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Reviewed by Dr. Diana Rangaves, PharmD
Showering is about more than just getting clean. It can be a brief respite from the stresses of the day. And nothing completes a shower quite like a great-smelling body wash. Whether you want a cooling, invigorating blast of mint, a summery touch of citrus, or an enveloping blend of woods, you have a perfectly fragranced body wash. Here are some of the best-smelling body washes out there.
1. Blu Atlas Body Wash
Blu Atlas is a pretty new brand on the personal care front, but it’s already earned rave reviews. The company’s body wash works to exfoliate, moisturize, and hydrate with all-natural ingredients. Sugarcane is a perfect natural exfoliator, aloe vera delivers great natural moisture along with lots of antioxidants, and antioxidant-rich green tea extract soothes your skin and protects it from damage.
We like that Blu Atlas’s body wash is free from phthalates, parabens, and sulfates, and it’s cruelty-free, too. You can choose one of two memorable fragrances: classic (a fresh, slightly sweet scent) or coconut apricot (a tropic-inspired fragrance perfect for summer).
2. Cremo Italian Bergamot Body Wash
Cremo is a personal care company known for its great scents. This one is part of its Reserve Collection, a set of premium, cologne-like fragrances that are sure to please. Italian Bergamot is layered with notes of Italian bergamot, neroli blossom, and fresh vetiver, and Cremo says it’s like the Italian Riviera in a bottle!
The fragrance isn’t all this body wash has going for it, though. It lathers beautifully and cleans thoroughly, but it won’t leave your skin feeling squeaky or over-cleansed. That’s thanks to aloe juice and moringa oil, two natural ingredients that deliver natural moisture that’s neither greasy or waxy.
3. Molton Brown Black Pepper Re-Charge Bath & Shower Gel
Lots of personal-care companies make great-smelling body washes. But if there’s a particular perfume or cologne you love, the manufacturer may already make it in body-wash form. Molton Brown offers its iconic Re-Charge scent in the form of a luxuriant shower gel. The fragrance itself includes notes of black pepper, coriander, and vetiver, and it’s reminiscent of an adventure through Madagascar.
We like that Molton Brown’s products are cruelty-free, vegetarian, and free from phthalates and parabens. Plus, all packaging is designed to be refillable. If you run out and want more, you can keep the bottle and purchase a refill pouch!
4. Native Sea Salt & Cedar Body Wash
Native is a natural brand that’s found success with mainstream retailers. It’s easy to see why: Native body washes contain no phthalates, parabens, talc, aluminum, or sulfates. It turns out that “natural” body washes get you just as clean as traditional body washes.
But that’s not the only thing that makes Native stand out—the brand offers a countless array of scents for every taste. From Coconut & Vanilla to Citrus & Herbal Musk to Ginger Lemonade Cupcake, Native’s range of fragrances is truly impressive. We especially love Sea Salt & Cedar, a refreshing fragrance that reminds us of coastal forests in summer. If you like it as much as we do, you might be interested in checking out the matching deodorant, too!
5. Le Labo Santal 33 Perfuming Shower Gel
If you’ve spent any time at all in the world of fragrances, you may already be familiar with Le Labo’s Santal 33, a famous (or infamous, depending on your tastes) unisex fragrance. Santal 33’s widespread appeal comes largely from its distinctive scent profile: though it includes notes of sandalwood, cardamom, violet, and even a little leather, it still manages to smell smooth and approachable.
That said, a full-size bottle of the fragrance commands a pretty high price. If you want to sample the scent for less, the perfuming shower gel is an excellent choice. While the fragrance is probably its main draw, this shower gel also does a great job moisturizing your skin thanks to grapeseed and jojoba extracts.
6. Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castile Soap
Dr. Bronner’s has been around since 1948, and peppermint is its best-selling scent. According to the brand, you can use this sweet, minty soap in 18 different ways. It’s a fantastic body wash, especially if you love the cooling, tingly sensation peppermint delivers.
This soap is biodegradable, so it’s an ideal choice for campground or outdoor showers. Curious about the many other uses? Dr. Bronner’s says you can use this soap as shampoo, shaving cream, anti-frizz serum, and even toothpaste!
7. Necessaire The Body Wash Sandalwood
This great-smelling body wash won an Allure Readers Choice Award in 2022. It’s suitable for all skin types, but it’s especially great for dry skin. The Body Wash contains no sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Both of these are harsh surfactants that can over-strip moisture from your skin. Rather, this woodsy-smelling cleanser uses plant-based surfactants that are both gentle and effective.
