One of the many lessons this year has taught us is a renewed appreciation for life’s little essentials. It’s always good to feel clean and refreshed but the humble shower is less about removing the daily grime these days and more about 10 minutes of relative calm and relaxation in a stressful world. Washing away the day has become more about self care than sanitation, especially with less frequent holidays, massages and therapies.
Whether you call it the body wash or shower gel, the liquid-gel has become an omnipresent part of the modern gentleman’s grooming routine, alongside other essentials such as a cleansing face wash and regenerative eye cream.
The best of the new generation of liquid body cleansers boast superlative fragrances, made with natural ingredients and without unnecessary chemicals, served in recycled plastic or recyclable aluminium – all without any creatures being harmed in the process – and can elevate your daily ablutions to a more enjoyable level.
It’s important to note that body-specific shower gels shouldn’t be used on the face or hair on a daily basis. Instead, opt for a specialist face wash and haircare products designed specifically for the unique needs of each.
The choice of shower gels for men is of course endless, but what makes a good body wash? Nearly all shower gels on the market today are pH-balanced. Why is this important? A poorly-balanced skin pH can result in wrinkles, inflammation, sensitivity and even acne, as a result of a disrupted skin barrier (also known as the acid mantle).
This barrier is crucial as it’s responsible for keeping in lipids and moisture while blocking germs, pollution, toxins and bacteria. In an ideal world your skin would be slightly acidic, at a 5.5 pH-balance for optimal performance. If skin is too alkaline it becomes dry and sensitive. Conversely, too acidic means breakouts of spots and acne. For reference, a lower number indicates increasing acidity whereas a higher number indicates increased alkalinity.
Furthermore, with the basics of pH-balance covered, shower gels differentiate themselves using a variety of ingredients from herbal-infusions to aromatherapy benefits. Many contain menthol, particularly within the men’s bath and body sphere, due to its stimulating and refreshing scent.
Naturally, many brands experiment with aroma, lather and texture. Having sampled everything under the sun here at Ape, the variance in quality is quite startling. Especially relevant are affordable supermarket brands, which often include cheaper, potentially skin-irritating ingredients – so it’s a good idea to pay a little more.
Key Ingredients To Swerve
Sulphates are not harmful but they can strip the skin of vital moisture. Often listed as sodium laureth – or lauryl – sulphate, sulphate or SLS, ALS or SLES, these chemicals are responsible for creating lather and suds aplenty, but they do not contribute to the cleansing action. Sulphate-free body washes cleanse just as efficiently, with less foam, often using alternative ingredients derived from coconuts. Go sulphate- free if you have very dry/sensitive or eczema/dermatitis-prone skin and you may see an improvement.
Commonly listed under DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine), Ethanolamine is a potential allergen and irritant which can persist in the human body. It’s more common in hair products with bleach – and not particularly kind to hair – but it can pop up in shower gels from time to time.
Typically found in fragrances, phthalates are endocrine disrupters that can potentially interfere with hormones, impacting fertility.
Parabens are artificial antimicrobial preservatives used to extend the shelf life and purity of personal care products by reducing the growth of bacteria and mould. Also called isoproplyparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, methylparaben. These are known endocrine disrupters that can potentially interfere with hormones, impacting fertility.
Otherwise known as formaldehyde, unsurprisingly, this can cause major irritation to the skin.
Formerly found in some anti-bacterial-based body wash, hand wash and toothpaste, Triclosan persists in the environment and hinders our wider fight against antibiotic resistance.
The Best Men’s Shower Gels & Body Washes
A good men’s shower gel should look after the skin, smell fantastic, be highly concentrated, incorporate high-quality ingredients and generally offer good value for money. So, without further ado, it’s time to lather up with the best body washes the male grooming world has to offer right now.
Horace Orange Blossom & Petitgrain Shower Gel
Do you love the smell of Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino but don’t fancy the price quite as much? We’re here to tell you can waft around in a similar scent for a fraction of the price, from a user-friendly bottle (because that awkward square TF one is anything but). The all-natural ingredients list includes petit grain essential oil and witch hazel water to calm red or irritated skin.
Harry’s Redwood Shower Gel
Subscription king Harry’s has added a new fragrance, Redwood, to its popular range of affordable shower gels (we love the Shiso and Fig too). Inspired by the soaring cedar and sequoia forests of the North Pacific coastline, it’s ideal for some indoor shinrin yoko or forest bathing.
Sulphate and paraben free, this fresh, woody cleanser will wash away dirt and grime, without leaving the skin feeling dry or your bank balance too low.
Bulldog Black Pepper & Vetiver Shower Gel
If you want more bang for your buck and don’t want to compromise on quality, Bulldog gives arguably the best value for money with its generous 500ml, bulk-buy body cleansers. The fragrance is 100% natural, the bottle is recycled plastic and proving that you don’t need to spend mega bucks to live a greener lifestyle.
This earthy, spicy scent of peppery vetiver will help warm your cockles on a cold winter’s morning or evening.
The Ritual of Hammam Foaming Shower Gel
Steam room off limits due to social distancing? Or just don’t fancy sitting in a sweatbox next to a semi-naked stranger? Recreate a rejuvenating spa experience in the comfort of your own home with this hammam-inspired foaming shower gel. The scent of rosemary and eucalyptus oil help conjure the purifying, reinvigorating sensations of a pore opening, lung clearing steam clean.
