Best Body Washes for Women

Updated October 2020
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Buying guide for best body washes for women

Shampoo and conditioner typically get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to shower products. But you can elevate your shower routine with a body wash that smells as lovely as it feels on your skin.

And while scent is usually the main feature women consider when choosing a body wash, other factors to take into account include skin type and formula. A rich, creamy body wash can be a nightmare for women with acne and oily skin, while a light foaming body wash can wreak havoc for women who have delicate dry skin. You’ll also want to consider if the body wash can double as face wash or shampoo and whether it will leave a residue on your skin post-shower.

Our buying guide takes an in-depth look at what separates the best body washes from their mediocre counterparts. We also share helpful tips for using body wash effectively and answer some commonly asked questions. When you’re ready to shop, check out our top product picks.

Body wash is a more hygienic alternative to bar soap, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria over time. Body washes are also usually less drying than bar soaps.

Key considerations

Your search for the ideal body wash should start with three important factors: scent, your skin type, and formula.

Scent

Choose a scent combination that appeals to you and read reviews to verify that the smell is appealing to most customers instead of cloying or overpowering.

  • Fruity: Fruity body washes are common. Value body washes typically offer more common fruit scents like strawberry or watermelon, while more expensive body washes may feature more unique fruits like pomegranate or dragon fruit.
  • Sugary: If you love the smell of baking cookies, you may be drawn to body wash scents that mimic desserts and treats. You’ll find scent options like cotton candy, gingerbread, cake batter, sugar cookie, and vanilla frosting.
  • Botanical: You’ll find plenty of body washes scented with either synthetic or natural botanicals like lavender, rose, chamomile, tea tree oil, eucalyptus, hibiscus, mint, or a combination of several different botanicals.
  • Earthy: While earthy scents like cedar and sandalwood are more common in body washes for men, you’ll find a few earthy scents in women’s body washes, too. Often these scents are combined with vanilla or botanicals.
  • Clean: Some body wash formulas have clean scents that smell like clothes just out of the dryer, a freshly cleaned house, or a fresh breeze. These body washes use a combination of botanicals and synthetic ingredients to evoke different clean scents.
  • Fragrance-free: For women who are sensitive to fragrance or simply find the idea of a scented body wash unappealing, you can opt for fragrance-free options that have very mild or odorless formulas.

Skin type

Use gel or light foam body washes if you have oily skin. These body washes are great at removing excess oil without stripping too much moisture. There’s no need to suds up every single inch of your body – in fact, doing so can lead to dry skin on some areas of the body. Focus most of your attention on sweat- and odor-prone areas.

If you have dry skin, use a creamy body wash that helps lock in moisture and won’t disrupt your skin’s delicate natural barrier. Search for moisturizing body washes that look like thick lotions. These cream body washes help replace some of the beneficial oils your body loses in the shower.

If you struggle with body acne, try a body wash with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These body washes are specially formulated to infiltrate pores and neutralize bacteria without further irritating skin or stripping too much moisture.

For sensitive skin, seek out body washes free of formaldehyde, fragrances, lanolin, dyes, parabens, sulfates, and preservatives. These common ingredients can lead to inflammation or an allergic reaction in some people. Dab a drop of body wash on the inside of your wrist before sudsing up in the shower to find out whether you’ll have an unpleasant reaction.

A body wash with oatmeal, chamomile, or lavender is ideal for skin with eczema. Avoid formaldehyde or other allergens that can worsen eczema, and look for creamy, moisture-rich body washes to nourish your skin. Be wary of some botanicals like tea tree oil or other essential oils that can be irritants.

If you suffer from psoriasis, a body wash with salicylic acid can help slough off dead skin and moisturize your skin at the same time. You’ll also need to steer clear of any synthetic or natural ingredients that might bother your sensitive skin, notably formaldehyde, fragrances, lanolin, dyes, parabens, sulfates, and preservatives.

Formula

While it’s easy to make a buying decision for body wash based on a great scent and beautiful packaging, always read the label to verify that the formula is a fit.

  • Salicylic acid vs. benzoyl peroxide for acne: If you’re choosing a body wash for acne, consider the active ingredient. Salicylic acid is best for acne that’s caused by clogged pores from dirt or dead skin cells. Benzoyl peroxide is more ideal for acne that’s inflamed and the result of bacteria.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Some body wash formulas contain skin-nourishing ingredients like antioxidants and vitamins A, C, or E. If you have aging skin or want a body wash that doubles as skincare, choose a formula that does more than cleanse.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate: This ingredient can be harsh and drying on the skin. It’s often found in cheaper body washes. It’s a type of chemical detergent that creates great suds but strips oils and erodes the natural skin barrier. This can irritate skin and worsen acne or other skin conditions over time.
  • Parabens: Parabens are preservatives that help keep bacteria at bay, but some studies have shown that parabens may pose a health risk. If you’re concerned, look for paraben-free body washes.

