The 14 Best Hand Soaps of 2023 That Make Washing Your Hands Delightful

Think less of a chore and more like a zen moment, courtesy of silky soap textures and spa-inspired aromas.

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The Best Hand Soaps That Make Washing Your Hands Delightful

InStyle / Alli Waataja

We spend a lot of time washing our hands these days. It’s a necessary routine, and with the latest crop of hand soaps currently available, you can make the moment a little less utilitarian and a little more luxurious.

Luckily, there’s no reason you can’t indulge the senses while practicing good hygiene. “It’s not necessary to avoid fragrance in hand soap unless you are sensitive, allergic or have a dry skin condition, like hand eczema,” says NYC-based board certified dermatologist, Dr. Jennifer MacGregor.

Of course, it's important not to lose sight of the soap's primary responsibility, which is to cleanse. “You’ll want to use a hand soap that lathers and rinses well and doesn’t feel too thin or slippery,” says Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board certified dermatologist in New York City.

Not all hand soaps are created equal, and finding one that flips an unexciting task into one that we look forward to can improve our entire day.

Best Overall

Grown Alchemist Sweet Orange, Cedarwood, Sage Hand Wash

Grown Alchemist Sweet Orange, Cedarwood, Sage Hand Wash

Grown Alchemist

What We Love: Infused with natural botanical oils, this non-drying hand soap has one of the best scents out there and kept our hands feeling hydrated and smelling fresh.

What We Don’t Love: Since it's composed mostly of natural botanic oils, those with sensitive or reactive skin should do a patch test first before committing to this hand soap long term.

It’s not everyday that you discover your favorite hand soap in an airport bathroom, but that’s exactly what happened. After experiencing the incredible scent of this gentle hand wash from Grown Alchemist in the bathroom of a Delta lounge, I was hooked. Little did I know that the ingredients list made up mostly of natural botanical oils, was also exactly the mix of hydration that the dermatologists ordered.

Fennel seed, cedarwood, and rosemary leaf oil contain antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, and work together as natural cleansers. Coconut oil releases triglycerides that soften skin, while cold pressed sweet orange oil is rich with antioxidants to clarify and smooth skin. Sweet almond oil soothes irritated skin and helps it retain moisture. Top off all that natural goodness with a refreshing scent that subtly blends notes of citrus, cedarwood, and herbs, and we bet you’ll be looking to wash your hands as frequently as possible.

Price at time of publish: $39

Type: Liquid | Scents: 3 | Size: 16.9 fl oz

Best Budget

Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Rain Water Foaming Hand Soap

Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Rain Water Foaming Hand Soap

Mrs. Meyers

What We Love: This foaming hand wash offered the freshest scent of any soap we tested and left our hands feeling super hydrated; we also appreciated the recyclable/refillable packaging.

What We Don’t Love: It's easy to go through foam hand soaps quickly, so you may be refilling the bottle frequently.

This very affordable foaming hand wash could have easily been our best overall pick. We love the rich lather provided by the lightweight foam that rinses clean in a snap. Our hands felt softer (never slimy!) after every wash, thanks to a mix of essential oils, aloe vera, glycerin, and olive oil. It’s paraben-, phthalate-, and artificial color-free, making the formula gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin to use regularly. The hand soap even comes in packaging that is fully recyclable, and the brand will soon sell refills so you can reuse the original container over and over.

And the rain water scent? It’s the epitome of fresh and no small wonder that it comes from the brand’s Aromatherapy line.

Price at time of publish: $5

Type: Foam | Scents: 7 | Size: 10 fl oz

Best for Eczema

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser


What We Love: Cetaphil is a trusted brand for anyone with sensitive skin and their hand soap is recommended by dermatologists, both on the bottle and in our research.

What We Don’t Love: The creamy texture is extremely hydrating, but can leave some users feeling a bit slimy.

