Body odor is a problem we all face. It is our body’s natural response when we come into contact with bacteria in our environment. But just because something is natural doesn’t mean we have to deal with it. Fortunately, the odor control industry is powerful and vast.
Not all soaps contain the right ingredients to effectively fight BO. The best soaps for body odor are deodorant soaps, which are different from regular soaps because they contain antibacterial ingredients to reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin that can contribute to body odor, explains Brendan Camp, MDa Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
“Ordinary soap does not contain these antibacterial ingredients,” he adds. “Its sole purpose is to help cleanse the skin of dirt, oil and grime.” (That’s why, if you use regular soap, you might have smelly armpits even after applying deodorant.)
Of course, you can’t expect any soap, even deodorant soap, to completely eliminate your body odor. Throughout the day, sweat buildup and bacteria will continue to grow on the skin, notes Marisa Garshick, MDdermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York.
“When sweat and bacteria are washed away, it can help reduce body odor temporarily, but the odor can still recur,” she says. That’s why she recommends applying antiperspirant after toweling off, as a helpful way to prevent sweating, as well as deodorant, which can mask odors throughout the day.
The best soaps for body odor
We spoke with dermatologists to better understand the benefits of using deodorant soap over regular soap and how to find the right soap to fight body odor. We picked our top picks based on their recommendation and the following criteria:
- Effective ingredients
- Skin sensitivity
- Moisturizing power
Unpleasant body odor that doesn’t go away after using odor control products is worth calling your doctor, as it may be a sign of an underlying condition.
1. Best Overall: Duradry 3-Step System
This three-step system includes an antiperspirant gel that you apply at night, a deodorizing shower gel, and a deodorant/antiperspirant stick that you apply in the morning. Overall, it treats sweating and odor issues throughout the day, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying deodorant.
“The pm formula works while you sleep to minimize underarm sweat, while the am product will protect you throughout the day,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, dermatologist from Modern Dermatology of Connecticut. “The body wash deodorizes your skin, reduces surface bacteria and prepares the skin for morning and evening products to be applied.”
If you opt for the subscription service, you will receive new products in the mail every six weeks like clockwork.
Buy it: DuraDry.com;Price: $37.50 ($30 with subscription)
2. Best Cream Cleanser: CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
Although this cream cleanser is designed for the face, Dr. Garshick recommends it for use all over the body, especially if you’re looking to target odor and acne simultaneously.
Its main ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, is designed to fight acne, but it can also help fight body odor because it has antibacterial properties, she says.
“It helps that this cleanser also contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, so it doesn’t leave skin feeling irritated or dry,” she adds.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $11.97
3. Best Charcoal Soap: Megababe Space Bar Armpit Soap
As the name suggests, this soap is meant to be used in the armpits to help keep odor away. It contains activated charcoal, which helps remove impurities and also exhibits the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil.
It also contains a light dose of glycolic acid, which helps lightly exfoliate the skin, notes Dr. Robinson. “The soap absorbs and removes odor-causing bacteria and does so quite gently, making it a great choice for sensitive skin,” she says.
4. Best for Men: Dove Men+Care Shower Gel
If you’re looking for a body wash that’s antibacterial and made for men, here’s the one Dr. Garshick recommends. “This body wash helps remove bacteria without drying out the skin and can be used on the face, body, and hands,” she says. “It’s a lightweight formulation that’s also formulated with MicroMoisture technology to help lock in natural moisture.”
It has a strong scent akin to cologne, so make sure that’s what you’re looking for if you go that route.
(Note: Some manufacturers use gender-specific terms when marketing their products, but there’s usually no real difference between “men’s” or “women’s” body washes, other than fragrance, which comes down to personal preference.)
Although expensive and not specifically marketed as a “deodorizer,” Dr. Robinson points out that this soap has excellent antimicrobial benefits that can benefit body and foot odor.
“In addition to improving body odor, sports washing is great for treating all sorts of bacteria-related issues, including folliculitis, body acne, jock itch, and athlete’s foot,” she says. . “Lathering up for one to two minutes with every shower will remove dirt, sweat and oil to unclog pores and reduce the chance of odor-causing bacteria developing.”
6. Best for Athletes: Lululemon Anti-Odor Body Soap
Here is another deodorant soap made from charcoal powder to help remove oil from the skin. It is designed for those who are “on the move” and is formulated with 100% natural essential oils.
It is also free of sulfates and other ingredients that many people would rather not have in their personal care. It is lightly scented and has notes of eucalyptus and mint.
What to Look for in a Soap for Body Odor
Here are some features to look for when buying a body wash for body odor.
Dr. Robinson recommends looking for soap with antimicrobial ingredients, which can be chemical compounds like benzalkonium chloride or botanical compounds like tea tree oil or lemongrass.
“The soap should also include moisturizing benefits so the skin doesn’t become dehydrated and overly dry — these can include jojoba, coconut, sunflower or safflower oils,” she says.
Before buying body soap, it is important to know whether your skin is sensitive or not.
“Many soaps have a fragrance, which can dry out patients with very dry skin,” warns Karan Lal, MD, dermatologist from the Schweiger Dermatology Group. “Most patients are likely to have better body odor and skin health outcomes when using gentle cleansers.” (Look for statements such as “mild”, “fragrance-free” or “for sensitive skin” on the label.)
3. Unscented or Fragrance Free
If something isn’t scented, that doesn’t mean it’s fragrance-free; it just means it may have a masking scent, Dr. Garshick notes.
“If you have sensitive skin and are trying to avoid fragrances, it’s best to stick with a fragrance-free product rather than a fragrance-free one,” she says. “It’s important to remember that even fragrance-free products can cause potential irritation or sensitivity.”