Best Exfoliating Body Washes

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for Best exfoliating body washes

To maintain healthy, moisturized skin, exfoliation is crucial. One of the best places to exfoliate is in the shower, so what better tool than an exfoliating body wash? Exfoliating body wash works the same way as a conventional body wash, with the added benefit of tiny exfoliators, such as salt, to remove dead skin cells.

Before you add an exfoliating body wash to your shopping cart, there are factors you’ll want to consider. If you have any existing skin conditions like keratosis pilaris or acne, you’ll want to search for a body wash that caters to that condition. You should also consider your skin’s sensitivity, the intensity of exfoliation you desire, and the product’s scent.

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It’s best to shower with lukewarm — not hot — water. Water that’s too hot can dry out your skin.

Key considerations

Exfoliating the skin

To exfoliate is to remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. There are a couple of different ways you can exfoliate: with a mechanical abrasive scrub or a chemical nonabrasive scrub.

When dead skin cells accumulate, they clog pores and may exacerbate acne and blemishes. Furthermore, as we age, our skin regenerates new skin cells at a slower rate. This means our skin takes longer to shed old skin cells, resulting in drier, duller-looking skin.

By exfoliating regularly, you clear the way for fresh skin cells. You also help moisturizers better penetrate the skin, thereby working more effectively. To apply, simply lather the body wash onto your wet body with a loofah or washcloth and rub in small, circular movements. 

If the word “acid” makes you uneasy, consider starting with a fruit enzyme exfoliator instead. Enzymes are less harsh than acids and occur naturally in berries, pineapple, and papaya. They also create a brightening effect by breaking down the keratin in dead skin cells.

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Skin conditions

Keratosis pilaris (KP): This is a fairly common skin condition that causes tiny raised bumps on the skin surface. While more common in children, a number of adults have it, too. KP is caused by excess buildup of keratin in the hair follicles. Those who suffer from eczema or dry skin are more likely to have it. There is no cure for KP at this time.

Though this condition is mild, some find the small bumps (also referred to as “chicken skin”) unsightly. A body wash that exfoliates and moisturizes is key. You’ll want to unclog the clogged hair follicles while replenishing the skin’s moisture. Look for active ingredients like lactic acid, which helps to loosen and remove dead skin cells.  

Acne: A number of adults suffer from acne on the body as well as on the face, especially along the shoulders, back, butt, and chest. As with facial acne, body acne is caused by a buildup of sebum, which clogs pores and can cause whiteheads and blackheads. Excessive dead skin cells only worsen acne, meaning exfoliation is critical.

If you have significant body acne, you should steer clear of physical exfoliators like salt, sugar, or coffee grounds. They can irritate the skin further, causing micro-tears in the skin. Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are both effective exfoliants. Try to find a formula with no more than 2% of one of these on the ingredients label.

Sensitive skin: If you have acne, keratosis pilaris, eczema, or any mild to severe skin condition, there’s a decent change that your skin is somewhat sensitive. You may wish to avoid body washes with strong smells or sulfates. Sulfates refer to a family of cleansers common in body washes and shampoos. If you enjoy lots of soap suds, you likely have sulfates to thank. While the foaming action may be satisfying to wash with, those same chemicals dry out skin and exacerbate irritation.

Keep an eye out for exfoliating body washes with the “fragrance-free” label. If you’re looking to avoid sulfates, check the ingredients label closely.

Features

Scent

Even if you prefer to avoid a heavily scented exfoliating body wash, you don’t have to forgo scent altogether. Try looking for a body wash with a mild, gentle scent. Body washes with essential oils may offer a natural, less overpowering smell. 

