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The 16 Very Best Body Lotions for Dry Skin

Including everyday options and lotions for sensitive skin.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

As the temperatures have continued to drop, I’ve spent a not-insignificant amount of time testing lotions on my uncomfortably dry skin. I’ve sourced recommendations from dermatologists, shower-routine TikTok (a section of the internet devoted to nice-smelling, soft skin), and people who are also trying to avoid ashy skin. In my search, I’ve discovered a few things: Consistency matters. A thinner lotion might cut it in warmer climates, but if you’re trying to really moisturize, something with a bit of heft and some occlusive ingredients are your best bet. I’ve also learned that glycerins and ceramides are your friends. And don’t be afraid to try something with oils — the best overall pick on this list (the truly incomparable Naturium Bio-Lipid moisturizer) contains shea butter, which adds to the overall hydration factor. And while I like to moisturize for the feeling it gives my skin, there’s overall skin health benefits too. One of the dermatologists I spoke to, Dr. Sapna Palep, the founder of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, said you want to avoid “alligator skin,” a precursor to cracked skin that can lead to more complex skin issues like eczema, which can require topical medication. It also leaves you prone to rashes, says Palep, which can’t be addressed with just moisturizer. So you’ll want to lotion up early and often to avoid all that.

Below, I’ve compiled the best moisturizers for dry skin, in many cases backed up by dermatologists or co-signed by Strategist staffers. Out of the 16 moisturizers on this list, I’ve tried over half of them, and the rest have come recommended by a trusted source, like a derm, and meet the basic criteria for a good moisturizer.

What we’re looking for

Ingredients

Generally, you’ll want to find a body lotion with a humectant like glycerin or hyaluronic acid to draw moisture in and a protectant like petroleum to keep it there, according to dermatologist Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of Union Square Laser Dermatology. MacGregor and Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch say to check for ingredients like ceramides and colloidal oatmeal to restore a damaged, dehydrated skin barrier, i.e., the outermost layer.

Price

Body lotions tend to be on the more affordable side (most options are under $30), but in case you want to get the best bang for your buck, we’ve broken down the cost per ounce so you can decide what works best for your budget.

Best body lotion for dry skin overall

Ingredients: Ceramides, safflower oil, glycerin, fatty acids, shea butter | Price: 14 ounces (Approx. $0.93/ounce)

I’ve been moisturizing my entire life and there’s few lotions I’ve come across as special as this one from Naturium. It’s lightweight but nourishing and contains ingredients like omega fatty acids and shea butter, which work together to deeply moisturize and help to strengthen and support the skin’s barrier. It also has a blend of linoleic-rich oils. This matters because linoleic acid helps to make similar lipids to the ones already existing in our skin (aka ceramides) which helps with hydration and keeping moisture in. The benefits are similar to trusty CeraVe cream but Naturium gets a slight edge for the addition of more hydrating ingredients. It’s also fragrance-free, which makes it safe for anyone who’s scent-sensitive. It’s a lotion I trust to take me from summer to winter and back again without worrying about having to layer or switch between different options to achieve healthy-looking skin. I can slather to my heart’s content and my skin is happier for it. I like that it’s accessible, available at lots of drugstores and Target, and, at $14, affordable too. If you use only a couple pumps per application, the large bottle should last awhile. I’m admittedly extra and use at least seven, so a bottle lasts me a little over a month and by the last days I’m using the pump to scrape out the very last bits.

A close-up of Naturium’s formula. Photo: Tembe Denton-Hurst

Best lightweight lotion for dry skin

Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Price: 12 ounces (Approx. $1.30/ounce)

If your skin isn’t super dry, or you just prefer something a bit more lightweight, CeraVe’s Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a good everyday option. The blend of ceramides and hyaluronic acids make it deeply moisturizing despite its thinner consistency. It has similar ingredients to the thicker moisturizing cream but without any of the added weight, and if your skin doesn’t love heavier oils, this works well. It’s recommended for normal to dry skin, and from my experience with it, I’d say that’s exactly right. If you’re a bit ashy or not in need of some deep reparative TLC, I like it a lot, but it’s a no-go if your skin is showing signs of true dehydration.

