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January 20, 2023  |  Beauty & Personal Care

Why different lotions moisturize different parts of your body best, according to a skin care expert

Whether it’s a result of skin issues, exposure to dry indoor heat or environmental conditions, just about everyone experiences dry skin at one time or another. While the good news is that there are almost countless moisturizing lotions on the market to choose from, the challenge is finding one that works best for specific needs. 

To assist our readers in their search for the perfect lotions, we consulted with the BestReviews' skin care expert, Alina Zufall, M.D. In our article, she advises consumers about what to consider before buying a lotion, including the buzzwords and ingredients to look for while shopping.

In this article: Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Replenishing MoisturizerEucerin Advanced Repair Cream for Very Dry Skin and Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment

How lotions work

Shopping for lotions requires assessing your needs and weeding through the different products, many of which are formulated for specific areas, such as the face, body or hands. Zufall advised that products that are designated for one part of the body may be fine to use in other areas, but ingredients matter. 

"You have to be very aware of the ingredients in that product if you are going to use it in a location that it is not meant for," she explained. "This is because the face is generally more sensitive than the body and because it has more oil-producing glands that can get clogged and cause acne." 

As examples, Zufall said that body lotion may work fine for the face for people who don't have oily or acne-prone skin. However, some body lotions will be too strong and may result in irritation when applied on the face. Knowing what ingredients to look for and what areas of the body they are safe for are keys to finding the right products for you. 

Lotion ingredients and features

There are several considerations to keep in mind when shopping for lotion. 

Familiarize yourself with buzzwords

Most lotions have terms on the packaging that indicate what parts of the body they are best suited to moisturize. Zufall said that understanding these buzzwords will help you understand how a lotion works and what it can and can't do. 

"For face, often we say to look for a product that is “noncomedogenic” and “oil-free” if your skin is acne-prone. Noncomedogenic means that the product won’t clog your pores, though this term is not monitored by the FDA and there is no standardization of testing to determine comedogenicity," she said, explaining that the term or lack of it doesn't necessarily mean that a product will or won't clog pores. 

"If a company has performed actual studies on humans with that product, that is the best measure, but this is often not the case or it is hard to find. Often times, you may have to just try it for yourself and see how the product works for you."

Understanding oils

Many lotions contain oils, but they aren't all the same. Oils with high levels of linoleic acid, Zufall explained, have low comedogenicity, which makes them suitable for oily skin as well as use on the face. She pointed out that top oils in this category include goji berry, hemp seed, jojoba, evening primrose, grape seed, meadowfoam seed, sea buckthorn, rosehip, argan, black and blue-berry seed, mineral, pomegranate seed oils and shea butter. 

"Oils with a higher percentage of oleic acid are much more likely to clog pores, so I would not recommend them on acne-prone skin," Zufall continued, noting that they are typically o.k. to use on dry or eczema-prone facial skin. These oils include carrot seed, chia seed, coconut, cottonseed, date seed, flax seed, marula, moringa, palm, soybean, wheat germ oils and cocoa and coconut butters. 

Ingredients for the body, hands and face

While some lotions can be used interchangeably depending on your skin type, it's important to consider where you will be applying the product you choose. The key reason, Zufall said, is that the skin on the body and hands are more tolerant to ingredients that may irritate the face. She provided some tips to help consumers find products that work for them. 

  • Ingredients, such as lactic acid and urea are excellent for removing dead skin and moisturizing the body skin but are usually too strong for the face. 
  • For the hands, I love greasy ointments or thick moisturizing creams because this skin is very resistant and difficult to moisturize.
  • Ointments and thick creams are typically more occlusive, or protective against the loss of moisture.  
  • Oily ointments and thick moisturizers are likely too heavy or greasy to use on the face. 

Sensitive skin

Many people have sensitive skin that makes them prone to irritation and breakouts when using various products. Although Zufall recommends using lotions that are labeled as hypoallergenic or fragrance-free, she warns that there are no regulations to guarantee these criteria.  If you have very sensitive skin, opt for products that are recommended by professionals. "I usually like to look at products approved by the National Eczema Association, as these products have been tested and appear to be safe for very sensitive skin," she said. 

Best lotions for different parts of the body

Best lotions for the face

Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer

This fragrance-free moisturizer is made with peptides, plant oils and hyaluronic acid that provide deep moisture and soothing effect. Our expert recommends it for acne-prone skin. 

Sold by Amazon

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin

Whether you have sensitive skin or acne, Vanicream's Daily Facial Moisturizer is one of Zufall's favorite options. It's rich in ceramides and hyaluronic acid, but doesn't contain harsh ingredients such as dyes, parabens or fragrance. 

Sold by Target and Amazon 

Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream

Not only is this cream formulated to moisturize without irritating skin, it also contains ingredients such as antioxidants and niacinamide that give it a brightening boost. You can use it even if you are prone to acne. 

Sold by Amazon and Target

EltaMD UV Daily Broad Spectrum Moisturizing SPF 40 Facial Sunscreen 

In addition to moisturizing hyaluronic acid, this product serves as a broad-spectrum sunscreen with powerful SPF 40. The lightweight lotion is free of parabens. 

Sold by Amazon

Best lotions for the body

Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream for Very Dry Skin

Do you have very dry skin on various parts of your body? If so, Zufall suggests Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream that's rich, fragrance-free and packed with ceramides. 

Sold by Target and Amazon

Cetaphil Daily Smoothing Moisturizer for Rough and Bumpy Skin

This lotion serves double duty, as it exfoliates skin while it moisturizes. The formula isn't likely to cause irritation and is free of fragrance. 

Sold by Amazon

Gold Bond Pure Moisture Daily Body and Face Lotion

Packed with moisturizers, plant oils and vitamins, this fragrance-free lotion is ideal for dry skin. It produces moisture that lasts up to 24 hours. We love that it can be used on the body and face. 

Sold by Amazon and Target

Best lotions for the hands

Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment

One of the BestReviews expert's favorite hand lotions is this deep moisturizing ointment that acts as a protective barrier. It's even suitable for skin that's so dry it's become cracked and irritated. It's made without fragrance or preservatives. 

Sold by Target and Amazon

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

Created by dermatologists, this hand cream has been a top-seller for generations for it's highly moisturizing formula that's suitable for dry, cracked hands. It only takes a drop for excellent skin hydration. 

Sold by iHerb, Amazon and Target

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Hand Cream

Extremely dry hands aren't a challenge for Cicaplast Hand Cream by La Roche-Posay, as it's made with hydrating ingredients that can provide moisture for as long as 48 hours. The rich formula keeps moisturizing even after hand washing. It's free of parabens and fragrance. 

Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out


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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.