Sulfates were seemingly once found in every skin cleanser out there, but these days, it's not too difficult to find great face and body washes that are free of these potentially irritating surfactants. Today, we'll be focusing on the best sulfate-free body washes in particular, which all have gentle, nourishing formulas, thanks to the addition of moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, urea, niacinamide, aloe, and plant-derived oils. These body washes are free of parabens as well, since people who are sensitive to sulfates may also find parabens irritating.
“We see sulfates in so many skin care products because they create a lather that gives a stronger impression of cleaning power that most people love," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kim Nichols, M.D., F.A.A.D., with whom Elite Daily spoke for this article. "Sulfates aren’t necessarily bad, but there is a lot of controversy behind the ingredient. They can often dry out the skin and cause skin and eye irritation. Some people may also find that sulfates can lead to acne in facial products. Without sulfates in body wash, the formula will keep the skin pH balanced which, in turn, will lower the risk of those dreaded blemishes."
Dr. Nichols (who recently launched her own sulfate-free body wash) says she generally recommends cleansers without sulfates to patients with eczema, psoriasis, or very sensitive skin, but she adds, “If you find yourself with skin or eye irritant issues, then it’s probably time to make the switch. [And] without sulfates or parabens in skin products, the benefit is that your skin will stay more protected and supple.”
Read on to shop five of the best body washes for dry skin, all free of both parabens and sulfates.
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1. The Overall Best Sulfate-Free Body Wash
CeraVe's Hydrating Body Wash is one of the best body washes you could buy, whether you have sensitive skin or not. It's full of good-for-skin ingredients like smoothing urea, strengthening ceramides, and hydrating hyaluronic acid, and it's free of fragrance, sulfates, parabens, and soap, so it'll leave your skin feeling moisturized and soft rather than dry and stripped. It boasts the seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association as well, meaning it's safe for people with eczema or otherwise sensitive, reactive skin.
2. The Best Sulfate-Free Body Wash For Extremely Sensitive Skin
Vanicream's super-simple cleansers, lotions, and shampoos tend to be the go-to choice for people with extreme skin sensitivities and allergies, since they're free of basically every potentially irritating ingredient imaginable. This body wash is no different. It's free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, soap, oil, fragrances, lanolin, botanical extracts, and even gluten, but it'll still leave skin feeling cleansed and soft. You also get a lot of product (12 ounces) for a very fair price.
3. The Best Sulfate-Free Body Wash For Dry, Irritated Skin
In Aveeno's Restorative Skin Therapy Body Wash, oat and aloe provide lots of hydrating and skin-soothing benefits, making this a great choice for people with dry, itchy, or otherwise irritated skin. Made without parabens, sulfates, fragrance, or soap, it comes in a big, 18-ounce bottle that'll last you ages.
4. The Best Scented Sulfate-Free Body Wash
If you prefer scented products, check out Alaffia's Authentic African Black Soap, which comes in 11 lovely scents, including vanilla almond, wild lavender, and eucalyptus tea tree. This is an impressively versatile soap that you can use on your face, body, hair, and hands, or even as shaving cream. It's free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance, and it's also cruelty-free.
5. The Best Sulfate-Free Body Oil
If you have very dry skin, you may want to consider switching to a shower oil. They're even better at restoring moisture and leaving skin feeling silky soft, and like Alaffia's African black soap, this one in particular can be used on your face and body. From Bioderma's Atoderm line, which was formulated specifically for dry skin, this cleansing oil is made with vitamin B3, coconut and sunflower esters, glycerin, niacinamide, and other barrier-protecting ingredients. This comes in a massive, 33.8-ounce bottle — the biggest on this list — so you'll likely be set for a good year.
Dr. Kim Nichols, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of SkinCeuticals SkinLab by NicholsMD.