Bodies are weird. I spent a lot of time taking care of my face, but the skin on my body has its own issues too, so lately I've been trying to give it some extra TLC. One of the ways I've been doing that: Switching to slightly acidic, low-pH body wash instead of harsh soaps.
Some of you may be wondering why I care so much about the pH level of my body wash. There's been a lot of buzz in the beauty community lately about using low-pH cleansers on your face as a means of maintaining healthy skin. (Your skin is naturally acidic, at around pH 5.5.)
A couple of other bloggers already wrote really good posts on the subject, so rather than try to rehash and summarize I will leave these links below—I recommend reading them if you're curious about skin health as it pertains to acidity.
SKIN & TONICS: The Importance of Fatty Acids, pH & the Moisture Barrier: How I Eliminated my Acne & Decreased my Skin Sensitivity
SNOW WHITE AND THE ASIAN PEAR: Skincare Discovery: Why the pH of Your Cleanser Matters
Now here's my take on body cleansers: A lot of people tend to just use whatever (i.e. bar soap) to wash themselves, because the skin on your body generally isn't as delicate as the skin on your face. That is, unless you're like me, and also have issues below the neck... in addition to KP I also get acne on my upper arms and back, plus occasional bouts of inexplicable itchiness. After a while, I started to wonder... would my skin feel (and look) better if I applied the same principles to my body as I do to my face? And thus the quest for low-pH body cleansers began.
The annoying thing about finding a low-pH cleanser for your body is that a lot of companies don't make that information readily available. But I did a bit of digging and found a couple of honest-to-goodness low-pH body washes, plus a few non-bodywashes that can be used as such. If you're outside the US and can't find these exact same products, use these general categories to help you find more!
Now without further ado, the cleansers.
#1: THE FACIAL CLEANSER AS BODY CLEANSER (CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser)
Purified Water, Cocamidopropyl Hydrosultaine, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, PEG 150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate (and), PEG 6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Niacinamide, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Sodium Chloride, Phytosphingosine, Citric Acid, Edetate Disodium, Dihydrate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum
Where to buy:
- Amazon.com ($12.64/12 oz)
- Drugstore.com ($11.99/12oz)
- Target.com ($8.09/12oz)
- Walgreens.com ($13.99/12oz)
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser is my everyday face wash, and what inspired this project—one day a few months ago I spotted it in the shower and randomly decided to try it as a shower gel, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. For those who aren't familiar, CeraVe is an American drugstore brand... this stuff is basic as hell and free of fragrance, but it makes my skin feel calm and clean. It also lathers up better than I thought it would on a shower pouf.
Bottom line:I would use CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser as a body wash again, but the real lesson learned here is that there's no reason you can't try using your favorite facial cleanser as a body cleanser—well, other than maybe price. If your bathroom shelf is only stocked with luxury cleansers, it may be more economical to investigate other options.
#2: THE FEMININE CLEANSER AS BODY CLEANSER (Summer's Eve Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin)
Water, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Decyl Glucoside, Disodium Cocoamidopropionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Ammonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Nitrate, Methylcholoroisosothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Glycerin, Ext Violet 2, FD&C Blue 1 (Island Splash variety)
Where to buy:
- Amazon.com (from $3.99 for 15oz)
- Drugstore.com ($4.99/15oz)
- Walgreens.com ($4.49/15oz)
- Target.com (from $3.99 for 15oz)
TMI time: The natural pH of your vagina (or vaginas in general if you don't have one yourself) is naturally acidic (at around 3.5-4.5 if you're not menstruating), so it's not unusual for feminine cleansers to also be slightly acidic. At pH 5.3 (which I confirmed with the company's customer service department), Summer's Eve Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin (Island Splash) isn't quite as zesty as your ladyparts. but perfect for your all-over body skin. This wash is available in a few different scents with slightly different ingredients—I chose Island Splash because the name didn't seem quite as cringe-worthy as some of the other options. (I'm looking at you, Delicate Blossom.)
As for results: The scent is pleasant. I'm not drooling over it, but it's nice. The wash is a bit more watery than I would like, but if you're using a shower pouf it does foam up a decent amount.
