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The Best Body Washes for Sensitive Skin — Dermatologist Approved

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Written by Jenna Cartusciello

Looking for the best body washes for sensitive skin? If you’ve ever dealt with irritation or redness after showering, you know that delicious-smelling soaps with rich lathers unfortunately cause a lot of skin problems. While skin sensitivity means you’ll miss out on a fragrant, luxurious shower experience, your body will thank you for picking a gentle, unscented product to get yourself clean.

So, where should you begin on your soothing skincare journey? It’s easy to feel so overwhelmed with the many body wash products on the market that you just choose the first one you see. To help alleviate the research burden and avoid burning, redness and flaking, we’ve sifted through the many formulas that the world of skincare has to offer and discovered the best picks, including popular brands and lesser-known, up-and-coming K-Beauty cleansers. We also made sure that dermatologists approve of the formulas we recommend. From fragrance-free formulas to hypoallergenic blends, we’ve got you covered.

The 13 Best Body Washes for Sensitive Skin

Finding the Best Body Washes for Sensitive Skin

The first rule of body washes for sensitive skin may be a surprising one: Less is more. Andrea Suarez, board-certified dermatologist and YouTuber, agrees that finding the right non-irritating formula is crucial for success, but so is a gentle bathing routine. “Be very critical of your bathing practices, especially when in the colder months,” she says. “The ambient humidity drops, your skin is more prone to dryness and irritation and over-cleansing can really set you up for skin failure, either in the form of dryness or irritation.”

As such, Dr. Suarez recommends using very little body wash every time you shower — even if you work out. “Sweat is water soluble,” she says. “You don’t need soap to take it off. You just need water. And soaping your skin only adds to the irritation because sweat, on the surface of the skin, is irritating.” Instead, Dr. Suarez recommends using body wash only in the areas where you really need it, such as your armpits, groin and feet. If you struggle with acne and a rinse-off doesn’t seem like enough, consider using a body wash with a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid and applying a very small amount.

Now that you know the benefits of using your body wash sparingly, it’s time to discuss the factors that can make or break a gentle body wash.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Body Washes for Sensitive Skin

Active Ingredients

An active ingredient is a chemical (natural or synthetic) in a skincare product that changes the skin — hopefully in a positive way. In other words, it’s a marketing term; active ingredients are the key ingredients that deliver the results. They include moisturizers, sun protectants, exfoliators, fine line and wrinkle reducers, brighteners and smoothers.

In body washes for sensitive skin, you may find the following active ingredients: aloe vera, ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, niacinamide, peptides, salicylic acid, vitamin C and vitamin E. Ideally, stronger actives like lactic acid, niacinamide and salicylic acid will be in lower concentrations.

Other Ingredients

In addition to active ingredients, you may find ingredients that have a neutral effect or a potentially negative one. As such, it’s important to pay attention to those “filler ingredients” to make sure they help and don’t hinder your progress. Common hinderers include fragrance — even if it’s an essential oil! — strong surfactants or cleansers and certain preservatives.

We know that it’s pleasing to use soaps with scent (hello, relaxing showers), but we chose to recommend primarily scent-free products. This is because fragrance is one of the most common causes of allergies and irritation, so it’s best to avoid it if you have sensitive skin.

pH

The pH of a product can influence your skin’s sensitivity. For instance, soaps that are too alkaline can disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance and cause “cracks” in the barrier, which leads to redness and other forms of irritation. On the other hand, soaps that are too acidic can dissolve the lipids that “glue” your skin cells together. Generally, body washes that have a pH between 4.6 and 5.5 are ideal.

Skin Type

Knowing your sensitive skin type (dry, normal, oily or combination) can help you determine your ideal body wash. For dry skin, look for body washes with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, shea butter and sunflower seed oil — all of which are non comedogenic. Oily skin also benefits from moisturizers, but if you struggle with it, you may consider a product that contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid or tea tree oil to help combat excess oil and clear pores.

Price

Though body wash is a relatively inexpensive product, it can still get pricey depending on the brand name and ingredients. Most products cost between $5 and $50, and our recommendations range between $10 and $30. Generally, we don’t think you have to spend more than $35 to find a great body wash for sensitive skin.

