When to use a soap-free body wash

In a world full of body washes, finding one that works best for your skin type is essential. “Those who [have] sensitive skin need to find a suitable body wash that does not over-dry their skin and does not cause irritation,” says Dr. William Huang, a board-certified dermatologist. 

We spoke to dermatologists about what to look for when shopping for a body wash for sensitive skin and how to appropriately wash and care for your skin. We also rounded up their favorite body washes to consider.

SKIP AHEAD The best sensitive skin body wash | How to shop for sensitive skin body wash

How we picked the best sensitive skin body wash

Generally, most body washes will have a label on the bottle indicating that it’s safe for sensitive skin. However, when determining which options won’t cause irritation, our experts recommend considering the following factors: 

  • Ingredients: Look for ingredients that either maintain or repair your natural skin barrier and keep your skin hydrated by drawing moisture back into your skin, according to experts. These ingredients include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, shea butter, soybean oil and avocado oil, according to Huang. 
  • Consistency: If you have sensitive skin, you may want to consider using a thick and creamy body wash. Although it might not provide the suds you usually see, this type of consistency will usually have hydrating ingredients that help replenish natural moisture that’s lost throughout the day. It also helps the skin feel softer during and after showering, says Huang.   
  • Limited irritants: It’s best to avoid common irritants to bypass flare-ups. Some of these include fragrances, dyes, parabens and sulfates, which are all known allergens and sensitizers, says Huang. Also, consider a noncomedogenic body wash, which means it’s less likely to clog your pores or cause breakouts.
  • Soap-free: Since many soaps tend to be drying, consider a body wash that’s labeled “soap-free”, which means it doesn’t contain many of the drying ingredients that normal soaps have. These body washes still cleanse the skin but do so without stripping it of natural oils and tend to be more gentle and mild on the skin, according to our experts.

Best sensitive skin body wash

To help cleanse and avoid potential irritation, we rounded up dermatologist-approved body washes that are gentle and hydrating on sensitive skin. 

Vanicream Gentle Body Wash for Sensitive Skin

This mild body wash comes recommended by Huang for those with sensitive skin, contact dermatitis and eczema. The soap-free product has ingredients like glycerin, a common humectant that draws moisture into the skin. This wash is also free of common irritants, including dyes, parabens and sulfates, according to the brand. 

Consistency: Cream | Fragrance-free: Yes | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: n/a | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: Yes

Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil

As someone with dry, sensitive and eczema-prone skin, I use this body wash, which my dermatologist recommended, on a daily basis because it leaves my skin feeling clean and moisturized without causing any irritation or flare-ups. Designed for very dry to irritated, sensitive skin, the cleansing oil has ingredients including glycerin and niacinamide, which has soothing properties and can help even tone and texture, according to the brand. A few pumps of this oil creates a silky lather, which makes the product last so much longer, in my experience. If you don’t want a big bottle, this cleansing oil is also available in a smaller size and a travel-sized version. 

Consistency: Oil | Fragrance-free: No | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: Yes | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: No

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

This body wash has a combination of hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides to hydrate and soothe the skin, according to Huang. Reviewers say this thick and creamy wash is great for sensitive, dry skin because it helps keep their skin moisturized and soft without any irritation. This is because it’s free of irritants, including sulfates and parabens, according to the brand. For the best results, apply this wash in gentle, circular motions before rinsing, according to CeraVe.

Consistency: Cream | Fragrance-free: Yes | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: Yes | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: Yes 

La Roche Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Moisturizing Body & Face Wash

Consider using this body wash, which is also gentle enough for the face, if you have very dry and sensitive skin. This wash has hydrating shea butter, glycerin and niacinamide, as well as selenium-based spring water to decrease inflammation, according to Dr. Mona Gohara, a board-certified dermatologist. Work the product in your hands until the creamy consistency forms into a foam before massaging it to your face and body, according to the brand. 

Consistency: Cream to foam | Fragrance-free: Yes | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: Yes | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: Yes

Cetaphil Restoraderm Soothing Wash

Cetaphil makes some of our favorite sensitive, eczema and acne-prone skin care products. This wash from the brand helps combat dryness, irritation, roughness and tightness of the skin thanks to hydrating ingredients like glycerin and shea butter, and antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin B3 (also known as niacin), which support the skin barrier, according to the brand. If you experience itchiness, reviewers say this helps reduce the feel and appearance of itchy, dry skin and is an excellent option if you also have sensitive, mature skin. 

Consistency: Cream | Fragrance-free: Yes | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: Yes | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: Yes  

Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy Body Wash

One of the standout ingredients in this body wash is oat, which is great for anyone in the sensitive to normal skin range because it’s a natural moisturizer and cleanser with anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties, says Huang. This wash also has aloe, glycerin and pro-vitamin B5 to moisturize dry skin, according to Aveeno.

