Considering Washing Your Face With Body Wash? Read This First

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Liz DeSousa / Byrdie

Let's be real—we've all washed our faces with body wash when we were in a bind. It was just there, easy to use, and served its purpose when our face felt gross, oily, and desperately in need of a cleanse. It's available in a variety of types and textures for every skin concern out there, including sensitive, and comes in every scent imaginable, ranging from the same fragrance as your go-to candle to that one scent that takes you back to your favorite summer memory.

However, is washing your face with body wash good for your skin? In fact, is it ever okay to be putting body wash on your face in the first place? To answer all your burning questions, we spoke to two board-certified dermatologists—Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, and Marisa Garshick, MD—to find out. Keep reading to find out if washing your face with body wash is bad for your skin, and under what circumstances, if any, you can incorporate it into your routine.

Meet the Expert

  • Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in NYC.
  • Marisa Garshick, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.

Should I Wash My Face With Body Wash?

In short: probably not. While some body washes are meant to be used on both the face and body, many are likely too harsh for the sensitive skin on our faces. "There aren't any instances where it is better to wash your face with body wash over face wash," says Engelman. However, if for some reason there isn't any face wash at your disposal, you can make an exception; it's better than not washing your face at all.

Most body washes contain ingredients like antibacterial agents or harsh surfactants that—while safe and effective on the body—are likely to be more irritating on the delicate skin of our face. "Some body washes are designed to eliminate stubborn dirt, debris, and excess oil, and as a result can be too harsh for the face and lead to redness, dryness, and irritation," says Garshick.

While body washes may be used on the face, both dermatologists strongly recommend sticking to face washes as they are meant to be used on the face—and therefore tend to be more gentle on the skin. "That said, there are various body washes that can also be used on the face, providing they are gentle enough," explains Garshick. In other words, while some body wash options may be gentle enough to use on your skin, they should be avoided if you have other, gentler options.

Benefits of Using Body Wash On Your Face

Neither dermatologist identified any benefits of using body wash for your face aside from convenience and saving money.

  • Convenience: The biggest draw to using body wash to wash your face is convenience. Since it's already in your shower, it'll be easy to lather it up and wash your face during your nightly shower routine. Plus, according to Garshick, it's easier for those who prefer to have fewer products in their routine.
  • Saves money: To be honest, face washes (and skincare products in general) can be quite pricey. The other big draw to using body wash on your face is the ability to downsize your skincare routine and get two products in one.

Potential Side Effects Of Using Body Wash On Your Face

While washing your face with body wash may be convenient (and easier on the bank account), the number of potential side effects it can cause simply don't make it worth it. "Body wash contains different ingredients and chemicals than face wash and tends to be slightly harsher on the skin," says Engelman.

Since the skin of our face tends to be thinner and more sensitive than the skin of our body, this could be quite a problem. "Using body wash to cleanse the face can cause irritation, raise the skin's pH levels, and disrupt its natural sebum (oil) production, leading to unwanted side effects including dryness, redness, sensitivity, and acne breakouts," says Engelman. In other words, what it offers in convenience is swiftly negated by the potential added skincare problems it may bring.

The Final Takeaway

If you're in a bind and don't have anything to wash your face with, then yes, it's okay to wash your face with body wash. However, both Engelman and Garshick agree: It's best to stick to face wash since it's specifically made to wash the delicate skin on your face.

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