How to Choose the Right Body Wash for your Skin Type

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If you have dry, sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema or keratosis pilaris, caring for your skin is challenging. So many types of body wash include harsh ingredients that will irritate your skin – and that can lead to even bigger problems

Instead, you should treat your dry, sensitive skin to body wash that’s designed for its needs. There are body washes and soaps made for dry skin, if you know what to look for and where to find them.

Avoid Body Wash With These Ingredients

If you have dry or sensitive skin, you don’t want to use just any body wash. In fact, you don’t even want to use regular soap.

The basic body wash and soap varieties you’ll find at your favorite stores are formulated with a long list of ingredients – and some of those ingredients can make your skin worse. Certain ingredients are particularly harmful for dry, sensitive skin. And they can cause even more problems if you have eczema or another skin condition.

To prevent your body wash from stripping hydration and important nutrients from your skin with every use, The Fox and She¹ recommends avoiding the following ingredients.


Parabens are actually chemicals. And parabens – which include groups of chemicals like methylparabens, propylparabens, butylparabens, and ethylparabens – are incredibly common in popular body washes. Parabens can mimic estrogen, which can disrupt your body’s balance of hormones.

So, every time you use a body wash that has parabens listed as part of its ingredients, you’re scrubbing your delicate skin with harmful chemical that can cause a host of health concerns.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

SLS and SLES are two ingredients known to irritate skin. They’re used to create the foam in body washes – it’s how your body wash can become soapy and sudsy when lathered up.

While normal, well-hydrated skin may not have any issues with these ingredients, skin that’s already dry, irritated, or sensitive to chemicals is likely to react. It can leave your skin red, angry, and even potentially trigger skin allergies.


You probably know one use for formaldehyde: dead animal preservation. It’s the smelly stuff that animal carcasses are stored in, especially if you’re dissecting them as part of a school project. However, many people don’t realize that soaps and body washes also contain this same ingredient.

Formaldehyde is present in plenty of cosmetic and beauty products. Unfortunately, it’s a carcinogen. It’s been linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. However, when it comes to dry skin, it’s also problematic. Because it’s toxic, it can introduce bad-for-you toxins into your skin.

Look for Soap-Free, Natural Products

So, if these bad ingredients are present in many popular body washes and soaps, what should those with dry, sensitive skin do instead?

You need to look for skincare products that are specifically formulated for your skin’s biggest issues: a lack of moisture, deep hydrating power, and a blend of ingredients that won’t cause irritation.

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According to HealthyBeautyMe, this means you’ll want to avoid any soaps or body washes that can strip moisture from your skin. If a body wash contains a harsh, chemical-heavy soap, it’ll dry out your skin even more as you use it.

When you’re choosing a body wash, here are the key factors you should consider:

  • Mild Soap – Milder soaps tend to contain fewer harsh chemicals, sulfates, and preservatives that could strip the skin.
  • Hydrating Oils – Oil-based body washes will infuse a lot of moisture into your skin. Look for soaps made with sunflower, coconut, jojoba, or olive oil.
  • Shea Butter – Often found in body lotions, shea butter is deeply hydrating. If your body wash contains shea butter, it’ll help your skin hold onto moisture.
  • Vitamin E Extract – Vitamin E is a popular ingredient in skincare products, and it’s great in body wash as well. It helps repair dry skin and stops itching, helping improve elasticity too.

Make sure to check the ingredient list on any body wash or soap for ingredients like these.

The Best Body Wash and Soap You Can Buy for Dry Skin

Make your search for body wash easy by choosing one of the top options for dry, sensitive skin. The following are a few of the best body washes, all formulated with hydrating ingredients, that’ll soothe your skin.

Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Body Wash

Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Body Wash is specially formulated for sensitive skin of any kind. It’s hypoallergenic, doesn’t contain any drying fragrances, and contains gentle cleansing ingredients. It’s also free of parabens.

Dermatologists love this body wash – it’s the number one choice they recommend. With regular use, this Dove body wash will leave your skin softer, smoother, and less dry as it hydrates into the deepest layers.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Cetaphil is one of the top skincare brands, and it makes plenty of gentle cleaners perfect for any skin type. But when it comes to dry skin, Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser is the best choice. It’s a fan favorite and one of Cetaphil’s best-selling products, featuring a simple formula that soothes while it cleans.

This truly gentle body wash will leave your skin feeling smooth and soft to the touch after regular use. It features a mild soap formula that won’t strip skin of oils. However, it isn’t so hydrating that it clogs pores or leaves you feeling greasy.

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

CeraVe is another top cleansing brand – especially for anyone with sensitive skin that’s prone to irritation. And CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash is as effective as traditional soaps without stripping skin of its crucial hydration. It foams just like regular body wash, and it’ll clean and nourish your skin with ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

This body wash won’t irritate your skin. In fact, it’ll only improve its moisture levels, offering a refreshing clean and deep hydration. With regular use, it’ll restore and help your skin maintain its moisture barrier – meaning you’ll have more hydrated skin and solve your dry skin woes.

