To bathe… or not to bathe. That… should never be the question!
For many guys, the imperative to bathe comes from trying to mitigate the body odors we might otherwise wantonly expose the world to. But New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose reminds us that bathing is about much more than smelling fresh.
“We wash our bodies to remove accumulated dirt, sweat, oils, sunscreen, allergens, bacteria, fungi and viruses that accumulate on our skin,” she says. “In addition to getting rid of body odors, washing the skin daily reduces the risk of developing skin infections.”
While there’s no argument to be made about the benefits of bathing, the question for lots of men is rather how to select which product to bathe with.
There are hundreds of body washes available today, which, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, is a good thing. “I personally prefer body washes because there are so many options that you can easily tailor your wash to your specific skin needs.”
Bathing Culture Mind + Body Wash
Certified organic and biodegradable
Concentrated formula means less is more (up to 80 showers from 8 oz)
Aloe, shea and guar leave your skin feeling smooth but residue free
What’s not to like?
True to its name, using Bathing Culture’s Body Wash is an experience for both the mind and body. The combination of certified organic ingredients, like aloe, shea, and guar, offer a rich lather that leaves your skin feeling smooth and hydrated, while the woody scent transports the mind and body outdoors.
And, if you happen to be using it outdoors, this body wash is 100% biodegradable, making it as safe to use in a mountain stream as under the stream of your shower. The formula is also seriously concentrated, which means that you can use less product to get more washes, further decreasing your impact on the planet. If you’re looking for a body wash that calms your skin, clears your mind, and leaves your conscience feeling guilt-free, this is the bottle to grab.
Price at time of publish: $35
Key Ingredients: Aloe, shea, guar | Skin Types: Normal, combination | Size: 8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Acne
Murad Acne Control Acne Body Wash
Salicylic acid helps treat and prevent acne breakouts all over your body
Exfoliating date seed powder helps ensure pores stay clear
Works quickly to eliminate breakouts
Men’s skin tends to be oilier than our female counterparts, which means we may need to seek out body washes that actively combat acne. When it comes to battling body blemishes, Dr. Hartman’s favorite is Murad’s Acne Control Body Wash. The active ingredient, salicylic acid, penetrates your pores to deep clean them and assists in reducing reservoirs of surface oil that can lead to breakouts.
Price at time of publish: $46
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin Types: Oily | Size: 8.5 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Athletes
Botanical ingredients help combat skin conditions common to athletes
Gentle enough for showering multiple times a day
Branding might be a bit much for some
Despite its brash name and branding, the Balls Wash blend of botanicals and essential oils is surprisingly gentle, making it a great option for those of us who work out and shower more frequently. The natural exfoliants leave your skin looking bright and feeling soft, while the plant-based ingredient list helps combat many skin conditions common to athletes, including body acne and eczema (eucalyptus), chapping (macadamia seed oil), and even jock itch (tea tree oil).
Key Ingredients: Macadamia seed, tea tree, rosemary, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils | Skin Types: Normal, combination, oily | Size: 300 ml | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Price at time of publish: $20
Also Consider for Athletes
Off Court Deep Cleansing Body Wash
Comes in two sizes perfect for keeping at home or throwing in your gym bag
Rich lather cleans deep but doesn’t dry out the skin
Fragrances might be strong for some noses
Off Court’s Deep Cleansing Body Wash is designed to meet you at the net. From the tennis ball container-inspired packaging to the sulfate-free blend of lactic and glycolic acids, this brand-new entry is built to perform. After multiple post-workout showers, our skin was left feeling fresh, clean and surprisingly smooth. Pick your favorite from three different fragrances, but if you’re looking for something light and masculine-leaning, try the coconut water and sandalwood.
Price at time of publish: $14
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, glycolic acid, lactic acid | Skin Types: Normal, combination, oily | Size: 3.4 or 14 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Dry Skin
Dial Men Advanced Hydration Body Wash
Accessible and affordable: You can find this in almost any drug store.
Glycerin provides intense hydration
The packaging leaves something to be desired, not the most appealing in your shower oasis
If your skin craves moisture, look no further than Dial Men’s Advanced Hydration Body Wash. A favorite of Dr. Hartman for its glycerin-rich, hydrating no-nonsense formula, this body wash rinses clean every time, leaving your skin residue-free. To boot? It’s inexpensive and ubiquitous at drug stores.
Price at time of publish: $13
Key Ingredients: Glycerin | Skin Types: Dry | Size: 16 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Sensitive Skin
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Gentle formula is safe for even the most sensitive skin
pH-balance, fragrance-free formula is hypoallergenic
Can be used without water to doubles as a moisturizer
Pump dispenser might not appeal to all users
If you're trying to steer clear of dry, stripping formulas that can aggravate sensitive body skin, reach for this Cetaphil's cleanser that — as its name suggests — is gentle on the skin. Its pH-balanced, fragrance-free formula is a favorite of Dr. Murphy-Rose and one of the gentlest options on the market for even the most sensitive skin. As an added bonus, it can even be used without water as a facial moisturizer, leaving your skin soft and fresh from head to toe.
