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 are 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.
We tested 5 different body washes to figure out which ones are the most effective. Our product testers tried body washes for weeks at a time, taking note of texture, lather, scent, and most importantly, how the active ingredients helped to alleviate dry skin. After trying 5 hydrating body washes, our testers rated these five the highest.
Best for Super Dry Skin
Buttah Egyptian Coco Shea Body Wash
Thick and really soothes dry, itchy skin
Made with nourishing ingredients
Pump makes it a bit hard to dispense product
If you’re willing to invest in a body wash—we’re talking $28 for just 10 ounces—this 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: After use, it leaves your skin feeling extra soft and smooth without any lotion at all.
Price at time of publish: $28
Key ingredients: Cocoa butter, shea butter, purslane extract, marshmallow root extract | Size: 10 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
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
Successfully helps combat itching
Made with jojoba oil and olive oil
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. That's due to the jojoba and olive oils in the formula, which work to deeply hydrate and soothe the skin. Since itchy skin can stem from dryness, this nourishing formula is able to get to the root of the problem. This soap-free body wash is an especially great option during the winter months.
Price at time of publish: $18
Key ingredients: Jojoba oil and olive oil | Size: 10 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
"This body wash seriously improved the itchiness of my skin in just one day." —Leigh Weingus, Product Tester
Billie Creamy-Gel Body Wash
Luxurious, gel-like texture
Fun bottle design
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.
Price at time of publish: $9
Key ingredients: Niacinamide, cocamide, shea butter | Size: 12 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
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
OLAY Rough Dry Skin Total Moisture Body Wash
Thick-lotion like texture
Made with soothing ingredients
Contains fragrance (and doesn’t smell great)
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.
Price at time of publish: $10
Key ingredients: Cocoa butter, vitamin B3 | Size: 18 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
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
Thick, lotion-like texture
Contains oat for itch
Nice big bottle
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.
Price at time of publish: $11
Key ingredients: Oats | Size: 33 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
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
Our top pick is the Buttah Skin Egyptian Coco Shea Body Wash. The thick, lotion-like texture of this wash, is made up of cocoa butter, shea butter, and marshmallow root extract and will help keep your skin in tip-top shape. If you're on a budget, the OLAY Rough Dry Skin Total Moisture Body Wash is a great choice, this body wash will never feel like soap and will provide the perfect protective barrier during the colder months.
Meet the Expert
- 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.
- 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.
What to Look For in a Body Wash for Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD 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.
In addition to hydrating emollients, 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. Our top pick, the Buttah Egyptian Coco Shea Body Wash, is full of occlusives, like shea butter and cocoa butter.
Avoid harsh detergents
Finally, board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD 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.” Some of our favorite gentle options include the Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash, which is hypoallergenic and made with oats to soothe itchy skin, and the Billie Creamy-Gel Body Wash, which has a luxurious texture and includes chamomile and aloe in its formula.
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. By using a soap with a thicker texture or with a nourishing formula, you'll be able to counteract some of that dryness.
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. Some of these picks might be too thick in the summertime for some, but if you consistently have dry skin, you can definitely use them year-round.
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.)
Does body wash help with dry skin?
Yes! Although using a hydrating lotion or body butter is often recommended when it comes to healing dry skin, using a nourishing body wash is also able to moisturize and soothe dehydrated, itchy skin. For those with ultra-dry skin, it's recommended to use both in your body care routine for extra hydrating benefits.
Is a body wash or soap better for dry skin?
Since soap can sometimes be dehydrating and strip the skin of its natural oils, we recommend using a body wash instead if you deal with dry skin. Body washes often include more hydrating ingredients, such as ceramides and occlusives, that lock in moisture and leave the skin soft and moisturized. Our favorite soap-free body wash is the OLAY Total Moisture Body Wash, which is made with ingredients such as cocoa butter and petrolatum to maintain skin's moisture levels and soften the skin.
What Is Byrdie Verified?
Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She considered dozens of products for this roundup, researched peer-reviewed journals, and consulted our testing insights. Our product testers tried 17 of the top-rated products for weeks at a time, taking note of how well they delivered results as well as any extra product features. The five products in this roundup came out on top.