The 9 Best Body Washes for Sensitive Skin, According to Dermatologists

Vanicream Gentle Body Wash is derm-approved and free of allergens and irritants

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Your body, just like your face, can be prone to dryness, irritation, and breakouts when you use too-harsh cleansers. And if you have sensitive skin, the wrong cleanser can throw your pH balance out of whack, increasing the potential that you’ll have red, itchy, rashy, or even pimply skin in all kinds of undesirable locations. The best body washes for sensitive skin help curb these potential reactions with gentle formulas.

Reviewed & Approved

Free of essentially anything and everything that could irritate sensitive skin, Vanicream Gentle Body Wash is a dermatologist-approved pick that gently cleanses without stripping away nourishing oils on your skin. If you’re a bar soap devotee, the Dove Beauty Bar More Moisturizing Than Bar Soap is a sulfate-free bar with just five ingredients.

“When looking for a body wash when you have sensitive skin, make sure to choose a product that is soap-free—true soaps have an alkaline pH and can disrupt the skin barrier, leading to irritation,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “Fragrances often make using your product more enjoyable, but [you should avoid them, too, as they] can be associated with skin allergies in people who are sensitive.”

Basically, simplicity is the key here—and that’s good news, because it makes narrowing down your options and choosing a sensitive skin-friendly body wash a little easier. Look for short ingredient lists that are free of sulfates, fragrances, and dyes, and contain basic humectant ingredients like glycerin. You don’t have to steer totally clear of bars and gels, but you should use them wisely (and opt for a creamy cleanser if your skin is extra sensitive). We spoke with dermatologists and researched dozens of body washes. We paid attention to ingredient lists and cleanser types, as well as factored things like packaging and price into our recommendations.

Here are the best body washes for sensitive skin types.

Best Overall: Vanicream Gentle Wash

Vanicream gentle wash

Walgreens

Pros
  • Free of chemical irritants, including fragrance

  • Safe for all ages

Cons
  • Thin consistency

Vanicream’s Gentle Body Wash is our top pick because of what’s not included in the formulation. With this body wash you’re getting a product that’s free of multiple potential allergens and irritants, making it safer than the average cleanser for people with sensitivities.

“Vanicream Gentle Body Wash is extremely mild and ideal for very sensitive skin,” says Anar Mikailov, MD, of Barrington-Park Dermatological Associates, P.C. “It’s hydrating and gentle, and less likely to irritate the skin.”

What exactly won’t you find in this body wash? Fragrances, dyes, parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde releasers, and more. It’s an unscented, soap-free cleanser that uses mild surfactants to remove dirt and glycerin to draw more water to the skin, leaving it soft and smooth. It’s a lightweight cream, so it lathers without stripping and drying out the skin; combined with its affordable price point and the fact that it can be used for kids and babies, too, Vanicream is an all-around reliable cleanser for sensitive skin.

Key Ingredients: glycerin, coconut-based cleansers | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 12 fl oz

Best Drugstore: CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

4.5
Cerave Hydrating Body Wash

Amazon

Pros
  • Protects the skin barrier

  • Sulfate- and soap-free

  • Controlled-release moisturization

Cons
  • Doesn’t lather well

Even though you can grab this CeraVe Body Wash at most drugstores, it’s not lacking in luxury extras: not only is this a gentle, soap-free cleanser, it’s packed with hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, and even includes ceramides, lipids that protect the skin’s natural barrier. That means CeraVe is a sensitive skin-approved cleanser that also works overtime as a moisturizer, keeping sensitive skin from becoming dry, itchy, and irritated.

We also like that many CeraVe products, including this body wash, are formulated with controlled-release hydrating technology, or MVE, allowing your skin to reap the moisturizing benefits all day long (not just for the two minutes you’re using the product). 

Key Ingredients: hyaluronic acid, ceramides | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 10 fl oz

Best Bar Soap: Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar Soap

dove beauty bar

Amazon

Pros
  • Short ingredient list

  • Combination of cleansers and moisturizers

  • Hypoallergenic

Cons
  • One bar doesn't last loing

In general, dermatologists don’t recommend bar soaps to their patients with sensitive skin, but we think most of them would make an exception for this nourishing bar by Dove given the criteria they gave us. It’s made with mild, sulfate-free cleansers and rich moisturizers, plus it contains a short list of ingredients, which Dr. Mikailov says is important so you’re less likely to have a reaction. 