Features

Versatility

The majority of body wash formulas for women are meant for the body only. However, it’s often convenient to use the same product on your body and face. If you plan to use your body wash on your face, be sure to choose a formula that’s safe for use on the face. Some ingredients that are fine for your body may irritate your eyes or be too harsh for the delicate skin of the face. Those with acne-prone skin should probably avoid using body wash on the face.

Some body wash formulas can also double as shampoo. These body washes are ideal for a guest bathroom or for travel since you only need one bottle for two key tasks. If you plan to use your body wash on your hair, choose a body wash specifically formulated for both hair and body.

Residue

Some cheaper body washes can leave you feeling sticky or like you have a film on your body after rinsing. This residue may be caused by additives, thickeners, or inexpensive moisturizers. High-quality body washes shouldn’t leave any residue on the skin.

Eco-friendly

You can do your part for the environment by choosing a biodegradable or all-natural body wash with nontoxic ingredients. These body washes can also be used safely when camping and won’t disrupt lakes and other waterways for fish and wildlife.

Cruelty-free

If you’d like a cruelty-free product, choose a body wash that features the cruelty-free seal to verify that neither the finished product nor any of its components were tested on animals.

Body wash for women prices

Inexpensive: You can find budget body washes for women starting at just $2 or $3. While some of these options may smell great and suds up nicely, they are likely to contain synthetic and harsh ingredients that can irritate skin, strip moisture along with oils, and make acne worse over time.

Mid-range: For $5 to $15, you’ll find more moisturizing gel and cream body washes with higher-quality botanical and natural fragrances and formulas that are free of dyes, parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, and lanolin. You’ll find some cruelty-free body washes in this price bracket as well as formulas that double as body wash and face wash or body wash and shampoo. If you struggle with acne, psoriasis, or eczema, you can expect to find a mid-range body wash that meets your needs.

Expensive: For upward of $20, you’ll find bulk bottles of mid-range body washes along with full-size bottles from luxury brands. These high-end products generally include loads of extra skin-nourishing ingredients like antioxidants and vitamins and may help improve skin texture. More expensive body washes may be organic, more sustainably produced, vegan, and cruelty-free. These top-tier body washes typically tout the highest-quality ingredients and most unique scent combinations.

Tips

  • Some women find that they need to switch body wash types depending on the season. A lighter gel body wash may work nicely in the summer when skin is oilier and sweatier but may be too drying in the winter months.
  • If you use a loofah to apply your body wash, run it through the washing machine regularly (don’t dry it) and replace it every couple of months. Bacteria can easily breed on the loofah’s wet surface and get rubbed into your skin.
  • For extra exfoliation when scrubbing your feet, try swapping your loofah for a sisal brush for maximum removal of dead skin.
  • Use lukewarm water when you use body wash. Water that’s too hot can strip extra moisture from your skin, especially when combined with a body wash.
  • Dermatologists generally recommend pairing your favorite body wash with a quality moisturizer. Apply your body moisturizer within five minutes of toweling off after you shower.
Body washes that contain coconut oil, shea butter, or argan oil help skin feel soft and hydrated.

FAQ

Q. Can body wash be used in the shower or bath?
A.
Yes. Body wash can be used in either the shower or bath. If you plan to take a long bath with your body wash, pay extra attention to the label. The longer the body wash stays in contact with your skin, the more important it is to avoid harsh ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate.
 

Q. Can I use my shampoo as body wash?
A.
Shampoo can certainly be used as a substitute for body wash. The two products commonly share many ingredients that moisturize while stripping dirt and oils. However, women typically separate the two products since high-quality shampoos generally include extra ingredients meant to promote hair strength and volume, which makes them expensive to use as body wash.
 

Q. Which parts of my body should I wash first?
A.
In general, it’s a smart idea to start at the top of your body and work your way down in the shower. Since body wash will naturally flow down your body in the direction of the water stream in your shower, you’ll get more use out of the product as it travels down your skin. Start with your neck and armpits, then work your way down to your feet. Some people prefer to step outside the water stream to suds up their entire body before rinsing off.

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