Looking for a body wash that meets certain criteria.
September 12, 2011 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I must be weird, but all I want from a body wash or shower gel is to get clean -- not moisturized, not fragranced, just clean. Can anyone help me find a brand that meets my particular criteria?

Having decided that life is too short to spend any more time scraping hardened soap residue out of the soap dish in my shower, I'm seeking to switch over to liquid body wash or shower gel. However, I'm having a hard time finding one that meets a few specific criteria, and am very tired of buying stuff and then tossing it after one or two uses.

1) Non-stinkiness. Body washes all seem to come in fragrances like Frangipani Mango or Hibiscus Sweet Pea and they all smell to me like cheap candy. I'd prefer something completely fragrance-free, but would settle for a light smell, perhaps herbal or citrusy.

2) Rinsability. Practically every body wash on the market makes a huge point of being intensely, richly, unctuously moisturizing. What this actually means in my experience is that they leave an oily slickness on one's skin, which drives me NUTS.

3) At least some latheriness. Tom's of Maine has a product that actually meets criteria 1 and 2, but washing with it is indistinguishable from scrubbing a plain wet washcloth over one's skin.

4) Price. My criterion here is Not Crazy Expensive--preferably under $10 for a decent-sized bottle.

Any and all suggestions welcome!
posted by Kat Allison to Shopping (61 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What about Dr. Bronners? It comes in a few different light scents, or unscented. I like the lavender one.
posted by bleep at 5:49 PM on September 12, 2011 [17 favorites]

Yes to Dr. Bronners - but dilute! dilute! dilute the peppermint version when washing delicate bits. Maybe Neutrogena's Rainbath gel?
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:52 PM on September 12, 2011

Yep, sounds like you want liquid soap.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:52 PM on September 12, 2011

Seconding Dr. Bronner's. (I use Tea Tree)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:53 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Dr. Bronners.

If you want no scent, get the Unscented Baby kind. It is truly unscented.

However, it doesn't have a lot of latheriness to it, and that's by design. I do get some lather when I wash with it.

A little goes a loooooooooong way. Dilute! Dilute!
posted by spinifex23 at 5:53 PM on September 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash meets all the criteria except for #2. However, I find that it leaves me feeling MUCH more "rinsed" (I know exactly what you're talking about there) than other "moisturizing" body washes. It makes my skin feel normal (I have dry skin), and not in the least bit greasy or slimy. It also smells like nothing. Seriously: no smell whatsoever. Which is awesome. It's available at every drugstore and is cheeeap. Love it. My boyfriend even started using it, and he's all "manly" and shit.
posted by phunniemee at 5:54 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't distinguish between body wash and shampoo.
Buy Suave for about 2 bucks a bottle and use it for everything. They have several scents that are extremely light.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:54 PM on September 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

I use the fragrance free generic version of the aveeno sensitive skin oatmeal wash. It's $1.50/bottle at dollar general, and I love it.
posted by bizzyb at 5:54 PM on September 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ivory and Aveeno body washes are scented but mildly. I like both.
posted by bunderful at 5:58 PM on September 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

We use Trader Joe's Refresh Citrus Shampoo for our hair for similar reasons, nothing fancy and nothing too smelly, and we once bought the body wash by accident. It's essentially the same and we didn't notice the difference for a while so I know it lathers. It's cheap, like a few bucks.

On the expensive side but unscented are the California Baby Super Sensitive body washes, probably a bit over $10 for a bottle. We use it as a bubble bath for our kid.
posted by girlhacker at 5:59 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have a Bed Bath & Beyond near you, see if they sell body washes by Method. I was very pleased with the olive leaf scented one I bought a couple years ago, and it met all your criteria. The bottle lasted me this long, though I don't use it daily. I personally don't really like using the Dr. Bronners stuff much although a lot of people swear by it.
posted by wondermouse at 6:00 PM on September 12, 2011