For those with hand eczema, seeking out the gentlest cleansers is key, and that's exactly why Dr. MacGregor recommends this Cetaphil cleanser to her patients. Its creamy texture offers a dermatologist-backed blend of nourishing vitamins B3 and B5, along with glycerin, to thoroughly cleanse skin without leaving it feel dry or taut. It’s also unscented, ensuring no risk of a reaction to fragrance. And, as many of us with sensitive skin know, this cleanser is also gentle enough for use on your face.

Price at time of publish: $14

Type: Cream | Scent: Unscented | Size: 16 fl oz

Best Smelling

Homecourt Neroli Leaf Hand Wash

Homecourt Neroli Leaf Hand Wash


What We Love: The scent lasts and lasts. We were secretly sneaking sniffs of our hands long after we finished washing them.

What We Don’t Love: The scent lasts and lasts, which if you don’t like smelling your hands as much as we do, might not be so appealing.

Words can not describe how enjoyable the Neroli Leaf scent from Homecourt is. It’s fresh and floral and reminds us of the interior of a tropical greenhouse, instantly sending our olfactory glands into vacation mode every time we wash our hands.

Scent is, of course, not everything when it comes to an effective hand soap. Its gel-like formula quickly turns into a bubbling lather, and with a duo of natural moisturizers, argan oil and Australian hibiscus flower extract, our hands never dried out. In fact, it felt so lovely to wash our hands with this soap, we took our time while doing it.

Price at time of publish: $27

Type: Liquid | Scents: 4 | Size: 12 fl oz

Best for Dry Skin

Kiehl’s Liquid Hand Soap

Kiehl’s Liquid Hand Soap


What We Love: The non-drying formula includes aloe vera, chamomile, and vitamin E to deliver soothing moisture whenever you wash your hands, making it especially great for the kitchen, where dry hands are a particular concern.

What We Don’t Love: It lathers nicely, but it takes longer to suds up than some options.

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, dry hands are probably a huge concern. According to all three dermatologists we spoke with, the more your hands are exposed to water, the more likely they are to be dry.

This excellent non-drying option from Kiehl’s will help ensure that your hand soap is never the culprit for parched skin. The gentle formula features hydrating, rejuvenating ingredients, like aloe vera, chamomile, and vitamin E to repair any existing dryness and prevent future dehydration. We also love to place the grapefruit scent right next to our kitchen sink.

Price at time of publish: $15

Type: Liquid | Scents: 1 | Size: 6.8 fl oz

Best Moisturizing

L'Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Hand Wash

L'Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Hand Wash


What We Love: The texture feels more like a moisturizer than a soap and leaves hands feeling silky soft.

What We Don’t Love: The rich, creamy consistency may not appeal to all.

If you’re looking to add extra moisture to your hand washing routine, this cream soap from legendary French brand L’Occitane is a favorite of board certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman. The dense, creamy consistency feels decadent on hands, and the key ingredient, shea butter, is rich in omega 6 and 3 to instantly add a serious dose of moisture back to your skin. It’s a luxurious hand washing experience that will leave your hands soft all day long.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Cream | Scents: 1 | Size: 10.7 oz

Best Foaming

J.R. Watkins Foaming Hand Soap with Pump Dispenser

J.R. Watkins Foaming Hand Soap with Pump Dispenser


What We Love: This foaming hand soap is reasonably priced, widely available, and almost completely composed of plant-based ingredients.

What We Don’t Love: The featherlight texture won't appeal to those who enjoy a heartier formula.

This foaming hand soap is a personal favorite of Dr. Murphy-Rose. It lathers quickly and rinses fully, without leaving behind any hint of residue or film. Also, since its largely plant-based, it avoids using any chemical ingredients, making the formula mild enough for those with sensitive or reactive skin. Not to mention, the packaging is attractive and it comes in almost any scent you can imagine.