Best body lotion for extremely dry skin

Ingredients: Vitamin E, mineral oil, sunflower oil | Price: 6.7 ounces (Approx. $4/ounce)

While most lotions won’t do much for your skin once you’ve reached the cracked-skin stage, this one will help you out. It’s designed for people with very dry, itchy skin, including eczema (it has the National Eczema Association seal of approval), and has an ultrathick texture that’s deeply moisturizing. Despite its consistency, it’s wearable without being greasy and contains vitamin E along with a mix of oils, like mineral, evening primrose, and sunflower. Dermatologists also love this stuff because it can be recommended for people with both sensitive and very dry skin. Four that I spoke to recommended it, including L.A.-based dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu, who says she’s “a big fan” of Avène’s cream because of its density. “Severely dry skin typically calls for a thicker cream, balm, or ointment rather than a lotion because they can trap in moisture better,” she says.

Best (less expensive) body lotion for extremely dry skin

$16

Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Price: 19 ounces (Approx. $1/ounce)

At $34, the Avène isn’t exactly expensive but isn’t cheap either, which is why I’m also recommending the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. It’s thicker than its cousin product, the daily moisturizing lotion, but thinner than the ultrarich Avène. This one is also approved by the National Eczema Association and was recommended by almost every dermatologist I talked to as a good all-around hydrating treatment for dry skin. It’s a dependable staple and one I come back to often, especially if I don’t want to lug around a separate body and face moisturizer. The fact that I can (and do) use it for both is a testament to its gentleness and Goldilocks-like consistency (my face doesn’t play well with fragrance or super-heavy stuff). It contains three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, a hydrating combination that won’t clog your pores and is generally well tolerated. When asking dermatologists about best application tips, Dr. Shari Marchbein recommended slathering it on right after your shower and letting it sink into the skin.

Best body lotion for irritated skin

Ingredients: Niacinamide, shea butter | Price: 13.5 ounces (Approx. $1.49/ounce)

I’ve struggled over the years to find a body cream that doesn’t seem to vanish after a few hours, particularly in the winter. I can apply Lipikar Balm at night and wake up still moisturized, which, given my ultradry alligator skin, is an impressive feat. It’s ultrathick, so thick that by the end I have to scrape it out because it’s too thick for the pump. I try to get every last bit because it’s that good. It’s also sensitive and irritated-skin-friendly, and has been signed off on by the very discerning National Eczema Association. It’s a good moisturizer if you’ve taken actives a bit too far because it’s designed to help fortify and support the skin’s barrier. Unlike some of the other moisturizers on this list, it performs a “unique prebiotic action on the skin microbiome,” making it a favorite of Mitchell. This restores and preserves the skin’s barrier and gives longer-lasting results. If this is a touch too thick, Hirsch likes this almost identical cream from La Roche-Posay’s Lipikar line, calling it a “super-solid product” that features glycerin, shea butter, and niacinamide, which similarly helps to repair (and strengthen) the skin barrier.

Best body lotion for dry, sensitive skin

Ingredients: Petrolatum, propylene glycol | Price: 16 ounces (Approx. $0.90/ounce)

If you’re truly sensitive, like anything-could-break-you-out sensitive, my go-to recommendation will always be Vanicream, which specializes in such things. It’s why we’ve recommended this cream a bunch over the years, and why dermatologists bring it up whenever I start asking about truly sensitive skin. In fact, five of them — Dr. Debra Jaliman, Mitchell, Palep, Idriss, and Hirsch — mentioned it for this piece. “It’s free of almost everything,” Idriss says. “If you’re extremely sensitive or don’t have the time to figure it out, then this is probably a good go-to product.” Hirsh agrees: “The brilliance of this is what’s not in it because it’s free of essentially all the main ingredients that can cause issues.” Though it leaves a lot of things out, it does contain petroleum and glycerin, which are useful moisturizers.

