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  3. > How to choose the best body wash for sensitive skin

How to choose the best body wash for sensitive skin

This skin syndrome doesn’t just play a role in determining which products might be best for your face.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
Body Wash
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

Sensitive skin requires a little extra TLC, as it can quickly react to harsh chemicals and fragrances found in many conventional body washes. The good news is, with the correct information, you can find the ideal body wash—catered to sensitive skin—that will leave your skin feeling refreshed and free from irritation.

Let’s look at the essential factors to consider when selecting the best body wash for sensitive skin. By understanding your skin’s unique needs and finding the right products that work for you, you can indulge in a refreshing and nourishing bathing experience that leaves your sensitive skin feeling pampered!

Know your skin: Understanding sensitivity and common triggers 

Understanding skin sensitivity and its common triggers is key for proper skincare. Sensitive skin is marked by stinging, burning, and itching sensations. It’s common, too.¹ According to research, approximately one in five people experience allergic contact dermatitis—which is a type of skin inflammation that causes heightened sensitivity and discomfort.²

Characteristics of sensitive skin

Sensitive skin is a special condition with unique characteristics that make it different from other skin types. People with sensitive skin may experience sensations like tightness, stinging, burning, tingling, pain, and itching.³ This can lead to redness on the face and can also affect different parts of your body.

Sensitive skin is recognized as a syndrome.⁴ The interesting thing about sensitive skin is that people with this condition may feel uncomfortable in response to things that shouldn’t normally cause such reactions. In most cases, these sensations can't be linked to any specific skin disease, showing that sensitive skin is a unique condition that needs special attention.⁵

Common triggers for sensitive skin

Identifying common triggers for sensitive skin is essential for effectively managing its symptoms and visible signs. Various factors, such as environmental elements and certain cosmetics, can worsen sensitive skin symptoms.⁶

Cosmetics have been frequently reported as major triggers for sensitive skin. Some cosmetic products may contain potentially irritating substances that can make your condition worse.⁷ It’s important to be cautious and choose products specifically formulated for sensitive skin to minimize the risk of irritation.

Another factor to consider is the pH balance of your skin. Maintaining a healthy skin barrier and proper hydration is crucial, and your skin’s pH balance plays a significant role.⁸ Your skin’s surface typically has a pH of around 5.5, which supports a healthy skin barrier. Disruptions in this balance can allow the penetration of irritating substances, leading to inflammation and the release of cytokines, further aggravating your sensitive skin.⁹

By being aware of these common triggers, you can make informed choices and adopt a skincare routine that promotes comfort and minimizes your risk of irritation.

Selecting gentle formulations: Ingredients to look for and avoid 

When caring for the sensitive skin on your body, selecting gentle formulations is the best approach. 

Let's explore some ingredients considered gentle and beneficial for sensitive skin. In a study analyzing 88 products from 19 multinational brands, certain active ingredients stood out for their potential to reduce skin inflammation and enhance the skin barrier:¹⁰

  • Niacinamide

  • Avena sativa

  • Allantoin

  • Glycyrrhetinic acid and its derivatives

  • Laminaria ochroleuca

These ingredients have shown promising properties. However, if you have sensitive skin you should still exercise caution. Always conduct patch tests and seek professional advice before incorporating new products into your skincare routine.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these pro-sensitive skin ingredients to get a better idea of how they work.

Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that offers many benefits for your skin and is commonly used in treating various skin conditions. It possesses antioxidant properties that aid in repairing damaged DNA,¹¹ making it a valuable component in skincare products.

Recent research has focused on studying niacinamide’s effects on human skin cells exposed to pollution. The findings revealed its impressive protective capabilities by reducing harmful effects caused by reactive oxygen species.¹² Niacinamide safeguards essential skin molecules such as lipids, proteins, and DNA from damage. It also helps maintain cellular balance and prevents premature cell death.¹³

These protective qualities make niacinamide a good choice for sensitive skin. By incorporating niacinamide into skincare routines, individuals with sensitive skin can potentially benefit from its ability to shield them from environmental stressors and maintain overall skin health.

Avena sativa

Avena sativa, commonly known as colloidal oatmeal, has a rich history of being used as a topical remedy for various skin issues.¹⁴ Researchers have extensively studied its effects on the skin barrier and have found compelling evidence of its beneficial properties.

Studies have shown that colloidal oatmeal activates genes responsible for vital skin functions, such as protection and moisturization. When tested on individuals with dry skin, a lotion containing colloidal oatmeal demonstrated significant improvements in skin dryness and moisture levels.¹⁵

For those with sensitive skin, colloidal oatmeal can offer a gentle and soothing approach to maintaining skin health, making it a popular choice in various skincare products designed for sensitive skin types.

Allantoin

Allantoin is a commonly used substance in cosmetics due to its ability to improve the condition of your skin. You can find it in many skincare products, usually at concentrations up to 2%.¹⁶

The good news is that many components of allantoin complexes, such as ascorbic acid, biotin, glycyrrhetinic acid, and panthenol, are safe.¹⁷ They have been thoroughly reviewed and pose no major safety concerns according to the experts. However, there are some components, like galacturonic acid and polygalacturonic acid, for which safety data are limited.¹⁸ Allantoin has also been found to aid in wound healing, making it a potentially valuable ingredient in skincare products to promote skin repair and recovery.¹⁹

Fragrance-free or low-fragrance options

Opting for fragrance-free or low-fragrance options is highly recommended for those with sensitive skin, as fragrances in skincare products can be potential irritants. Studies have shown that female sex and individuals with sensitive skin are more susceptible to developing fragrance allergies. Increased exposure, particularly to scented leave-on products, can contribute to a higher prevalence of contact allergy to fragrances.²⁰

Patch testing and product selection

To ensure a safe and suitable product selection, patch testing is a must-do, particularly for those with sensitive skin or a history of allergies. 

