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The Best Hand and Body Wash for Dry Skin

This soap-free, fragrance-free oil cleanser from Avène will soothe even the most reactive skin.

by Claire Carusillo

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By September 2020, I’d run out of things to talk about with my dog, Mars. He cares very little about skincare, my sole passion besides him, and is covered in a thick layer of coarse black fur. So I made an appointment with my dermatologist to discuss my most nagging pandemic skin concerns: my bloody knuckles from all the hand sanitizer, my forearms scalded raw by hot water, my scaly wrists from all that, plus sleeve chafing.

She told me to start washing my hands with Avene XeraCalm A.D. Cleansing Oil. That’s a bit of a misnomer: It’s not really an oil, but rather a silky, soap-free gel that washes off in water without any residue or stickiness.

First, I parked the bottle at my kitchen sink, and then it migrated into the bathroom, and then into my shower, where I’ve started using it as a hand wash, a face wash, and a body wash. Even when I’m not burning my fingerprints off with hot water to lull myself into a false sense of control during an unprecedented global pandemic, I tend to run dry. Avene Xera Calm is, bloody hands down, the best all-purpose body cleanser I’ve ever used. There’s no squeaky clean-ness to this formula, no sting, no post-shower flakiness. It’s just smooth moisture enveloping the entire body. I feel like this is what beauty bloggers are talking about when they talk about restoring the acid mantle. (Plus, it’s accepted by the National Eczema Association, which means it’s certified free of any potential irritants.)

I would never deign to use a scented face wash or a scented hand cream, but using an unscented body wash did take some getting used to. How did I know I was clean, especially during the Covid era, if I didn’t have a cartoon trail of coriander, cedarwood, hinoki, and any other earthly element trailing behind me as I walked? But now, I’m a total convert to the neutrality of Xera Calm. You don’t need a scented body wash, anyway. And the dog certainly doesn’t care.

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