Price at time of publish: $14
Key Ingredients: Glycerin | Skin Types: Sensitive | Size: 20 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Irritated Skin
Aurelia Restorative Cream Body Wash
Unique blend of probiotic ingredients is uncommon in body care
Helps soothe most rashes and gentle enough to treat razor burn
Cream texture may be thicker than some users expect from a body wash
Probiotic products have become all the rage in skincare lately, but oddly there aren’t a lot of forays into the full body care category — which is exactly what makes Aurelia’s Restorative Cream Body Wash such a smash hit.
A botanical blend of antioxidant- and essential omega-rich sweet almond, baobab, Kigali Africana, and hibiscus are held in a base of aloe vera and coconut oil for an instant and serious dose of hydration. You’ll be drawn in by the intoxicating scent on its own, but the nourishing, therapeutic effects will make you a repeat customer. The custom blend steadfastly and gently soothes irritated skin — so much so, in fact, that some reviewers are even willing to take it to their face to sort out shaving rashes.
Key Ingredients: Geranium, rosemary, baobab | Skin Types: Sensitive, irritated | Size: 8 fl oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Price at time of publish: $42
Best Charcoal Wash
Art of Sport Activated Charcoal Body Wash
Activated charcoal is effective at removing oil, while remaining gentle on the skin
Hydrating ingredients provide extra protection from dryness
Fragrance may be overpowering for some
If you’re looking for an alternative to salicylic acid to mop up excess sweat and oil from your skin, charcoal body washes are a great way to go, and chief among them is the wash from Art of Sport.
Featuring activated charcoal to help absorb excess oil and harmful bacteria from the skin, this dermatologist-tested blend of aloe, tea tree oil and glycerin leaves your skin feeling both clean and deeply hydrated, while remaining free of sulfates, parabens and phthalates.
Price at time of publish: $7
Key Ingredients: Activated charcoal, glycerin | Skin Types: Normal, combination, oily | Size: 16 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Also Consider for Charcoal Wash
Payot OptiMale Gel Nettoyance Integral Cleansing Gel
Activated charcoal and other energizing minerals balances the skin
Gentle enough for your face
Limited retailer choice
Composed of 75% natural ingredients, including activated charcoal, along with a number of minerals, this inky gel foams up nicely to effectively absorb oil and other impurities. The woodsy scent adds to the experience, leaving your skin (and your mind) feeling reinvigorated and fresh. Remarkably, it’s also gentle enough to use on your face (it’s even strong enough to double as a shampoo in a pinch).
Price at time of publish: $24
Key Ingredients: Activated charcoal, iron, copper, manganese, zinc | Skin Types: Normal, combination | Size: 6.7 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Aesop Coriander Seed Body Cleanser
Incredible, long-lasting scent
Attractive packaging looks nice in the shower
Less lather than some of its competitors
Strong fragrance could compete with cologne
If you’ve been to any trendy restaurants or hotel rooms recently, chances are you’ve encountered the intoxicating scent of Aesop’s varied offerings. But don’t be turned off by this brand’s ubiquitous presence in bourgeois locations. Their fragrances are second to none and the Coriander Seed Body Cleanser is no exception. Warm, woody, and wrapped in a graphic, minimalist glass casing, this body wash feels completely indulgent, but absolutely essential at the same time. It is a low-foaming formula, yet its heavily aromatic essence will have you lingering in the shower for far too long. Even better, the scent stays on skin throughout the day.
Price at time of publish: $47
Active Ingredients: Coriander seed, black pepper, patchouli | Skin Types: Normal, combination | Size: 16.9 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Also Consider for Fragrance
Neutrogena Rainbath Refreshing Shower and Body Gel
Leaves skin feeling smooth and residue free
Distinctive, spa-like scent
If you’re looking to get a spa-like experience on a daily basis, look no further than Neutrogena’s best-selling Rainbath Shower and Body Gel. The rich lather leaves skin feeling supple and soft, while the luxurious original scent combines elements of spices, citrus and other herbs to leave your mind and body feeling pampered. The availability of a large format container (32 oz.) presents an excellent value as well. Grab a bottle and get ready to turn your shower into a soothing retreat for the senses.
Price at time of publish: $17
Key Ingredients: Citric acid | Skin Types: Normal, combination | Size: 16 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Bevel Men’s Natural Exfoliating Body Wash
Leaves skin both exfoliated and deeply hydrated
Three amazing, unique scents
Doesn’t lather as well as some competitors
Exfoliating body washes cleanse the skin and remove dead cells at the same time, promising to help reduce the risk of clogged pores and acne. The active ingredients of Bevel Men’s Natural Exfoliating Body Wash deliver on this promise and then some.
Hydrated silica, jojoba esters and charcoal help to exfoliate the skin and pull dirt away from pores, while argan oil works hard to ensure that your skin stays hydrated and soft to the touch. We're also big fans of this body washes’ three, ultra-masculine scents: Choose from Dark Cassis, which boasts notes of dark berries and botanical blooms, Supreme Oak, which features sweet almonds layered with bourbon and birch, or Black Bergamot, with citrusy notes of bergamot and French lavender.
