I love the idea of body oils — I have always been attracted to their beautiful glass bottles, incredibly elegant scents, and the way they leave that gorgeous glowy, sheen behind. I mean, what’s not to love? But as someone who has dealt with extremely, uncomfortably dry skin since childhood, I’ve always been a body-lotion loyalist. I’ve relied on my no-fuss, dermatologist recommended body lotion — Renew Melaleuca Intense Skin Therapy, to be exact — for delivering much needed moisture back into my skin for as long as I can remember. And it works very well — my skin always feels hydrated and soft, with no dry patches or flakiness right after I slather it on. But here’s the thing: I don’t enjoy applying my body lotion. It smells clinical and boring, so much so that my boyfriend once told me I “smelled like a doctor’s office,” which I found very upsetting. I have long yearned to be the type of person who could wear luxurious smelling, shiny body oils, but I knew in my heart an oil would never be a match for my temperamental, intensely dry skin.
According to Dr. Dhaval G. Bhanusali, a dermatologist based in New York City, I’m correct in that there is a big difference between how body oils and lotions function. As lotions are partly water based, they’re typically better at penetrating deeper into the skin. And most body lotions — including my go-to — incorporate more moisturizing and skin-quenching ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which is why they’re better suited for very dry skin types. Body oils, on the other hand, are typically a blend of botanical- and vegetable-based oils, which are thicker and tend to give a more superficial, surface-level hydration, which is why they’re best for normal to slightly dry skin types.
But Dr. Bhanusali explained that there is a way I can have the best of both worlds. The real golden ticket, he said, is combining the two: “I like applying lotion first to treat the deeper layers of the skin and then oils on top to really lock in the moisture superficially.” This two-step method, he explained, creates an occlusive layer that ensures hydration stays in the skin all day long, adding that “It’s especially great during the winter and colder months.”
Layering body oils on top of my standard body lotion has been a way for me to reap the sweet-smelling, glisten-y benefits of body oil, without abandoning my holy grail. My arms and legs look shiny and radiant, and I smell far from clinical, while still getting all the skin-quenching and moisturizing perks of my Renew Melaleuca Lotion. My favorite part: Unlike my body lotion, which I don’t switch up at all, I can experiment with different body oils — I choose different ones depending on what scent and texture I want that day. It’s actually made post-shower care fun. So, if there are any other dry-skinned folks out there who have avoided oils, look no further. Below, a list of some of my favorite body oils that I layer up for the perfect hydration sandwich.
Glossier’s Body Oil is one of the trendiest and buzziest body oils of the moment. I like most that this formula sinks into the skin quite quickly, there’s no extended period of time where you have to sit around and wait for the body oil to dry. You spray it all over, and within a few moments, you’re good to get dressed without fearing it’ll stain your clothes. This particular oil is on the lighter side, so I reach for it on days where I want something shiny and sweet smelling (the neroli is divine) but not too heavy, which also makes it great for spring.
This particular body oil is definitely on the pricey side, but it came highly recommended by a pregnant friend of mine, who said it was the only thing that kept her seriously chapped elbows and kneecaps moisturized during her third trimester. The formula uses ingredients that are high in fatty acids, antioxidants vitamins A, E, and C, and carotene to ensure deep hydration and protection from free radicals. I got a sample of this for myself, and I have to say, I really love how nicely it feels to apply and how, like Glossier’s, it quickly sinks into the skin. I really notice a difference in how smooth and supple my skin feels after I use a combination of this and my moisturizer. As I said, this is expensive — there are a lot of great affordable options out there, but if this is in your price range or if you’re looking to treat yourself, this one is excellent.
My favorite mid-to-low priced body oil is this one from Versed, which has a convenient spritz-top lid for fast application when you’re trying to rush out of the bathroom. This formula uses a blend of coconut oil, sweet almond oil, and calendula oil extract, which work together to create a wonderful, moisturizing layer and white-floral aroma that both feels and smells incredible.
This one from Bathing Culture is awesome because it’s suitable for both your face and your body — it’s non comedogenic (meaning it won’t break you out) and chock full of antioxidants, as well as plant-based squalane which helps deliver hydrating, soothing, and anti-inflammatory benefits to your skin. This is a great way to add an occlusive layer that’ll trap in moisture in both your skin- and body-care routines.
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