Other Considerations

If you have acne, over-cleansing your skin dries it out and can lead to a lot of irritation and flares of acne. So, be very mindful that you’re not over-doing it with the bathing. And by overdoing it, I mean taking long showers. Keep the showers short, no longer than 10 minutes. And use lukewarm water. Hot water is a lipid barrier nemesis. So make sure you take a short shower, use cool to lukewarm water, and don’t go hogwhile with the volume of body wash. These body washes — they should last a year of using daily. I think people use big globs of body wash and they generate this lather all over. But just use a tiny tiny amount, and only use body wash in strategic areas. Most people are indoors, especially in the wintertime. They’re not out exposed to the elements. And so there’s really no need to be using body wash like on your lower legs, your arms, even your back. …unless you’re visibly soiled. Focus it in the skinfolds and anywhere visibly soiled.

And I know a lot of you guys work out like I do and you get sweaty, but remember, sweat is water soluble. You don’t need soap to take it off. You just need water. And soaping your skin only adds to the irritation, because sweat, on the surface of the skin, is irritating. It can disrupt the lipid barrier. So, it’s a good idea to rinse off the sweat and then apply a moisturizer to really reduce that issue.

But if you use body wash to do that, there’s really no need to and you’re just adding surfactant to the surface of the skin…that’s going to take away more of your lipid barrier. So, there’s no need to wash off sweat with a body wash. Now, I know people love body washes. The experience of them, they love scented ones, I get it. It’s just part of the joys of bathing, I guess. But, my job is to encourage you guys to be more conservative about it because it really can dry out your skin quite a bit. Especially as you get into your wiser years, the amount of oils we put out on the surface of the skin starts to decline and we’re more prone to dryness and irritation from our skincare products, especially our cleansers.

What Are the Different Types of Body Washes for Sensitive Skin?

Oil-Free Body Wash

A liquid, oil-free body wash may be ideal if you have oily skin or struggle with acne; they have a lightweight, non-greasy feel after showering. However, these soaps can be overly stripping if they contain harsh surfactants and few moisturizers. We recommend using a very gentle soap (it might not lather very well!) for sensitive skin that contains lightweight moisturizers, such as aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and glycerin.

Oil-Based Body Wash

Oil-based body washes are those that contain oil as the primary hydrators. These are great for dry skin, and the right formula can work for eczema-prone skin as well. This is because oil can help repair the skin barrier, making it more resilient and less likely to develop irritation. However, oil-based body washes can be heavy and may exacerbate acne if the pores cannot properly breathe.

Exfoliating Body Wash

Exfoliating body washes are those that contain chemical or physical exfoliants. Generally, we don’t recommend physical exfoliants (such as walnut or apricot scrubs) for sensitive skin because they can cause irritation and lead to an uneven exfoliation. Chemical exfoliants are ideal for the body because they exfoliate evenly and without physical abrasion, which is irritating in and of itself. If you have sensitive skin, avoid exfoliants that are harsher than salicylic acid (such as benzoyl peroxide), which will likely cause irritation.

1

Best Overall: Vanicream Gentle Body Wash

Pros

  • Lightweight moisturizer
  • Great for all skin types
  • Good for eczema or contact dermatitis

Cons

  • On the pricier side
  • No rich lather
  • Coco glucosides may cause allergic reaction

What put Vanicream’s gentle body wash at the top of our recommendations? It comes highly recommended by Dr. Suarez for all skin types. It contains non-comedogenic, lightweight moisturizers like glycerin and very gentle surfactants like coco glucosides. It’s also a good choice for those with contact dermatitis or eczema.

The downsides: If you’re hoping for a soap with a rich lather, this isn't it. (This is because most of the ingredients that create rich lathers can end up irritating skin.) In addition, a few customers still experienced irritation from this product. Dr. Suarez attributes this to a potential coco glucoside allergy. Some customers also believe this product is pricey for the bottle size.

2

Best for Dry Skin: CeraVe Body Wash for Normal to Dry Skin

Pros

  • Contains ceramides
  • Hydrating
  • Very gentle

Cons

  • Unscented “scent” may be off putting
  • Doesn’t lather
  • Coco glucosides may cause allergic reaction

If you find dry patches and flaky skin on your body, your body wash may be irritating your skin and drying it out. A non comedogenic, moisturizing product like the CeraVe Body Wash can help. We love that this formula (as with all CeraVe products) contains ceramides, which can help repair the skin barrier, and hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerin.

However, some buyers dislike the unscented “scent” and that the body wash doesn’t lather. This product also contains coco glucosides as very gentle surfactants, which may cause an allergic reaction for certain people.

