Back in the day, the primary concern for most of us when shopping for a body soap or wash was whether or not it smelled amazing. We innocently assumed it did its job of cleaning our body with healthy ingredients. Fast forward to today when we’re all soberly aware of the harsh chemicals lurking in the average body wash (and the rest of our cleaning products)—we’re talking parabens, added fragrances, phthalates, sulfates, plasticizers and even formaldehyde (ya know, the main ingredient in plywood) for f*ck sake.
Research points to the notion that these chemicals are no bueno for our body. Certain parabens (propyl-, butyl-, isopropyl-, and isobutyl-), for example, are linked to changes in hormone levels and potential birth defects, according to Hadley King, M.D., a dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Triclosan and triclocarban are two more culprits lurking in body washes that are linked to endocrine disruption. Needless to say, these are some of the reasons “clean” and “natural” beauty are hot trends right now.
What should you look for in a body wash?
While you want a soap or body wash that’s formulated sans questionable ingredients, you also want to choose a wash that will thoroughly cleanse your skin while still being gentle enough to prevent it from drying out. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it won’t be irritating. “Those with dry or sensitive skin should look for a body wash with some moisturizing components and ingredients to help restore moisture or strengthen the skin’s natural barrier while cleansing, such as ceramides,” says Marisa Garshick, M.D., dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Centers in Manhattan and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYP-Cornell. “Those who are looking to get rid of dead skin cells or those with rough or bumpy skin may find it useful to use an exfoliating wash a few times per week which can be in the form of a physical exfoliant with gentle microbeads or a chemical exfoliant”.
With one online search or stroll through your local drugstore’s beauty aisle, you’re bound to find dozens, if not hundreds, of different products meant for washing your bod. To simplify your life in the best way we know how, we’ve rounded up the best body soaps and washes that leave your skin soft, smooth and feeling clean without messing with your hormones.
Best Body Wash for Super Dry Skin
Dove is up there when it comes to most trusted skin care brands. Simply put, they live up to the hype they tout on their bottles, plus they’re certified PETA cruelty free and their bottles are made up of 100 percent plastic. This new formulation contains their “Moisture Renew Blend”—a blend of moisturizers found in the skin’s natural moisture barrier, as well as a plant-based moisturizer that helps maintain the skin’s moisture barrier, explains Dr King, as well as stearic and palmitic acids, which are fatty acids found in the skin. “These skin-natural nutrients help replenish lipids lost during cleansing,” she says. Also on the ingredients list, you’ll find “Directly Esterified Fatty Isethionate” or “Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate,” which sounds suspect, but it allows the wash to be an effective cleanser without stripping the skin of its natural oils.
Best Body Wash with Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is the new “it” ingredient in skin care because of its impressive ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water. Translation: its moisturizing abilities pay in dividends. This body wash not only contains hyaluronic acid, but also vitamin B3, or niacinamide, the next-best moisturizing ingredient for the skin. Like hyaluronic acid, it’s also incredibly hydrating by helping the skin prevent water loss. It also has impressive brightening effects similar to vitamin C. The combo works synergistically to deliver vitamin-nourished skin that stays moisturized long after you’ve showered.
Best Body Wash for Stressed Skin (and Moms)
If you look to your body wash to help you de-stress after a long day (or sleepless night), look no further than this lightly (but amazingly) scented product that’s the closest you’ll likely get to a spa experience before Mother’s Day. It’s gentle enough for most skin types and enriched with an oat extract that helps calm and protect the skin outer skin layer, according to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. It’s also hypoallergenic, soap-free and dye-free (we like how that sounds!).
Best Eco-Friendly Body Wash
If you’re looking for an organic and biodegradable body wash that still smells good, we highly recommend Bathing Culture’s Mind and Body Wash which smells like fresh woods and made with all-organic ingredients like aloe, shea, guar, and coconut oil. You can feel good about your contribution to the environment, since these bottles are made with 100% California curb-side blue bin recycling. Best of all, unlike a lot of natural soaps (not trying to diss anyone!) this actually gets you nice and squeaky clean (without completely stripping your skin of its oils). Bathing Culture sells products by the gallon, so you can buy in bulk, or can reuse your bottle and refill with one of the brand’s retail partners.
Best Honey-Based Body Wash
Walmart has taken a large step into the clean beauty game with an assortment of brands created with premium ingredients at drugstore prices. It looks feng shui as f*ck, and lives up to its high-caliber, Goop-esque appearance. Its key ingredient is manuka honey straight from New Zealand, which has long been hailed as a skin miracle. It heals wounds, is antibacterial (meaning it fights against gross bacteria) and is deeply nourishing. In addition, this gel is cruelty-free and free of harmful chemicals including parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, silicones, gluten, triclosan and formaldehyde (yep all of them).
Best Smelling Body Wash
This is upscale brand Borghese’s best-selling body wash for a reason. It has a huge cult-like following and we’re pretty sure it’s because it smells ah-ma-zing. Although it’s on the pricier side, it lasts a long time. It’s a foaming gel so you only need a single pump on your loofah each shower. It’s infused with a whole bunch of exotic scents including thyme, chamomile, cornflower, and comfrey, as well as other great-smelling ingredients like hazel and sweet almond and olive oil, which are armed with moisturizing properties that leave your skin feeling like satin.
Best Coconut-Based Body Wash
As its name suggests, this brand Loves you AND the planet. They say yes to organic coconut oil, coconut water, ethically sourced mimosa flower and no to parabens, dyes, and guilt. The products are not tested on animals and the bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic. This is a two part set, the mist being an on-the-go mom refresher (known as a shower to many of us). Lastly (but of almost equal importance), it smells like a warm coconut cupcake. You’re welcome.
Best Body Wash for Sensitive Skin
If you’re willing to sacrifice smelling delicious (or you can not tolerate smells), you might come to appreciate this simple, yet effective body wash. Its bottle says it all—“Free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde”—so there’s really no second guessing whether or not this brand counts as clean. It’s simple, effective and is the least likely of the bunch to cause you irritation. Dermatologic Surgeon and RealSelf Contributor, Dr. Joel Schlessinger, even recommends it to his patients with eczema, and adds it helps with all aspects of the skin condition. “It reduces the itching, dryness and flaking that comes with it,” he says.
Best Vegan Body Wash
If an all-vegan lifestyle is your cup of tea, then you can make no exceptions when it comes to your body wash. This one is both vegan and organic and made from both local and imported sustainably sourced ingredients. It’s also free of those harmful chemicals, so it’s pretty much as wholesome as it gets. On top of all of this, it smells incredible—which is probably what’s garnered it 500+ 4.5-star ratings on Amazon. While scrubbing up with this stuff you can expect scents of charcoal and cotton blossom. What does that smell like exactly? Well, you’ll just have to find out. There is also Hope (aloe and dewy moss), Joy (tangerine and honeysuckle), and Strength (red ginger and currant).
Best Body Wash for Rough, Bumpy Skin
On the laundry list of pesky skin conditions is what’s known as keratosis pilaris, the red and rough bumps often seen on the upper arms and thighs (sometimes called chicken skin). They’re caused by a build up of the bodily protein keratin, and they’re plain annoying. Luckily, this body wash actually helps treat it through gentle exfoliation. “This wash contains glycolic acid to help shed dead skin cells, leaving the skin looking rejuvenated and smooth,” says Dr. Garshick. In addition to patients with keratosis pilaris, she recommends this wash to those with breakouts or those looking to brighten the skin (two by-products of exfoliation).
Now that you’re set in the body wash department, check out some other top-rated and mom-approved beauty must-haves.