Best body lotion for eczema

Ingredients: Ceramides, colloidal oatmeal | Price: 7.3 ounces (Approx. $0.60/ounce)

While lots of the moisturizers on this list are eczema-friendly and one is specifically soothing for dry, itchy skin (Avène), this one from Aveeno contains colloidal oatmeal, which is beloved by people who have eczema because it calms inflammation. It’s also fragrance-free and contains ceramides, two ticks in the “good moisturizer box.” You should definitely consult with your dermatologist before you try anything new, but short of a prescription, Chiu, Idriss, and Levin (who says she has eczema herself) all recommend using this lotion on dry skin caused by eczema. “It really is very long-lasting,” explains Idriss. Levin also likes that it’s not greasy, a common feature of eczema-specific moisturizers. Aveeno even made this lotion a tad liquidy, allowing it to blend quickly and smoothly into the skin without the incessant kneading that some thicker lotions require.

Best body lotion for inflamed dry skin

Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Price: 2 ounces (Approx. $16/ounce)

If you’re looking for something to specifically soothe inflammation caused by dry skin, which can range from just a little redness to more significant swelling, Palep and Levin recommend this one, 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 has squalane oil and mango-seed butter as well as niacinamide — all of which focus on inflammation.” She lists the formula’s 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, which cuts 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 the cost is worth it because the quality of this stuff is hard to beat.

Best (less expensive) body lotion for inflamed dry skin

Ingredients: Prebiotic thermal water, colloidal oatmeal | Price: 6.8 ounces (Approx. $3.3/ounce)

Inflammation isn’t exactly uncommon with dry skin, but if it’s severe or brand-new, and if you don’t have any preexisting conditions like eczema, you might want to consult your dermatologist as it could signal that your skin’s microbiome has been tossed out of whack. While this cream is technically formulated to treat eczema, Levin notes that it’s an overall great cream for calming the inflammation that can happen with dry skin. It’s also half the price of the EltaMD, and you’re still getting good-for-skin ingredients like shea butter and glycerin. It also contains niacinamide, which I mentioned earlier as good for soothing skin. Another hero ingredient here is “prebiotic thermal water,” which Levin says is generally “incredibly rich in minerals that focus on trying to rebalance your skin microbiome.” On the consistency front, it’s thicker than the CeraVe cream, making it a nice, rich option for skin that has some repairing to do.

Best body lotion for mature skin

Ingredients: Petrolatum, glycerin | Price: 6.8 ounces (Approx. $1.8/ounce)

As skin ages, it loses moisture, and most of the creams I’ve recommended would be a good option. But if you’re looking for something specifically for mature skin, the dermatologists I spoke to recommended something with minimal ingredients like this ointment that comes in a spray. The format is ideal for hard-to-reach places and can be helpful if you have issues with mobility. “I find [that] for mature skin, you want to look for few ingredients so there’s less chance of an allergic reaction. This fits the bill perfectly,” says Jaliman. “It only has seven ingredients and one ingredient to actually make it come out of the can.” Two of those are hydrating petrolatum and glycerin. The spray is so easy to apply that you “actually look forward to using” it, she adds.

Best exfoliating body lotion for dry skin

Ingredients: Essential fatty acids, caffeine, AHAs, fruit enzymes | Price: 6.4 ounces (Approx. $5.9/ounce)

I used this sunny-smelling lotion from Ole Henriksen all last summer, and I’ve been happy with how it nourishes my very dry skin. I credit that to the ingredients — AHA exfoliants, nourishing butters and oils, and caffeine — which work together to gently slough away dry skin while also moisturizing the fresh, new skin underneath. The texture reminds me a bit of lightweight whipped shea, but smoother and easier to apply. And despite the presence of exfoliants, I’ve been able to use it daily without any irritation. Because AHAs can cause increased sensitivity to sunlight, I’d recommend applying this at night or being very good about sunscreen if you plan on exposing skin throughout the day. It’s also heavily fragranced, so I would skip if you’re typically sensitive to that.

