A good moisturizer will go a long way in helping manage the dry, flaky skin below your neck, but your all-over hydration routine should really begin in the shower.
Thanks to the body-care boom that’s emerged in recent years, there is no shortage of options on the market—which, though amazing, can make choosing the best body wash for dry skin feel like a daunting task. To help with this, we asked dermatologists what you should look for in a product you can be sure will do the job right—and asked them to share their top recommendations.
The best body washes for dry skin, at a glance:
- La Roche-Posay, Lipikar AP+ Body Wash, $17
- Eucerin, Skin Calming Body Wash (Pack of 3), $30
- Dove, Deep Moisture Body Wash (Pack of 3), $40
- Aveeno, Skin Relief Body Wash, $17
- NIVEA, Nourishing Care Body Wash, $8
- Clinique, Deep Comfort Body Wash, $35
- Salt & Stone, Body Wash, $36
What body wash won’t dry out your skin?
When it comes to dry skin, a body wash must tick a few boxes. For starters, Aanand Geria, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Verona, NJ, emphasizes the importance of opting for a body wash that is gentle and hydrating and locks in moisture. “Look for a body wash that contains moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, shea butter, coconut oil, or aloe vera,” he says. “These ingredients will help to hydrate and soothe dry skin.”
Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare, name checks ceramides, marula oil, and argan oil as additional hydrating ingredients that fit the bill.
What’s not in your body wash is just as important as what is, so you’ll also want to steer clear of ingredients that could dry out the skin even more. Dr. Ciraldo recommends avoiding sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, triclosan, ethyl alcohol, and artificial color, which is often listed on the ingredient list as letters and numbers such as FD&C red 40. Additionally, formulas that include strong chemicals and fragrances can irritate the skin, so Dr. Geria recommends using fragrance-free body washes for dry skin.
Best body washes for dry skin
This body wash is not only hydrating enough to help manage eczema flare-ups, but it also happens to be formulated for use on the body and face—and who doesn’t love a 2-for-1 product (for under $20, no less)/
“This body wash is designed to soothe and protect the skin,” says Dr. Geria. “It contains niacinamide, shea butter, and glycerin, which help to hydrate and restore the skin’s natural barrier.”
What’s more, it’s fragrance free and gentle on the skin—so much so that it’s got the stamp of approval from the National Eczema Association and can be used on babies as young as two weeks.
Dr. Ciraldo and Dr. Geria are both fans of this hydrating body wash thanks to its extra-gentle formulation. It comprises natural omega oils that soothe and moisturize dry, itchy skin. It’s also an excellent fragrance-free body wash for dry skin. At $10 a pop, this three-pack will keep you stocked all winter long.
Deep moisture, indeed. Dr. Geria likes this body wash for folks with dry skin because it’s gentle, nourishes and hydrates the skin, and is free of sulfates, making it a good body wash option for sensitive skin. It’s also a PETA-approved vegan body wash packaged in 100% recycled plastic bottles. Just be sure to opt for one of Dove’s fragrance-free washes if you’re prone to irritation.
The Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash gets the dermatologist stamp of approval thanks to the colloidal oatmeal in its formulation, which offers hydrating and soothing properties. Plus, it’s free of dyes, fragrances, and parabens, so you won’t have to worry about irritation. Because it’s free of surfactants, it won’t give you the same type of lather you may be used to from other body washes, so keep that in mind if you’re a fan of frothy formulas.
NIVEA’s Nourishing Care Body Wash also makes the list of the best body washes for dry skin, according to Dr. Geria. Its affordability is another plus. The one thing Dr. Geria notes as a con is that it contains a light floral scent—which means it has fragrance. So if that’s not your jam or you’ve got sensitive skin, choose something else from this list.
For a luxurious shower experience, Dr. Ciraldo points to Clinique’s Deep Comfort Body Wash as a top choice for dry skin. This creamy body wash gets the job done while hydrating the skin with ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. It’s also free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrances, so should be gentle enough for all skin types.
If you’re into gel washes, Dr. Ciraldo recommends this one from Salt & Stone. The antioxidant-rich formula features hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, probiotics, vitamin C, and blueberry extract, which work together to soften, soothe, and restore the skin. What’s more, it gives off major spa vibes thanks to the soothing scent of bergamot and eucalyptus with notes of grapefruit and orange blossom.
What causes dry skin?
There are a few different reasons the skin on your body could become dry—some of which are out of your control, and others that you can manage on your own.
“Exposure to cold, dry air can cause the skin to lose moisture and become dry, flaky, and itchy,” says Dr. Geria. According to Dr. Ciraldo, this happens because “we have seasonal fluxes in the ceramides in our skin that act to trap moisture, and as we move from summer into autumn and winter, our skin produces less of these barrier lipids.”
While you can’t do much about the weather, you can tweak certain lifestyle habits that may be drying out your skin. One of the biggest? Skipping out on hot showers or baths. Dr. Geria explains that hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils, which causes dryness, so he recommends using room temperature water instead of scalding your skin.
Which is better: soap or body wash for dry skin?
Any dermatologist will tell you that body wash is a much better option for those with dry skin than traditional bar soap. The reason? “Many soaps contain harsh ingredients that could strip the skin of natural oils, causing dryness,” Dr. Geria says. “Body washes are often formulated to be gentler and more hydrating, making them a better option for dry skin.”
This is because soap—which contains lye—has a higher pH than your skin, which causes dryness. Any good body wash (especially one that works for dry skin) doesn’t contain soap at all. Rather, they contain other cleansing agents called surfactants, which lather up much more gently.
Which is better for dry skin: shower gel or body wash?
Both options are totally fine to use on dry skin, but you want to make sure that whatever formula you choose contains hydrating ingredients and is free of any of the irritating actives mentioned above.
When in doubt, Dr. Geria recommends sticking with body wash, as these types of products tend to be more nourishing, while shower gels aim to provide a more thorough cleanse.
What do dermatologists recommend for extremely dry skin?
If you have extremely dry skin, using a hydrating body wash is just one moisturizing tool in your toolkit. To take things to the next level, Dr. Ciraldo advises adding some exfoliation into your body-care routine at least once a week.
“It’s important to exfoliate to keep skin texture smooth and promote a more luminous appearance to body and extremity skin,” she says. What’s more, because exfoliating removes dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, it allows whatever hydrating ingredients you’re following it up with to penetrate more deeply for better moisturization. To really get the most out of this process, Dr. Ciraldo recommends using chemical exfoliants, like lactic acid, which hydrate while they exfoliate.
Once you step out of the shower (and after you’ve lathered up with one of the best body washes for dry skin), apply an oil or cream all over while the skin is still wet, which will lock in moisture.
Lastly, Dr. Geria recommends using a humidifier which can help add moisture back into the air, particularly if you live in a dry climate.