I am another Fragrance-Free Aveeno fan. I find I need to use it with a mesh sponge to get it to lather, but it does lather.
posted by mskyle at 6:00 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like the Neutrogena Body Clear Body wash. It has a pleasant, clean scent and it's not as harsh or as thin as Dr. Bronners. It may not be great if you have super-dry skin but I don't find that it dries me out. Although it's marketed for people with body acne, I don't have that problem and find no detrimental effects from using this body wash.
posted by k8lin at 6:00 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use Ivory Simply Aloe when I am feeling like "JESUS GOD I JUST WANT SOAP." It's so non-Frangipani Hibiscus Ultra Moisture Plus that I have only ever seen it at the grocery store. It's usually $1.50/bottle but often goes on sale for a buck a pop.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:02 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I tried unscented Dr. Bronners, but found it had just the faintest whiff of Butyric acid. YMMV.
posted by maudlin at 6:02 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use a few things

- Dr Bronners whatever the rose scent is [the minty ones are too tingly in your bits, the rest of the scents are nice and lavender is my favorite] not too bubbly though
- I also agree with "shampoo is just soap" and Trader Joe's has a citrus scent that I like in their Refresh line [on preview: hey!]
- I love the Aveeno Oatmeal stuff but it feels a little slimy to me. Great if you're itchy, maybe not what you want otherwise
- Nature's Gate often has scents that I like that don't seem weird and poisonous, grapefruit/ginger and lemongrass are my favorite
- Kiss My Face also has scents that are less toxic-feeling
- this is my favorite wash though, so I may not be scent free leaning enough
posted by jessamyn at 6:04 PM on September 12, 2011

Dr Bronner's Almond.

It suds if you sud it...I really love it. I hate scents too and am allergic to the vast majority of them and it's never bothered me.

The lavender is a little smelly for me.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:08 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also Olivella makes a nice liquid soap that just smells mildly soapy.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:08 PM on September 12, 2011

I feel the way you do, and many of these suggestions are making my skin crawl! Dr. Bronners I like for shampoo, but I've found that even diluted it makes my skin feel a little sticky after rinsing.

What I use for face/body washing is Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash (the liquid, not the bar). It feels basically like a liquid soap (lathers a little bit but not absurdly and rinses off cleanly), it smells like basically nothing (slight "soapy" smell, but not discernable at all unless you're sniffing at a glob of the raw, undiluted stuff in the palm of your hand), and isn't all that pricey (if I'm remembering right it's usually ~$7 for a bottle). It is great!

Oh, and it's concentrated enough that you really don't have to use that much of it, so one bottle lasts 3 months or more if you're conservative about it.
posted by bubukaba at 6:13 PM on September 12, 2011

Cetaphil. Not terribly expensive, but for a cheaper alternative, the Target brand is fine.
posted by sageleaf at 6:15 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dr. Bronner's Peppermint. It (the bar and the liquid) has never bothered my relevant bits even undiluted. The bar form is what I use daily but I use the liquid occasionally with a scrubber if I get a lot of dirt grit on me from running and when I travel. Seems to work well; you have a faint, general mint / castile soap aroma afterward but that fades quickly.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:18 PM on September 12, 2011

I'm really surprised at all the Dr. Bronner's recommendations. I've never used it myself, but an old roommate of mine did (peppermint and lavender specifically). Whenever she'd walk out of the shower, the bathroom would belch CHOKING FRAGRANCE OMG out into the hallway for a solid 15 minutes. And that was just the lingering air aroma. YMMV.
posted by phunniemee at 6:27 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash, No Fragrance. I bought it for my baby daughter, but I liked it so much I started using it too.
posted by mbidi at 6:30 PM on September 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

phunniemee, I wonder if that's because it's actually real essential oils? I've always been impressed with Dr. Bronner's and the way that it smells nice while using it, but you can't smell it on your skin afterward. Maybe your roommate didn't dilute it properly?