3

Best for Oily Skin: Paula’s Choice All Over Hair & Body Shampoo

Pros

  • Good for eczema
  • Lightweight
  • Contains panthenol and aloe

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Can dry out scalp and hair

If you have oily skin, it might be tempting to use body washes that give you a squeaky-clean feeling. However, these can overly strip the skin and lead to more oiliness. We recommend using a lightweight, lightly-moisturizing and gentle formula for sensitive, oily skin, like the Paula’s Choice All Over Hair & Body Shampoo. We like that it uses panthenol and aloe to gently cleanse the skin without damaging the moisture barrier.

Still, this product is pricey, so it may not be sustainable for your skincare routine. And while it’s great for cleaning the scalp, it can overly dry out your scalp and hair.

4

Best for Combination Skin: Eucerin Skin-Calming Body Wash, Pack of 3

Pros

  • Omega-rich oils for hydration
  • Lathers
  • Unscented

Cons

  • May strip skin if used excessively
  • Castor oil scent may be off putting
  • Liquid-y consistency

Struggle with oiliness and flaking skin? It’s time to introduce a soothing body wash into your routine like the Eucerin Skin-Calming Body Wash. It contains non comedogenic omega-rich oils like soybean and castor seed oil to keep skin hydrated while cleansing. Buyers also like that it develops a rich lather.

However, that rich lather may overly strip the skin — so we recommend using this body wash sparingly. The scent of castor oil may also be off-putting for some buyers, and the liquid-y consistency may be annoying.

5

Best for Super Hydration: La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Gentle Foaming Moisturizing Wash

Pros

  • Contains shea butter
  • Brightening niacinamide
  • Contains prebiotics and probiotics

Cons

  • Pricey
  • May be too heavy for oily skin
  • Some buyers want more foam

Looking for a luxurious, rich body wash that will leave your skin hydrated without clogging pores? If so, we recommend the La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Gentle Foaming Moisturizing Wash. We like that it contains selenium, a natural antioxidant, and prebiotics and probiotics to promote a healthy skin barrier. Hydration primarily comes from shea butter, while niacinamide helps brighten and smooth rough skin.

On the other hand, this product is pricey for the bottle size. It may also be too heavy for oily skin or hot weather, and some buyers wish it foamed more (though foaming agents would make the formula harsher).

6

Best Gentle Body Wash for Acne: Curology Acne Body Wash

Pros

  • Great for bacne
  • Salicylic acid and tea tree oil
  • Smooths skin

Cons

  • The surfactant can be harsh
  • Must develop a tolerance first
  • Small bottle

If you struggle with body acne, a body wash that contains salicylic acid may help. The Curology Acne Body Wash is a salicylic acid-based formula we recommend because it gently exfoliates and clears out clogged pores without stripping the skin. It also contains a small amount of tea tree oil, which acts as an antibacterial and antioxidant.

However, this formula contains sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate, a somewhat harsh surfactant. It can also take some time to develop a salicylic acid tolerance, so we recommend using it sparingly (once every four to five days) when you’re first starting out.

7

Best Runner-Up for Acne: CeraVe SA Body Wash for Rough & Bumpy Skin

Pros

  • Salicylic acid formula
  • Contains ceramides
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • Salicylic acid concentration unknown
  • Must develop a tolerance first

Looking for a body wash that can clear pores without leaving a squeaky-clean, stripped feeling? If so, try the CeraVe SA Body Wash. It contains salicylic acid — a superstar exfoliant that targets surface-level and underground acne, but also ceramides, or lipid molecules that can help repair the skin barrier.

What could be improved: CeraVe does not disclose the exact concentration of salicylic acid in this product. While this usually means that the concentration is low, it’s important to slowly incorporate this product into your routine so you don’t create irritation.

8

Best for Irritation: Cetaphil Restoraderm Soothing Wash for Stressed Skin

Pros

  • 9 soothing moisturizers in one
  • Gentle foam lather
  • Anti-inflammatory

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Unscented “scent” may be off putting
  • May be too moisturizing for oily skin

If you have irritated skin that gets exacerbated by the slightest triggers, it’s time to try a dermatologist-recommended, anti-inflammatory formula like the Cetaphil Restoraderm Soothing Wash. This creamy cleanser contains nine non comedogenic moisturizers and vitamin E, all of which can improve the skin’s natural moisture barrier to prevent irritation.

What could be improved: Some customers have experienced shipping issues when buying this product online (it tends to leak), and others dislike the mild, unscented “scent.” The formula may also be too moisturizing for oily skin.