Follow these simple steps:²¹

  1. Apply the product to a test spot on the inner aspect of your elbow for 7-10 days. Use the normal amount and thickness you would use as if you were applying the product regularly.

  2. For products you would normally wash off, such as a body wash, keep it on your skin for five minutes (or as long as the instructions state) and then rinse off. 

  3. Observe the area for 7-10 days, watching for any adverse reactions.

If you experience any negative reactions during the observation period, discontinue use immediately and rinse the area thoroughly with water. By conducting a patch test, you can determine whether a body wash is suitable for your sensitive skin before using it all over your body. This precautionary approach can help avoid potential irritations or allergic reactions and ensure you select products that work well with your skin's unique needs. For more specific patch testing advice, always ask a medical provider. 

3 best body washes for sensitive skin

Are you looking for a good body wash for your sensitive skin? Take a look at our top three picks.

  1. Cetaphil Restoraderm Soothing WashCetaphil’s body wash is specifically formulated for sensitive skin and includes a blend of moisturizers and colloidal oatmeal to help provide soothing relief and leave skin feeling hydrated.

  2. Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating CleanserNeutrogena's Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser is a mild and non-comedogenic body wash suitable for sensitive skin. It is designed to gently cleanse the skin and remove excess oil and dirt.

  3. La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Moisturizing Face and Body Wash: The Lipikar AP+ Moisturizing Face and Body Wash is a moisturizing formula for extra dry or sensitive skin. It helps to support the skin’s moisture barrier and contains niacinamide. This formula does contain sodium laureth sulfate, which may potentially clog pores, so if your skin is acne-prone you may want to opt for an alternative product.

Remember to check the product ingredients and do a patch test to ensure compatibility with your specific skin condition and sensitivities. It’s also best to consult with a licensed dermatology provider for personalized recommendations based on your unique needs before starting any new product.

Head toward clearer skin with Curology 

Sensitive skin can be a tricky puzzle to solve, especially when it’s paired with acne. Take steps toward clearer, healthier skin with Curology’s Acne Body Wash

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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FAQs

What should I avoid in body wash for sensitive skin?

To help avoid potential adverse reactions, choose fragrance-free body washes. Opt for simpler ingredient lists and consider patch-testing new products. Consult a licensed dermatology provider for personalized advice.

How do you know if body wash is good?

To determine if a body wash suits you, consider its ingredients. Look for gentle and nourishing components. Seeking advice from a dermatology provider is a good way to get personalized recommendations for your unique skincare needs.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. (July-August 2017).

  2. Adler, B.L. and DeLeo, V.A. Allergic Contact Dermatitis. JAMA Dermatol. (2021, January 27).

  3. Wollenberg, A. and Giménez-Arnau, A. Sensitive skin: A relevant syndrome, be aware. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. (April 2022).

  4. Wollenberg, A. and Giménez-Arnau, A. Sensitive skin: A relevant syndrome, be aware. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Ibid.

  5. Wollenberg, A. and Giménez-Arnau, A. Sensitive skin: A relevant syndrome, be aware. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Ibid.

  6. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  7. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  8. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  9. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

  10. Ferreira, M.S., et al. Sensitive skin: Active ingredients on the spotlightInt J Cosmet Sci. (February 2022). 

  11. Zhen, A.X., et al. Niacinamide Protects Skin Cells from Oxidative Stress Induced by Particulate Matter. Biomol Ther (Seoul). (November 2019).

  12. Zhen, A.X., et al. Niacinamide Protects Skin Cells from Oxidative Stress Induced by Particulate Matter. Biomol Ther (Seoul). Ibid.

  13. Zhen, A.X., et al. Niacinamide Protects Skin Cells from Oxidative Stress Induced by Particulate Matter. Biomol Ther (Seoul). Ibid.

  14. Ilnytska, O., et al. Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa) Improves Skin Barrier Through Multi-Therapy Activity. J Drugs Dermatol. (2016, June 1).

  15. Ilnytska, O., et al. Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa) Improves Skin Barrier Through Multi-Therapy Activity. J Drugs Dermatol. Ibid.

  16. Becker, L.C., et al. Final report of the safety assessment of allantoin and its related complexesInt J Toxicol. (May 2010).

  17. Becker, L.C., et al. Final report of the safety assessment of allantoin and its related complexes.Int J Toxicol. Ibid.

  18. Becker, L.C., et al. Final report of the safety assessment of allantoin and its related complexesInt J Toxicol. Ibid.

  19. Araújo, L.U., et al. Profile of wound healing process induced by allantoin. Acta Cir Bras. (October 2010).

  20. van Amerongen, C.C.A., et al. Skin exposure to scented products used in daily life and fragrance contact allergy in the European general population - The EDEN Fragrance Study. Contact Dermatitis. (June 2021).

  21. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Test Skincare Products. (2021, August 10). 

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Image of Laura Phelan Nurse Practitioner

Laura Phelan, NP-C

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