 It’s also unscented and hypoallergenic, lathers up well, and is super cheap, making it easy to buy in bulk so you always have a reliable bar soap that won’t irritate your sensitive skin.

Key Ingredients: glycerin | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 3.75 oz

Best Cream: Cetaphil Moisturizing Relief Body Wash

Cetaphil Body Wash

Amazon

Pros
  • Blend of multiple moisturizers and humectants

  • No fragrances, dyes, parabens, or sulfates

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • Doesn’t lather well

  • Pump function can be faulty

Creamy cleansers are the gold standard for people with sensitive skin, since they’re usually made with rich, plant-based moisturizers that lock in hydration and leave skin feeling nourished rather than stripped. There’s tons of them on the market, but we like the Moisturizing Relief Body Wash by Cetaphil because it contains several different moisturizers—shea butter, glycerin, soybean oil, avocado oil, and sweet almond oil—which not only hydrate skin but act as humectants, drawing water to the surface of your skin and keeping it there.

Meanwhile, Cetaphil cleanses with gentle surfactants designed not to disrupt your pH balance or skin barrier, preventing dryness, roughness and irritation. It works hard to promote long-lasting skin health with a nourishing blend of moisturizers—and it’s affordable, too.

Key Ingredients: glycerin, shea butter, soybean oil | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 20 fl oz

Best Shower Gel: Puracy Body Wash

Puracy Wash

Puracy

Pros
  • Safe for all ages

  • Non-soap, coconut-based cleansers

  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons
  • Contains natural fragrances

  • Long ingredient list

If you just can’t give up on shower gel, you don’t have to switch to a cream-based cleanser—but you do need to make sure your gel doesn’t include the usual soaps, alcohols, and sulfates, or else you risk irritating your sensitive skin. We like that the Puracy body wash fulfills all your shower gel dreams without causing any skin irritation nightmares, removing dirt with gentle coconut-based cleansers and infusing skin with hydration-promoting glycerin.

We also like that Puracy is safe for adults all the way down to babies, lasts a long time (up to 45 washes for a 12 fluid ounce bottle), and comes in a few mild scents made from natural ingredients. Keep in mind that these could be irritating if you’re sensitive to fragrances, but since these fragrances come from plant-based extracts and not perfumes or phthalates, there’s less of a chance they’ll cause a reaction.

Key Ingredients: coconut-based cleansers, Himalayan pink sea salt | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 12 fl oz

Best Healing: Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy Body Wash

Aveeno Skin Therapy

Amazon

Pros
  • Oat and aloe extracts heal skin

  • No soaps or sulfates

  • Tested on distressed skin of cancer patients

Cons
  • Not as moisturizing as other cleansers

  • Pump can be faulty

Many of the products on this list are designed to prevent irritation during body cleansing, but not all of them can provide the skin healing benefits of the Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy wash when your skin is already damaged, irritated, or inflamed. With the usual “good skin” ingredients like glycerin and coconut-based cleansers—and none of the “bad skin” ingredients like sulfates, parabens, or dyes—this body wash stands up to its competitors and even offers a little more. 

Oat and aloe extracts, known for their soothing and repairing benefits, are infused into this body wash, promoting the healing of your in-crisis skin while preventing future flare ups. And Aveeno is pretty confident this body wash can improve the condition of your skin; they tested it on adult oncology patients with “distressed” skin (a population that’s prone to skin problems during chemotherapy) and found improvement when used in combination with other Aveeno creams.

Key Ingredients:  oat extract, aloe extract | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 18 fl oz

Best Oil: Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil

Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil

Amazon

Pros
  • Short-term improvement in skin softness

  • Long-term improvement in overall skin hydration

  • Does not leave skin oily or greasy

Cons
  • Contains chemical fragrance

  • Expensive

Maybe you’ve never thought of using an oil-based cleanser as a body wash for your sensitive skin, but these products can give you an extra dose of much-needed barrier lipids while effectively removing irritating dirt, grime, and pollutants from your skin. The Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil is a fan-favorite in the oil-based cleanser department, and though it’s more expensive than other options, it might be worth it for your dry, irritated, sensitive skin.

