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Best body moisturiser for dry skin 2023: Hydrate and soothe with these creams and lotions

Relieve the discomfort of flaky and tight-feeling skin with our pick of the best moisturisers for dry skin

For most of us, a good body moisturiser is a pleasant addition to a morning shower or evening bathing routine. However, if you have dry to very dry skin then you may find a full-body moisturiser isn’t a luxury product at all, but an essential. Left without moisture, dry skin can easily become tight, flaky and even cracked. As such, it’s important to stock up on products that seal in moisture and form a protective barrier over dry and delicate skin.

Body moisturisers designed for dry skin are thicker and richer than body lotions for general use. They contain nourishing emollients to soften the skin from within, as well as ingredients that form a protective occlusive layer that prevents oils and moisture from escaping into the air. Products for dry skin may also include healing ingredients that help dry and cracked skin to repair itself over time, while also helping to relieve itchiness and sensitivity.

We’ve rounded up some of the best body moisturisers made especially for dry skin, to keep your skin feeling soft, supple and more comfortable. Read on to discover our favourites.

READ NEXT: The best eczema cream to buy

Best moisturisers for dry skin: At a glance

How to choose the best body moisturiser for dry skin

What causes dry skin?

Dry skin – characterised by a feeling of tightness, visible flakes or scales, and sometimes soreness and cracks in the skin – is simply skin that tends to release water into the atmosphere more quickly than normal. Dry skin is by and large a product of genetics; it can also be influenced by environmental factors, such as a cold and dry climate. You may also find you experience dryer skin at particular times of the year; in particular, in winter, when the central heating is on more often; or in summer, as a result of air conditioning.

Some skin types show dryness more than others; in general, darker skin colours aren’t more prone to dryness, but dry patches and flakiness may be more visible on dark skin tones.

Note that skin tends to become dryer as it ages, too, as the body’s production of natural oils slows down. Certain medications (such as antihistamines and medicines to treat high blood pressure or cholesterol) can also result in temporary dryness. Finally, inherited skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis can cause patches of dry skin across the body, particularly around the joints.

To care for dry skin, avoid harsh detergents and hot baths or showers, which can strip your skin’s natural moisture. Apply a body moisturiser throughout the day, particularly after bathing, showering or swimming. Moisturise the hands after washing up, or any activity that brings the skin into contact with irritants such as household cleaning products. Hydrate from the inside as well; drinking plenty of water will help keep skin nourished.

What ingredients should my body moisturiser for dry skin contain?

Body lotions are usually made up of a lot of water with some oils; these are usually quickly absorbed into skin, leaving normal to oily skin feeling comfortable. Body moisturisers made for dry skin will contain a higher proportion of emollient oils and butters to nourish and soften the skin. They’re usually thicker creams or ointments, and take a little longer to be fully absorbed into the skin.

Cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil are all natural oils that you’ll often find in moisturisers for dry skin. You may also see ingredients such as mineral oils derived from petroleum, which are very good at creating a protective final layer that seals in oils and moisture to help the skin to heal any cracks and flaking.

If your dry skin is cracked and damaged, you may also want to look for skincare ingredients containing vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and irritation so that your skin can repair itself. Calming natural ingredients such as white tea and chamomile can also really benefit irritated skin. Those with sensitive skins should avoid products with artificial fragrances.

Sensitive skin types might also prefer to avoid parabens. These are preservatives that are often used in skincare products to prevent bacteria growth; but parabens such as ethylparaben and propylparaben have been associated with skin irritation, so if your skin is already inflamed then you might want to steer clear. We’ve noted below where products are paraben-free.

How should I apply my body moisturiser?

The best time to apply body moisturiser is straight after your bath or shower to lock in moisture. Apply a generous amount of cream or ointment and rub in well all over, paying particular attention to very dry areas such as the elbows and knees. The heat from your bath or shower should help the cream to be absorbed more easily.

You can also apply body moisturiser throughout the day – especially if the weather is very hot, cold or windy (which can cause chapped skin), or if you’re in an environment with dry air, such as a centrally heated or air-conditioned building. Finally, a night-time application of body cream before bed will help damaged skin to repair overnight and means you’ll wake up with soft and glowing skin.

How we test body moisturisers for dry skin

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete understanding of a product. This is why we personally tested all of the body moisturisers featured in the roundup below, following the instructions for use found on the packaging.

We used the body moisturisers on dry skin as directed for one week and evaluated the results, paying particular attention to how well the skin retains moisture afterwards. We also noted how the product feels and smells, how well the moisturiser is absorbed and any issues such as heaviness or greasiness after use. We observed how the skin feels immediately after using and the results from repeated usage, particularly in terms of skin hydration and comfort. Finally, we noted the package design and ease of use.

READ NEXT: The best moisturisers for all skin types

The best body moisturisers for dry skin you can buy in 2023

1. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Daily Skin Therapy: The best-value moisturiser for dry skin

Price: £3.99 | Buy now from Boots

Palmer’s classic cocoa butter formula has been softening and moisturising dry skins for the best part of two centuries, and with good reason. The rich, nourishing cream contains cocoa extract, a natural emollient that’s packed with fatty acids and healing antioxidants. Cocoa butter is one of the best natural products for softening and soothing chapped, dry skin. Palmer’s formula also includes coconut oil to trap in moisture, and vitamin E to promote healing.