We like that The Body Wash uses a unique oil-gel consistency to deliver lasting moisture. It’s formulated with glycerin, niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin E, and other skin-perfecting ingredients. When you use it daily, you’ll notice your skin feeling softer!
8. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Foaming Shower Gel
Many of the best smelling body washes on our list feature unisex scents, but Coco Mademoiselle is a scent geared toward women. This playful, light scent is dynamic and energetic, and it’s sweet without being too sweet.
So, what exactly does it smell like? Like the fragrance it’s named for, this body wash’s opening is a sweet orange scent. Beneath that citrusy fragrance lies a combination of rose and jasmine. Of course, by themselves, these three scents can easily become overly sweet. That’s why the hints of patchouli and vetiver are so important: they add depth and interest, helping Coco Mademoiselle stand out from the many other citrus/floral fragrances (and body washes!) out there.
9. Leon Bridges x Salt & Stone Blue Mesas Body Wash
Salt & Stone is a respected personal care brand known for both natural, effective ingredients and memorable scents. For this distinctive fragrance, the brand collaborated with soul singer Leon Bridges. Bridges said that Blue Mesas was inspired by the scents of his childhood: his father’s signature woody, musky cologne and his mother’s burning incense.
The resulting fragrance has quickly become one of the brand’s most popular. Salt & Stone sometimes calls it a black rose and vetiver scent, but Blue Mesas brings together a variety of fragrance notes for an unforgettable shower. You’ll breathe in black rose, lily of the valley, mahogany, spiced cloves, santal, vetiver, and amber.
10. Juniper Ridge Redwood Mist Body Wash
Want your shower to feel like an adventure? If so, check out Juniper Ridge’s Redwood Mist body wash. It’s designed to smell like foggy redwood forests, coastal breezes, and fresh rain. This beautiful, nature-inspired scent is perfect for refreshing your mind, and its moisture-rich ingredients are ideal for moisturizing and conditioning your skin.
Coconut oil and sunflower oil give you lasting, non-greasy moisture, and vegetable glycerin imparts a beautiful softness and smoothness. Once you step out of the shower, you can enjoy soft, supple skin as you go about your day.
11. The Right to Shower Joy Tangerine + Honeysuckle Head to Toe Cleanser
True to its name, this body wash can really be used from head to toe: The Right to Shower says you can use it as a face wash, hand wash, body wash, and shampoo. Joy Tangerine + Honeysuckle Head to Toe Cleanser moisturizes, cleanses, and smells like a summer day (without the sweat).
Our favorite thing about this one is that when you make a purchase, it actually helps bring mobile showers to those in need. The Right to Shower really does believe in the right to shower, and the brand uses a portion of profits to convert buses and trucks to mobile showers for people without homes.
12. Aesop Citrus Melange Body Cleanser
Some people love ultra-sudsy, foaming body washes. If you’re not one of those people, this low-foaming cleanser from Aesop might be more your speed. It uses natural botanicals that cleanse and condition the skin. And because these are all natural extracts, they don’t have the dreaded artificial smell of some cheaper body washes.
Citrus Melange centers around three invigorating citrus scents: petitgrain, lemon rind, and grapefruit rind. It’s the perfect way to freshen up at the start (or end) of a spring or summer day.
13. Byredo Bal D’Afrique Body Wash
Byredo is another fragrance manufacturer that has branched out into the world of personal care products. Bal d’Afrique is one of the brand’s most popular fragrances, and we love that it has a unique origin story. Perfumer Ben Gorham wrote it as a kind of “love letter” to Africa—even though he had not visited himself! Rather, he read his father’s diaries from the years he traveled the continent.
Gorham used those secondhand memories and his own imagination to create a memorable fragrance emphasizing floral and citrus notes. If you’re ready for an exotic vacation but can’t manage to go just yet, this body wash is the next best thing.
14. Archipelago Botanico de Havana Body Wash
The best fragrances (and body washes) tell a story, and this one’s story is that of 1940s Havana. It includes lively top notes of orange peel and bergamot, but accents of basil help keep it from becoming too sweet or citrusy.
Some of the best smelling body washes we’ve encountered seem to value scent over substance. We like that this one doesn’t! It’s formulated with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to thoroughly exfoliate your skin. It also includes antioxidants to calm irritated skin and offer protection against free radicals and environmental damage.