Triumph & Disaster YLF Body Wash
A one-for-all cleanser dubbed ‘Your Little Friend’ because it can be used on the hair, body and even sub for shaving foam if you’re caught short. YLF contains skin helping argan oil, green tea, kawakawa extract and vitamin E with a very light scent of sandalwood and neroli.
Korres Guava Shower Gel
Delivering a deliciously invigorating blend of tropical fruits, this creamy-foam shower gel featuring wheat proteins and Althea extract helps maintain the skin’s natural moisture levels and leaves you feeling fresher than a Starburst.
Molton Brown Re-Charge Black Pepper Shower Gel
Molton Brown’s best-selling shower gel and it’s easy to see why – it offers an incredibly manly scent with a rich and satisfying lather. No surprise, then, that it’s popular with men across the globe and the winner of countless industry awards. The price is more than reasonable when you consider it has a concentrated formula which lasts a long, long time. Use sparingly.
Malin+Goetz Rum Body Wash
This Rum Body (+ Hand) Wash, from science-meets-nature experts Malin+Goetz, is designed to gently yet effectively purify and balance all skin types. The foaming cleansing gel synthesises 0.5% warm Dark Rum EDT fragrance with protein amino acids and natural glycerin, leaving skin thoroughly cleansed, hydrated and smelling fantastic.
It produces a rich lather and rinses off without residue whilst being non-irritating, drying or stripping the skin, reducing epidermal stress.
Baxter of California Invigorating Body Wash
A super-hydrating shower gel that gently washes away dirt and debris without stripping skin of moisture. Featuring bracing notes of zesty Italian lime, bergamot and pomegranate, it’s great for jump-starting your morning routine or post-workout showers.
Kiehl’s Bath And Shower Liquid Body Cleanser
A truly masculine-smelling shower gel from Manhattan’s oldest pharmacy (now part of L’Oreal). A rich texture which produces a generous lather. This smells like the gentlemen of yesteryear, very manly.
retaW Fragrance Shampoo For Body And Soul
Anything with “a fragrance for your body and soul” in the product title will instantly capture our attention. Combine this with the richest lather you’ve ever seen, retaW’s spicy NATURAL MYSTIC scent, potent organic ingredients and you get an incredible shower gel worthy of any bathroom.
Heinrich Barth Skin Softening Body Cleanser No. 04 Dakar
Named after the prominent 19th Century German explorer of Africa, Heinrich Barth is a worthy newcomer to our shower stable. Made in Italy and free from PEGs, SLES, parabens, silicone and mineral oils, this tightly edited skincare range is predominantly unscented, with the exception of two amazing shower gels, named after exotic destinations: Mykynos and Dakar. The latter is a warming cocktail of tropical fruits and plants with extracts of vanilla, banana, mango, pineapple, papaya leaf and aloe.
Scandinavisk SKOG Body Wash
Danish brand Scandinavisk makes a range of body washes inspired by the natural wonders of the Nordic countries: Fjord, Oy, Hav, Ro and Skog. It sounds like a name given to flat-pack furniture, but skog means “forest” in Swedish/ Norwegian and it has a clean, crisp scent of pine needles, fir cones, birch sap and woodland lily of the valley.
Scandinavisk uses recyclable bioplastic packaging made from sustainably farmed sugar cane, and creates fragrances using local spring water and certified vegan and organic natural ingredients.
Aēsop Citrus Melange Body Cleanser
The defacto signature of stylish bathrooms everywhere, Aesop has a new body cleanser with a pure medley of citrus, garnered from petit grain, lemon and grapefruit rind. Zingy and zesty – it’s refreshing like a glass of pressed OJ with a side of grapefruit first thing in the morning.
Acqua Di Parma x La DoubleJ Blu Mediterraneo Shower Mousse Fico di Amalfi
A collaboration between Italy’s finest fragrance house and swanky home label La DoubleJ was always a going to be a match made in interiors heaven. Known for its bold prints, the La DoubleJ takeover of the Blu Mediterraneo range is an Instagram-friendly bath and body range for home decor fans everywhere.
Made with olive, sweet almond and grape seed oils and a lush, fig laden scent, this soft shower mousse is a mental mini break to the steep cliffs of the Amalfi Coast.
Jo Malone London Cypress & Grapevine Exfoliating Shower Gel
Never one to shy away from superlative shower experiences, Jo Malone has an exfoliating shower gel, an ancillary to new intense scent, Cypress & Grapevine. Smooth the skin with extract of bamboo and smell fresh with this warm, woody chypre in the style of classic masculine cologne.
DS & Durga Body Wash Rose Atlantic
New York perfumers, DS & Durga, has branched out into body care recently, bringing its superior scents to three fragranced body cleansers; Debaser, Bowmakers and Rose Atlantic. Rose Atlantic harnesses lemon oil, salt water and rose accord for pure, East Coast beach vibes. It contains argan oil, Vitamin C and aloe to help keep skin happy and healthy.
Sisley Eau de Campagne Gentle Bath and Shower Gel
Created by renowned perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena (of Terre D’Hermès fame), Eau de Campagne is a transportive scent that conjures up rolling fields of lush green; lemon, tomato leaf, basil and oakmoss – it’s like shelling broad beans in a summer garden. Sales have been strong since 1974 and still smells modern. Uplifting and gender neutral, it’s steep but worth it to smell this great – if only for those special occasions.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Masculin Pluriel Scented Shower Cream
When you just want to douse yourself in a fabulous scent, may we suggest this scented shower cream from top perfumer, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. This woody, leathery fougére is a very sophisticated take on a classic barbershop aroma, with an effortlessly luxury look.