Body odor is something we all deal with. It’s our bodies’ natural response when we come into contact with bacteria in our environment. But just because something is natural doesn’t mean we should have to deal with it. Luckily, the odor-fighting industry is mighty and large.
Not just any soap has the right ingredients to fight BO in an effective way. 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 may contribute to body odor, explains Brendan Camp, MD, a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
“A regular soap does not contain these antibacterial ingredients,” he adds. “Its sole purpose is to help clean the skin of dirt, oil and grime.” (That’s why, if you’re using regular soap, you might have smelly armpits even after applying deodorant.)
Of course, you can’t expect any soap — even a deodorant soap — to eliminate your body odor entirely. Throughout the day, sweat buildup and bacteria will continue to develop on the skin, notes Marisa Garshick, MD, dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York.
“When the sweat and bacteria is washed away, it can help to reduce body odor temporarily, but the odor can always recur,” she says. That’s why she recommends applying an antiperspirant after you towel off, as a helpful way to prevent sweat, as well as a deodorant, which can mask odor throughout the day.
The Best Soaps for Body Odor
We chatted with dermatologists to better understand the benefits of using a deodorant soap versus a regular soap and how to find the right soap to tackle body odor. We chose our top picks based on their recommendation and the following criteria:
- Effective ingredients
- Skin sensitivity
- Hydrating ability
Unpleasant body odor that doesn’t go away after using odor-fighting products is worth a call to your doctor, as it may be a sign of an underlying disease.
1. Best Overall: Duradry 3-Step System
This three-step system includes an antiperspirant gel you apply at night, a deodorizing body wash and a deodorant/antiperspirant stick you apply in the morning. All together, it addresses sweat and odor problems throughout the day, so you’re not having to worry about reapplying deodorant.
“The p.m. formula works while you sleep to minimize the sweat in your underarms, while the a.m. product will protect you throughout the day,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, a dermatologist with Modern Dermatology of Connecticut. “The body wash deodorizes your skin, reducing surface bacteria and priming the skin for the a.m. and p.m. products to be applied.”
If you opt for the subscription service, you’ll 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
While this cream cleanser is designed for the face, Dr. Garshick recommends it for use on the whole body, especially if you’re looking to simultaneously target odor and acne.
Its main ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, is designed to help with acne, but it may also help with body odor as it has antibacterial properties, she says.
“It is helpful that this cleanser also contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, so it won’t leave the skin feeling irritated or dry,” she adds.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $11.97
3. Best Charcoal Soap: Megababe Space Bar Underarm Soap
As the name suggests, this soap is meant to be used in your underarm area to help keep odor at bay. It contains activated charcoal, which helps draw away impurities and also features the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil.
It also contains a gentle dose of glycolic acid, which helps to lightly exfoliate the skin, notes Dr. Robinson. “The soap absorbs and washes away odor-causing bacterias and does so rather gently, making it a great choice for sensitive skin,” she says.
4. Best for Men: Dove Men+Care Body Wash
If you’re looking for a body wash that’s antibacterial and designed for use on men, here’s one Dr. Garshick recommends. “This body wash helps to eliminate bacteria without drying out the skin and can be used on the face, body and hands,” she says. “It is a light formulation that is also formulated with MicroMoisture technology to help lock in natural moisture.”
It does have a strong scent that’s akin to cologne, so be sure that’s what you’re looking for if you go this route.
(Note: Some manufacturers use gendered terms when marketing their products, but there’s typically no real difference between body washes “for men” or “for women” other than scent, which comes down to personal preference.)
Although pricey, and not specifically marketed as “deodorizing,” Dr. Robinson points out that this soap has excellent antimicrobial benefits that can benefit body and foot odor.
“In addition to improving body odor, the sport wash is great for addressing all sorts of bacteria-linked issues, including folliculitis, body acne, jock itch and athlete’s foot,” she says. “Lathering for one to two minutes each shower will remove dirt, sweat and oil to decongest pores and reduce the chances of odor-causing bacteria to thrive.”
6. Best for Athletes: Lululemon Anti-Stink Body Soap
Here’s another deodorant soap made using charcoal powder to help remove oil from the skin. It’s designed for those “on the move,” and is formulated with 100 percent natural essential oils.
It’s also free of sulfates and other ingredients that many people would prefer to not have in their personal care. It’s lightly scented and features notes of eucalyptus and mint.
What to Look for in a Soap for Body Odor
Here are some features to look for when shopping for a body wash for body odor.
Dr. Robinson recommends looking for a soap that contains antimicrobial ingredients, which may be chemical compounds like benzalkonium chloride or botanical ones like tea tree oil or lemongrass.
“The soap should also include moisturizing benefits so the skin does not 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 or not your skin is on the sensitive side.
“Many soaps have fragrance, which can be drying for patients with very dry skin,” warns Karan Lal, DO, FAAD, dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group and member of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology. “Most patients will likely have better results both in terms of body odor and skin health when using gentle cleansers.” (Look for claims like “gentle,” “fragrance-free” or “for sensitive skin” on the label.)
3. Unscented vs. Fragrance-Free
If something is unscented, it doesn’t mean it is fragrance-free; it simply means it may have a masking fragrance, notes Dr. Garshick.
“If you have sensitive skin and are trying to avoid fragrance, it is best to stick with a product that is fragrance-free, rather than something that is unscented,” she says. “It is important to remember that even fragrance-free products may cause some potential irritation or sensitivity.”