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Moisturizing is key to maintaining healthy skin. Though dry skin may be more of a risk in colder temps, really, you should be moisturizing daily, and all year round. If you don’t, the result can be rough, scaly patches that can be a pain to get rid of. “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, then just using moisturizer isn’t going to cut it, so you’ve got to take all the preventive measures.” Below, our panel of dermatologists shares their favorite body lotions for all types of dry skin, from the sensitive to the irritated and inflamed.
What we’re looking for
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.
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 overall body lotion for dry skin
Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Price: 19 ounces (Approx. $1/ounce)
This lotion comes recommended by almost every dermatologist we talked to as an effective, all-around hydrating treatment for dry skin. It’s a dependable staple for dermatologists and one of my longtime favorites. It’s such a workhorse that I use it everywhere, face included. The formula has both ceramides and hyaluronic acid, notes dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein. New York–based dermatologist Dr. Melissa K. Levin, the founder of Entière Dermatology, calls hyaluronic acid “an incredibly effective humectant.” The CeraVe cream’s thick texture feels cool to the touch, immediately soothing irritated skin upon application, according to Levin. Hirsch appreciates the “soothing, creamy texture” of the moisturizer.
To get the best results, Marchbein suggests applying a liberal amount (which seems reasonable at $18 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.
Best lightweight lotion for dry skin
Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Price: 12 ounces (Approx. $1.30/ounce)
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 CeraVe’s lightweight moisturizing lotion, which has similar ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, but isn’t quite as thick.
Best body lotion for extremely dry skin
Ingredients: Ceramides, vitamin E | Price: 6.7 ounces (Approx. $4/ounce)
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 cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss. L.A.–based dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu is “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.” Although this cream is rather rich, Hirsch says it’s still wearable without being too greasy, which is often an issue with creams designed for really dry skin. MacGregor 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
Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid | Price: 16.9 ounces (Approx. $0.60/ounce)
If you don’t like the thought of a thick cream on your super-dry skin, Palep recommends this lotion, 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 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, which is why it’s better for preventative use. Hirsch similarly cautions that this lotion isn’t ideal for those “with existing fissures” on their skin because it can sting. But she notes that lactic acid is an “often overlooked but fantastic” ingredient for dry skin, as it can act as both a gentle exfoliant and a humectant.
Best body lotion for dry, sensitive skin
Ingredients: Petrolatum, propylene glycol | Price: 16 ounces (Approx. $0.90/ounce)
Five of our dermatologists — Dr. Debra Jaliman, Mitchell, Palep, Idriss, and Hirsch — give this cream their stamp of approval as a go-to for soothing dry, sensitive skin. Idriss told us she always urges patients to take “the time time to figure out” what their skin may be reacting to instead of “blindly saying, ‘I have sensitive skin,’” but she 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.” “The brilliance of this is what’s not in it because it’s free of essentially all the main ingredients that can cause issues,” Hirsch explains. Jaliman seconds this but notes that the limited ingredient list features petroleum and glycerin, which are useful moisturizers. Mitchell mentions that it’s “accepted by the National Eczema Association,” so it will work for those with eczema as well.
Best body lotion for eczema
Ingredients: Ceramides, colloidal oatmeal | Price: 7.3 ounces (Approx. $0.60/ounce)
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 eczema patients should consult with their dermatologist about any prescription products they might use. 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’s fragrance free, enriched with ceramides and oatmeal — 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 notes that this lotion contains glycerin: “Not only is it a powerhouse ingredient because it really knows how to pull in water, but it’s not greasy.” That latter detail may be especially appealing to the eczema-prone like herself, Levin adds, because they “are so used to using greasy stuff that they actually tolerate and enjoy this one.” Plus, Aveeno 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, 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)
While this cream is technically formulated to treat eczema, Levin notes that it’s an overall great cream for calming the 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.” This cream helps restore that balance while hydrating and smoothing, she says. Levin notes that the “hero” ingredient in this is “prebiotic thermal water,” adding that it 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 body-lotion spray for mature skin
Ingredients: Petrolatum, glycerin | Price: 6.8 ounces (Approx. $1.8/ounce)
Several of our experts say most of the creams on this list would work well with mature skin. Dr. Mary Lupo of the Lupo Center for Aesthetic and General Dermatology explains that as we age, the skin barrier becomes more compromised (hence, dry skin can be common), so short showers followed by immediate moisturizing can help with dehydration. But if you’re looking for one that’s more specific to mature skin, Jaliman points to this body cream that happens to come in a spray can. “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,” she says. “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 recently added this ultrathick lotion from Ole Henriksen to my body-care routine in preparation for summer, and after using it for a little over a month, I’ve been happy with how it nourishes my very dry winter 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 easy 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.
Best less-expensive exfoliating body lotion for dry skin
Ingredients: Almond oil, lactic acid | Price: 16 ounces (Approx. $0.80/ounce)
Mitchell and Levin suggest this cream from Cetaphil with lactic acid — “a very nice, very gentle exfoliating ingredient,” Levin says. She says it 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 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)
Palep told us she recommends this specifically to patients with keratosis pilaris, “the spiky, dry, rough patches of skin on the back of the arms and thighs.” She says that because it contains lactic acid (which gently breaks down rough skin), this, like the above Cetaphil cream, is “really good for when you have a condition that needs a little exfoliation.” 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. “When you say ‘Wear sunscreen’ to people, the eye roll is because everyone has had the experience of a tacky, sticky protect that doesn’t blend,” Hirsch says. “This goes on like a lotion but with good sun protection.” Often, lotions will be SPF 15, but she likes that this one offers SPF 40. It’s 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, according to Idriss, who says, “There’s no universal definition for what natural means.” She adds that the term “clean” typically indicates that a brand has formulated a product without any toxic ingredients (like SLS, fragrances, or other synthetic materials), which is exactly how she describes this lotion from Nécessaire. She says her clients rave about it, and she recommends it to anyone practicing clean beauty who is looking to soothe dry skin. “It’s fragrance free, enriched with a bunch of omegas and vitamins, and formulated without controversial ingredients,” Idriss explains, adding that the lotion is relatively light, sinks in quickly, and provides fast relief.
Best body lotion for the entire family
Ingredients: Niacinamide, shea butter | Price: 13.5 ounces (Approx. $1.49/ounce)
Mitchell likes La Roche-Posay, which, like Vanicream, is “accepted by the National Eczema Association,” making it great for sensitive skin. Despite how gentle this lotion 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 longer-lasting results. 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 helps to repair (and strengthen) the skin barrier.
Some more lotions we've written about
• 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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