Price at time of publish: $5

Type: Foaming | Scents: 12 | Size: 9 fl oz

Best Liquid

C.O. Bigelow Hand Wash

C.O. Bigelow Hand Wash

C.O. Bigelow

What We Love: This soap has it all: Great lather, great packaging, great scents.

What We Don’t Love: This niche brand can be a challenge to find in brick-and-mortar stores.

C.O. Bigelow has been the trusted pharmacist of New York’s Greenwich Village for generations. They're especially known for their own line of bath and body products, including an excellent collection of hand washes. Available in a wide range of scents, from earthy verbena to fruity coconut, this hand wash evolves from a gel into a rich, full-bodied lather easily. The formula features a blend of moisturizing ingredients, like pro-vitamin B5 and aloe vera, and is paraben- and SLS-free. The packaging and bottle shape are as classic as the pharmacy itself, making this an excellent option for anyone who prefers a liquid soap.

Price at time of publish: $15

Type: Liquid | Scents: 9 | Size: 10 fl oz

Best Natural

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bonner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bonner’s

What We Love: It’s completely natural, certified fair trade, comes in 100% post-consumer recycled packaging and you can use it for way more things than just washing your hands.

What We Don’t Love: It isn’t counter-ready: This soap is concentrated and needs to be diluted before use.

Dr. Bonner’s is beloved by eco-conscious backpackers and campers the world over, and for good reason. The Spanish soap making tradition of the Castile region from which the soap derives its name, utilizes only all-natural plant oils. That means a few things: First, this soap is 100% vegan, and second, it avoids using any harsh lab-produced detergents, which make it completely non-toxic and biodegradable.

It's important to note that this soap arrives in a concentrated form, so you'll need to combine the soapy solution with water before sudsing up. However, it's an incredibly versatile option that is strong enough to clean not just your hands, but even your toughest messes in the kitchen sink, too.

Price at time of publish: $12

Type: Liquid | Scents: 9 | Size: 16 fl oz

Best for Sensitive Skin

Paloroma Main Squeeze Gentle Hand Wash

Paloroma Main Squeeze Gentle Hand Wash


What We Love: Powered by plant-extracts, this hand wash is so gentle, it’s actually designed for use on babies, but it’s also ideal for babying sensitive adult skin.

What We Don’t Love: The texture and lather is a bit thinner than some other options.

If you need to baby your sensitive skin, you shouldn’t be afraid to use baby products. Paloroma’s Main Squeeze Gentle Hand Wash is derived from plant extracts, altogether avoiding harsh chemicals that can cause irritation on all types of skin. Of course, that means it’s paraben-, phthalate-, silicone-, sulfate-, petrolatum-, dye-, and fragrance-free, which just happen to be all the things that our dermatologists say those with sensitive skin should avoid. The clean formula also features a variety of soothing ingredients, like chamomile, aloe vera, and rose, to help alleviate any skin irritation you might be experiencing. And while it’s technically a baby product, the packaging is adorable and appropriate for adults, too; we have no shame displaying it on our bathroom counter.

Price at time of publish: $18

Type: Liquid | Scents: Unscented | Size: 10 fl oz

Best Luxury

Krigler Bar Soap

Krigler Bar Soap


What We Love: French milled soap is the epitome of luxury when it comes to washing your hands, and these delightful soaps come in a range of colors and scents that are perfect for showing off in your powder room.

What We Don’t Love: Bar soaps can be difficult to store on the counter.

If you’re looking for a luxurious hand washing experience, French milled soap is world-renowned and these pretty bars of soap from the perfume maker Krigler are a fun splurge for your powder room. With intoxicating scents, the beautifully formed and logo-embossed discs come in a range of pastel shades that remind us of colorful French macaroons. Produced from natural plant materials through a process called saponification, the soaps are milled not once, but three times, before being molded into bars. The result is a hand washing experience that is second to none. The lather is abundant, the scents are divine, the rinse is speedy, and the natural, moisturizing ingredients leave your hands feeling silky. They are the perfect fancy soap for your “fancy bathroom” sink.