Best less-expensive exfoliating body lotion for dry skin

$16

Ingredients: Almond oil, lactic acid | Price: 16 ounces (Approx. $0.80/ounce)

Ole Henriksen is admittedly pricey, so as an alternative I’m also suggesting this cream from Cetaphil, which contains lactic acid — a gentle exfoliant — and hydrating almond oil. I personally love almond oil because it’s very lightweight and doesn’t have the viscosity of a heavier oil, like coconut. I love to layer my body creams and oils, but this has both in it, which makes it a convenient all-in-one option. Levin compares almond oil to Saran Wrap, noting that it locks moisture in and is “immediately absorbed and leaves the skin feeling smooth, soft, and well protected.” Levin does note that this formula contains propylene glycol, a preservative that many say is “bad for you,” but she says it actually isn’t that bad: “We need preservatives in skin-care products so 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.”

Best body lotion for keratosis pilaris

Ingredients: Lactic acid, glycerin | Price: 14 ounces (Approx. $0.92/ounce)

Keratosis pilaris is characterized by spiky, dry, rough patches on the back of the arms and thighs. This can be addressed with topicals like the AmLactin body lotion, which, like the above Cetaphil cream, contains lactic acid. Over time, it’ll smooth the skin. It’s “really good for when you have a condition that needs a little exfoliation,” says Palep. The nongreasy formula sinks in immediately, she adds, and works to improve skin’s overall texture in the long run, too.

Best body lotion for dry skin with SPF

Ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), octisalate (5%), octocrylene (10%), sunflower oil | Price: 5.7 ounces (Approx. $6.6/ounce)

As experts have drilled into us time and again: Wear sunscreen; yes, even when you’re not directly in the sun. I’m delighted by the recent addition of body lotions that have SPF. They’re both cosmetically elegant and protective, and feel distinctly different from the Coppertone and Banana Boat I slathered on as a kid. In this category, it’s not surprising that sunscreen innovator Supergoop! is leading the pack. This body butter from the brand goes on like a lotion and is SPF 40, a nice feature given that lots of lotions are SPF 15. It’s also a broad-spectrum formula, meaning it will protect from both UVA and UVB rays.

Best clean body lotion for dry skin

Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega 6 and 9 | Price: 6.8 ounces (Approx. $3.7/ounce)

Finding “clean” and natural beauty products can be tricky, especially because there’s no good definition for what constitutes clean beauty. It has come to generally reference products that don’t have sodium laureth sulfate, fragrance, or other synthetics and preservatives. This one from Nécessaire has none of those things and is also good at moisturizing. I went through a period of using it exclusively, and I still think it’s one of the best options on the market. It’s lightweight but deeply hydrating and has lots of skin-brightening and toning ingredients that help to even out skin over time.

Best clean body lotion for very dry skin

Ingredients: Niacinamide, ceramides, linoleic acie | Price: 6.8 ounces (Approx. $6.7/ounce)

Last year, Nécessaire released its body lotion, and I waited to recommend it because the brand couldn’t keep it in stock. It’s a lot more substantial than the lotion and thicker than even the Nécessaire, but it gives my skin a nice glow. It turns my dry skin smooth in one swipe — but doesn’t feel greasy or heavy once applied. I also like the ingredients: five different ceramides, niacinamide, and linoleic acid, the latter helping to protect skin and soothe irritation. I’m currently on my second tub in three months and will be swiftly procuring another.

Some more lotions we’ve written about

Our experts

• Dr. Annie Chiu, dermatologist
• Dr. Ranella Hirsch, dermatologist
• Dr. Shereene Idriss, dermatologist
• Dr. Debra Jaliman, dermatologist
• Dr. Melissa K. Levin, founder of Entière Dermatology
Dr. Mary Lupo, Lupo Center for Aesthetic and General Dermatology
• Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of Union Square Laser Dermatology
• Dr. Shari Marchbein, dermatologist
• Dr. Hope Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Dermatology
• Dr. Sapna Palep, founder of Spring Street Dermatology

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The 16 Very Best Body Lotions for Dry Skin