Body Wash 101
Body wash is the modern man's solution to getting clean! Say goodbye to bar soap—it's all about the masculine-scented body washes, which add another layer of fragrance to the male skincare routine. Plus, a good body wash will hydrate/moisturize as much as it will exfoliate and eliminate dirt.
Here's everything you need to know about body wash:
Body only! Don't put body wash on your face, as it's intended for your body only (less skin oils). If applied to your face, it could dry out your skin or clog pores, leading to pimples.
Use with a washcloth. Scrubbing with body wash and a washcloth will exfoliate and get rid of dirt and grime at the same time. For best results, use together!
Less is more. Not only should you use less body wash with each wash, but you should try to find low-lather washes. Less lather/foam means less chemicals, and natural ingredients are far less likely to eliminate necessary skin oils (which leads to dryness).
It moisturizes, but isn't a moisturizer. Body wash is intended to remove grime, dirt, and dead skin cells from your skin, and many are made with ingredients that moisturize as they cleanse. But remember that they do remove skin oils as well. You'll need to moisturize after a thorough body wash in order to avoid dryness.
Rinse well. Just like you rinse your hair thoroughly after shampooing, you must do the same after applying body wash. If not, you could end up with a sticky or greasy film on your skin.
It's a more hygienic solution. With body wash, there's a much lower risk of bacteria collecting and multiplying, and you'll rarely find someone else's dirt or hair in your body wash. Definitely more hygienic than bar soap.
Is Body Wash the Same as Soap?
Body wash is a fairly modern product, but bar soap has been around for hundreds of years. Some people prefer the simplicity and low cost of bar soap, while others insist that the more advanced, scrub-friendly body wash is top dog.
So which is it?
- Is significantly cheaper than body wash
- Offers a thorough, deeper cleansing than body wash
- Is easy to find in every supermarket and grocery store
- Is great for baths
- Can soften your skin (especially if made with olive oil or sunflower seed oil)
- Can easily be found in organic formulas
- Is better for exfoliation and deep cleansing
- Can be made with essential oils for more natural fragrances
- Is wonderfully easy to use
- Lasts longer
- Occupies less space in your shower caddy/on your shower ledge
- Dries out your skin more than body washes, due to the inclusion of the chemical sodium hydroxide
- Contains synthetic detergents
- Prone to getting dirty and covered in bacteria
- Can be better for very sensitive and/or dry skin
- Stay cleaner than bar soap—no dirt or little black curlies in your bottle!
- Are easier to find in hydrating/moisturizing formula
- Are less likely to dry out your skin
- Can brighten your skin (if the washes contain glycolic or salicylic acid)
- Are better for skin rejuvenation
- Can be used until the last drop
- Require a loofah or washcloth for proper exfoliation
- Commonly contain artificial surfactants, humectants, lathering agents, and fragrances
- Are more prone to excessive use/waste
- Occupy more space in your bathroom
- Cost more than bar soap
The truth is that both body wash and bar soap offer significant advantages. It's vital that you take the time to look over the pros and cons of each to determine which suits your lifestyle, skin type, hygiene habits, and financial situation best.
How to Use Body Wash
This may sound like a pretty basic thing. After all, EVERYONE knows how to take a shower and get clean, right?
According to an Angie's List survey, people have some weird shower habits, including peeing in the shower, wearing latex or rubber gloves to scrub off, or washing WITHOUT a loofah or sponge. Clearly some education is needed!
There is a very specific process for using body wash to maximize its effects. When you get into the shower and prepare to scrub off, here's what you need to do:
Step 1: Rinse with hot water. Hot water will open up your pores, allowing the body wash and loofah/sponge/washcloth to really get in there and get out the germs, dirt, and dead skin cells. A minute or two under hot (not scalding, but hotter than warm) water will get your skin ready for the scrubbing.
Step 2: Rinse the loofah, sponge, or cloth. Before your scrubbing utensil touches your skin, give it a rinse to get rid of as much bacteria, germs, and remaining particles from your previous wash as possible.
Step 3: Turn the heat down. After you've opened your pores with the hot water, turn it to warm for the scrubbing.
Step 4: Apply body wash to the cloth or sponge. Just like you put dish soap on your sponge or scrub brush before washing dishes, do the same with your loofah, washcloth, or sponge. Don't waste it in your hands or pouring directly on your skin. Squirt a nickel-sized dollop onto the sponge or cloth.
Step 5: Scrub, gently. You want to exfoliate, but the rough surface of the sponge, loofah, or cloth will do that for you. If you scrub too hard, you could rub your skin raw. Give yourself a gentle scrubbing from head to toe (or from the ground up).
Step 6: Pay attention to the trouble zones. Most guys hit the three primary spots: the two armpits and around their junk. But there are other areas prone to developing dirt and grime: behind your knees, behind your ankles, and in the crook of your elbow. If you're a heavy sweater, you'll find these areas need a lot of TLC.