Similar to how ceramides increase the lipids naturally found in your skin barrier, the Atoderm Cleansing oil also promotes the strength and health of your skin barrier, infusing it with coconut and sunflower esters to make it feel silky and smooth, not parched and rough. It’s also soap-free, non-comedogenic, and safe for the whole family to use. 

One small word of warning, though: it does have a mild fragrance, from the inclusion of a chemical fragrance. If you can’t handle any synthetic fragrance at all, this might not be the pick for you.

Key Ingredients: glycerin, niacinamide, coconut and sunflower esters | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 33.8 fl oz

Best for Body and Face: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Foaming Moisturizing Wash

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Gentle Foaming Moisturizing Wash

Amazon

Pros
  • Gentle for sensitive skin on face and body

  • No soaps or parabens

  • Contains niacinamide

Cons
  • May be too drying for some

Normally, you have to keep your face wash and your body wash separate when you have sensitive skin, but if you’re interested in taking a minimalist, all-in-one approach to your skin care, the La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash might be what you need. It’s sulfate-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t cleanse too harshly or clog your pores. It has both glycerin and shea butter to hydrate your skin, and it's made with La Roche-Posay’s patented Prebiotic Thermal Water, which can give your skin an extra boost of antioxidants. Prebiotics can also support your skin's natural microbiome.

What we really love about this wash is that it also contains niacinamide, a common ingredient in facial moisturizers, helping it pull double-duty as a body and face cleanser. Niacinamide is a topical form of the vitamin B3, which may reduce inflammation in people with acne and protect your skin against sun damage (though those results have been seen more with oral B3, not topical).

Key Ingredients: shea butter, prebiotic thermal water | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 13.52 fl oz

Best for Eczema: Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream Body Wash

Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream Body Wash

Amazon

Pros
  • Gentle surfactants

  • Oatmeal and ceramides strengthen the skin barrier

  • Low pH to maintain your skin’s balance

Cons
  • Doesn’t give you the usual “clean” feeling with use

The Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream Body Wash checks a lot of boxes if you live with eczema: it’s creamy but doesn’t lather, is made with skin-soothing oatmeal, and doesn’t have any irritating chemical ingredients like parabens, fragrances, or sulfates. In fact, it’s formulated to work more like a lotion than a cleanser, which means it won’t foam up and strip your skin during washing but instead will leave behind a lot of good stuff, even after it’s rinsed off. 

Overall, the body wash is gentle enough for people with eczema and doesn’t skimp on the soothing side of things, either, with both oatmeal—a long-standing antidote to itchy skin—and ceramides protecting the skin barrier against future eczema flares.

Key Ingredients: 2% colloidal oatmeal, ceramides | Dosage: work into a lather, massage into skin once per day | Size: 13.5 fl oz

How We Selected

To find the best body washes for sensitive skin, we asked dermatologists to tell us what to look for when choosing an in-shower cleanser. They emphasized the importance of selecting body washes made without sulfates or irritating fragrances and dyes, as well as washes with common moisturizing ingredients, like glycerin and plant-based oils. Creamy and oil-based cleansers are best—but bar soaps and gels aren’t off the table, as long as they’re chosen with this same hypoallergenic criteria in mind.

We searched for body washes in a variety of different formulations, across a wide range of budgets, so you can choose drugstore staples or luxury splurges to keep your sensitive skin in check.

What to Look For in Body Washes for Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients

You need two at least two components in a body wash for sensitive skin: a gentle cleanser, or surfactant, and some kind of moisturizing ingredient. 

All the dermatologists we spoke to recommended avoiding any kind of soap- or sulfate-based surfactant, since these are usually too harsh for people with sensitive skin. Coconut- or plant-based cleansers are usually milder. 

“Consider body wash that’s full of plant-based oils and butters, like squalane, coconut oil, and jojoba oil as they mimic our skin’s natural oils,” says Dr. Mikailov.

As far as moisturizing ingredients go, Dr. Zeichner says you should look for a combination of the three types of moisturizers: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. He breaks down what each one does, and how you might see them pop up in your skincare products.

