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The best body lotions for keeping skin hydrated, according to dermatologists

These expert-recommended moisturizers can help your skin stay hydrated and healthy.
Hand rubbing lotion on a leg
From lotions to creams, these expert-recommended moisturizers can help you repair your skin barrier and lock in moisture. Kara Birnbaum for NBC News

Moisturized skin is a simple luxury. There are few things better than taking a warm shower after a busy day, soothing your itchy skin and putting on some cozy clothes. If you make moisturizing a regular habit (which the experts we spoke to say you should) every day can feel like a spa day. For as little as $7 a bottle. It can help improve your overall skin health, along with preventing dryness, flakiness and cracking.

LEARN MORE How to shop for body lotion | Lotion vs. cream

Beyond making your skin feel soft, lotions can support the skin barrier and lock in moisture, noted Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “An impaired skin barrier will leave the skin more vulnerable to damage, dryness, irritation, inflammation and infection,” she said.

Our top picks

How we picked the best body lotions

To help us determine the best body lotions, we spoke to board-certified dermatologists about why moisturizing is important and what to look for in a quality body lotion. Many of our editors have tried these lotions on their own skin, as well. We looked at the following characteristics, as well:

  • Ingredients: Look for humectants, emollients and occlusives when shopping for the best body lotion. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane or ceramides are in many of the lotions below.
  • Price: While there are nice lotions that are on the pricier side, many of the ones below are available on Amazon for less than $20.

The best body lotions

With this expert guidance in mind, we rounded up a handful of dermatologist-recommended lotions and creams, plus some Select staff favorites, to help your dry skin heal.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Dr. Marmon, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at New York Medical College recommends CeraVe’s moisturizing cream, which is formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to heal dry skin. Select’s managing editor, Leah Ginsberg, also swears by it: “The two things I love most are its soft texture and I notice more of a moisturizing effect on my skin that lasts longer when I use it than when I have used other creams and definitely than when I use lotions,” said Ginsberg. She also appreciates that it doesn’t have a strong scent or a hefty price tag. CeraVe’s Moisturizing cream has a 4.8-star average rating from 111,827 reviews on Amazon.

Dove's Body Love Sensitive Care Body Lotion

King recommended this “rich moisturizing formula” from Dove that “supports the skin barrier with ceramides,” and is “the ideal combination of humectants, emollients and occlusives,” she said. It is “a great choice for sensitive skin because it hydrates, supports the skin barrier and locks in moisture, and it doesn't contain any ingredients that are likely to be irritating or drying,” she added. Dove’s Body Love Sensitive Care Body Lotion has a 4.5-star average rating from 248 reviews on Amazon.

Amlactin Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Dry Skin

Marmon also recommends Amlactin’s Daily moisturizer for dry skin. It’s formulated without parabens or fragrances and relies on humectants like glycerin to hydrate the skin. Also, the lotion contains 12% lactic acid, which the brand says is both a powerful humectant and gentle exfoliant that can relieve skin issues like keratosis pilaris.

Vaseline Intensive Care Sensitive Skin Relief Lotion

King also recommended this option from Vaseline, which “contains humectants like glycerin to hydrate the skin, emollients like shea butter and sunflower seed oil to support the skin barrier, and occlusives like petrolatum to lock in moisture,” but no irritating ingredients, she said. King also noted that it’s formulated with colloidal oatmeal, which helps to soothe and protect the skin. Vaseline’s Intensive Care Sensitive Skin Relief Lotion has a 4.9-star average rating from 36 reviews at Target.

Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion

Vanicream is by no means a new, splashy brand (in fact, it’s been around since the 70s), but it’s a stalwart in the world of skin and hair care. In fact, dermatologists in our guide to the best treatments for razor burn, the best shave gels, facial moisturizers, products for rosacea and best shampoos for every hair type all feature Vanicream’s gentle, fragrance-free products. Marmon recommended their fragrance-free moisturizing lotion as a quality option for hydrating your skin. It has a 4.8-star average rating from 2,177 reviews on Amazon.