I'm going to go ahead and recommend Summer's Eve Cleansing Wash—it's cheap, can be found in pretty much every drugstore in America, and gets the job done. My one pet peeve with the Summer's Eve cleansing washes is that there doesn't seem to be a fragrance/color-free option... even "Naturally Normal" contains a bit of scent and Blue #1. Folks with very sensitive skin might be better off trying something else (like fragrance-free facial wash). But the real lesson here is that you shouldn't overlook the feminine cleansing aisle when it comes to finding a low-pH body wash... even if you don't plan on sudsing up your vagina, they still do the trick.
#3: THE ALL-IN-ONE CLEANSER (SebaMed Liquid Face & Body Wash)
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Laureth-2, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Glycol Distearate, Fragrance, Saccharide Isomerate, Allantoin, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Pyridoxine HCl (Vitamin B6), Glycine, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Sodium Citrate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Laurate, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Yellow 10 (CI 47005), Blue 1 (CI 42090)
Where to buy:
- Amazon.com (prices from $9.83/6.8oz)
- Drugstore.com ($12.99/13.5oz)
- Walgreens.com ($12.99/13.5oz)
- Target.com ($12.99/13.5oz)
SebaMed Liquid Face & Body is touted as an all-in-one cleanser for sensitive skin on both the face and body. Since I already used CeraVe as a face and body cleanser, I was intrigued by the idea of cleanser that's supposed to be for both. Unfortunately, while it lathered up well, this was the only cleanser in this round-up that I had a bad reaction to. Nothing terrible, but my skin felt slightly itchy after using it. I suspect that I'm sensitive to one of the ingredients in it... not sure which one yet, but I guess I'll have fun going over that ingredients list with a fine-tooth comb later!
SebaMed Liquid Face & Body is worth investigating if it's readily available in your area and you're not sensitive to any of the ingredients, but it doesn't seem to do anything special that a regular foaming facial cleanser wouldn't do. Even if I hadn't had a bad reaction to it, I'd probably keep buying CeraVe because it's cheaper. YMMV of course, but the lesson here is that while all-in-one cleansers may be worth investigating, they aren't necessarily better than products that are marketed as a facial (or ladybits) cleanser.
#4: THE SHAMPOO AS BODY CLEANSER (Paula's Choice All Over Hair & Body Shampoo)
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (mild cleansing agent), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Panthenol (vitamin B5/conditioning agent), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (conditioning agent), Polyquaternium-10 (conditioning/detangling agent), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder (water-binding agent), Sodium Chloride (stabilizer), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (cleansing agent), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), Sorbic Acid (preservative).
Where to buy:
Did you know that many shampoos are slightly acidic? Just like the skin on your face and body, your hair and scalp are also acidic (usually around pH 4.5-5.5). Unfortunately, a lot of haircare manufacturers don't advertise the pH levels of their shampoos, so it takes a bit of trial and error to find one that's at a skin (and hair) friendly pH. I decided to try Paula's Choice All Over Hair & Body Shampoo because I was able to confirm with PC that it's around pH 6—higher than the optimal 5.5, but still reasonable. Unfortunately, I didn't like it very much as a body wash... it's free of added fragrance but the scent of the raw ingredients isn't exactly pleasing. It's not a crappy product in the sense that it does lather up and makes my skin (and hair!) feel clean without being stripped, I just don't love using it.
Consider testing the pH level of your shampoos (or contacting their manufacturers) to determine body wash suitability! Just for laughs, I grabbed a random shampoo out of my shower (John Frieda Beach Blonde Cool Dip Shampoo), tested some on a home pH strip and it seemed to register around 6. I haven't been able to confirm that with the company yet, but the point is that there already might be a low-pH cleanser lurking in your shower. One thing to keep in mind though: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/SLS (a surfactant found it many shampoos/body washes) can be a bit harsh as a skincare cleanser, so look for ones that only contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate/SLES (which is gentler) or that are sulfate-free.
