Are You Using The Right Body Wash? 4 Ways To Tell

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.

It’s the tail end of winter (fingers crossed) and most
likely the driest your skin is going to be this year. I’m sure you’ve heard all
of the tips by now: don’t take hot showers, use a humidifier, pick the right
moisturizer — the list goes on and on. At this point, some of us are willing to
try anything to achieve supple skin. But, that doesn't mean you have to fall
into the hype and add unnecessary steps to your routine to get the job
done. In fact, a lot of it comes down to using the right body wash. 

Natural body washes don’t use chemicals that strip skin of
nutrients and dry it out (giving you reason to reach for another
product to moisturize in the shower). Thanks to fruit acids, antioxidants, and
natural oils — instead of harsh chemicals — natural washes clean skin while providing antiseptic, antibacterial, and astringent properties. They
also use natural oils that your body is already adapted to in order to keep your
moisture levels balanced. 

So, instead of adding more to your shower routine, I suggest you
evaluate the body wash you’re currently using by asking these key questions: 

Do I understand all
of the ingredients on the label?

The FDA requires companies to list
ingredients by their INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients)
names, which can be confusing. Don’t be frightened by the long names; take a
moment to understand them. For example, tocopheryl acetate
is actually vitamin E, which has many benefits for
the skin. A quick search of the long name can help you determine if it is
friend or foe.   

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.

Is alcohol on the ingredients list?
While alcohol can be a great cleaning astringent,
it strips and dries out your skin when used topically. Think about what happens
to you after a long night of drinking — you become dehydrated! The same happens
to your skin (it can absorb up to 60% of what you put on it). I suggest
choosing products that are water-based (labeled as "aqua") instead. You are what
you apply!  

What about paraffinum
This is a fancy way of saying mineral oil, which is potentially
problematic when used in cleansing products. An occlusive ingredient, it inhibits the skin from natural elimination and absorption functions, potentially causing sweat and bacteria to become trapped beneath it. While your skin might initially
seem more hydrated, mineral oil may exacerbate ailments like psoriasis and

Does it contain moisturizing agents?
When you take a shower, the outermost layer of your
skin is broken down. That means your pores are open and extra
susceptible to what you’re applying. To make sure your body wash is an
effective multitasker, look for those with moisturizing properties, not
ingredients that strip skin. Since INCI names can be confusing, here are two
examples of natural and effective moisturizing choices: cocos nucifera (coconut
oil) and simmondsia chinensis (jojoba). Reap the benefits of these natural oils
as they penetrate skin easily and normalize your own oil production, so you stay
hydrated throughout the shower and the rest of your day. Take my word for it: The right oils will make skin dewier long-term. 

Avoid the hype (and the extra money) by asking yourself
these questions. You’ll see in no time that there’s no need to add an extra
step into your busy schedule.       

More from Skin Care

R29 Original Series