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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best exfoliating body lotions

Last Updated May 2019

If you’ve got bumpy, rough, or dull skin, chances are you’ve tried some type of exfoliating scrub or body wash. While these are fabulous skincare products, for optimal results it’s best to complete the process with an exfoliating body lotion. These lotions can be used at any time; unlike scrubs or washes, they’re not limited to shower or bath time. For some sufferers of skin conditions like acne or keratosis pilaris, exfoliating body lotions are an absolute game changer in seeing improvement in their condition.

However, not all exfoliating body lotions are created equal. To effectively remove dead skin cells and smooth out the rough patches, these lotions must contain a perfectly balanced cocktail of exfoliating acids and moisturizing ingredients. Quality exfoliating body lotions also won’t irritate your skin.

Choosing the right exfoliating body lotion can be, well, rough. At BestReviews, we’re here to help you make the right choice. Keep reading for our complete shopping guide, or simply check out our top picks of the best exfoliating body lotions currently on the market. 

Exfoliating body lotions are great for use on cracked heels, elbows, and knees.

Key considerations

How exfoliating body lotions work

Exfoliating lotions are designed to remove dead cells that collect on the top layer of the skin. These cells can make skin appear dull and also clog pores, causing acne. Exfoliating lotions work to reveal the healthy skin underneath. They also correct uneven skin tone and smooth rough, bumpy skin caused by dry skin and a number of common skin conditions.

Unlike exfoliating scrubs and body washes, exfoliating body lotions don’t contain gritty particles to do the dirty work of exfoliation. Instead, they rely on exfoliating acids like glycolic or lactic acid. Because of this, the lotions don’t need to be washed off after use. Instead, these acids penetrate deep into the skin to dissolve dead skin cells and debris. As the lotion absorbs into the skin, it also hydrates, much like a regular body lotion. Apply an exfoliating body lotion just as you would a regular one.

Types of exfoliating body lotions

Basic: These exfoliating body lotions help remove patches of extremely dry, rough, and bumpy skin. They may also be helpful for more serious skin conditions like keratosis pilaris, scaly plaques, and eczema.

Combination: These exfoliating lotions combine a scrub with a lotion. The buffing particles exfoliate the skin while the lotion (or sometimes cream) hydrates the skin for a two-in-one punch. These products may require rinsing.

Keratosis pilaris: These exfoliating lotions are specifically formulated to target keratosis pilaris. This common skin condition causes tiny red bumps on the upper arms, legs, and other areas of the body. Though there is no cure for this harmless condition, targeted products like exfoliating body lotions can reduce the redness and even out the skin tone.

“Clean”: These exfoliating lotions contain ingredients that aren’t harmful to the body or the environment. These natural ingredients are often derived from plants, such as tea tree oil extract, licorice, chamomile, and other anti-irritating ingredients. They are also free of parabens and other harmful chemicals and are usually cruelty-free and vegetarian-friendly as well.

DID YOU KNOW?

Keratosis pilaris, also known as “chicken skin,” is a condition found in 40% to 50% of adults and up to 80% of teenagers. These harmless but stubborn tiny bumps are caused by a buildup of the protein keratin blocking hair follicles.

Exfoliating body lotion features

In a quality exfoliating lotion, there should be a blend of exfoliating acids and hydrating emollients to soothe and moisturize the just-exfoliated skin. Also, when an exfoliating lotion only uses one strong acid without balancing it out with gentler acids and hydrating ingredients, it has the potential to irritate the skin. 

Exfoliating acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA): This group of natural and synthetic compounds minimizes the appearance of rough, bumpy skin by smoothing and evening out skin tone. 

Glycolic acid: This is the strongest AHA with a high-penetration profile, which means it can get deep into the skin to work its smoothing magic. It is naturally derived from sugarcane.

Lactic acid: Also an AHA, this acid is a little gentler than glycolic acid. Due to its larger molecular size, it doesn’t penetrate as deeply. This is also a naturally occurring compound, most commonly sourced from sour milk.

Salicylic acid: This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is naturally derived from willow bark. It can penetrate into the skin’s pores and unclog them. It’s also helpful for dissolving dead skin cells. A popular ingredient in acne skincare, it’s commonly used in exfoliating lotions.

Moisturizing emollients and humectants

Hyaluronic acid (HA): It sounds like an acid that we associate with exfoliating, but HA is actually a super hydrating humectant and holds 1,000 times its weight in moisture! In addition, this substance that naturally occurs in skin plumps it up to give it a youthful, radiant appearance.