Price at time of publish: $85

Type: Bar | Scents: 9 | Size: 3.5 oz

Best Drugstore

Seventh Generation Free & Clean Unscented Hand Soap

Seventh Generation Free & Clean Unscented Hand Soap


What We Love: Economical and readily available at nearly any drugstore, this no-frills soap is a favorite of Dr. Hartman.

What We Don’t Love: The packaging definitely leaves something to be desired, if countertop display is an important factor for you. 

This drugstore staple is Dr. Hartman's go-to hand soap. Not only does the lather feel quite nice on hands, the formula is unscented and won’t leave your skin feeling parched or tight, thanks to its composition of natural, plant-derived ingredients. According to Dr. Hartman, it's a safe option for those with skin conditions or overall sensitive skin.

Price at time of publish: $3

Type: Liquid | Scents: Unscented | Size: 12 fl oz

Best Exfoliating

Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash

Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash


What We Love: This soap contains finely milled pumice that exfoliates skin while you build the lather.

What We Don’t Love: The scent is distinctive.

If you’re looking for a two-in-one hand soap that cleans and polishes skin simultaneously, this entry from the beloved Australian brand, Aesop, is an excellent choice. Finely milled pumice lays within the liquid gel to slough dead skin off your hands while it lathers, leaving hands not just free of germs, but also feeling soft and smooth.

Aesop has a reputation for producing products with distinctive scents, calling this one in particular "unorthodox." Although we're fans of the fragrance, it isn't subtle. While we can’t guarantee you’ll love the scent, we've yet to find someone who didn't love the way their hands felt after using this soap.

Price at time of publish: $41

Type: Liquid | Scents: 1 | Size: 16.9 fl oz

Best Bar

Shore Soap Co. Bar Soap

Shore Soap Co. Bar Soap

Shore Soap Co.

What We Love: These soaps make a great impression on display: They’re colorful, aromatic, and sure to impress any guest.

What We Don’t Love: While they look amazing, bar soaps can be difficult to store on counters and cause a bit of a mess.

It used to be that bar soaps got a bad rap for drying out your hands, but these adorable soaps, produced in small batches in Rhode Island, firmly buck that tradition. They are sulfate-, phthalate-, and paraben-free, and instead filled with nourishing and hydrating natural vitamins and minerals. Formulated with a super-moisturizing trio of coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter, hands feel moisturized and supple after each wash, even in the winter. We also adore their expansive range of colors, scents, and quaint packaging.

Price at time of publish: $9

Type: Bar | Scents: 28 | Size: 5.4 oz

What to Keep in Mind


Given how frequently we should be washing our hands, it’s important to pay attention to the list of ingredients. Soap was traditionally made using lauryl sulfate, explains Dr. MacGregor, which, “is effective but also really strips fatty acids (natural oils) from our skin barrier and leads to more water loss and dry skin.”

Thankfully, she says that newer, more gentle options are abundant and we should look for milder ingredients, like sodium cocoyl isethionate and sodium lauryl isethionate. Dr. Murphy-Rose agrees that it’s important to seek out ingredients that will be gentle on your hands, but she also recommends avoiding polyethylene glycols (PEGs), sodium lauryl sulfates (SLSs), and sodium laureth sulfates (SLESs), all of which are very harsh on the skin.

To combat the drying effects further, you should look for hydrating ingredients, says Dr. Hartman, like glycerin, olive oil, and shea butter. But be wary of the claims of natural ingredients, warns Dr. Murphy-Rose. “Just because an ingredient is all-natural does not mean it will be gentle on the skin,” she says. “Oftentimes patients experience reactions to ingredients like botanicals or plant extracts.”


All three dermatologists agreed that there isn't one "ideal" hand soap texture; it all comes down to personal preference. “Some people may love the feel of a thicker cream soap," says Dr. Harman. "Others may like a lightweight foaming soap."