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If you’re searching for a body wash that will work for your skin, don’t turn to traditional soaps and products. Instead, find the perfect match by opting for a body wash that offers what your skin needs: hydration and care. Specially formulated body wash designed for dry, sensitive skin can change your entire beauty routine.

Discovering Your Skin Needs

Without even a vague idea of your skin type, it’s much harder to figure out what will work for you. So, take a moment next time you shower and try to assess your skin.

The chances are, if your face is oily or sensitive, then your body is too. But that isn’t always the case. There are tell-tale signs of most skin types you can spot a mile off, so have a little think.

  • Does your skin often feel itchy and dry? Then your skin type is probably dry.
  • Do you find yourself with acne or spots on your chest and back? This is likely oily, or acne-prone skin.
  • Are you prone to inflammation or allergic reactions? Or do you find yourself struggling to find products you don’t react to? You might have sensitive skin.

Working out your skin type is the first step to selecting the right body wash for your needs. And if you’re not sure, try speaking to a dermatologist for some help.

Sensitive Skin

If your skin is sensitive, you don’t need us to tell you how careful you have to be selecting a body wash.

Products that use strong perfumes and harsh chemicals can cause irritation, redness and itching. Which, of course, means there is already a whole range of body washes you should be avoiding.

Ideally, low-foam body washes are better for sensitive skin. This is because they usually contain gentler cleansing agents (sometimes referred to as surfactants). However, these can still be drying, which can aggravate skin sensitivity.

To counter this, seek out body washes that contain moisturiser. Look out for ingredients such as:

  • Glycerin (which will help your skin retain moisture)
  • Sunflower seed oil (which contains Vitamin E to help nourish the skin)
  • Lauryl glucoside (which is a gentle cleanser)

If your skin feels particularly irritated, opt for body washes that contain oatmeal; these can be a great way of calming the skin.

Dry Skin

Much like sensitive skin, dry skin requires more moisture. This means you should always reach for a body wash instead of a soap (which can be far more drying, and rougher on your skin).

However, that still leaves a whole world of body wash options. And not all of them are suitable for dry skin. Learning the ingredients that react well with your skin and provide relief goes a long way; keep a lookout for the following:

  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Oatmeal
  • Honey

It’s also important to look out for harsh cleansers in your body wash. You need to know which cleansers work best for dry skin. Look for products that use mild soaps such as lauroyl isethionate and milk proteins – these help to smooth and soften dry skin.

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One firm favourite ingredient is shea butter – which not only smells divine, but is an excellent moisturiser commonly found in body washes. You’ll find these formulas are creamier, and foam less. This also means they’re not stripping your skin of its much-needed natural oils.

Oily Skin

Oily skin, as the opposite of dry skin, means a new set of ingredients to look out for. However, oily skin can still get dry; you’re not going to be stripping away all of your body’s natural oils.

Products that contain humectants are best for oily skin types; these are elements that draw moisture to the surface of the skin. In the long term, this helps your skin retain moisture.

Whereas emollients found in products for dry or sensitive skin are more likely to leave a film on the surface, humectants help to smooth and moisten the skin without doing this.

Acne-Prone Skin

If you’re prone to breakouts on your chest, back or upper arms, look for body washes that contain the same ingredients you’d use to target these problems on your face. Generally, those ingredients are:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Glycolic acid

Neither of these is too difficult to find in body wash products. These will help to slough away the excess sebum (oil) and dead skin cells on your body, and clear your pores.

If you’re acne-prone, you’re likely already familiar with the benefits of tea tree oil. As a natural astringent, this is a great choice for body washes that help to reduce inflammation; it also happens to be a great way to wake up!


There are very few body washes we know of designed to specifically target the signs of ageing on our bodies. That said, with a little common sense, it’s not too difficult to work out where to start.

Products designed to reduce the signs of ageing (like retinol) will penetrate better when your skin is clean and exfoliated. As such, go for a light and moisturising body scrub during your shower, to slough away dead skin cells and leave your skin clean and well-cared for.

Any products that contain salicylic and lactic acid are good choices too, as are Vitamin B products like niacinamide.

After Exercise

Opinions on this one can be divisive; many dermatologists will tell you that showering more than once a day can be drying for the skin. However, if you must (and after a workout, you really should), then try to rinse with just water to ensure that surface chemicals such as chlorine, and your sweat are rinsed away.

If that doesn’t feel like enough, seek out body washes that contain gentler cleansing ingredients.

You can’t go wrong with lauroyl sarcosinate or decyl glucoside. These are mild enough that they can help to remove excess sweat, salt and oil from the skin, without causing it to dry out.