15. Frama Apothecary Body Wash
Frama’s Apothecary body wash is part of a personal care lineup sharing the same scent: a uniquely versatile blend of sandalwood, cedarwood, and ylang ylang. It smells citrusy, floral, and woody all at once, so it’s an outstanding all-season choice for men and women alike. All ingredients are natural and sustainably sourced.
We like that this body wash comes in a reusable glass container, and you can purchase refills if necessary. If you love the scent, you can also check out the matching body lotion and body oil to complete the set.
FAQs: The Best Smelling Body Washes
Fragrance is great, but what else should I look for in a body wash?
Bath products with pleasant scents can turn any bath or shower into an aromatherapy session. Choosing something you like may help you relax, refresh, and recharge.
That said, the way a body wash smells isn’t the only important thing to look for. Remember that the whole point of a body wash is to cleanse your skin and support your skin health.
Different people have different skincare needs, so the right ingredients for you might not be great for the next person. For instance, if you have acne-prone skin, you might do best with an exfoliating agent like glycolic acid. If your friend has very dry skin, they need a body wash that focuses more on moisturizing ingredients.
Not sure how to find these ingredients on a label? Here are a few of them to look for:
Aloe barbadensis is usually included in the form of aloe juice. Aloe is an excellent ingredient when it comes to soothing irritation and moisturizing dry skin. It’s also rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and other vitamins that support skin health.
Vitamin E (also called tocopherol) can be found in aloe vera, but it’s also a great stand-alone ingredient in body washes and other skincare products. It has more skincare benefits than most people realize—vitamin E can help seal your skin’s moisture barrier, make your skin softer, and even protect it from sun damage (when combined with sunscreen and vitamin C).
Coconut oil is a fantastic hydrating ingredient for skin and hair alike. Whether it’s in a body wash or a haircare product, coconut oil can form a kind of moisture seal over your skin or hair, making it harder for moisture to escape. As a result, your hair and skin stay hydrated for longer.
If your skin is dry or cracked, this sealing action also makes it easier for your skin to heal itself. And as a plus, coconut oil makes it harder for harmful bacteria to get through your skin barrier to cause infection or other issues. If that wasn’t enough to sell you on the benefits of coconut oil, this great natural ingredient is also an excellent antimicrobial and antibacterial agent!
A word of warning, though—if your skin is oily or prone to acne, coconut oil probably isn’t the greatest ingredient for you. It’s fairly comedogenic, meaning it can clog your pores. In many cases, more clogged pores lead to more breakouts.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are very effective exfoliating agents. They are often found in specialized body washes, but some “regular” body washes come standard with AHAs, too. AHAs are acids that promote gentle exfoliation at the surface of your skin.
If your skin is rough, bumpy, acne-prone, or prone to wrinkles and fine lines, AHAs can prove to be beneficial. When you use them regularly, your skin feels soft and smooth. You won’t often see “alpha hydroxy acid” listed with other ingredients, but you can look for the two most common AHAs found in skincare products: glycolic acid and lactic acid.
AHAs also have another surprising benefit—they fight against the bacteria that cause body odor, so they’ll help you stay smelling fresh!
Glycerin is a natural substance that smooths and protects your skin. It’s formed by heating up certain plant oils, forming a solution that hardens when it dries. Glycerin, like coconut oil, can help to replenish and seal in your skin’s moisture when it’s stripped away (either from harsh chemicals, very hot water, or both). However, unlike coconut oil, it’s not greasy, so it’s a better choice if you have oily and/or acne-prone skin.
Jojoba oil has recently become a very popular ingredient in the skincare world. Although it’s a natural plant oil, its consistency and chemical makeup is fairly similar to that of skin oil. That makes it an ideal ingredient for replenishing your skin’s natural moisture.
You can often find jojoba oil in lotions and leave-in hair products. However, it’s quite common in soaps and body washes as well. That’s because this easily-absorbable oil can instantly rehydrate as your skin begins to lose moisture. It also leaves your skin feeling soft, supple, and renewed.
Moringa oil, like jojoba oil, is a plant oil that works very similarly to the natural oils found in your skin. It’s one of the newer oils found in the beauty world, but it’s steadily become more popular as an ingredient in both haircare and skincare.
Also, like jojoba oil, moringa oil is non-comedogenic. That makes it an effective moisturizer for all skin types.
Prebiotics and probiotics can be useful when taken as supplements, but did you know they have benefits when they’re used in body washes, too?
