A basic, moisturising, sensitive-friendly, and usually unscented body wash + one of those “bath lily” pouffeee things, or a face-cloth.
Currently: Everyday Shea unscented moisturising body wash (made by Alaffia)
Some other recent favourites:
- A-Derma have good basic all-over cleansers, all with oaty extracts. The kids’ cleansers (blue/white packaging), the Avoine Rhealba soap-free foaming gel cleanser, the Exoméga, and the shower oil.
- Allergenics Shower Face & Body Wash: quite good, but too runny – possibly due to high aloe vera gel content – and ran out fast
- Avalon Organics fragrance-free shampoo
- Aveeno: They’re very far from the most ethical company on the planet (OK, some of the older products are OK, that is, those formulated before the J&J take-over), but it must be said that Aveeno make an excellent fragrance-free body-wash. It’s also good in the bath; as are their assorted oat products. Not as good, concentrated, and cheap as making one’s own oaty stuff – basically, fine-ground oats in an old stocking/pop-sock/part of dismembered pair of tights (a.k.a. “hose”), stuck over bath-tap for a bath or else rubbed over oneself in the shower. The shower version, however, is not very practical. Especially first thing in the morning.
- Avène Cold Cream Cleanser The 400 ml pump bottle, online from France, works out a similar price to drugstore standards (E45 etc.).
- Avène TriXéra+ Sélectiose cleanser: another good creamy unscented basic.
- Dead Sea minerals: but be careful, as there are 101 Dead Sea companies around selling stuff that’s massively scented. I have been stung so often by these it’s not funny; inc. one of my most spectacular cases of contact dermatitis, in under a minute, complete with red swelling, and very public: at one of those temporary stalls in a very chic mall that will remain unnamed–let’s just say I’ve been approached, harassed, and pestified in major malls from the west coast of the US and Canada all the way to, let’s see, east to Turkey; north to Sweden, south to Mexico and Morocco.
- Desert Essence fragrance-free body wash, also their fragrance-free shampoo
- Earth Science fragrance-free shampoo
- Elave Body Wash: Excellent basic cleanser, mild, unscented, in huuuuge bottle. But a bit drying.
- E45 especially the oily shower stuff; several other decent cleansers from them, good on sensitive, irritable, etc. skin.
- Everyday Shea unscented moisturising body wash: lovely, creamy, leaves skin soft and smooth.
- Jason Aloe Vera Satin Shower Jason is one of the few scented ones I’ve used and neither reacted to nor disliked the smell. Also, the Ale Vera version is far superior to the fragrance-free: in texture, cleaning power, softening and moisturising, and indeed scent (though I disliked the other scents available)
- Lavera Neutral and Babies & Kids Neutral cleansers
- L’Occitane Hand & Body Wash with 5% shea butter and oat milk: really lovely – way cheaper than their regular shower stuff, and with a better texture and more moisturising (on me). So mild and gentle, also fine as a face wash. But hard to find, and has just been changed (main change seems to be 500 ml reduced to 300 ml + a price hike, boo hiss).
- Paula’s Choice All-Over Hair & Body Shampoo: the best unfragranced, moisturising, concentrated, non-irritable, cruelty-free wash I found when in the U.S.
- St Ives: some of their body washes are nicely moisturising, some smell better/less and some worse, no reactions, fairly “good” company, and has the virtue of cheapness. Easier to find in North America (and bigger range) than Europe. Best one to my nose: Collagen. The oaty one looks good on the ingredients-list, but smells rank – nauseatingly over-sweet and phoney.
- Simple: Various moisturising unfragranced body washes, and very decent new range for the more derm-challenged…
- Supermarket and chemist own-brands (UK): Boots, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug, Tesco, Waitrose.
Aldi and Lidl sometimes have fragrance-free stuff too; more usually not–at least some fragrance–but I’ve sometimes had success with stuff from them claiming to be more sensitive-friendly and less scented. Sometimes requires checking directly with the company for full ingredients.
- things containing clay (kaolin, French clay) can sometimes be good
- things containing oats or oatmeal–but not scrubby bits
- and, last but not least, various unfragranced moisturising shampoos: especially if (like Paula’s Choice) they weren’t quite moisturising and detangling enough on my hair. Or because I was travelling light and using multi-tasking stuff.
