Thick ointments, balms and butters are designed for ultra-dry skin. Powerful ones come loaded with occlusive ingredients (such as petrolatum) that form a physical barrier over the skin, locking in moisture. They can be greasy, so they're often reserved for small areas (such as rough heels), hard-to-treat skin conditions (such as severe eczema) and severely dry skin that shrugs off thinner lotions and creams.
Beauty expert Paula Begoun of Beautypedia.com says Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Calming Body Moisturizer (Est. $15 for 10 oz.) is "the brand's most advanced moisturizer, and a good option when it comes to healing the itchy, red skin that's the hallmark of eczema." She gives it the highest possible rating, praising its beneficial ingredients that soothe dry and irritated skin, including glycerin; emollients like sunflower seed oil and shea butter; and allantoin, which has anti-irritant properties. It also contains an antioxidant, niacinamide, as well as a ceramide, hydroxypalmitoyl sphinganine. "All of these will help repair skin's barrier, and that's a big step in healing eczema (a condition in which the skin's barrier is damaged)," says Begoun.
Dr. Anthony Rossi, a dermatologist based in New York City, tells editors at InStyle magazine that he even uses Cetaphil Restoraderm on his face -- ordinarily a no-no with creams and lotions designed for the body, which are typically too harsh for the more-sensitive skin on the face. "It's made with ceramides and filaggrin; filaggrin is a skin protein that's impaired in people who have eczema," Rossi says. "Using this cream helps prevent my skin from over drying and doesn't clog pores."
More than 1,000 users reviewing Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Calming Body Moisturizer contribute to a solid 4.5 star rating (out of a possible 5) at Amazon.com, and it earns similar ratings on other sites including Walgreens.com, Walmart.com and MakeupAlley.com, albeit following fewer reviews. Many reviewers who suffer from eczema say that this is the only lotion that works to alleviate itching and promote healing. Some have babies and young children with eczema and say it works rapidly to calm inflamed, irritated skin. One caveat: some users say that when applied to open skin, this lotion causes a temporary burning sensation.
Editors at Elle.com recommend Aveeno Active Naturals Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream (Est. $18 for 12 oz.), which contains ceramides to lock in the skin's natural moisture. Its thick texture absorbs easily into the skin without being uncomfortable or leaving a sticky or greasy residue behind.
Thousands of users between Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Walgreens.com rave about this body lotion, with several calling it a "miracle product." Some users say they've followed every bit of advice from their dermatologist including taking cold showers, staying hydrated, using humidifiers and moisturizing their skin twice a day, and while these measures prevent their skin from becoming unbearably dry, only Aveeno Active Naturals Eczema Therapy actually aids their skin in the healing process. Many users say this body lotion works well for eliminating the dry, scaly and itchy rashes caused by eczema, and some say it helps with keratosis pilaris as well.
If you're looking for a lotion with a thicker consistency, editors at TheSweethome.com say that Jergens Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer (Est. $8 for 32 oz.) is a good option, although it has a stronger scent that turns some testers off. Most users love it, but there are some detractors: in hundreds of reviews across Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Walgreens.com, some say the rich formulation is the ticket to combating winter dry skin, while others complain that it leaves a greasy, sticky feeling behind. Some users say it helps to smooth skin affected by keratosis pilaris and heal dry, cracked and irritated skin, and the affordable cost is a bonus.
For severe cases of dry skin in difficult-to-treat areas like the elbows and heels, experts say that ointments are best for locking in moisture and promoting healing. Aquaphor Healing Ointment (Est. $15 for 14 oz.), for instance, is a long-time favorite of many users who suffer from dry, cracked heels or extremely dry skin on the hands in the winter months. Skincare expert Paula Begoun says it's a favorite among dermatologists, and for good reason: "There isn't much to this classic ointment, but without question it's a gentle formula that does a formidable job of protecting skin that is dry, cracked, or irritated."
"Put some on your feet and sleep in socks and your feet will be super soft," says About.com's Julyne Derrick. "The only downside to Aquaphor is the texture. It can feel like you're slathering your body in Vaseline. A little goes a long way."
If you have flaky, rough skin, you may want to consider an exfoliating lotion. Body lotions that exfoliate contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) to gently exfoliate and remove dead skin cells without the abrasive ingredients found in other exfoliating products like body scrubs.
Alpha Skin Care Revitalizing Body Lotion (Est. $15 for 12 oz.) earns the highest possible expert rating at Beautypedia.com, thanks to its high concentration of glycolic acid (12 percent -- the highest concentration available without a prescription) that helps to exfoliate dry, rough and damaged skin. Begoun notes that there are dozens of products available for exfoliating the skin through physical means, such as body scrubs, but many contain problematic ingredients. Alpha Skin Care Revitalizing Body Lotion, on the other hand, is non-irritating, providing the perfect balance of exfoliating and moisturizing benefits without harsh fragrances and other ingredients that do more harm than good to sensitive skin. It's a basic formula containing several helpful emollients including petrolatum, glycerin, mineral oil, and dimethicone to leave skin feeling smooth and hydrated.
While it's not among the most heavily-reviewed body lotions at Amazon.com, Alpha Skin Care Revitalizing Body Lotion earns positive feedback from nearly 175 users. Several say it helps to smooth bumpy skin caused by keratosis pilaris, a skin condition that's notoriously difficult to treat. On the downside, a few users say it can sting for a few seconds when applied to broken skin, and due to its thick texture, it can leave a sticky residue that causes clothing to cling to skin for a short time after it's applied.
AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion (Est. $12 for 7.9 oz.) was our previous pick for the best exfoliating body lotion, but the company makes another product that's specifically designed to help smooth and heal rough skin, AmLactin Ultra Hydrating Body Cream (Est. $13 for 4.9 oz.). Both earn solid feedback from hundreds of users at Amazon.com, but AmLactin Ultra Hydrating Body Cream contains the company's proprietary ULTRAPLEX formula, alpha-hydroxy therapy combined with humectants and emollients for exfoliating dead skin cells while also restoring lost moisture and softening and smoothing rough, dry skin.
Beauty expert Paula Begoun gives both AmLactin formulations just 2 stars out of 5, noting that while they contain beneficial alpha-hydroxy acid ingredients, the pH of both products is too high (AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion's pH measures 5 or higher vs. Alpha Skin Care's pH of 4) for it to be effective. Hundreds of users at Amazon.com disagree, however, giving AmLactin Ultra Hydrating Body Cream a rating of 4.3 stars out of 5. Users rave about its ability to combat keratosis pilaris, alleviate severe dry skin, soothe irritation and prevent peeling after sunburns, and even lighten dark spots from sun exposure or aging.
It's thick, reviewers say, but it absorbs quickly and offers lasting moisture, leaving skin feeling soft and smooth hours later. Some users hate AmLactin's smell (we've seen it described as glue-like or faintly fermented) and the sticky feel it leaves on their skin -- but they use it anyway, because AmLactin really smooths their "chicken skin" and rough spots. Some users see results after using AmLactin once a day for a couple of weeks, while others have to use it twice a day as directed to see a difference.