While body washes are more gentle than traditional bar soaps, they're not as effective at removing dirt, oil and odor from the skin. Most bar soaps contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a harsher detergent that washes away dirt and oil. Many deodorant and antibacterial soaps contain triclosan or triclocarban, which kills bacteria on the skin. But if you have dry or sensitive skin, avoid these soaps because they can cause dryness, causing skin to be itchy and flaky [source: Downs]. There is also some debate about whether these ingredients kill enough bacteria to be beneficial and about possible side effects from their use.
Soaps that contain synthetic detergents, or syndets, can clean the skin without causing excessive drying. These syndets are mild cleansing agents that are often found in beauty bars and hypoallergenic soaps -- they're created with less acid to decrease skin irritation. But even washing too long or too frequently with mild cleansers can cause irritation [source: Draelos].
If you have oily skin or acne-prone skin, you may not need the added moisture of most liquid body washes. Cleansers that contain glycolic acid or salicylic acid are good choices for oily skin -- they gently exfoliate the skin's surface while reducing sebum buildup [source: Web MD]. However, oil is produced to protect the skin from irritants, so using strong cleansers can actually cause the skin to produce more oil [source: Web MD]. And soaps that contain acne-controlling ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, can also have an unintended side effect -- they may stimulate oil production by drying the skin [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society].
For more information on body washes and other cleansers see the links on the following page.