Ceramides: These lipids (fats) hydrate the skin and play an important role in maintaining the skin’s natural barrier. It’s a great emollient to improve the appearance of dry, flaky skin.

Shea butter: This natural fat from the nut of the shea tree is a rich emollient widely used as a thick moisturizer similar in consistency to butter. Shea butter also works to smooth just-exfoliated skin.

Glycerin: A common humectant in skincare, it mimics the natural moisturizing factor of skin and is compatible with all skin types. It can be synthetically derived or sourced from plants or animals (vegetarians take note). 

Unlike exfoliating scrubs and washes, most exfoliating body lotions use natural acids, such as alpha hydroxy acids, rather than exfoliating beads.

Exfoliating body lotion prices

Exfoliating body lotions range in price from $13 to $43 a bottle. Budget-priced ones tend to come in larger quantities of 8 to 14 ounces, while the top-of-the-line products may yield only a few ounces of product per bottle.

Inexpensive: For a low-priced exfoliating body lotion, you can expect to pay between $1.60 to $1.70 per ounce.

Mid-range: These exfoliating body lotions range from $2.00 to $3.70 an ounce.

Expensive: Expect to pay $4.00 and more per ounce for a premium exfoliating body lotion.

EXPERT TIP

Dry skin can worsen conditions like keratosis pilaris and acne. An exfoliating body lotion hydrates the skin while also penetrating deep into follicles and pores where these conditions start.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Do use an exfoliating scrub or body wash in the shower or bath right before applying an exfoliating body lotion for best results.
  • Do a skin test on your inner wrist or another less-visible area before applying an exfoliating body lotion all over your body. Some exfoliating acids can cause irritation.
  • Do apply an exfoliating lotion to either dry or damp skin. Exfoliating lotions can be thick and hard to absorb, so some users find they absorb better into damp skin.
  • Do apply exfoliating body lotion daily to affected areas. If irritation occurs, apply less frequently.
  • Don’t use an exfoliating lotion right after any depilatory methods, such as waxing, sugaring, or shaving.
  • Don’t use exfoliating body lotion on your face unless such use is specified on the bottle.

Other products we considered

If you’re self-conscious about showing bare arms because you suffer from “chicken skin,” dark spots, or crepey skin, REN Clean Skincare AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum can bring back your confidence — and sleeveless clothing. Lighter weight than a lotion, this AHA-based serum absorbs easily into the skin while delivering a potent formula of lactic acid, xylitol, and skin-nourishing probiotics. Plus, its ingredient list is squeaky clean of toxins. Somes users have raved that after a few weeks of daily use, the KP bumps on their upper arms vanished completely. Exfoliating body lotions are great for cracked and callused feet, and we love Bliss Aloe Leaf and Peppermint Foot Cream designed to soften even the roughest feet. This cream has a lotion-like consistency and contains glycolic and salicylic acid to slough off dead skin. We love the pleasant smell of its cooling peppermint oil that refreshes and soothes tired feet. This is a vegetarian, cruelty- and paraben-free product containing a list of natural plant oils.

Exfoliating body lotions work best when paired with an exfoliating scrub. Use the scrub in the shower, then apply the lotion to either wet or dry skin.

FAQ

Q. I have sensitive skin. Can I use an exfoliating body lotion?
A.
While exfoliating body lotions can be irritating to the skin due to their AHA and BHA content, there are certainly excellent products available to you. Choose a lotion that’s free of fragrance, dye, and parabens to avoid these common irritants. You also might want to skip any containing glycolic acid and opt for a lotion that contains gentler lactic acid. Also select an exfoliating body lotion labeled as hypoallergenic.

Q. Do exfoliating body lotions help any other skin conditions?
A.
An exfoliating body lotion, especially one containing salicylic acid, can help minimize ingrown hairs. It can help remove dead skin cells so the hair can grow in normally and not get caught inside the follicle. Also some ingredients like hyaluronic acid that are commonly found in exfoliating body lotions may also help reduce the signs of aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, and crepey skin. 

Q. Are exfoliating body lotions safe for people with eczema and psoriasis? A. Many are safe to use on both skin conditions and can indeed be helpful. We’d recommend products certified with the National Eczema Association seal of approval. If you have a moderate to severe case of either condition, consult with your dermatologist before using an exfoliating body lotion or any skincare product.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Kailey
    Kailey
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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