#5: THE SPECIALTY BODY CLEANSER (Alpha Hydrox Moisturizing Body Wash)
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Myristoyl Sarcosinate, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Ammonium Hydroxide Glycol Distearate, Cocamide MEA, Laureth 10, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Aloe Vera Gel, Wheat Germamidopropyldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance, Benzophenone - 4, FD&C Green No. 3
Where to buy:
Alpha Hydrox is a company that specializes in actives and anti-aging products, so when I saw that they made an AHA body wash I knew I had to give it a try! Alpha Hydrox Moisturizing Body Wash turned out to be my favorite from this whole batch—it's not too watery, has a pleasant aquatic scent that isn't absurdly perfumey, and lathers up nicely. Best of all, Alpha Hydrox is affordable even though it's a specialty brand. There are only two downsides: One, it's a bit hard to find offline, and two, the bottle doesn't come with a pump. (You can purchase an appropriately-sized one separately from the Neoteric Cosmetics website though.
I love Alpha Hydrox Moisturizing Body Wash, but if you can't get it where you live, it might be worth investigating some of your favorite (local) specialty skincare brands to see if they also make body cleansers. I've been using Alpha Hydrox's AHA body lotion on and off for about a year and I only found out that they made a body wash when I really went digging through the Neoteric website!
#6: THE IMPORT BODY CLEANSER (Lavera Calming Shower Gel)
Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Coco Glucoside, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Water*, Xanthan Gum, Alcohol*, Fragrance/ Parfum (natural essential oils)**, Limonene**, Linalool**, Citral**, Geraniol** * indicates Certified Organic Ingredients (Lavender variety)
Where to buy:
If you have trouble finding suitable products in your home country, you can always seek out imports on the internet. (I'm assuming you have internet access if you're reading this, right?) With that in mind, I decided to try Lavera's Calming Shower Gel in the lavender scent. From what I understand Lavera is a German-based brand focused on natural ingredients. If you live in Germany (or perhaps other European countries?) you can find it for a few euros, but if you're ordering overseas, expect a ridiculous markup. So it goes with imports. Anyway, I liked the Lavera shower gel. It lathers well, smells great (imagine fresh lavender, not artificial perfumey shit) and feels nice on my skin.
I don't think it's worth paying insane import prices for again considering that I've found a few other options that work for me, but if it's cheap where you live (or comparably priced if you have to order everything from abroad) then it's worth adding to your shopping list. Speaking of imports, if you're in Asia you may be able to find Johnson's 5.5 Body Wash or Biore U Bodywash (which I have been told is also 5.5, but have not been able to confirm). I wasn't able to obtain either of those easily for testing, but maybe you will be. There are probably lots of others I've never even heard of too—if you're in another country and know of any easy-to-find low pH body washes, let me know what they are (and where you are) in the comments!
Overall, I'm very pleased with the results of my low-pH body cleanser experiment. My skin seems calmer, happier, and less prone to breaking out since I made the switch—just like my face! I'm not sure I can attribute those results to one cleanser alone though—all of them have their pros and cons (except for SebaMed, which just made me itchy.) But for the sake of narrowing things down for all the potential body wash shoppers out there, I'll declare three favorites:
BEST ECONOMICAL WASH: Summer's Eve Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin
Priced at around $0.33 per ounce, Summer's Eve was by far the cheapest body wash option. While it wasn't my overall favorite wash from this round-up, I did find the scent pleasant, so I think it's a great option if you're on a budget or need something that can be picked up from the local drugstore.
BEST PRACTICAL WASH: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser is super-practical for me because I already have it in my bathroom at all times, but I want to point out one more special feature it has: A pump! It's the little things, people. (FYI the larger sizes of SebaMed also come with a pump. If only it didn't make me itch.)
BEST OVERALL WASH: Alpha Hydrox Moisturizing Body Wash
I like the scent and texture of this one the most, and since I sprung the extra $1.25 for the matching pump I can't even complain about the packaging. And even with the cost of the pump added in, it's around the same price as CeraVe.
What's your favorite body wash? Do you have any more low-pH body wash recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!
Disclosure: Some or all of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. For more information, check out my full disclosure policy.