The Best Lotions for Dry Skin and Ingredients to Look For

Lotion is a proven, effective strategy for managing dry skin. Research has shown that lotions improve skin texture and skin barrier function and reduce dryness. Here’s a look at the best ingredients in lotions for alleviating dry skin—and which lotions, ointments, and creams contain these healing elements.

moisturizing hands with lotion

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Ingredients That Help Dry Skin

There are a range of different ingredients that hydrate and nurture the skin. The best option for you depends on your specific symptoms and whether you have a skin condition like eczema. When choosing a lotion, keep an eye out for at least one of these ingredients on the label, which are clinically proven to boost the skin’s moisture uptake:

  • Shea butter
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Cocoa butter
  • Glycerin
  • Ceramides
  • Colloidal oatmeal
  • Petrolatum
  • Dimethicone

Shea Butter vs. Cocoa Butter

Shea butter and cocoa butter are similar, but they offer different benefits for the skin. Shea butter is a fat from a tree nut that has been proven to reduce inflammation. Cocoa butter is a fat from a plant that has been shown to improve skin tone and elasticity.

How to Choose Your Lotion for Dry Skin

Choosing a lotion for dry skin depends on a number of factors. While you need to consider your goals and how you want your skin to look, it's also important to think about the current state of your skin, as well as your skin type. This will help you choose a moisturizer that best suits your personal needs.


The first step in choosing the best lotion for you is to find one that contains the right ingredients. For example, conditions like face and body acne would require that you stick to non-comedogenic ingredients, meaning they won’t clog pores. Research shows that ingredients like petrolatum, lanolin, and mineral oil can be problematic for acne.

In contrast, someone with eczema or very dry skin can benefit from creams and ointments rather than water-based lotions. Everyone has different skin circumstances, so get clear on the state of your skin before you assess ingredients.

Skin Goals

Aside from moisturizing your skin, consider if you have any other skin goals. This can direct you toward choosing the right ingredients. For example, hyaluronic acids and alpha hydroxy acids can help reduce inflammation while also moisturizing dry skin.

Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, and beeswax are best for people with eczema and skin allergies. If your goal is skin rejuvenation because of aging or exposure to sunlight, collagen, elastin, and keratin are the best options. When you know what your goals are, it's much easier to wade through the sea of options available.

Smell and Consistency

Lastly, it’s important to choose a lotion that has a smell and consistency you enjoy. Wearing a lotion daily is important for ensuring optimum results. However, if a lotion feels too greasy or doesn’t moisturize enough, you’re not likely to use it.

Moreover, if you don’t like the smell, you likely won’t apply it regularly. If you’re sensitive to smells, opting for an unscented lotion is always a safe bet. Also, people with allergy- or eczema-prone skin should avoid lotions with fragrances since this can also worsen eczema. Lotions with oils may have a more greasy feel, while lotions based in glycerin may be more thick and creamy. People have different preferences in consistency, so be sure to choose something that suits you best.

Glycerin is a beneficial ingredient for the skin because it’s both a humectant and an emollient, meaning it helps the skin retain moisture while boosting the skin’s softness and appearance.

Best Lotions for Dry Skin

There are hundreds of options to choose from. To make it easier, here’s a look at the face and body lotions that can work for people with different needs—and how they can help.

Best Overall for Dry Skin

One of the best overall lotions for dry skin is CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. This lotion contains ceramides, which elevate the function of the skin’s outer layer while boosting overall moisture. This lotion is also unscented, making it gentle for anyone with allergies.

Best for Extremely Dry Skin

If you have extremely dry skin, Aquaphor Healing Ointment is a great option. This ointment is made with petrolatum and glycerin, which are proven to improve moisture uptake in dry skin.

Best for Hands

Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Formula contains 40% glycerin and provides immediate, long-lasting moisture to dry and damaged skin. It is also fragrance-free, recommended by dermatologists, and accepted by the National Eczema Association.

Best Body Lotion

Curél Hydratherapy Wet Skin Moisturizer will hydrate the entire body. This lotion is made with ceramides, which helps the skin retain moisture and prevents dry skin. It is meant to be applied right after the shower when the skin is still damp, which ensures hydration.

Best for Sensitive Skin

One of the best lotions for sensitive skin is Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. This cream is great for sensitive skin because it is fragrance- and paraben-free, meaning it’s not likely to clog pores. Additionally, this lotion is not greasy and binds to the skin to offer lasting moisture.

Best for Eczema

The best lotions for eczema are certified by the National Eczema Association, such as La Roche Posay Lipikar Eczema Cream, which has a creamy, non-greasy texture and relieves itchy, irritated skin. This is achieved through the use of ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, and niacinamide.

Best Drugstore Lotion

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a great option you can find at any drugstore. This non-comedogenic lotion is created with colloidal oatmeal and emollients to protect dry skin. It can also be used daily to promote moisture and prevent dryness.

Best Anti-Aging Lotion

No7 Restore & Renew Multi Action Face & Neck Day Cream SPF 30 is a good anti-aging lotion. This moisturizer contains hyaluronic acid, which calms redness and promotes elasticity, while ingredients like ginseng extract rejuvenate and promote skin brightness.

Best for Inflamed Skin

People with dry and inflamed skin can opt for First Aid Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration. This lotion has shea butter, ceramide, and antioxidants to minimize inflammation and soothe the skin with increased moisture. It’s also a fragrance-free option that’s safe for people with allergies and sensitive skin.

Best Clean Lotion

Love, Beauty and Planet’s marula oil and cedarwood body lotion is a clean option for eco-conscious folks. This lotion is free from parabens, silicone, dyes, and phthalates. It also is filled with natural moisture-boosting ingredients like marula oil, which replenishes lost moisture and improves skin barrier function.

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By Michelle Polizzi
Michelle Polizzi is a freelance writer and certified yoga instructor who creates research-based health and wellness content for leading brands and publications.