I was going to recommend Dr. Bronner's Citrus, but also I like Burt's Bees baby wash.
posted by purpletangerine at 6:32 PM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are amazing! Thanks so much for all the responses -- I'll field-sniff as many of these as possible, and try out a few finalists. Thanks again! (And of course additional suggestions will be gratefully received!)
posted by Kat Allison at 6:35 PM on September 12, 2011

Dr Bronner's leaves the same residue that bar soap does on me, not a fan. I was going to say the basic clear yellow baby body wash until I read (3) -- it is not super-foamy -- but it certainly does lather. I am very fussy about residue; I itch like crazy and go red and rough from soap/any wash-with-residue, and for twenty-plus years I have occasionally tried other stuff but have kept returning to generic baby wash. I may be overly used to the stuff but I don't notice much scent, and it definitely rinses off. Also: cheap.
posted by kmennie at 6:42 PM on September 12, 2011

I was having a dry skin problem last winter and decided to try Weleda Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash. I know it's a bit out of your price range, but it has a light, mild scent, it rinses well and my skin was super soft. It was in the fancy organic soap section of my local grocery store.
posted by janepanic at 6:43 PM on September 12, 2011

Rainbow Research Baby Body Wash -- Unscented meets your criteria, and a little goes a long way. (I found it in my local supermarket's organic section.)
posted by virago at 6:51 PM on September 12, 2011

Seconding the California Baby Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash. That stuff is amazing. Lasts FOREVER, too. I get mine at Target.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:52 PM on September 12, 2011

I use Johnson's baby shampoo as a body wash. I think it meets all three criteria.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:59 PM on September 12, 2011

Cetaphil does not lather. And it smells chemically, at least to me. It's a great face wash, but I don't think it meets your criteria.
posted by k8lin at 7:00 PM on September 12, 2011

I also use the "Neutrogena BodyClear Bodywash. I like it because it's simple, has no discernable scent, is neither moisturizing nor drying, and it just gets me clean. It's a little over $8/bottle at most grocery stores and drugstores, but is much cheaper at the Amazon link above.

The only downside is that now that Neutrogena has come out with a (horrible-smelling!) grapefruit-scented version, the original unscented version can be a little more difficult to find in stores because I guess the grapefruit version sells better, or maybe they just want it to. But Amazon does usually have it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:04 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is just to say, I am also in search of what you describe. I bought Sebamed on a whim at Costco. It definitely does have a scent, and I find it makes my hands feel a little dry.

I like Phisoderm, which has only a mild scent. It seems to market its acne-fighting capabilities pretty strongly, but that's not why I bought it. It washes off well and leaves my skin feeling just...clean. This is what I'll buy in the future. Good luck with your sniff tests and, ultimately, clean skin happiness!
posted by xiaolongbao at 7:20 PM on September 12, 2011

I use Body Essence shower gel - it has tea tree and olive oils, but the smell doesn't seem to linger. Though the site says it's moisturizing, it doesn't leave any residue.
posted by cp311 at 7:25 PM on September 12, 2011

It would be expensive to use as a bodywash, ($6-8 investment every two or three weeks, I would imagine) but Neutrogena's unscented glycerin liquid soap is great. I use it on my (very sensitive, breakout-prone) face.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:31 PM on September 12, 2011

I second everyone who has suggested Ivory. It comes in unscented and it's the closest thing I've found to regular bar soap. It's also often anomalously inexpensive for body wash.
posted by lxs at 7:31 PM on September 12, 2011

hey guys I came to say unscented Dr Bronners
posted by Nattie at 7:36 PM on September 12, 2011

Another vote for Aveeno products - I use a puff ball thing to get it to lather and I haven't noticed any excessive residue after rinsing. I believe I use the 'Daily Moisturising' but there are other products in the range that may be worthwhile investigating.
posted by latch24 at 7:37 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to chime in and say that I've had good luck with Everyday Shea Moisturizing Body Wash. They sell it at my Whole Foods, or online, and while - at $14 - it's a little pricier than you mentioned, the bottle is ENORMOUS (32 ounces). It comes in unscented, lavender, and vanilla mint; the fragranced versions aren't oppressive or fake-smelling (just essential oils), but I'd obviously recommend the unscented given what you've said. Don't be afraid of the "moisturizing" that the title talks about - I have used it on my face with no break-outs or other issues. It feels very light and clean to me. It's also gotten high reviews on MakeupAlley; one commenter said that it foams in hard water, unlike castile soap (e.g. Dr Bronners), so keep your water type in mind as you read all the above suggestions from other commentators.