Dr. Murphy-Rose prefers foaming hand soaps because they are mild, lather nicely, and rinse off easily. However, some may find foams to be too lightweight. When considering a hand soap texture, like gel, liquid, cream, foam, or bar, it's simply about the experience you find most enjoyable.


While fragrance is something that many people avoid when it comes to skincare, hand care is altogether different. “Some of my favorite hand soaps have a slight fragrance that makes hands smell nice,” says Dr. Hartman, who adds that only those with sensitive or reactive skin should steer clear of scent.

There are plenty of fragrance options to choose from, as well as varying degrees of subtlety. Go with whatever strikes your fancy, and don't be shy about swapping out your scented soaps for every season. Maybe you’d prefer a citrus aroma to mask cooking odors in your kitchen or an aromatherapy blend for your bathroom. There’s no wrong answer or right scent.


Almost any hand soap container can be refilled, but some brands do a better job than others reminding us of that fact. Others take it a step even further by offering refills in bulk packaging. Don’t let bar soaps off the hook just because they dissolve – remember that they came in some sort of packaging to start. Always pay attention to what materials your beauty products come in and whether they can be recycled. Chances are they can.

Your Questions, Answered

Does hand soap dry out your hands?

The frequency with which you are washing your hands is generally the culprit in causing dry skin, not the soap you are using, says Dr. Hartman. “It’s counterintuitive,” he says, “but the more often you get your hands wet with water, the drier your hands get, as you are actively washing away the natural and beneficial oils on your hands.”

By using a hand soap that includes hydrating ingredients, you can avoid dry skin, but most of all, be doubly sure you are not using alcohol-based cleansing products. “Using an alcohol-based sanitizer makes the problem worse,” says Dr. MacGregor, “and virtually intolerable for those with hand eczema.”

If you have particularly dry skin, Dr. Murphy-Rose suggests that you keep a rich cream or ointment on hand to apply after you wash your hands.

What’s the difference between soap and hand wash?

Hard bar soaps are solid at room temperature, unlike liquid hand washes that are made with water, explains Dr. Murphy-Rose. “These days that is the major difference between the two,” she says. “It used to be that traditional bar soaps were harsher and more dehydrating compared to washes, but today gentler bar soaps are available.”

“A lot of this is marketing and linguistic trickery,” warns Dr. MacGregor. While traditional bar soap carries a lot of stigma, “we do much better now, so it’s fine to head to your local drug store,” she says. And Dr. Hartman agrees, saying that “many brands use the phrases ‘hand soap’ and ‘hand wash’ interchangeably, so just take a look at which ingredients are right for you when choosing.”

Is antibacterial soap better?

All three dermatologists agree: You do not need to use an antibacterial soap every time you wash your hands. “There is actually no data that shows that an antibacterial hand soap is better than a non-antibacterial hand soap at killing germs,” says Dr. Hartman. “The skin has millions of bacteria on it – some of which is healthy for your overall skin microbiome. Killing all bacteria on your skin isn’t necessarily a good thing.”

Dr. MacGregor agrees that we need to maintain a balance of friendly microbes, like bacteria, yeast and mites, on our skin. That said, in circumstances where disinfection is a key concern, Dr. Murphy-Rose reminds us that antimicrobial soaps are important and even life saving. “Before performing surgery, surgeons always use antimicrobial soaps to reduce microorganism contamination while operating,” she says. “But most people going about their usual routine do not need the same level of decontamination.”

Why Shop with Us?

Peter Tittiger is a contributing writer at InStyle, Byrdie, and WWD Shop. He has over ten years of experience researching and producing content programs for top luxury and lifestyle brands including TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Lexus, and Best Made Co. While writing this article he interviewed three board certified dermatologists, Dr. Corey L. Hartman, Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, and Dr. Jennifer MacGregor and tested every single hand soap himself across hundreds of trips to the sink.

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