Some other scented ones that have neither killed me nor made me stronger, and left me more pleasantly-scented than before:
- Aveda especially that Caribbean one, Burt’s Bees Baby, Clarins, Crabtree & Evelyn especially the Jojoba, Floris, Hugo, John Masters Organics, L’Occitane Honey and Almond ranges, Molton Brown, Origins Ginger, Roger & Gallet (especially Gingembre), Shikai, Weleda Baby Calendula as well as the Rose stuff.
- on drier skin, especially if eczematic, and extra-specially-especially if in full eczematic mode: limit use of water on skin.
By a happy coincidence, this is also more eco-friendly as using less water can correspond to saving more water.
- if your water is hard, soften it. Seriously. This makes a massive difference to skin, and is a long-term saving compared to the expense of changing products all the time as nothing works, seeing derms, and so on…
Best long-term solution: at the point of entry of water to home. This is more expensive and more of a serious job. For professionals. If you’re renting, this will have to be cleared with your landlord.
Second-best: install filters on shower-head(s) and all taps.
(The very best: sorry, but move away to somewhere with better water…)
- turn off water when not actually using it to rinse oneself off: ex. when applying stuff to self and rubbing it around. Australians can do it in 3 minutes–no, there will be no dodgy jokes taking that statement out of context–I’ve made it in 5, happier and more comfortable with 10, and that was just turning off water when not rinsing myself.
- showers rather than long soaky baths (*weep*)
- substitute for scented bath: close bathroom door, do not put on extractor fan, fill basins with very hot water, add your bath-stuff (or plain EOs) of your choice, swirl basin around to release vapours, inhale… and then have your shower … and inhale again when you leave the shower. I admit, it’t not as good as sinking into a bath, but you get some of the fragrant benefits.
- if one must must must absolutely must have a bath: body-temperature water, even slightly cool; avoid anything scented in it (I’m embarrassingly irritation prone, and worse still, prone to yeast infections).
- Oatmeal in a sock over the tap, run the water through that.
- Yoghurt or milk powder in the bath is another nice trick: but will require a shower afterwards.
- The lovely spa-style (allegedly Japanese–do tell me if this is true or myth???): first a shower to clean oneself, then a short soak, then another shower. Actually more pleasant–aside from cleaner and so on–than just having a bath.
- in winter and colder weather, I’ll usually shower in the morning; often every other day, and with the heat on (cos of that whole cold and first thing in the morning business) but using minimal water as skin usually drier then. (Sometimes, ulp, effectively every third day, with a rapid cursory swipe-around on one of the days…)
- summer: twice, even if usually at least one of these showers is really short.
- keep water temperature as low as is comfortable, ideally close to body temperature (37 C). This is also better on finer skin, when the skin is physically thinner, blood vessels closer to the surface, and more prone to doing interesting things when overheated. Most current cultural conventions run against red- and violet-veined noses in ladies, and indeed in gents too. Quite aside from the whole not-very-good-for-you business.
- if I’m feeling very healthy, or brave, or both: burst of cold water at end of shower. Good for the heart, said my grand-father. Good for the hair, say many hairdressers (and assorted Old Wives). Given that I rarely feel very brave first thing in the morning, this doesn’t happen very often. But I’m just passing on the tip, fair’s fair. I can well imagine that
mostother people aremight well be braver than me.
- first thing in the morning does seem to wake me up.
I know, there’s that early-morning conundrum, which can keep you in a semi-somnolent state for at least another half-hour after the alarm has gone off: bathroom first, or coffee first?
No: the path of wisdom is as follows: teeth, then shower, then coffee and some form of breakfast, while wrapped up in large dressing-gown.
- some folks like all manner of things on sticks, scrubbers, loofahs, and so on. I don’t, being prone to scratching; then again, I don’t use steel wool either. Or proper Roman strigils.
- sponges: all very well except that whole getting-rank thing, and (real ones) the whole reef-wrecking thing
- lilies a.k.a. pouffes: ditto on rank-potential, can be boiled but this does eventually wreck them
- wash-cloth a.k.a. face-cloth a.k.a. flannel: good for low-grade exfoliation, can be thrown in wash fairly frequently, less of a bug-haven than other options, gentler than a lily (aaaah)
- hands are, as ever, great and cannot be over-estimated.
Especially a second pair of hands, invaluable for parts one can’t reach. Those sayings about reciprocal back-scratching? Good sound very practical reasons for them, and an entirely positive and benevolent original meaning.