It has neem in it, and is gluten and SLS free if you're concerned with that sort of thing. It is free of animal testing, and - at least according to Whole Foods - it is fair trade and profits go back to a Togolese collective that helps the community.. But anyway, I think it fits your criteria - not scented, no residue, and cheap for the volume you get. Worth a sniff at least, in my opinion!
posted by UniversityNomad at 7:48 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Arg, apparently Method discontinued the body wash I recommended. Anyway, still check out the shower gel selection at the Bed Bath & Beyond if you have one by you, because I haven't seen Method's body wash anywhere else. I haven't smelled their newer fragrances. Olive Leaf was a nice, mild scent along the lines of "herbal."

As a general tip, if you're not happy with anything they sell at CVS/Rite Aid/whatever but don't want any higher-end boutique stuff, BB&B has a big selection of basic bath products and they sell them cheaper than the chain drug stores do. I ended up with this Method stuff because I was having the same problem you were.
posted by wondermouse at 7:53 PM on September 12, 2011

Soap will dissolve into water when heated gently. You could make your own soap "gel" by adding water to (veg peeler) shavings from an Ivory bar, which is famously 99.44% pure (and unscented).

I've always wondered why they don't also sell it as a liquid.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:56 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Not a water issue but -- anyway, it was a while ago, and I think I have confused a few things and explained poorly. Bronner's does not leave a "residue," something I have to wash off, but it still seems rinsability is poor as I am left with whatever it is in bar soap that clings to my skin and leaves it feeling itchy &c.)
posted by kmennie at 7:56 PM on September 12, 2011

Dr Bronner's!
posted by punkrockrat at 8:13 PM on September 12, 2011

At the risk of cluttering the thread, I just wanted to clarify that the Everyday Shea body wash is around $10 online, or slightly less, and is around $13.50-15.00 with shipping factored in, although you can sometimes get free shipping from some of the online sellers. Just didn't want to give the impression that it's $14 online PLUS shipping! Not sure how much it is at Whole Foods, but I'd imagine in the $10-$14 dollar range...
posted by UniversityNomad at 8:22 PM on September 12, 2011

I use Ivory Simply Aloe when I am feeling like "JESUS GOD I JUST WANT SOAP."

If you find the aloe version to be too strongly scented, there's also plain version of Ivory Simply that smells just like original Ivory bar soap.
posted by thisjax at 9:30 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just putting in another vote for Aveeno products. I struggle with eczema, heat rashes and fragrance/dye sensitivities and Aveeno products don't make me break out at all. I use the moisturizing body wash and haven't noticed any residue and none of their products have any major scent that I've noticed.
posted by MuChao at 9:33 PM on September 12, 2011

I noticed the other day that Trader Joe's has a tea tree body wash to coordinate with their tea tree shampoo and conditioner. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising. I usually use Dr Bronner's, as many have suggested above. I mix the peppermint half and half with the unscented baby, so it's not so tingly. It also disguises the smell maudlin mentions above.
posted by annsunny at 9:37 PM on September 12, 2011

Paula's Choice All-Over Hair and Body Shampoo is fragrance-free and really good. Mail order only, $15 for 16 oz.
posted by conrad53 at 10:20 PM on September 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might think this is gross but... I went almost 13 years without using any soap whatsoever. I used Shampoo maybe once every week or 6 days. (You have to build up this intolerance--so, if you currently shampoo daily, skip a day... then next week skip two, then use it every second day, then ... etc.). I still showered every day and wet my hair, I just didn't use any product.

The exception to the soap rule was if there was something specific I was trying to remove--that is, if I could feel something or see something that friction and water couldn't remove. So, if I'd been gardening, or had had sex, or spilled something on myself--then I would use soap in the specific area in question.

I can tell you that I never once had a person tell me they noticed or that I smelled. I repeatedly had girlfriends freak out about how soft my skin was. When I told people that I didn't use soap--that that was my secret--not one person believed me and many would go into my bathroom and check.

