Body Lotion Buying Guide


What the best body lotion has

  • Humectants such as glycerin, panthenol and hyaluronic acid. These hydrating ingredients draw moisture to the skin's outer layer.
  • Occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum (the most effective occlusive), lanolin, mineral oil and waxes. These create a barrier over the skin to lock in moisture.
  • Emollients such as silicones (dimethicone and cyclomethicone), jojoba oil and glyceryl stearate. Emollients fill the gaps between cell clusters, making the skin feel soft, smooth and pliable.
  • Other skin-repairing ingredients such as ceramides and cholesterol -- components that healthy skin produces naturally -- can help restore the skin barrier without irritation.
  • No fragrances or dyes. These can irritate skin. So can some natural ingredients, such as plant oils. All of our Best Reviewed picks are fragrance- and dye-free.
  • Long-lasting moisturization. The best body lotions keep the skin hydrated all day, with no need to reapply.
  • An affordable price. Body lotion is meant to be applied all over the body, every day -- hard to manage if a tiny tube costs an arm and a leg. The best drugstore body lotions are so effective, experts say there's absolutely no reason to pay more.
  • A pleasant feel. The best all-over body lotions and creams feel light, silky and greaseless. More intense creams and ointments for severely dry skin (such as cracked heels) may feel greasier due to their higher petrolatum content, but are still easy to spread and not sticky.
  • Pump or tube packaging. This keeps air and bacteria from degrading the moisturizer, cosmetics expert Paula Begoun says -- unlike jar packaging, which allows air and bacteria from your fingers into the moisturizer every time you use it. All of our Best Reviewed picks offer pump or tube packaging, either standard or as an option.

Know before you go

How dry is your skin? If your skin isn't very dry, all you need is a good everyday body lotion or cream (see our Body Lotion section for the top picks). If your skin is really parched, or for severe problem areas such as cracked heels, you'll need a more heavy-duty cream or ointment (see our section on Lotions for Very Dry Skin).

Is your skin flaky or bumpy? An exfoliating lotion can remove dead skin cells to smooth your skin, and attract moisture to keep it smooth (find the best ones in our Body Lotion section). Exfoliating lotions are often recommended to treat keratosis pilaris, the bumpy "chicken skin" that often appears on the backs of the upper arms and thighs.

Babies don't necessarily need a "baby" lotion. Baby lotion should be fragrance-free, dye-free and gentle, experts say -- just like the best lotions for adults. Two of the outstanding moisturizers discussed in our Best Baby Lotions section aren't marketed toward babies at all, but dermatologists say they're ideal for babies.

"Firming" lotions and stretch mark creams don't work. Save your money, experts say. There's nothing in the world you can rub on your skin to get rid of cellulite, and the only cream shown to help stretch marks even a little bit is prescription tretinoin (found in Retin-A and Renova creams). See our Firming Lotions section to learn more.

You'll find the best body lotions at the drugstore. Every top-rated body lotion, cream and ointment in this report is widely available at drugstores -- and reasonably priced, too. No expensive boutique brands made the cut.

Apply body lotion immediately after showering, on skin that's still slightly damp. This provides water for the lotion's humectants to attract into your skin, and for its occlusives to seal in. Any moisturizer will always work better on slightly damp skin, experts say.