The 6 Best Hydrating Body Washes to Revive Dry Skin

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Body washes for dry skin test

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

If you live in a part of the country where the weather dips below 50 degrees in the winter (read: most of us) you’re familiar with the feeling of dry, itchy skin that no amount of lotion can remedy. Thanks to cold temperatures, dry air, and indoor heat that dries out your skin further, winter can be a brutal time of year from a skin perspective.

Enter body washes for dry skin, which is aimed at providing your skin with the hydration it needs while in the shower or tub. With the right body wash, you can give your skin the nourishment it needs, eliminate the itching that makes everything worse, and maybe even cut down on the amount of lotion you use.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Hadley King, MD is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She is also a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
  • Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD is a dermatologist as well as the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

We tested 17 different body washes to figure out which ones are the most effective. Here are our top picks.

Best for Super Dry Skin: Buttah Egyptian Coco Shea Body Wash

4.5
buttah. by Dorion Renaud Egyptian CocoShea Body Wash

Amazon

What We Like
  • Thick and really soothes dry, itchy skin

  • Smells amazing

  • Made with nourishing ingredients

  • Cruelty-free and Byrdie clean

What We Don’t Like
  • Small size

  • Pump makes it a bit hard to dispense product

  • Expensive

If you’re willing to throw down for a body wash—we’re talking $27.99 for just 10 ounces—this body wash is a great pick. If dry, itchy skin plagues you in the winter months (or year-round), the thick, lotion-like texture of this wash, which is made up of cocoa butter, shea butter, and marshmallow root extract, will help keep your skin in tip-top shape. And it won’t just relieve itching and prevent dryness, either: It leaves your skin feeling extra soft and smooth without any lotion at all. 

Key ingredients: Cocoa butter, shea butter, purslane extract, marshmallow root extract  | Size: 10 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Buttah Egyptian Coco Shea Body Wash

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

  • “This body wash feels like a true luxury — it leaves your skin nourished and glowing soft. It also smells incredible and the application feels like body butter.” —Rachel Lee, Product Tester
  • "This body wash smells amazing, is made with great ingredients, and will leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturized." Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

Best for Itchy Skin: Curel Itch Defense Body Wash

4.5
Curel Itch Defense Body Wash

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Successfully helps combat itching

  • Made with jojoba oil and olive oil

  • Soap-free

What We Don’t Like
  • Not cruelty-free

  • Thin texture, not as soothing

This body wash doesn’t seem like anything special at first use. The texture is gel-like, and it doesn’t feel particularly soothing when using it—the lather is fine, but nothing special. But after use, skin feels significantly less dry and itchy, which is the end goal. This soap-free body wash is a great option during the winter months!

Key ingredients: Jojoba oil and olive oil | Size: 10 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

Curel Itch Defense Body Wash

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

"This body wash seriously improved the itchiness of my skin in just one day." —Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

Best Cleansing: Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash

3.5
Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash
Courtesy of Walmart
What We Like
  • Made with nourishing ingredients

  • Affordable

  • Skin feels clean and healthy afterward

What We Don’t Like
  • Made with sulfates

  • No huge change in skin dryness

  • Not cruelty-free

You’d be hard-pressed to find a dermatologist who won’t recommend Cetaphil, and that’s because it’s a reliable go-to. It’s affordable and effective, but it probably won’t blow you out of the water. This holds for Cetaphil’s Ultra Gentle Body Wash: Your skin will feel clean and healthy afterward, but if you’re looking to get rid of itchiness and super dry skin, you may want to look elsewhere. That being said, this body wash is formulated with soothing ingredients like aloe vera, vitamin B5, and marigold extract. Also, this does contain sulfates, which can be irritating for people with super-sensitive skin. 

Key ingredients: Aloe vera, vitamin B5, marigold extract | Size: 17 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

  • "I love Cetaphil as a brand, not because it's anything super special but because it gets the job done. This body wash fell into that category — it left my skin feeling clean and not stripped, but didn't blow me out of the water from a moisture perspective. I can see myself using it more when the weather warms up." —Leigh Weingus, Product Tester
  • “This is a lightweight product with a subtle lather that was foamier than anything. it didn't make a significant enough impact on the dryness of my skin.” —Rachel Lee, Product Tester

Best Smelling: Billie Creamy-Gel Body Wash

4.4
Billie Creamy Gel Body Wash

Billie

What We Like
  • Luxurious, gel-like texture

  • Byrdie clean and cruelty-free

  • Fun bottle design

What We Don’t Like
  • Strong citrusy fragrance, better for summer

  • No huge change in dryness

It’s hard not to gravitate toward this body wash, with its fun, colorful bottle and intriguing scent profile made up of geranium stem, fresh citrus, and pink pepper. This body wash doesn’t make any heavy-duty promises around moisture—instead, it promises to gently cleanse and hydrate—and that’s what it does. The scent of this body wash is a strong citrusy one that’s reminiscent of summer. While this is a great body wash, it might not be the right pick for harsh, winter weather. Instead, save it for spring or summer. 

