S PH
Boasting wild-grown soapberries (yep, they’re real!) and organic healing botanicals, it’s easy to see why this is well-loved by customers with sensitive skin. In addition, the formula is fragrance-free to keep it free from any harsh chemicals, ensuring your skin won’t get irritated using the wash. Tree to Tub has also included a whole host of skin-friendly ingredients in the wash, including coconut cleansers, cucumber, chamomile and aloe vera to give your skin the care it deserves. And, with a pH of around 5.5, this product won’t dry out your skin like many body wash options.
10. Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanser
BEST FOR BODY AND FACE
It’s never a bad bet to go with anything by Eucerin for sensitive skin. The Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanser is so gentle on skin that it’s as suitable for faces as it is for bodies. Multiple users reported how much this body wash helped with their eczema and dry skin in both places. However, though there weren’t many, there were a handful of users who experienced irritation with this body wash, so we’d recommend starting with just a little bit of wash and doing a test on your arm before giving yourself the full body treatment.
11. Puracy Natural Body Wash
If you think avoiding artificial chemicals will help your sensitive skin, turning to a 99.3% plant-based body wash may do the trick. Developed by doctors, the Puracy Natural Body Wash does its utmost to use plants for ingredients as much as possible.
This body wash boasts an enjoyable, citrus scent and a luxurious lather. In fact, the lather comes from the coconut base, but the real miracle ingredient in this wash is the sea salt. That key addition works to purify and balance the skin, providing a formula that’s ideal for people with sensitivities to other washes.
The end result is a gentle, pH-balanced body wash to cleanse the bad stuff and leave your skin feeling smoother and more hydrated.
What To Avoid in Body Washes for Sensitive Skin
All skin is different and responds differently to individual ingredients and product formulations. But if you’re finding the garden variety body washes are irritating your skin, here are some qualities and ingredients to consider avoiding. You might not be able to avoid them all in one body wash, but avoiding most of them is fairly simple.
Fragrances: Fragrances are a commonly cited cause of skin irritation. It could be a chemical in an artificial fragrance or even an adverse reaction to a particular plant-based ingredient or essential oil. In either case, cutting out fragrances, and the natural or artificial ingredients behind them, may help for some. “Products containing fragrances can irritate, sting, burn and strip the skin of its natural moisture,” Green says. “[It’s often best] to avoid perfumed lotions and exfoliants.”
Alcohol: Alcohol compounds actually can do good things for skin, but it’s a difficult balance to strike. A primary use of alcohol in skin products is to accelerate water absorption before evaporating away. But if there’s too much alcohol, it can bring too much water with it and damage skin, too. At the same time, if there’s just the right amount, it helps a great deal, so simply be aware of this when you’re trying out body washes.
Soap: If a body wash says soap anywhere on it, it’s likely to cause skin irritation because soap literally strips oils to be washed away. While that can be great for grime, it can be not great for sensitive skin that needs that oil.
Alpha hydroxy acids: AHAs include glycolic acid, malic acid and lactic acid. Products featuring these acids are typically meant for cosmetic purposes. They effectively rejuvenate skin by injuring it and prompting new skin to grow. You’re unlikely to find these in washes, but you should avoid them in case you do.
Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid, a hydroxy acid, chemically injures skin to remove a layer and prompt the growth of new skin. It’s typically used to treat acne.
Tingling ingredients: Ingredients like eucalyptus, menthol, tea tree and mint may feel great for some skin but what feels pleasant, tingly and refreshing for some could be a cause of irritation for others.
Anything you think irritates your skin. If a body wash irritates your skin, it’s OK to stop using it and look for something else. There’s no reason to torture yourself “because the money’s spent.”
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