Eos Shea Better 24H Moisture Body Lotion in Pomegranate Raspberry

Though the dermatologists we spoke to recommended proceeding with caution with heavily-fragranced moisturizers, King has recently been using this lotion from eOs and has been “very happy with how moisturizing it is,” she said. Plus, it’s packed with humectants, emollients and occlusives like “shea butter, glycerin, triglycerides, cocoa seed butter, petrolatum, mineral oil and sunflower seed oil,” she noted.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+M Triple Repair Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin

I’ve been using La Roche-Posay products for years and love their gentle scent and the fact that they’re lightweight, providing deep moisture without leaving behind a greasy residue. Marmon recommended this moisturizer from the French beauty company, which is formulated with ceramides, shea butter, glycerin and niacinamide. The lotion has a 4.7-star average rating from 17,896 reviews on Amazon.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion

Select reporter Harry Rabinowitz is a fan of Cetaphil’s lotion as both a body and face moisturizer: “it’s totally unscented, it comes in a large, affordable bottle, and I’ve seen it in a lot of dermatologist recommendations,” he said. Cetaphil is formulated with hydrating glycerin and is non-comedogenic, meaning it shouldn’t clog pores or cause breakouts. Cetaphil has a 4.7-star average rating from 5,063 reviews on Amazon.

How to shop for a body lotion

“Moisturizer is a catch-all term for something that hydrates the skin,” said Marmon. Whether a product is sold as a lotion, cream, body butter, or the like (more on what distinguishes each below), they should contain humectants to hydrate the skin, emollients to support the skin barrier and occlusives to lock in moisture, said King. Some lotions can also contain additional ingredients for targeted concerns, like “lactic acid to gently exfoliate rough or bumpy skin, or retinol for anti-aging,” she added.

  • Humectants: “Humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and urea attract water from the environment to increase moisture in the skin,” said Marmon. “They need to be used along with the other components in order to retain the water content,” noted King.
  • Emollients: Emollients “help in skin barrier function, membrane fluidity and cell signaling leading to overall improvement in skin texture and appearance,” said King. They soothe the skin, said Marmon, filling in any gaps and cracks. Some examples of emollients in moisturizers include squalene, shea butter, fatty acids, or ceramides.
  • Occlusives: “Occlusives are oils and waxes which form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss,” said King, meaning they enable the skin to hold onto moisture. Examples include petrolatum, (the main ingredient in Vaseline, or Aquaphor, for example) beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin and zinc oxide, said King. “Balms and ointments are more commonly occlusive,” noted Marmon.

As for what to avoid—especially if you have rosacea or sensitive skin—are moisturizers that are fragranced or formulated with dyes or other potential irritants, said Marmon. Shoppers should also avoid parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic dyes and alcohol, she added.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, “look for a lightweight moisturizer or lotion labeled "non-comedogenic" or oil-free, said Marmon. Comedogenic ingredients, like coconut oil, may clog pores, causing breakouts.

What is the difference between a lotion and a cream?

Lotions, creams, and body butters are all moisturizing products, but they have different consistencies and properties, said Marmon:

  • Lotions are typically water-based, lightweight and “have a thinner consistency that makes them easy to apply and quick to absorb,” said Marmon. They provide lighter hydration and are ideal for normal to oily skin.
  • Creams, on the other hand, are richer and are typically formulated with higher oil content, said Marmon. They are “ideal for normal to dry skin and great for aging skin,” noted Marmon, especially during menopause, when lowered estrogen levels can cause the skin to become dryer and thinner.
  • Body butters or other balms are often thicker and more concentrated. They typically contain the highest proportion of oil and natural fats and are great for “very dry or rough skin, and areas like the elbows, knees and heels,” said Marmon.

What should you do if you have rosacea or eczema?

If you struggle with skin conditions like rosacea or eczema, King recommends avoiding potentially irritating ingredients like hydroxy acids or retinol. “Stick with good moisturizers that contain humectants, emollients and occlusives,” she said.

Both King and Marmon recommended applying lotions or moisturizers after showering to lock moisture in, but “people with eczema, psoriasis, severely dry skin or other skin barrier issues may need more frequent moisturization,” said Marmon.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Why trust Select?

Christina Colizza is an editor at Select and has been a product reviewer since 2018. She covers a range of self care and skin care topics like shampoos, eyebrow serums and more. She also writes and edits Select’s weekly New & Notable column, which highlights exciting product launches, major sales, what Select staffers are buying and some of the team’s latest recommendations and advice.

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