Sense and Sensitivity

The best shower gels for sensitive skin

Judy Johnson 21 May 2015
Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

1 / 10

The best shower gels for sensitive skin

Showers and baths are frankly very boring when you have sensitive skin . There are no bubbles, no bath bombs or ‘invigorating’ shower gels which claim to awaken your senses - because for we sensitive folk, they’d only awaken our reactive skin, giving the kind of tingling feeling that is not welcome whatsoever .

But of course showering is indeed a necessity and an everyday occurrence that you can’t get away from unless you wish to scare people off - plus, regular bathing can actually soothe the skin particularly if you stick to cooler temperatures. Never have a hot shower if you’re sensitive; you’ll just encourage the skin to become inflamed. It's also the one type of skin care that doesn't have to sink into your skin, so you can be a little more adventurous.

I’ve handpicked a few brands which allow for safe showering, whether delicately fragrant or reassuringly fragrance-free , in the hope of making it just a little more interesting when you step under the water…

2 / 10

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Syndet Cleansing Body Cream Gel

I’m not sure you could ask for much more from a sensitive skin-friendly shower gel - this offering from La Roche-Posay has it all. My favourite of the bunch, this creamy gel formulation contains SLES (the lesser evil of the foaming agents out there) so it lathers up nicely while gently cleansing the skin. With glycerine, shea butter and niacinamide to support the skin barrier  and no fragrance or soap, it’s a winner.

£9.50, Buy online

3 / 10

Eau Thermale Avene Xeracalm AD Oil

I’ll get the labels out of the way first: fragrance-free, paraben-free, soap-free, alcohol-free and non-comedogenic. This very fluid, oil-like formula is a little tricky to use mid-shower - it has a pump bottle which is great for hygiene but makes for a slippery task. However, once you have the product in your hands, it ever-so-gently cleanses with no foam to be seen, so you’re left with smooth skin without a hint of dryness. As gentle as shower products come.

£15.50, Buy online

4 / 10

Sanex Zero Sensitive Skin Shower Gel

It’s fair to say I’m probably Sanex’s best customer, at least for this product; I use this often and have done since my late teens as it's the most widely-available fragrance-free option. I do have a bone to pick with Sanex, and that’s with its packaging - many of its gels state 0% because they’re free of certain ingredients but this is the only one that’s fragrance-free, which is the clincher for me. A little more clarity is needed for those who don’t scrutinise their labels, but other than that it’s a great, lathering gel which leaves you feeling fresh and reaction-free.

£2.29, Buy online

5 / 10

Sophie La Girafe Hair and Body Wash

For those wanting a more natural option, this 2-in-1 wash is ideal for any age. Created by the teething toy brand all parents will know well, the 99% natural ingredients include oat milk, a known skin soother, glycerin and cotton extract, with no SLS. A family must-have.

£11.99, Buy online

6 / 10

Bioderma Atoderm PP Ultra Rich Foaming Gel

Aside from the shock of the bright blue colour of the gel (strong colour or scent is always scary if you’re sensitive), this shower gel is a pleasure to use. It lathers up perfectly due to the SLES and is free from both fragrance and preservatives; in fact, the ingredients list is refreshingly quite short and includes skin barrier-supporting niacinamide too.

£8.20, Buy online

7 / 10

MixNature Shower Gel

Ever wanted to make your own beauty products? Well now you can, with the help of MixNature. Free from SLS, SLES, colourants, parabens, mineral oils, and propylene glycol, MixNature's products are made to order - simply log on, pick your product and select the ingredients you'd like in the formula. I made my own skin-calming recipe using their natural ingredients menu (the most fun you will ever have shopping for beauty online, believe me) and the result is a lathering, soothing shower gel that I know I can trust my skin with. Priceless!

From £5.60, Buy online

8 / 10

Elemis Skin Nourishing Milk Bath

OK, this isn’t *technically* a shower gel but rules are there to be broken and this one breaks them all with style. The elegant packaging and incredible aroma are not something I see often for sensitive skin, but inside is a nourishing formula containing milk protein, oat extract and camellia oil that leaves skin feeling super silky. I’d advise a patch test first - depending on your sensitivities you might be wary of the essential oils (it contains linalool and citronellol), plus fragrance is quite high up in the ingredients list, so if you’re using in the bath you might think twice. But if your sensitivities or allergies lay elsewhere this is a real treat come bath or shower time for a spa-like experience. It’s also SLS-, SLES- and mineral oil-free.

£42, Buy online

9 / 10

Dove DermaSeries Ultra Caring Body Cleanser

I’ve been a fan of Dove’s generally gentle products for years, but for sensitive folk the more premium DermaSeries range is where it’s at. Launched in 2014, it targets particularly dry skin to repair the barrier and soothe it back to health. This shower cream is more like a lotion - it doesn’t lather as much as some but it is free from fragrance, parabens and sulfates, and instead feels very moisturising on the skin with its combination of glycerin and lipids.

£16, Buy online

10 / 10

Aromatherapy Associates Relax Body Wash

One for the natural product seekers who don’t suffer at the hands of essential oils; this naturally fragrant body wash is more gentle than it seems thanks to its inclusion of aloe vera. The brand’s ethos of course means there’s no synthetic fragrances, SLS or petrochemicals to be seen, and the scent really does soothe the senses after a long day. I’m wary of using strong essential oils in most products, but if there’s one place you’re going to be brave then the shower cubicle is it, as the product won’t be on your skin for too long. Patch test, and enjoy.

£26, Buy online