9

Best for Rough Skin: Naturium The Smoother Glycolic Acid Body Wash

Pros

  • Blend of acids smooths rough skin
  • Brightens discoloration
  • Contains hydrators to help counteract acids

Cons

  • Not for everyday use
  • May be too drying
  • Some bottles have faulty pumps

Body washes that contain active ingredients can easily irritate sensitive skin, but the Naturium Glycolic Acid Body Wash is an exception. It smooths rough skin and brightens discoloration thanks to a gentle blend of glycolic, lactic, pyruvic and tartaric acids. Hydrators like glycerin help reduce potential irritation.

However, this is not an everyday product — we recommend using it sparingly and only a few times per week. It also develops a lather, which isn’t ideal for dry skin, and a few customers have received bottles with faulty pumps.

10

Best for Babies: Honest Company Sensitive Shampoo + Body Wash

Pros

  • EWG certified
  • Contains aloe vera
  • Extremely gentle

Cons

  • Natural unscented “scent” may be off putting
  • No bulk size bottles
  • Too light for adult use

Baby skin is thin and underdeveloped, so extra-gentle body washes can prevent irritation. We love the Honest Company’s Sensitive Shampoo + Body Wash because one of the first ingredients is aloe vera — a gentle, natural soothing agent. The formula is also lightweight, fragrance free, and certified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for posing little to no human health risk.

However, some parents dislike the natural, unscented scent. A few also wish that the Honest Company sold bulk-sized bottles for families, while others note that the product is too light for adult use (you may need five or six pumps of soap to wash your hair).

11

Best for Eczema: Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil

Pros

  • Gentle moisturizers repair skin barrier
  • Contains niacinamide
  • Mild surfactants

Cons

  • Fragrance
  • Expensive
  • No NEA acceptance

Why dermatologists recommend the Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil for eczema: The non comedogenic, oil-based formula caters to extremely sensitive, dry and irritated skin types. It contains gentle moisturizers like coconut and sunflower esters (fatty acids) alongside brightening niacinamide and mild surfactants to help cleanse the skin.

Unfortunately, this product contains unknown fragrance, though most buyers report that it doesn’t cause irritation. It’s also expensive and does not have the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.

12

Best Splurge: Paula’s Choice Resist Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser

Pros

  • Good for makeup remover
  • Great for all skin types
  • Helps repair skin barrier

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May not change skin appearance
  • Not the best for dry skin

If you like CeraVe’s gentle cleansers but want something a little more luxurious, opt for the Paula’s Choice Resist Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser. It contains barrier-protecting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and aloe, as well as moisturizers like sunflower seed oil. In addition, it successfully removes makeup.

The downsides? This product is expensive, and a few customers didn’t notice a difference in their skin after using it. For some, the foaming agents can leave an overly stripped feeling.

13

Best K-Beauty Gentle Body Wash: APLB Glutathione Niacinamide Body Wash

Pros

  • Contains antioxidants
  • Contains niacinamide
  • Great for all skin types

Cons

  • Light lather may be off putting
  • Small bottle

What we like about the APLB Body Wash: It contains glutathione, a natural antioxidant that reduces inflammation, vitamin C, which brightens the skin, and niacinamide, which also brightens and smoothes skin. The gel formula is great for all skin types.

What some customers don’t like: This product has a very light lather (though most customers agree that the lather is enough to spread the soap across their skin). The bottle is also small.

People Also Ask

  • Q: What is the best body wash for very sensitive skin?

    A:Our top body wash recommendations for sensitive skin are the Vanicream Gentle Body Wash and the CeraVe Body Wash for Normal to Dry Skin.

  • Q: What body wash do dermatologists recommend?

    A:Dermatologists recommend the Vanicream Gentle Body Wash and the CeraVe Body Wash for Normal to Dry Skin, along with the other gentle body cleansers for sensitive skin.

  • Q: Do dermatologists recommend bar soap or body wash?

    A:Generally, liquid body wash is better for people with dry sensitive skin, while soap bars can work well for people with normal to oily skin. However, it depends entirely on the formulation of every product, as some body washes can dry out skin and some soap bars can be too moisturizing.

  • Q: How much do body washes for sensitive skin cost?

    A:Most body washes for sensitive skin range between $5 and $40.

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Author photo

By Jenna Cartusciello

Affiliate Commerce Writer Jenna loves recommending great products to her friends and family, so helping the rest of the internet on their quest to find the best stuff makes tremendous sense! Though she mainly writes in-depth buyer’s guides these days, Jenna still enjoys crafting the occasional health article. In her spare time, she loves immersing herself in creative writing. Her favorite authors (for anyone who is willing to geek out with her) include Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and Jennifer Egan.

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