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Best Body Washes

Whether labeled body washes, body cleansers, bathing bubbles, shower gels, or something similar, in order to earn our top rating these cleansing products must have most, if not all, of the following key features:

  • Gentle, water-soluble formulas, preferably fragrance-free
  • Beneficial ingredients to help soften skin, not leave it tight or dry
  • Be easy to rinse, with or without the aid of a washcloth or bath pouf
  • Not contain needless irritants or fragrant oils

Body washes (aka bath gels, shower gels, and so on) are a large group of products for something as basic as cleansing skin from the neck down. We do not recommend bar soaps or body bars for such cleansing, as even those labeled “moisturizing” or “non-drying” or “soap-free” tend to be problematic, either due to their drying nature (contrary to claim) or because the ingredients that keep such cleansers in bar form tend to leave a skin-dulling residue. In contrast, today’s best body washes cleanser thoroughly but gentle, rinsed without leaving a dulling residue and, depending on the formula, can actually improve dry, irritated skin.

As a general rule, we don’t rate overly fragrant body washes well. Those on the list of BEST products either contain minimal fragrance or are, thankfully (at least from your skin’s perspective) fragrance-free. We acknowledge that many people love using fragrant body washes (what’s sold at stores like Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop, and in most spas are prime examples) but the research is clear: What pleases your nose isn’t making your skin happy. Surprisingly, fragrance in body washes can be a major cause of irritation, which can lead to itchy, even more uncomfortable skin, not to mention redness, allergic reactions, red bumps, and, depending on the source of irritating ingredients, a hastening of signs of aging (irritation results in pro-aging inflammation). True, using a fragrance-free body wash can turn your morning shower from refreshing or invigorating into mundane and boring, but your skin will thank you!

One more comment: With few exceptions, body washes need not be expensive. There are several wonderful options at the drugstore that are every bit as good (or even better) than pricier counterparts.

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