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The Best Body Lotions for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

Photo: Courtesy of Nickelodeon

It’s safe to say pretty much everyone experiences dry skin, particularly when the weather turns cold. Rough, scaly patches typically pop up as temperatures drop and can be a pain to get rid of, if you don’t take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place. “You want to avoid what we call alligator skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Sapna Palep, the founder of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “Once it starts cracking like that, that’s when eczema starts happening, that’s when rashes start happening, and then just using moisturizer isn’t going to cut it, so you’ve got to take all the preventive measures.”

According to the dermatologists we spoke to, a big way to prevent dry skin is to make body lotion a staple in your daily routine year-round — not just in the fall and winter. But before we get into which lotions are best, there are some other best practices they told us that can help minimize scaly flare-ups. Some of them, according to dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein, are to avoid using stripping soaps (which typically include fragrances or SLS) and to take showers that last “no longer than five minutes, with warm water only.” Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss agrees, saying that many people tend to “overdo” their body-care routines, thinking that extra cleansing will somehow benefit them in the long run. Another way to avoid stripping the skin of natural oils while showering, according to Idriss, is to “limit the use of body wash and cleansers more or less to your private parts, your underarms, basically the places that really need it.” But if you’re already taking these steps and your skin still feels rough, a body lotion can certainly go a long way to soothe it. Below, our seven experts share their favorite body lotions for all types of dry skin, including ones suited for soothing eczema and keratosis pilaris, and even a clean option for the sustainability conscious.

Best overall body lotion for dry skin

This simple, fragrance-free cream came recommended by seven of our nine dermatologists as an effective, all-around hydrating treatment for dry skin. Marchbein generally says to “look for moisturizers with ceramides to help replace those stripped away in dry skin, as well as humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin,” and this formula has both ceramides and hyaluronic acid, she notes. New York–based dermatologist Dr. Melissa K. Levin, the founder of Entière Dermatology, adds that “hyaluronic acid is an incredibly effective humectant, which means it has the ability to attract hydration to the skin’s surface but also retain that moisture, as well.” The CeraVe cream’s thick texture feels cool to the touch, immediately soothing irritated skin upon application, according to Levin. Palep adds: “It’s just a good staple; what’s not to love?” To get the best results, Marchbein suggests applying a liberal amount (which seems reasonable at $14 a bottle) within 60 seconds of getting out of the shower, because that’s when your pores will be slightly open, allowing your skin to easily absorb the cream’s moisture. For a lightweight option when your skin doesn’t need quite as much TLC, say, in the summer, Dr. Hope Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg, Ohio, likes their lightweight moisturizing lotion that has similar ingredients but isn’t quite as thick.

Best body lotion for extremely dry skin

For extremely dry skin, four dermatologists recommend using this exceptionally rich cream to prevent cracking and splitting (and to treat those conditions once they occur). The fragrance-free formula includes vitamin E and ceramides, making it “extremely hydrating,” according to Idriss. L.A.-based dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu is also “a big fan” of Avène’s cream because of its density, telling us that “severely dry skin typically calls for a thicker cream, balm, or ointment rather than a lotion because they can trap in moisture better.” Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, also recommends the Avène cream for extremely dry skin, noting that anyone with severe dryness should steer clear of “lotions marketed for rough and bumpy skin, because they have peeling agents (lactic or glycolic alpha hydroxy acids), and these are not good.”

Best (less expensive) body lotion for extremely dry skin

If you don’t like the thought of a thick cream on your super-dry skin, Palep recommends this, which is thinner than a lot of other formulas for extreme dryness but promises to lock in moisture for up to 48 hours. (She’s not the only derm who likes it; others previously told us this is a super-hydrating product for dry skin.) “I’ve seen it wipe out alligator skin, which is hard to do,” Palep says. MacGregor agrees but cautions that because this formula contains lactic acid (in addition to ceramides and hyaluronic acid), it should really be used be used to prevent extremely dry skin from forming rather than to treat cracks or splits that have already occurred. “It has mild peeling agents to smooth rough follicles,” she explains regarding why it’s better for preventative use.

Best body lotions for dry, sensitive skin

Mitchell, Palep and Idriss all give this cream their stamp of approval as a go-to for soothing dry, sensitive skin. Idriss told us she always urges taking “the time time to figure out” what skin may be reacting to instead of “blindly saying, ‘I have sensitive skin,’” but notes that this stuff generally works for most types of dry sensitive skin because “it’s free of almost everything.” She adds: “If you’re extremely sensitive or don’t have the time to figure it out, then this is probably a good go-to product.” Mitchell notes it’s also “accepted by the National Eczema Association,” so it’ll work for those with eczema.

Mitchell also likes La Roche Posay, which, like Vanicream, is “accepted by the National Eczema Association,” making it great for sensitive skin. Despite how gentle it is, it’s still effective enough to “reduce dry, rough skin and provide daily relief.” She calls out the “unique prebiotic action on the skin microbiome,” which restores and preserves the skin’s barrier and gives you longer lasting results.

