It’s safe to say pretty much everyone experiences dry skin, especially when summer begins to transition to autumn. 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. It’s best to get ahead of that, when it’s warmer, before it can feel too late. “You want to avoid what we call alligator skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Sapna Palep, the founder of Spring Street Dermatology. “Once it starts cracking like that, that’s when eczema starts happening, that’s when rashes start happening, and then just using moisturiser 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 autumn and winter. But before we get into what lotions are best, there are some other best practices they told us that can help minimise 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 nine experts (and two contributors) share their favourite body lotions for all types of dry skin, including one suited for soothing eczema, and even an option for the sustainability conscious.
Best overall body lotion for dry skin
This simple, fragrance-free cream came recommended by five of our six dermatologists as an effective, all-around hydrating treatment for dry skin. Marchbein generally says to “look for moisturisers 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. 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 £13 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. Strategist contributor Daniela Morosini also recommends the CeraVe moisturiser for her allergy-prone, dehydrated skin. “It absorbed with zero irritation or stickiness,” she writes. “Hours later, my skin still felt soft, supple, and smooth.” And at this cost per tub, she says she has no qualms about slathering it on with “wild abandon.”
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. 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 lotion for dry sensitive skin
Both Palep and Idriss 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.”
Best body lotion for eczema
Chiu describes eczema as a condition ‘characterised 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 liquidy, allowing it to blend quickly and smoothly into the skin without the incessant kneading that some thicker lotions require. [Editor’s note: The Aveeno Eczema Therapy moisturiser is sold out, but we found this Dermexa cream from the same brand.]
Best drugstore body lotions 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. 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).
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.” [Editor’s note: Idriss and Jergens share a PR firm, but she does not work with the brand in any official or unofficial capacity.] For £12, 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.
Another fragrance-free drugstore option comes from Cetaphil, a once-cult brand for those with sensitive skin. Wendy Edelman, a celebrity dermatologist, and Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist, both recommended this gentle formulation in our list of the very best body lotions. In addition to its ceramides and fatty acids, Levin pointed out that it keeps skin supple by using another “bonus, almond oil,” which works like “cling film and basically locks moisture in.” Levin does caution 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.”
Best scented body lotion for dry skin
This Bourn Beautiful lotion was featured on our list of the best skin-care products from Black-owned British businesses. The vanilla-spice-scented lotion includes aloe vera juice, oat silk, and raw cocoa and shea butters, which combine to form a protective barrier while banishing itchiness. For those with extra-sensitive skin, the brand also offers a completely unscented version.
Best clean body lotion for dry skin
Finding clean and natural beauty products can be tricky, according to Idriss, who notes that “there’s no universal definition for what natural means.” She adds that, typically, the term “clean” indicates a brand has formulated a product without SLS, fragrances, or other synthetic materials, which is exactly how she describes this lotion from Necessaire. Idriss says her clients rave about it, and she recommends it to anyone practicing clean beauty who is also looking to soothe dry skin. “It’s fragrance-free, enriched with a bunch of omegas and vitamins, and formulated without controversial ingredients,” she explains, adding that the lotion is relatively light, sinking in quickly and providing quick relief.
Best nongreasy body lotion for dry skin
If you’re looking for a lotion that’s light but still quenching, dermatologist Debra Jaliman recommends looking for products containing aloe and cucumber because “they are moisturising and great for irritated skin without being too heavy.” This lotion from Suave contains both, absorbs quickly, and has a subtle scent that won’t overpower the nose.
Contributor Chanel Parks found this lotion at the back of a cupboard, and “tried it without any expectations”, but it’s turned out to be a staple. “Like Eucerin, it goes on smooth, with no offensive smell, but unlike Eucerin, it’s milky rather than messy. I can go to bed immediately after putting it on without worrying it’ll ruin my sheets. It calms any itching I have on contact. And — most importantly — there’s no ash in sight even hours after I apply. That’s likely because unlike lighter lotions like Pure Grace and Vaseline, the Avène comes packed with moisturising fatty acids and skin-barrier-strengthening ceramides (which the Cut called “a secret fountain of youth”).”
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