Key ingredients: Niacinamide, cocamide, shea butter | Size: 12 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Billie Creamy Gel Body Wash

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

  • “This body wash has a strong citrus smell which lasts even after the shower. It was pleasant, but a bit overwhelming, especially in January when I usually don't reach for fruity/ citrus products. The wash did not strip my skin, but it did not feel like it was particularly moisturizing.” —Agne Numaite, Product Tester
  • "This is a fragrant, somewhat hydrating body wash. I actually shaved my legs with it, and it definitely lathers up well and did not leave my skin feeling stripped — but it didn't leave it feel crazy hydrated, either." —Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

Best Soap-Free: OLAY Rough Dry Skin Total Moisture Body Wash

4.8
OLAY Rough Dry Skin Total Moisture Body Wash

Walmart

What We Like
  • Super moisturizing

  • Thick-lotion like texture

  • Made with soothing ingredients

What We Don’t Like
  • Contains fragrance (and doesn’t smell great)

  • Not cruelty-free

If you’re looking for a super-moisturizing body wash that will nourish your dry, itchy skin in the dead of winter, look no further than this one. Made with nourishing ingredients like cocoa butter and vitamin B3, this lotion-like body wash will never feel like soap and will provide the perfect protective barrier during the colder months. It might feel over the top in the summer, but when your skin needs a little extra love, this is a great go-to. 

Key ingredients: Cocoa butter, vitamin B3 | Size: 18 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

OLAY Rough Dry Skin Total Moisture Body Wash

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

  • ​​”I loved this body wash. I tested it in the dead of winter and it made my skin feel less dry and tight. It doesn't lather too much or contains any harsh soaps that strip the skin.” —Agne Numaite, Product Tester
  • "For me, the ultimate test of the moisturizing powers of any body wash is if my legs feel OK if I use it as shaving cream. And this one past the test! I used it to shave my legs when they were particularly dry, and they felt smooth and nourished after I used it. I love it.” —Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

Best with Oats: Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash

4.4
default image
What We Like
  • Thick, lotion-like texture

  • Contains oat for itch

  • Hypoallergenic

  • Nice big bottle

What We Don’t Like
  • Not cruelty-free

When you’re looking for a body wash that will soothe your dry, itchy skin, you can usually tell what kind of results you’re going to get from the texture alone. A thick, lotion-like body wash tends to work quite well, while a thinner one doesn’t. Aveeno’s body wash is thick and luxurious and goes on like lotion. While this kind of body wash can feel excessive in the warmer months, it’s just what the doctor ordered when it’s cold outside. And this formula, which contains oats — which are known to combat itching—is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Key ingredients: Oats | Size: 33 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

  • “This soothing oat body wash is incredibly gentle and calming. The thick and creamy lather it creates provides lasting hydration and comfort to my perpetually parched skin.” Olivia Hancock, Editor
  • "Thanks to the use of oats, this is a solid body wash that will nourish your skin in the colder months. It didn't blow me away, but it certainly didn't make any of my skin issues worse." —Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

What to Look For in a Body Wash for Dry Skin

Emollients

If you have dry skin, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King recommends looking for a body wash that’s rich in emollient ingredients, which work to support the skin’s natural barrier. Body washes that are rich in plant butters, oils, lipids, and fatty acids are great examples of emollient-rich products.

Occlusives

In addition to hydrating emollients, Dr. King says to look for occlusive ingredients, which help lock moisture into the skin. Plant-based ingredients like shea butter, castor oil, and squalane are great examples of occlusives, and other common ones include petrolatum, silicones, and beeswax.

Avoid Harsh Detergents

Finally, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner says to avoid using any harsh detergents or soaps that may strip the skin of its natural oils if you have particularly dry skin. “Overly scrubbing or using harsh soaps can disrupt the outer skin layer, making dryness even worse,” he says. “Look for gentle, non-soap cleansers that provide hydrating benefits alongside its cleansing effects.”

FAQ
  • What are the benefits of body washes for dry skin?

    Simply put, they help to add another dose of moisturizing ingredients to your skin while you shower. This is important because showering (especially when the water is too hot) can actually end up stripping your skin of its natural moisture, so adding it back in at this point is a good move.

  • How often should you use body washes for dry skin?

    Use daily or every time you shower—there’s no such thing as overusing these.

  • Do body washes for dry skin expire?

    Like any body wash, yes. Many will have an expiration date on the bottom of or somewhere on the packaging; if not, toss it if it starts to smell or look funny. (Though if you’re using one regularly/daily, you will likely go through the whole bottle before this happens.)

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