I know, it sounds gross, but it actually works--and with the exception of your desire for lather, it fits all your criteria.
posted by dobbs at 11:03 PM on September 12, 2011

I love Dr. Bronner's. I use the orange-citrus one most of the time, but sometimes go for the peppermint -- the scent is uber-strong while you're using it, but it doesn't linger on your skin afterward.
posted by sarcasticah at 11:55 PM on September 12, 2011

One note about Dr. Bronner's, which is, in my mind, the One Soap to Rule Them All: the soap itself has a strong, pleasant smell, but the smell, at least of the peppermint flavor that I use, does not linger on my body after the shower, so don't DQ it on #1 just because it smells strong in the bottle.

Also, do DILUTE! as it says on the bottle, both so that it lasts longer and so that it doesn't dry out your skin.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:54 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most of these suggestions are fragranced. Dr. Bronner's also really doesn't lather that well. It really sounds to me like you just want unscented liquid hand soap. Soft Soap and Carex are good, but any clear, unfragranced hand soap should later well, not leave you moisturized and won't smell. And they come in a handy pump bottle.

(I started using anti-bacterial Soft Soap to clean piercings years ago and I still use it or Carex as all-purpose shower wash).
posted by Polychrome at 4:22 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been using 365 Everyday Value Fragrance-Free Body Wash from Whole Foods as a face wash and a body wash for years.

1) No scent at all;
2) Washes off beautifully;
3) You have to use one of those shower puffs for optimal foaminess, otherwise it foams just a little bit if you work it with your hands because hey, no laurel sulfate! But might not be foamy enough for a foam lover...
4) You get a big bottle for under $10, but I don't remember the exact price something like $8.

Make sure to get the blue bottle - that's the fragrance free, they also have lavender, orange and other nonsense. I wonder if Whole Foods gives out samples, would make sense to ask for a dollop to try.
posted by Shusha at 7:06 AM on September 13, 2011

The two soaps that I use are Dr. Bronner's, which many have mentioned, and Vermont Soap Organics. Both of these meet your criteria, in my opinion. Vermont Soap is thicker and more soapy than Dr. Bronner's and may give you more of the lather you seek.

I have also used Cetaphil, but find that it really does not lather very well at all and while it's not all that expensive, it seems like I run through it really fast. A bottle of Dr. Bronner's will last a very long time, especially if you dilute it.
posted by doomtop at 8:10 AM on September 13, 2011

Also, it's worth mentioning that using soap on your skin, even if you dilute it, will dry out your skin. If you want to have soft skin, you need to moisturize it. You don't have to get a soap that also moisturizes, that is just convenient. You could use a separate moisturizer after your shower.
posted by doomtop at 8:15 AM on September 13, 2011

If you have a Middle Eastern grocery store near you, check out the soaps there. I get one that is nominally olive oil-scented, but it doesn't smell of anything at all and it just gives me that nice squeaky clean feeling.
posted by vickyverky at 8:27 AM on September 13, 2011

Seconding Body Essence with tea tree oil and olive oil. Available here.
posted by cranberry_nut at 8:43 AM on September 13, 2011

Aveeno has a totally unscented version which I use. It's moisturizing but doesn't leave a film.
posted by radioamy at 9:13 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

i'm a big fan of JASON's fragrance free line. the shampoo totally rules too.
posted by tealsocks at 1:25 PM on September 13, 2011

Ivory makes a good unscented bodywash.
posted by twblalock at 4:11 PM on September 13, 2011

Oh! Haven't tried, but "New Directions Aromatics" sells washes (and other stuff) meant for people to add scents and scrubbing things and whatever frou-frou to. I imagine they might be pretty good as is, though I haven't tried it. They have a Shower Gel Base Ultra Premium (SLS Free), SLS Free Shower Gel Cosmetic Base, Shower Gel Cosmetic Base. Lots of reviews; you can get a bit of a feel for the products.
posted by kmennie at 10:18 PM on September 13, 2011

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