The Best Body Washes for Dry Skin, According to Experts

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As the temperatures drop, we transition our wardrobes and even our décor to fit the season. But what about our self-care rituals? With shorter, colder days already upon us, I’ve adjusted my routines for winter. My morning coffee is hot, not iced. There are way. more. soups in my weekly meal plan. And I’ve swapped my summer serums for thick, occlusive hydrating moisturizers. But winter skincare doesn’t stop with my face. I’m more gentle with all my skin in the winter. I lather on layers of body oils and creams to fix flaky winter skin before it comes. But to really prevent winter dryness, I’m seeking out the best body washes for dry skin.

Healthy skin is built in the shower. The best shower products don’t strip your skin of moisture, they help your body retain moisture. Your body needs to replenish its natural oils to stay healthy. And just like your face, it’s governed by the microbiome. So how do you keep it intact? Whether your skin is naturally on the drier side or if you only suffer from winter dryness, using a hydrating body wash helps support your microbiome and prevents prematurely crepey skin.

Featured image of Brandy Joy Smith by Zachary Gray.

Your Dry Skin Experts

As shelves upon shelves of body products make their way into your favorite stores, how do you know which ones are as innovative as they say? Some body washes make empty promises and give you nothing but stripped skin and sickly sweet smells.

To avoid making the wrong choice, I spoke to the team behind iota Body, a body care brand pioneering products for the body microbiome. Kelly Dobos, Cosmetic Chemist & Lead Scientific Advisor for iota, and Monique Meneses, the innovative co-founder of iota, gave me a complete rundown of the microbiome and how to support it using the best body washes for dry skin.

Read on to discover what ingredients to look for in your shower essentials to unlock smooth, healthy skin all winter.

Image by Belathée Photography

What is the body microbiome? 

You might have heard of the skin barrier on your face, but your body has just as complex an ecosystem. “Composed of trillions of microorganisms, our microbiome is an important part of our skin’s protective barrier,” says Dobos.

And while protecting your skin barrier is great for fending off flaky skin, it’s not just superficial. “It’s essential for fending off disease, barrier protection, and aiding immune defenses,” says Meneses. “The skin barrier is usually last on the totem pole when it comes to thinking about how to care for your health, but we created iota for that exact reason—to make it a core component of our health routine.”

How can you tell if your body’s microbiome is balanced? 

Because your body’s health is a significant part of your overall well-being, it’s important to know the best way to take care of it. “Just like your gut, when your skin microbiome is out of balance, you can become irritated and inflamed, leading to the development of eczema and dermatitis. Other conditions like acne and dandruff are associated with changes in the skin microbiome,” says Dobos.

What affects your body’s microbiome and causes dry skin?

According to Meneses, many things can affect your body’s microbiome. They include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Producing less sebum with age
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Irritating personal care products

With these, it’s also important to watch out for anything that can reduce your microbiome’s diversity or change the composition by disrupting your skin’s pH level.

Image of Lauren Ireland by Emma Bassill

Key Ingredients to Look For in a Body Wash

“It’s important to look for prebiotics and postbiotics in any personal care products that you use,” says Meneses. “Prebiotics and postbiotics have the capacity to optimize, maintain and restore the microbiota of skin in different ways. If you need a refresher, prebiotics are the nutrients (or food) the “good” bacteria need to flourish.”

Dobos also recommends:

  • Mild surfactants that don’t strip the skin of its natural moisture
  • Hydrating glycerin at the top of the ingredient list
  • Ingredients that help bolster the skin microbiome
  • Any prebiotics and postbiotics

As for ingredients to avoid? “Traditional soaps typically have a high pH and can be really drying to the skin, so be wary of some natural soap bars,” says Dobos. And while exfoliation can be good to help smooth your skin and slough off dead cells, don’t overdo it with chemical and physical exfoliants.

Image by Belathée Photography

More Tips to Hydrate Dry, Winter Skin

While winter makes you want to soak up all the hot water, Dobos has some disheartening news for you. “Try to avoid long hot showers and baths.” There’s still space for them in your nighttime routine but try limiting your soak time. And be sure to follow it with moisturizing ingredients.

“Moisturize daily, right after your shower or bath,” says Dobos. Incorporate some of the most effective ingredients for dry skin, including:

  • Oatmeal
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Coconut Oil
  • Sunflower Seed Oil
  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Niacinamide
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Squalane
Image of Sanetra Nere Longno by Michelle Nash

The Best Body Washes for Dry Skin

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