I am cursed with extremely dry skin. Growing up in Colorado, this was only exacerbated by the extremely dry climate. Every winter, my skin would get flaky, itchy, and irritated—and no matter how much normal body lotion I slathered on, I could not get any relief. Desperate, I finally turned to a dermatologist for answers and found the key to all of my problems: body butter. Using body butter instead of body lotion gave my skin a touchably soft appearance that would be at home in a shaving cream commercial, even in the harshest winter months.
There are tons of body butters out there, but finding a good one that will actually work for you is key. I tapped DiAnne Davis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Dallas, Texas, and Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, for the lowdown on all things body butter.
The main difference between body butters and body lotions are the weight and the consistency. “Lotions have higher water content and a more liquid consistency, while body butters are usually thicker and creamier,” says Davis.
King adds that body butters also have more oil and less water than a lotion. “Body butters are thick creams that contain mango, cocoa, shea, palm or other butters, and they may contain other oils such as coconut or avocado,” she says.
Everyone can use body butter, but people who have dry skin will benefit the most from adding body butter to their bodycare routine. King says that body butters are so beneficial for dry skin because they are so emollient and occlusive, which means that they help soften skin and keep moisture locked in.
Look for butters, but also look for key hydrating ingredients:
Humectants: According to King, humectants are “low molecular weight substances that bind water into the stratum corneum. They need to be used along with the other components in order to retain the water content.” Look for hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
Emollients: Emollients help repair the skin barrier and improve skin’s overall texture and appearance, according to King. Look for cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and ceramides.
Occlusives: “Occlusives are oils and waxes which form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss,” says King. Look for petrolatum, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin, and zinc oxide.
Davis also recommends looking for moisturizers that come in a jar. “Their consistency is going to be creamier and thicker and provide maximum hydration for their skin,” she explains.