What moisturizers are used in body wash?

A young Indian woman washes her face. She has creams and toner next to her wash bowl.
Unusual Skin Care Ingredients Image Gallery Different body washes contain different moisturizers, and some contain none at all. See pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.

In today's time-crunched society, multitasking is the norm -- making the bed while brushing your teeth, putting on makeup while driving -- and like it or not, doing two things at once is an easy way to save a few minutes here and there. This focus on time saving has even been extended to skin care products such as cleansers and moisturizers. Moisturizing body wash enables you to moisturize and cleanse the skin at the same time, eliminating multiple bottles and maximizing the benefit of one formula.

Cleansing is necessary to remove dirt, bacteria and other irritants from the skin -- yet cleansing also can strip the skin of natural oils that keep it soft and flexible. To make up for this loss, you need to moisturize. Moisturizers typically come in the form of a topical cream or oil and work best when applied to the skin within three minutes of bathing [source: Mayo Clinic]. This process requires the use of two different products -- a cleanser and a moisturizer -- but using a moisturizing body wash can help you eliminate a step and save some cash.


Moisturizing body washes allow you to cleanse the skin and trap water in the skin at the same time [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. These body washes include moisturizing ingredients, such as glycerin and almond oil, which have been mixed with water. But not all body washes contain moisturizing ingredients. Read on to learn more.

Types of Body Wash Moisturizers

If you read the label of your body wash, you'll probably find a long list of difficult-to-pronounce ingredients. But if you see any of the following ingredients, your body wash contains a moisturizer:

Many of these ingredients -- such as soybean oil -- are lipids, or oil-soluble molecules, that replace natural oils removed from the skin during cleansing [sources: Bruno, Case]. Other ingredients are emollients and humectants. Emollients -- such as petrolatum -- remain in the outermost layer of the skin and act as lubricants, while humectants -- such as glycerin -- help trap moisture in the skin [source: Mayo Clinic].


On the next page, learn how lipids, emollients and humectants are combined to create skin-softening body wash.


Chemistry of Body Wash Moisturizers

The chemistry involved in producing a moisturizing body wash is different from producing either an individual cleanser or an individual moisturizer -- the two skin-care products must be fused together by creating an emulsion, which is a mixture of water and oil [source: Case].

Oil and water don't naturally mix, so a chemical called a surfactant is added to the mix. Surfactants bind to both water and oil, thereby linking the two ingredients -- that is, until you bathe [source: Case]. When you lather up, the moisturizing oils break down and are deposited into the skin [source: Draelos]. So, with one emulsion you're able to cleanse the skin with both water and cleansing ingredients -- while moisturizing the skin with oil-based or oil-soluble moisturizers.


A typical moisturizing cream is 50 percent water and 50 percent oil, but a body wash needs to retain its liquid cleansing properties. [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. So, in the case of moisturizing body washes, the ratio must be changed to incorporate more water than oil. Your skin needs oil to be properly moisturized, but slathering on mineral oil is a messy process. An emulsion, which is half water, goes on cleanly, and the water evaporates, leaving behind a layer of oil.

Keep reading to learn what other ingredients may be added to your moisturizing body wash.


Benefits of Body Wash Moisturizers

In addition to moisturizing and cleansing benefits, some moisturizing body washes also include vitamin E and other vitamins and minerals. These ingredients can add beneficial nutrients to the skin in addition to water and oils.

If you have sensitive skin, moisturizing body washes may not be the best choice for you because they often contain fragrances and preservatives. Preservatives are used to prevent bacteria growth, and fragrances mask the odor of chemical ingredients -- but fragrances and preservatives can irritate sensitive skin or cause an allergic reaction. However, moisturizing body washes are typically less harsh than soaps and scrubs, so if you have sensitive skin, try a body wash that's organic and fragrance-free [sources: Mayo Clinic, Unilever]. Although they're less harsh than soaps, body washes can still eliminate dirt, bacteria and other irritants from the skin. Plus, moisturizing body washes can trap water and essential oils in the skin -- something soap can't do [source: Draelos].


Thanks to modern science, moisturizing body washes can perform the jobs that soap and lotion used to do separately. Check out the links on the next page to learn more about moisturizing body wash.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Bathing and Moisturizing Guidelines." (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/bathing.html
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Daily Skin Care Essential to Control Atopic Dermatitis." (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/daily_care.html
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/winter_skin.html
  • Bruno, Karen. "What's New: Advances in Body Skin Care." WebMD. 8/5/09. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/body-lotion-cream
  • Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for a Soft Body." WebMD. 8/6/09. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/moisturizer-toning-cream
  • Case, Marianne. "The Chemistry Behind Moisturizers." Illumin. 12/4/03. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://illumin.usc.edu/article.php?articleID=118&page=2
  • The Chemistry Store. "Foaming Bath Butter." (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.chemistrystore.com/Melt_Pour_Soap-Foaming_Bath_Butter.html
  • Draelos, Zoe Diana. "Clinical Situations Conducive to Proactive Skin Health and Anti-Aging Improvement." Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.nature.com/jidsp/journal/v13/n1/full/jidsymp20089a.html
  • Jaret, Peter. "Men's Grooming: Skin Care for Your Body." WebMD. 7/21/09. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/men-body
  • Johnson & Johnson. "Johnson's Softwash." (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.johnsonsforyou.com/products_mois.jsp?id=1#spot
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin." 12/16/08. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/SN00042/NSECTIONGROUP=2
  • Mayo Clinic. "Skin Care: Top 5 Habits for Healthy Skin." 12/28/07. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-care/SN00003/NSECTIONGROUP=2
  • Unilever. "What Does New Dove Body Wash Do for Skin That Others Don't?" WebMD. (Accessed 8/29/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/one-body-wash-is-different