Step 7: Rinse off thoroughly. Using warm water, rinse your entire body—and clean the loofah or sponge at the same time. Get rid of any soap or body wash residue to avoid the sticky or greasy feeling that comes from an improper rinse.
Step 8: Stand under cold water. Give yourself a solid 10 to 20 seconds of full-blast cold water. This will help to close your now-clean pores, preventing dirt, bacteria, and the dead skin cells on your towel from entering.
Step 9: Dry off and moisturize. Brush water off your body with your hands before toweling off—a nifty trick to reduce the risk of a soaked towel. Once dry, apply a light moisturizing lotion (or just good old-fashioned coconut oil) to the parts of your body prone to dryness.
You are now clean and, thanks to the wonderfully manly fragrance of your body wash, smell like a million bucks!
Beware of Lather
Lathering your body with body wash (or, for ignorant Philistines, shampoo) is half the fun of the whole scrubbing and showering process, right? Sadly, it turns out lather is actually bad for you.
High-lather body washes contain more surfactants, chemicals that attract water and oil or both. The surfactants, when combined with water, bind with our body oils to remove them from the skin. This eliminates the natural skin oils that protect from dryness and damage.
For those with dry skin, it's best to look for a body wash that produces very little lather, and which contains gentle cleansers and fewer surfactants. This will leave your skin oils untouched and protect your skin.
What is Exfoliating Body Wash?
Exfoliating body washes are the love child of a body wash and exfoliating scrub. Essentially, they are a standard body wash (or bar soap) that contains large-particle exfoliates like bamboo, bitter orange, crushed grape and apricot seeds, or raw sugar.
It's more common to find exfoliating bar soaps than body washes, but there are a few products—Strawberry Fresh Cells and St. Ives Smooth & Glow Apricot Exfoliating Body Wash, to name a couple—that exfoliate while cleansing your skin. Though they tend to be pricier than regular body washes, they can serve double-duty. If you're a guy who needs to exfoliate your body skin (we all do!), you may want to give an exfoliating body wash a try.
Organic vs. Non-Organic Body Wash
There will always be a debate between organic and non-organic products. The non-organic proponents will cite lower costs and higher effectiveness, while organic champions will insist on the more natural, eco-friendly option.
In the case of body washes, here's what you need to know:
Non-Organic Body Washes –These tend to be significantly more effective at cleansing than organic, as they contain chemicals and surfactants that eliminate dirt and grime better than natural or organic ingredients can. They also contain a wider variety of fragrances, many of which are unavailable with organic ingredients. The cost of non-organic body washes is significantly cheaper—both liquid washes and bar soaps—and non-organic body washes are more widely available.
On the downside, the chemicals and artificial fragrances in non-organic body washes can remove too much skin oil, increase skin toxin absorption, and cause dryness. There is an argument that exposure to the chemicals in non-organic body washes can harm the skin over our lifetimes. Some contain parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, and other potentially harmful, toxic ingredients.
Organic Body Washes – These are usually hand-crafted, locally sourced, and made with certified organic ingredients. They contain natural essential oils and extracts to provide the cleansing benefits and fragrances, along with hydrating, exfoliating, and moisturizing ingredients that all derived from natural sources. They contain no chemicals of any sort, but are 100% free of parabens, phthalates, and other potentially harmful synthetic ingredients.
On the downside, they may be less effective at cleansing than the chemical-based artificial body washes. They are also significantly more expensive, and are less widely available. There are usually fewer options to choose from.
Winner: It all depends on what matters most to you. If cleansing is your #1 priority and you're not worried about chemicals, commercial, non-organic body washes are the more effective option. But if you want to "go green" and protect your skin from potentially harmful toxins, you're better off with organic body washes.
Body Wash Shopping Tips
Not sure which body wash to buy? With so many products to choose from, it can be tough to decide on the "right" body wash for you.
Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice:
- Consider your skin type. Men with dry skin should choose gentler, low-lather body washes. Men with oily skin may want to find high-lather washes that eliminate excess skin oil.
- Consider your dirtiness. Guys who spend all day sitting in an office won't need a high-powered body wash, as they'll just rinse off sweat and dead skin cells. Men engaged in activities or professions where they're exposed to a lot of dirt, grime, charcoal, rust, or mud will want a stronger body wash to cleanse thoroughly.
- Have both a bar and wash. That way, you'll be able to give your skin the attention it needs. A bar of soap will help you to do the deeper cleaning, while the body wash will be ideal for your daily rinse-off.
- Think moisturizing. Find a body wash that leaves your skin hydrated after your showers. That way, you won't have to use body lotion on top of your wash.
- Consider non-soap washes. Soap eliminates skin oils, but a non-soap cleanser will get rid of dirt and germs without eliminating skin oils. They're ideal for men prone to dry skin.
- Watch your skin. For the first week or two after buying a new body wash, watch your skin for any signs of redness, irritation, flaking, and itching. If there are any negative skin reactions, stop using the body wash immediately!