A baby's skin is more vulnerable to irritation than an adult's. That's why baby lotions should be dye- and fragrance-free, experts say. "But many skin-care products made for babies and children contain irritating ingredients, like fragrance," says cosmetics critic Paula Begoun at Beautypedia.com. Even natural ingredients like plant oils and extracts can inflame babies' skin. "Products may look (and smell) like they're made with kids in mind, but you need to ignore the colorful packaging and the emotional pull and go right to the ingredient list," Begoun says.
There are plenty of boutique baby brands out there, but reviews say that -- once again -- an inexpensive drugstore brand works great. Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Lotion (Est. $7 for 18 oz.) is what Rebecca Tung, M.D., director of the division of dermatology at Loyola University, recommends for babies with sensitive skin. It "sinks in without feeling sticky and relieves dry, itchy skin for hours," Tung tells Parents magazine.
Aveeno is one of the few brands Begoun recommends for children. Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Lotion is a "very simple, lightweight, soothing body lotion" that earns a high rating from her. She says its active ingredient, dimethicone, "is a form of silicone that has smoothing and protective properties that can help relieve baby's dry skin," and she's glad Aveeno Baby is fragrance-free. "Infants, especially those struggling with dry skin or eczema, don't need fragrance all over their bodies." Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Lotion's short ingredient list also contains glycerin (to draw moisture to the skin), petrolatum to lock in moisture, and soothing colloidal oatmeal. Still, "this would be rated higher if it contained a broader range of repairing ingredients (ceramides, cholesterol, niacinamide)," Begoun says.
Grown-ups like Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Lotion, too -- it's one of the 13 best lotions under $10 at TotalBeauty.com. "It's hard to find something for babies and adults," the review says, but Aveeno "makes your skin so soft -- baby soft." It earns unusually high ratings at Amazon.com, too: With nearly 800 reviews posted, 93 percent of users award it 4 or 5 stars. Many say it soothed their babies' dry skin and eczema without being greasy, and others say their doctors recommended Aveeno Baby after their children got rashes from other popular baby lotions. A few say they or their baby actually got a rash from the Aveeno lotion (some pinpoint an oatmeal allergy as the culprit), and they advise doing a patch test with any new baby lotion.
Of course, a good baby lotion doesn't have to say "baby" on the label. Of the seven top baby lotions recommended by dermatologists at Parents magazine, only four are marketed specifically for babies. As Begoun says: "'Adult' sensitive-skin formulas are excellent for children, too!"
For babies with especially dry skin, eczema or allergies, reviews recommend Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream with Pump Dispenser (Est. $12 for 16 oz.). This thick, rich cream "is a favorite among dermatologists, thanks to its hypoallergenic composition -- it's free of dyes, fragrance, lanolin, masking fragrance, formaldehyde, parabens, and common chemical irritants found in other skin-care products," Parents magazine says. We cover Vanicream in a little more detail in our section on Lotions for Very Dry Skin.
Even more intensely moisturizing, Aquaphor Healing Ointment (Est. $14 for 14 oz.) -- the Best Reviewed pick in our Lotions for Very Dry Skin section -- is also routinely recommended for chapped skin, eczema and allergy-prone skin. "Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Stony Brook University Hospital and a mom of two under age 3, relies on this brand to keep her son's eczema-prone skin smooth," Parents magazine says. "Aquaphor works wonders as a daily moisturizer after bathing, and is a go-to for diaper rash." This ointment is rich in petroleum jelly, with humectants, emollients and skin soothers added. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment (Est. $15 for 14 ounces) is exactly the same product, just with the word "baby" added to the label (it's often sold in the baby-care aisle instead of the lotion aisle).