Consistency: Cream | Fragrance-free: Yes | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: n/a | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: No

Honest Company Sensitive Shampoo + Body Wash

Although dermatologists would typically advise you not to use your shampoo as a body wash, this two-in-one product has gentle ingredients that are great for both your body and your hair.. Suitable for all ages, including babies, this sensitive skin body wash uses aloe leaf juice and chamomile extract (both of which have hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties) and glycerin for hydration, according to the brand. If you have sensitive and eczema-prone skin, consider using the Soothing Therapy Eczema Body Wash, which helps control my skin during intense flare-ups using ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and prebiotics. 

Consistency: Gel to foam | Fragrance-free: Yes | Soap-free: n/a | Noncomedogenic: n/a | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: Yes

Avene XeraCalm Nutrition Shower Cream

This creamy body wash comes recommended by Gohara because it’s free from most common irritants, including sulfates, parabens, aluminum and silicones. Instead, it has glycerin for moisture, milk thistle oil to cleanse and combat dryness, niacinamide to support the skin barrier and thermal spring water to help soothe the skin, according to the brand. You can purchase it in its standard size or get it in the large size, which comes with a pump for easy usage. 

Consistency: Cream | Fragrance-free: No | Soap-free: Yes | Noncomedogenic: Yes | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: No

Dove Hypoallergenic Sensitive Skin Body Wash

If you prefer a rich, creamy lather, consider this Select staff favorite lightly scented body wash from Dove. It has glycerin to retain moisture and soybean oil to leave your skin feeling soft even after stepping out of the shower, according to the brand. “It’s the only body wash I use because it’s so gentle on my easily irritated skin,” says Select updates editor Mili Godio. “The scent is also great yet subtle.” 

Consistency: Cream | Fragrance-free: No | Soap-free: No | Noncomedogenic: n/a | National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance: No

How to shop for sensitive skin body wash

When deciding which body wash is best for your sensitive skin, dermatologists recommend looking for ingredients that will add moisture, cleanse and keep irritation at bay. Below, our experts share a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for a sensitive skin body wash. 


Since cleansing your skin can remove natural oils, which dries out your skin, you’ll want to find ingredients that will moisturize and protect your skin barrier, according to our experts. Some ingredients to look for include soybean and avocado oil, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and shea butter, says Huang. 

One of the best ingredients that your body wash can have is glycerin, according to our experts. “It’s a natural humectant, so it pulls moisture into your skin to help prevent it from drying out,” says Gohara. “If you have sensitive skin that is also prone to dryness and irritation, glycerin can help combat that dry, stripped feeling our skin can feel from soaps.”


Body washes can vary in consistency, including creams, gels, foams and cleansing oils. You’ll often come across foaming body washes, but experts warn that these can be irritating since they typically have strong surfactants, which are chemicals like sulfates that help cleanse the skin while stripping and drying it. If you have sensitive skin, choose a body wash that has a thick and creamy consistency, which means it generally relies on oils for hydration without harsh disruptors. 

Limited irritants

Because sensitive skin is highly reactive, it’s best to stay away from factors that may trigger an unwanted reaction. One of the most common causes of irritation is fragrance, so consider a fragrance-free body wash when possible, according to our experts. Other types of irritants you’ll want to be cautious of include sulfates, dyes, parabens, sulfates and formaldehyde releasers.

Soap- and detergent-free

You may notice some body washes have a “soap-free” label on their packaging. Soap-free body washes have a pH level that is closer to the natural pH of the skin, says Gohara. “Soap-free cleansers are arguably more effective at cleansing because they keep the barrier intact and limit skin compromise while optimizing moisture,” says Gohara. 

Some body washes will also have a “detergent-free” label. This means that it does not contain harsh surfactants that can strip the skin of natural oils, according to Gohara. Instead, they have emulsifying ingredients that break up excess dirt and oil to clean the skin, says Huang.


Another common label you might see on your body wash says the product is “noncomedogenic,” which means it won’t clog pores or cause unwanted breakouts. This is important to consider if you have sensitive skin and are prone to acne or folliculitis (a bacterial infection of the hair follicles), according to Huang. 

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. William Huang is a board-certified dermatologist and professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology. His expertise includes complex medical dermatology, including autoimmune and autoinflammatory skin conditions.
  • Dr. Mona Gohara is a board-certified dermatologist with the Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut and an associate clinical professor at Yale University. Her areas of expertise include medical and surgical dermatology as well as skin of color.

Why trust Select?

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter covering skin care and hair care, including neck creams, leave-in conditioners and eye creams. For this piece, she interviewed dermatologists and researched highly rated body washes for sensitive skin that met their guidance.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

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