skin week

The Best Body Lotions, According to Dermatologists

Photo: Paramount Pictures

A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.

Body lotion benefits your legs, knees, arms, butt, and torso in much the same way that a daily moisturiser benefits the skin on your face. According to dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, “It keeps skin smooth and supple, and maintains a healthy skin barrier.” Much like the serums, creams, and moisturisers you use on your face, body lotions come in a wide variety of formulations meant to target specific issues like dryness, loss of elasticity, acne, eczema, and keratosis pilaris. With that in mind, we asked eight dermatologists for their body-lotion recommendations for a variety of skin types. In each case, Waldorf notes, it’s ideal to apply body lotion when wet — i.e., when you’re hanging out in your towel post-shower — to better seal in the moisture.

Best overall body lotion

To combat even the most extreme cases of dry skin, like eczema, experts tell us you should seek out formulations rich in ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
Melanie Palm — the medical director at Art of Skin MD — explains that ceramides (or, cholesterol-derived fat) help seal the skin barrier to keep in moisture, while hyaluronic acid is known to carry 1,000 times its weight in water, so your skin stays extra hydrated. Six out of our eight experts pointed us to this CeraVe lotion, which contains both. It’s fragrance-free so it’s well-suited for sensitive skin types, and it doesn’t feel sticky or heavy on skin. As cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green sums it up: “CeraVe is the best overall body lotion. It is safe for all skin types and packed with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and humectants to keep the most sensitive skin hydrated.”

Best (less expensive) overall body lotion

Boca Raton dermatologist Jeffrey Fromowitz says this Eucerin dry-skin lotion is another highly effective choice. It’s not only moisturising (with added ceramides), but also gently exfoliates with some alpha hydroxy acids. Green also recommended Eucerin as a high-quality drug-store lotion with excellent ingredients. The difference between Eucerin and CeraVe is mainly that CeraVe has moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid while Eucerin uses urea to lock in moisture. And as for the price difference, it’s pretty slight (about £3), but enough to add up to sizable savings if you’re using it consistently over time.

Best itch-relieving body lotion (for eczema or otherwise)

Dermatologist Debra Jaliman, an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, pointed us to this Aveeno tub that also relies on colloidal oatmeal for curbing eczema-related itchiness, but it’ll also work for people who are itchy from regular old dry skin. Aveeno reviewers say this soothing balm is a godsend, with one noting that it got her off “steroid-based sprays and creams,” and another praising the fact that: “This doesn’t leave a slime trail in my husband’s wake. Plus he’s not waking me up multiple times during the night scratching his feet and hands. This balm kept me from a divorce.”

Best body lotion for acne-prone skin

And because you want your body lotion to be hydrating but not exacerbate any body acne, two experts — Jaliman and Waldorf — recommend CeraVe’s SA lotion because it contains salicylic acid, an exfoliant that’s been clinically proven to help with acne. It’s also fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and noncomedogenic, which means that it won’t irritate the skin and is specifically formulated not to clog pores. Some reviewers say they’ve seen noticeable improvements and smoother skin in just a few days.

Best body lotions for keratosis pilaris

For conditions like keratosis pilaris — which consist of “plugs” of cells in hair follicles, often on the upper arms and thighs — exfoliation is key. Fromowitz says you should look for creams that include exfoliants like lactic, salicylic, or glycolic acid, and prescription-grade products for more severe cases. This AmLactin lotion that Waldorf suggests contains lactic acid (which you might recognize if you’re a Sunday Riley fan). Incidentally, the Eucerin on this list also contains lactic as well as glycolic acid, so you could start there and try this if you want something stronger.

Best body lotions for sensitive skin

Many people have year-round sensitivities to certain ingredients. But in the winter months blasting radiators and hot showers can sap the moisture out of anybody’s skin, making it more sensitive and extra thirsty. Both Green and Engelman recommend this Cetaphil lotion for irritated and sensitive skin, which can manifest as redness, breakouts, and hives. Green likes that this cream from Cetaphil contains ceramides and essential fatty acids, which she says “create a barrier that protects skin from environmental stressors, while replenishing lost moisture.” Engelman likes that it’s a gentle, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic moisturiser from a brand with a great reputation. As the seasons change you might want to swap your lightweight body lotion for this richer, more nourishing formula.

Also for sensitive skin, Vanicream came recommended by Downes, Engelman, and Morgan Rabach, dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical. Downes told us that she recommends Vanicream because it’s hypoallergenic for those with sensitivities to fragrances and preservatives. “It’s also inexpensive,” says Downes, who stocks it in her office because she recommends it to patients so often. Rabach calls it “truly an amazing product,” saying that “it’s extremely thick and moisturising, and one of the best creams for people with very sensitive skin or eczema because its formulation is free of dyes, lanolin, fragrance, parabens, and formaldehyde.”

Best nongreasy body lotion

If your skin tends to be oily even in the dead of winter or you abhor the slimy feeling that sometimes comes with applying body lotion, Jaliman recommends looking for products that contain aloe and cucumber because “they are moisturising and great for irritated skin without being too heavy.” This one by Suave, which Jaliman says is “light in texture and nongreasy,” contains both.

Best anti-aging body lotion

Photo: Courtesy of Vendor

Though it’s pricey (at least £80 more than the other products on this list), Engelman swears by this body lotion from West Coast beauty brand Augustinus Bader (we included it in our list of things to buy before they sell out back in July). Like the Augustinus Bader face creams, which have a significant cult following of aestheticians and celebs, this newly released cream also uses stem-cell technology, amino acids, and high-grade vitamins to jump-start the skin’s natural renewal and repair process. In addition it contains Shea butter to deliver intense moisture and protect your skin’s natural barrier, while vitamins A and E combined with anti-inflammatory Brazilian candeia oil help firm skin and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and fine lines.

Best anti-aging body lotion to use at night

£46

Because this fast-absorbing body lotion contains retinol it can increase sun sensitivity, so you’ll want to let it do its nourishing and firming while you sleep rather than during the day. When it comes to night creams, our experts tell us to look to retinols and gentle chemical exfoliants that will help increase cell turnover and reverse any environmental damage caused during the day, for renewed, softer-looking skin. Replenix is a routine favorite of dermatologists, and came recommended by Jaliman for the retinol and hyaluronic acid in it that will reduce the appearance of fine lines and plump up skin.

Best scented body lotion

As with perfumes and colognes, when it comes to fragrant lotions everyone has their own taste, but some options tend to have more universal appeal than others, particularly when their aroma is neither too feminine or masculine. Which is why Engelman’s pick is this scented body lotion from Ellis Brooklyn. Her favorite scent is Verb, which she describes as “a gorgeous unisex citrus/sandalwood scent.” Scent aside, this body milk is made using moisturising natural ingredients, including cocoa butter, shea butter, jojoba oil, macadamia-nut oil, camellia oil, and aloe-leaf-juice extract (an ingredient with healing and anti-aging properties). It’s also made without a list of over 50 potentially harmful ingredients, including sulfates, parabens, and phthalates — and as unwelcome ingredients can sometimes go hand in hand with scented products, that’s another reason this one is a standout.

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The Best Body Lotions, According to Dermatologists