Humectants:

  • What it does: act like sponges to pull in hydration to the outer skin layer
  • Example: glycerin, hyaluronic acid

Emollients:

  • What it does: soften cells in the outer skin layer and fill in cracks 
  • Example: natural oils (like jojoba, coconut, and almond oil)

Occlusives:

  • What it does: form a breathable seal over the surface of the skin to keep hydration in and environmental aggressors out
  • Example: petrolatum, dimethicone

Ingredients to Avoid 

While people with sensitive skin have different needs and may benefit from different types of moisturizers in their products, everyone with sensitive skin should generally avoid fragrances, dyes, and sulfates, at the very least. Sulfates, which help cleansing products create a lather, are too drying for most sensitive skin types, while fragrances and dyes are often irritating to reaction-prone skin.

From there, be mindful of the other ingredients in products you use and make note of ones that seem to be personally irritating to you. This might include parabens, lanolins, and formaldehyde releasers. Finally, Dr. Zeichner recommends avoiding harsh exfoliators, both chemical and physical, because of their tendency to cause reactions.

Type

There are many types of formulations of body washes and cleansers, and while none of them are automatically bad for people with sensitive skin, there are a few that should be used with caution.

  • Creamy cleansers. These are the most dermatologist-recommended cleansers for sensitive skin, because they’re made to leave your skin’s natural oils intact and offer additional hydrating ingredients. Our best overall pick, Vanicream Gentle Body Wash checks all of these boxes.
  • Gel and foaming cleansers. These types of cleansers tend to be more drying than cream cleansers, says Dr. Mikailov, but that’s not a hard rule. If a gel or foaming cleanser is sulfate-free, doesn’t contain dyes or fragrances, and has a combination of moisturizing ingredients, you may still be able to use it.
  • Bar soap cleansers. Your dad’s old bar soap is probably too harsh, but Dr. Zeichner says the latest generation of bar soaps are designed to be pH-balanced to the outer skin layer, and many are safe and gentle enough to use on a daily basis. The Dove bar soap we featured here, for example, contains no actual soap and only minimal ingredients.
  • Oil-based cleansers. Dr. Friedler is a fan of oil-based cleansers, as long as you’re not acne-prone. They can help restore and maintain the lipid balance of your skin, and are especially good at gently removing irritating dirt and makeup. If you’re looking for an oil-based cleanser, we recommend Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is shower gel good for sensitive skin?

    Shower gels are usually not the top recommendation for people with sensitive skin, but they’re still gentler than most bar soaps, says Suzanne Friedler, MD, of Advanced Dermatology, PC, as long as you choose carefully.


    “Shower gels tend to be more for people with oilier complexions, but can be fine for sensitive skin depending on the ingredients in it,” Dr. Friedler says, noting that certain alcohols often found in gels can be irritating to sensitive skin.

  • What is the mildest soap for sensitive skin?

    Honestly, there’s no one “mildest” soap, since even the gentlest, most free-of-everything body wash can still inflame someone’s skin while working perfectly well for other people. 


    But Dr. Friedler says that many of the common brands with sensitive skin-specific products are dermatology-focused—in other words, they’re designed to be gentle enough for nearly everyone to use. This includes Eucerin, CeraVe, Aveeno, Dove, and Aquaphor, just to name a few (and, if you’ll notice, many of those brands made our list!).


    In general, if a soap is free of sulfates, synthetic fragrances, harsh exfoliants, and irritating chemicals, it can probably be categorized as “mild” enough for sensitive skin.



Why Trust Verywell Health

Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. CancerCare. Caring for Your Skin During Cancer Treatment. 

  2. Park, Sang Min, et al. (2017). Niacin intake and risk of skin cancer in US women and men. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.30630

  3. Khodaeiani, Effat, et al. (2013). Topical 4% nicotinamide vs. 1% clindamycin in moderate inflammatory acne vulgaris. DOI: 10.1111/ijd.12002

By Sarah Bradley
Sarah has written for Verywell Health since August 2020. Her work has been featured on sites like On Parenting from The Washington Post, The Writer, and O the Oprah Magazine. Sarah has a bachelor's degree in English from Southern Connecticut State University.