Your skin has a complex microbiome of tiny organisms. There are “good” organisms that promote skin health and “bad” microorganisms that harm it. A quality prebiotic or probiotic body wash fortifies the “good” organisms and balances your skin pH. This helps to strengthen your skin barrier and retain moisture. Some research even suggests it may protect against skin cancer!
Seaweed and algae might sound like odd things to include in a body wash. However, they include health-boosting antioxidants that can give your skin a radiant glow. Seaweed is also a powerful humectant, meaning it draws in moisture and keeps it there. That results in skin that looks smooth and hydrated.
Hyaluronic acid is another great humectant. It can be found in everything from eye creams to body lotions, but it’s an outstanding way to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and keep your skin hydrated. Even though you rinse off body wash, the hyaluronic acid within it will still have time to start working its magic on your skin!
What are some ingredients to avoid?
Now you know a few things to look for when you choose a body wash. But what should you not look for? Here are a few common body wash ingredients that aren’t the greatest for your skin health.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are both foaming agents that can lift dirt and grease. That might sound like a good thing, but they often lift so much grease that your skin becomes stripped of its natural oils. It starts making more oil to compensate, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
These sulfates can also cause skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. You may have noticed that many body washes (and shampoos) are now advertised as being sulfate-free. As more and more people find out the potential harm that sulfates can cause, they’ve begun switching to natural, plant-based surfactants. These surfactants aren’t as harsh, but they still leave your skin perfectly clean!
Phthalates are something else to avoid. These chemicals have the potential to cause long-lasting health problems. Research has indicated that phthalates can cause serious disruption to your endocrine system. They are especially dangerous for pregnant women, as excessive exposure to phthalates has been linked to pregnancy loss.
Parabens are used as preservatives for many shampoos, conditioners, and body washes. However, they can mimic the actions of the hormone estrogen, potentially causing health problems for both men and women. Researchers are still trying to assess just how damaging parabens can be, so many people are now opting to steer clear of them just to be safe.
Ethanolamines might not sound as familiar. They can also be harder to spot, as you probably won’t see “ethanolamine” listed on a label. But if you see DEA (Diethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine), or MEA (Monoethanolamine) on a label, that product contains ethanolamine.
These products have been linked to liver cancer. One ethanolamine, DEA, has been banned in the EU. In addition, some ethanolamines are contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.
Cocamidopropyl betaine is a natural coconut cleanser. But wait! Aren’t natural plant cleansers supposed to be good for you?
That’s typically true, but this one has a few components that make it very irritating to your skin. It’s a popular choice because it creates a lather that rivals sulfate-containing products. However, it’s irritating enough that it received the Allergen of the Year designation from the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
How long does the scent of a body wash last?
If you’re like many people, you might purchase a great-smelling body wash in hopes of saving money on cologne or other fragrances. But unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict how long a scent will last without trying it. Some of it depends on the formulation of the individual body wash. Some of it also depends on your unique body chemistry.
As a general rule, the scent of a body wash won’t last nearly as long as a good eau de parfum or eau de toilette. After all, you aren’t supposed to wash off perfume or cologne! For many, the scent of a body wash only lingers for 15 minutes or so, but some may last a few hours.
If you want to make the scent last longer, see if the manufacturer offers a coordinating body lotion. This can be a great way to prolong the scent while also keeping your skin healthy and moisturized!
What’s the best way to use body wash?
There are several different opinions on this. Some skincare experts recommend using a washcloth, loofah, or shower tool. Others say it’s fine to just use your hands.
There is one thing most skincare experts do seem to agree on: you should shower with lukewarm (not hot) water, as very hot showers can dry out your skin.
To use body wash, dispense a nickel-sized amount on your hands or shower tool and lather all over your body, then rinse. To avoid drying out your skin, apply a lotion or moisturizer as soon as you get out of the shower.
Can/should I put on cologne after using scented body wash?
You can, but if you have a scented body wash whose scent lasts for a bit, you should be cautious. Plenty of people layer scents successfully, but if you’re going to do this, make sure the scents don’t clash! For instance, the scent can be chaotic and unpleasant if you use a rich, loud-scented body wash and spritz on an ultra-fresh, citrusy cologne.
Most experts recommend using similar scents if you’re going to use a scented body wash and then immediately apply a fragrance or use a scented body lotion. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t experiment—it’s just a good idea to do so when you don’t have to go anywhere. That way, you can evaluate the combination (and save yourself the embarrassment if it turns out to be awful).
As a side note, it can be very easy to become nose blind to scents after a while. To be safe, you may want to run any fragrance combinations by a friend with a discerning nose!
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