Price at time of publish: $9
Key Ingredients: Hydrated silica, jojoba esters, charcoal, argan oil | Skin Types: Normal, combination, oily | Size: 16 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for the Eco and Socially Conscious
Bravo Sierra Sulfate-Free Body Wash
Recyclable aluminum packaging and refills
Unique gel-to-foam formula is rich in aloe vera to avoid dryness
Only available online
For active guys who may need to shower more than once a day, you may be running through bottles of body wash faster than most. This presents two problems: The first is that frequent showering (ironically) tends to cause excessive dryness and the second is that it also causes excessive waste in the form of discarded bottles.
Luckily, Bravo Sierra’s Body Wash is here to solve both of those problems. The coconut-based, sulfate-free cleanser also features aloe vera and is formulated to keep skin from drying out.
And to combat waste, the reusable packaging is 100% recyclable aluminum. The brand also conveniently offers 16 oz aluminum refill cans, bringing a whole new meaning to crushing “shower beers.” On top of that, 5% of all of the company’s proceeds are donated to military Quality of Life support.
Price at time of publish: $8
Key Ingredients: Aloe vera, coconut | Skin Types: Normal, combination, dry | Size: 18 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Our best overall pick, Bathing Culture Mind + Body Wash, is a certified organic, all-purpose soap that plays well with all skin types, including dry, sensitive, blemish-prone and normal. Its skin-soothing formula is rife with hydrating ingredients, including aloe vera, rosemary leaf extract and coconut, sunflower seed and olive oils, and feels great on skin.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, M.D. is a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist specializing in facial rejuvenation. She practices in Manhattan at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of NY and is a clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Dr. Corey L. Hartman, M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL.
What to Look For in a Men's Body Wash
Men’s skin tends to be thicker and oilier than our female counterparts, according to Dr. Hartman. “What that means,” he explains, “is that men should look for body washes with lots of hydrating ingredients — what dermatologists call humectants.”
Humectant ingredients attract water from the air and pull it deeper into the skin to provide enhanced moisture. According to Dr. Hartman, glycerin is one of the most common humectant ingredients and also one of the best.
Additionally, Dr. Murphy-Rose reminds us that in order to avoid the drying out cycle, we should seek out products that are not only rich in hydration, but which are also pH-balanced, as they will “help repair the skin barrier rather than further stripping it.”
Oil and Acne-Fighting Ingredients
Men also tend to have much oiler skin, leaving us vulnerable to body acne. Salicylic acid, one of the most commonly used beta hydroxy acids, can be a lifesaver on that front, according to both Drs. Hartman and Murphy-Rose.
“Salicylic acid can help reduce inflammation and even prevent acne by helping the skin to naturally break down dead cells and clear oil,” says Dr. Hartman, while Dr. Murphy-Rose adds that the “best OTC cleansers for oily and acne-prone skin all contain salicylic acid,” as it can “travel down inside pores to keep them clean and reduce oil.”
If you have sensitive skin, the last thing it needs is a harsh body wash stripping away its protective oils, leaving it rough, dry, and irritated. So when it comes to choosing a body wash for sensitive skin, Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends opting for products that are free of harsh detergents. They should also be hypo-allergenic and fragrance free.
“Products like Cetaphil are a good go-to cleanser for sensitive skin,” she says. “They are generally well-tolerated by most sensitive skin types and effectively replenish the skin barrier with a low risk of irritation.”
Why choose body wash instead of soap?
Dr. Hartman prefers body washes over bar soap. “Body washes are more hygienic compared to bar soaps as they are stored in a bottle,” he says. “They won’t harbor bacteria that might be in your bathroom like a bar soap can.”
What are the benefits of body wash?
Dr. Murphy-Rose touts body washes for their inherent moisturizing qualities. “Bar soap is solid when dry at room temperature, unlike body washes or gels that are made WITH water,” she says. “Body washes are able to clean skin in a similar manner to bar soap but generally incorporate more moisturizing ingredients to help keep skin better hydrated.”
How frequently should I be using body wash?
For most of us, scrubbing up daily is the best bet, but Dr. Murphy-Rose warns that for those with dry skin, you may want to curtail your bathing habits a bit.
“If you are one of many with dry skin, daily cleansing of just the areas that tend to develop more bacteria and odor (underarms, groin area, bottom and feet) can suffice,” she says. “Rinsing the rest of your skin every day with water alone should be enough for those with dry skin.”
How should I use body wash?
There’s no wrong way to apply body wash and using an accessory, like a washcloth or loofah, to apply really depends on if you are looking for the added benefits of exfoliation, according to Dr. Hartman.
“The trick in using something like a sponge or washcloth to apply body wash is to make sure that you are cleaning it after each use,” he says. “Otherwise, the next time you use that accessory, you’ll actually be rubbing old dirt and bacteria onto your clean skin.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Peter Tittiger is a freelance writer and content strategist. As an avid runner and swimmer, he finds himself in the shower often. From washing away sweat and odor after a long distance run to combating the skin-drying effects of chlorine exposure in the pool, there aren’t many skin scenarios he hasn’t put to the test.