Best body lotions for eczema

Chiu describes eczema as a condition “characterized by irritated, chronically itchy skin,” noting that it can be notoriously finicky and tough to treat. She (along with many of our pros) says that eczema patients should consult with their dermatologist about any prescription products they may use. But, short of a prescription, Chiu, Idriss, and Levin (who says she has eczema herself) all recommend using this on dry skin caused by eczema. “It’s fragrance-free, enriched with ceramides and oatmeal — and oatmeal is known to be really helpful for people with eczema because it helps calm inflammation, and it really is very long-lasting,” explains Idriss. Levin also notes that this has glycerin, which “not only is it a powerhouse ingredient because it really knows how to pull in water, but it’s not greasy.” The latter detail may be especially appealing to the eczema-prone like herself, Levin adds, because they “are so used to using greasy stuff, they actually tolerate and enjoy this one.” Plus, Aveeno made this lotion a tad liquid-y, allowing it to blend quickly and smoothly into the skin without the incessant kneading that some thicker lotions require.

This similar formula is “definitely made with sensitive skin in mind,” says Mitchell. She recommends it for those with “eczema, rosacea, and allergic contact rashes,” explaining that “this lightweight, hypoallergenic cream, containing prebiotic oat, aloe and pro-vitamin B5, absorbs quickly into the skin, and moisturizes without leaving a greasy feeling.”

Best body lotion for inflamed dry skin

If you’re looking for something to specifically soothe inflammation caused by dry skin, Palep and Levin recommend this, in part because they can vouch for its effectiveness after using it themselves. Levin calls this EltaMD cream “probably one of my favorite products of all time,” adding that “it has dimethicone, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, but it also has squalane oil and mango-seed butter as well as niacinamide — all of which focus on inflammation.” She goes on to note this formula also has kiwi-fruit extract and bromelain, more ingredients that she says dermatologists specifically “look for to help with swelling and inflammation.” Mitchell, another fan, appreciates that it’s long-lasting, cutting down on the number of times you’ll have to reapply. It’s a lot pricier than some other lotions on this list, but Palep says that cost is worth it because the quality of this stuff is hard to beat.

Best (less expensive) body lotion for inflamed dry skin

While this cream is technically formulated to treat eczema, Levin notes that it is also an overall great cream for calming inflammation that typically happens with dry skin. When skin is dry and inflamed, she explains, it generally suggests there’s “an imbalance of the natural bacteria and microbes that live on the skin.” And this cream helps restore that balance while hydrating and smoothing at the same time, she says. Levin notes the “hero” ingredient in this is “prebiotic thermal water,” adding that the product is generally “incredibly rich in minerals that focus on trying to rebalance your skin microbiome.” It’s “much thicker” than our best overall CeraVe cream, she admits, but has standout ingredients that can deeply hydrate and soothe any redness, irritation, and inflammation.

Best drugstore body lotion for dry skin

All six dermatologists we talked to noted it’s important to hydrate the skin year-round, not just in the months when most typically experience dryness. For a widely available, all-season body lotion that tackles normal to mildly dry skin and won’t break the bank, Idriss recommends this body lotion from Jergens because “it’s affordable, light-feeling, and absorbs really quickly, so you don’t feel tacky after using it. Plus, it works.” For $6, you can buy this jumbo 21-ounce bottle, which should last for a while — likely at least until it’s time to switch to your heavier creams.

Best (less expensive) drugstore body lotion for dry skin

For an even cheaper widely available option (that also comes in a jumbo bottle), Marchbein suggests St. Ives. Meant for daily use, it includes ingredients like glycerin that help quickly repair dry, flaking skin, along with naturally hydrating and calming shea butter and oatmeal (which, as Idriss told us, can be very soothing).

Best exfoliating body lotions for dry skin


Sometimes you might need a lotion with an exfoliant that helps scrub away rough patches as it moisturizes. If that sounds like you, Mitchell and Levin suggests this cream from Cetaphil with lactic acid — “a very nice, very gentle exfoliating ingredient,” Levin says. She adds this not only helps to moisturize but locks in that moisture using another “bonus, almond oil,” which works like “Saran wrap and basically locks moisture in.” For any skeptics out there, Mitchell notes that it’s actually “clinically proven” to hydrate and protect the skin for “24 hours,” and best of all, it’s “immediately absorbed and leaves the skin feeling smooth, soft, and well protected.” Levin does note that this also contains propylene glycol, a preservative many say is “bad for you” but actually isn’t that bad, according to her. “We need preservatives in skin-care products so that they don’t go bad. For some patients, very rarely it can cause allergic reactions. But it’s super, super, super, super-rare, and not an ingredient I think people need to fully stay away from.”