How to Pick the Best Body Wash for Your Skin Type

CN Digital StudioBy Shannon R., SELF magazine

Body washes are a great way to suds up and get clean but did you know that some body washes have additional benefits, too? There are two basic types of formulas, so lets take a look and see what body wash is best for your skin!

Shower Gels: These formulas are usually clear, brightly colored and labeled as either body wash or shower gel. They are actually very similar to shampoos. The main function of these body wash formulas is to clean, which means they are made of mostly water and detergent (sodium laureth sulfate is commonly used). Surfactants do a great job of removing oil and grime from hair and skin! However, surfactants can almost work too well (especially on skin), so companies usually add some conditioning ingredients to keep skin from drying out. Since body wash formulas are designed specifically for skin, detergent levels tend to be lower than shampoos. Also, body washes are a super fun way to play with different scents as they usually use higher levels of fragrance than shampoos. Mix it up and find your new favorite!

Pros: Inexpensive, great cleanser and tons of scents to choose from.

Cons: Surfactants can dry out skin and can potentially be irritating due to high levels of fragrance.

Best for: Great for normal to oily skin types that don't experience skin sensitivity and fantastic for post-workout refreshing!


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Moisturizing Body Washes: These formulas are creamy (they look almost like lotion), thick and fall under a variety of names like cream oil, deep moisture and nourishing. These body washes are also cleansing, but provide the added benefit of moisture. They are made of water and detergents (like shower gels) but also contain high levels of oil (soybean and sunflower are commonly used) and/or petrolatum (petroleum jelly). These moisturizers are fairly substantive to skin (meaning they "stick" well) even after the body wash is rinsed away in the shower. This effect leaves the skin feeling slick and moisturized.

Pros: Less drying than shower gels and a great way to get moisturizing benefits in the shower.

Cons: Formulas tend to be more expensive and skin can feel "sticky" after showering.

Best for: Great for normal to dry skin types and people looking for milder formulas.


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Additional Benefits: There are exfoliating body washes that use beads, sugar or salt to remove dead skin and keep skin looking smooth. If you have very sensitive skin you should look for body washes that use sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI). SCI is considered one of the mildest detergents (surfactants) and is used in some higher-end body washes. It is expensive and doesn't produce the most aesthetically-pleasing product (so it is usually used in combination with another detergent). However, it may be an option for those with very dry or sensitive skin.


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Bottom Line: There is pretty much a body wash for every 'body' - whether you are looking for a scent explosion or a layer of moisture there is something out there for you. One note of caution, not all moisturizing body washes are "moisturizing."Be sure to look at the label - true moisturizing body washes will list either petrolatum or oil as one of the first three ingredients. If they don't, you may not be getting the moisturizing experience you had hoped for!


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