When we think of skincare, we tend to only think of it in terms of our face—everything else gets a quick rub of soap, and then we call it a day. But the rest of our body needs some TLC, too. In fact, it might need a lot more care than we can even imagine.

“People don’t realize that what you use in the shower actually really makes a difference for your skin health in general,” says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. “As dermatologists, we’re always trying to impart to our patients that actually, shower time is really important to skin health.”

That’s where choosing the right body wash comes into play. If you’re interested in upping your body care game, say hello to your new go-to: Dove Purely Pampering Shea Butter with Vanilla Body Wash.

Does the body wash we use really matter?

Washing your body—the right way, of course—is not just about cleaning off everyday sweat and grime. It is actually how you should start to hydrate your skin and fortify your skin barrier. Dr. Gohara says to think of the skin barrier like bricks and mortar: the bricks are our skin cells and the mortar is the glue that keeps moisture in and irritants out. Anything that strips away at the skin barrier is why we end up feeling dry.

That is why the key to an efficient cleanse is all in the body wash we use. She says that a harsh cleanser (like a sulfate-based one) is more likely to weaken the skin barrier, which will cause water to evaporate and damage the lipids responsible for skin feeling soft and smooth—a.k.a. ceramides. “Oftentimes the things you use in the shower can be drying,” she says. “Even if they’re not drying, they can claim to be hydrating when they’re not.”

Why do we care about ceramides?

Dove’s Purely Pampering Body Wash is a sulfate-free plant-based wash that includes well-known moisturizers like shea butter and glycerin. But what really separates it from other body washes is its “moisture renew blend.”

Don’t mistake this for some empty beauty buzzword. Dr. Gohara explains that the moisture renew blend, which is made of stearic and palmitic acids, can actually penetrate the top layer of the skin.

“It isn’t trying to make ceramides penetrate your skin,” she says. “The moisture renew blend is actually prompting your skin to make its own ceramides.”

Other products claim to already contain ceramides in their ingredient list, but those ceramides actually just sit at the top of the skin’s surface and can’t penetrate into that top layer of skin to deliver the moisture it needs, and encourage the body to produce its own. The result? Better and longer-lasting results.

What’s the most effective way to wash?

Washing your body isn’t rocket science, but it does require special care to make sure your body is clean and nourished. Here are Dr. Gohara’s top tips:

And there you have it: a complete game plan for the ultimate hydration.

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