Natural ingredients

A natural exfoliating body wash relies on physical exfoliants rather than chemical ones. Some popular ingredients in exfoliating body washes include crushed walnut shells, sugar, and salt. There are usually ingredients that lock in moisture, too, such as coconut oil, lavender oil, or orange oil. If you opt for an exfoliating body wash with natural ingredients, be sure that the active exfoliants aren’t too harsh on the skin.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Common sulfates in body wash may be listed as ammonium laureth, lauryl sulfate, or sodium laureth sulfate.
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Accessories

Loofah: Almooni Natural Eco-Friendly Loofah
When it comes to exfoliating, a loofah is much more effective than your hands. This one from Almooni is non-toxic and free of dye. Buyers love its generous size and flexible fibers. With gentle application, a loofah is suitable for use two to three times a week. 

Body moisturizer: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion 
Once you exfoliate and step out of the shower, replenish your skin with a layer of body moisturizer. The oatmeal in this lotion from Aveeno absorbs easily while relieving dry, itchy skin. Buyers with a variety of skin types rave about the soothing properties of this fragrance-free and nongreasy lotion, a fine option for anyone with sensitive skin.

Exfoliating body wash prices

Fortunately, you can find exfoliating body wash at a range of different prices, from $3 to $20. As with all beauty products, you get what you pay for. Price depends on quantity, quality of ingredients, and if the body wash is designed to treat a specific condition.

Inexpensive: Even under $10, the kinds of body washes you encounter will vary. At the low end of that price range, they may include harsh exfoliants like microbeads and few natural ingredients. Closer to $10, you’ll start to see more fragrance-free products with chemical exfoliants.

Mid-range: The sweet spot for exfoliating body washes is $10 to $15. At this price, you can find products chock-full of essential oils and butters, along with chemicals like salicylic acid and the like. While fragrance-free options are plentiful here, it’s quite possible to find a pleasant, mildly scented wash for this price. You can also find bulk packages of cheaper exfoliating body washes at this price. 

Expensive: For $15 and above, exfoliating body washes may include more exclusive ingredients like Dead Sea salt and sea kelp. They may be designed for specific conditions like keratosis pilaris. Luxury brands likely charge this price or more for a standard 10-ounce bottle. 

As you research various body washes, you may come across the term “body polish.” A body polish is similar to a facial — it moisturizes while removing dead skin cells, but it won’t cleanse the skin the way a body wash will.

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Tips

  • Try dry brushing. One form of exfoliation that’s gaining in popularity in the Western world is dry brushing. Moving a stiff brush against the skin sheds more skin cells while promoting blood circulation. However, you may wish to avoid this method if your skin is excessively irritated already. 
  • Don’t forget your hands and feet. Extra-rough areas like hands and feet would benefit from a separate exfoliating scrub. For the soles of the feet, try getting a pumice stone, too.
  • Monitor your skin. If you notice your skin peeling or growing redder or more inflamed, stop exfoliating or use the body wash less frequently. 
  • Be careful if you have a skin condition. Those with dry and/or sensitive skin should never rely on physical exfoliators. If you use a medication to treat body acne, such as benzoyl peroxide, be sure that exfoliating won’t worsen those areas. 
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Microbeads, the tiny plastic beads that are popular in exfoliants, can further irritate sensitive skin. More recently, people have noticed microbeads’ negative effect on the environment. If this concerns you, check the ingredients to ensure the body wash contains biodegradable exfoliants.

FAQ

Q. How often should I exfoliate?

A. If you have dry skin, exfoliate no more than two or three times a week. Excessive exfoliating can further irritate skin. But if your skin is quite oily and/or you have some body acne, you may exfoliate daily if the body wash is gentle enough. You can find out by checking the label of your product.

Q. Will exfoliation get rid of acne marks?

A. That depends. Exfoliants with salicylic acid, for example, can help to clear dark marks. No changes will happen overnight, but exfoliants can accelerate the process. Note that acne marks do fade on their own with time. 

Q. Can I use an exfoliating body wash on my face, too?

A. The skin on your body and the skin on your face has different needs. Body scrubs are often thicker with harsher exfoliants that can irritate the skin on your face.

 

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