The thick, unctuous cream smells heavenly, and sinks into the skin easily without feeling greasy. The Daily Therapy formula promises 48-hour moisture; we could definitely still feel the softening effects of the body butter the following day, until the cream had been rinsed or showered off.

An absolute godsend for dry or rough skin, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter is vegan, paraben-free and hypoallergenic, making it suitable for all skin types including sensitive and eczema-prone skins.

Key specs – Pack size: 250ml Key ingredients: Cocoa butter, coconut oil, vitamin E Paraben-free? Yes

Buy from Boots

2. E45 Skincare Rich 24hr Lotion: The best moisturiser for very dry skin

Price: £6.99 | Buy now from Boots

E45 is a no-frills but highly effective range of products formulated to relieve dry skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, tackling patches of parched skin that may be causing discomfort. E45’s Rich 24hr Lotion is a lightweight yet richly hydrating cream that keeps dry skin moisturised around the clock. The cream contains evening primrose oil, a source of fatty acids that’s often used in the treatment of eczema.

The lotion is fragrance-free and absorbs easily, leaving skin feeling fresh and supple. Used daily, the cream improves the strength of the skin’s own barrier, helping it retain moisture more effectively for long-lasting softness. At under £10 for a large bottle, it’s also great value. Apply liberally through the day for best results.

Key specs – Pack size: 400ml Key ingredients: Glycerin, paraffin (mineral oil), evening primrose oil Paraben-free? Yes

Buy from Boots

3. Aveeno Skin Relief moisturising lotion: The best moisturiser for dry and itchy skin

Price: £7.99 | Buy now from Boots

Oats are a fantastic ingredient for treating dry, rough and scaly skin; oatmeal has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is very soothing on raw and itchy skin. Aveeno’s triple-oat complex – combining oat flour, oat extract and oat oil – is clinically proven to soothe very dry and irritable skin, repairing the skin’s barrier and improving overall skin health.

Part of Aveeno’s range of oat-based moisturisers for dry and eczema-prone skin, the Skin Relief formula is designed for very dry skin and includes glycerin to soften skin and petrolatum to form a protective barrier. An excellent choice for very dry, sensitive and itchy skin.

Key specs – Pack size: 300ml Key ingredients: Oat extract, glycerin and petrolatum Paraben-free? Yes

Buy from Boots

4. Laura Mercier Soufflé Body Crème: The best luxury body moisturiser for dry skin

Price: £48 | Buy now from John Lewis

If you’re looking for a weekly treat to add a touch of luxury to your bathtime ritual, the Laura Mercier Soufflé Body Crème is a delicious-smelling and gorgeous-feeling way to do just that. The body cream contains a whole host of skin-nourishing ingredients including vitamins A, C and E, vanilla, honey, grape seed and rice bran oil. It’s whipped to the consistency of a soufflé, melting into skin on application and leaving it looking, feeling and smelling amazing.

We like this Almond Coconut version of the product, but the body soufflé is also available in Crème Brulee, Fresh Fig and Ambre Vanille fragrances. Pair with the crème bath in the same range for a truly luxurious, skin-softening experience.

Key specs – Pack size: 300g Key ingredients: Glycerin, grape-seed oil, shea butter Paraben-free? No

Buy from John Lewis

5. Attitude Oatmeal Sensitive Natural Soothing Body Cream: The best dry skin moisturiser for your baby

Price: £12 | Buy now from Big Green Smile

Delicate baby skin needs special care, and this hypoallergenic cream containing hydrating shea butter and natural oat extract is perfect for everyday moisturising. Apply following a bath to prevent baby’s skin from drying out. This body cream is also good to use at nappy-changing time to help soothe any itching and keep the skin’s own moisture barrier intact. A nappy cream in the same range offers additional protection against rashes.

Attitude’s baby body cream is vegan and cruelty-free, and also free from parabens, and helps your baby’s skin remain baby-soft through the day.

Key specs – Pack size: 200ml Key ingredients: Glycerin, shea butter, coconut oil, oat extract Paraben-free? Yes

Buy from Big Green Smile

6. Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair: The best moisturiser for healing dry, cracked skin

Price: £5.99 | Buy now from Boots

Petroleum jelly is excellent for sealing in moisture and to heal chapped skin – chances are, you already carry a small pot in your handbag to treat dry lips or hands on-the-go. Vaseline is probably the best-known petroleum jelly brand on the market, and this Advanced Repair lotion from the company combines moisturising glycerin with micro-droplets of Vaseline jelly, to rehydrate skin and seal in moisture.

The unfragranced lotion is suitable for use on sensitive and eczema-prone skin, and by repairing the skin’s own protective barrier, the lotion can heal and restore patches of rough and very dry skin in just five days. The formula is super-thick and creamy; the high levels of glycerin mean it feels slightly sticky on application and for some time afterwards. However, for very dry skins this can feel reassuring, since you know the product is continuing to protect and moisturise the skin throughout the day. This is a good high-street product at a great price for those whose skin is very dry, cracked and irritated.

Key specs – Pack size: 400ml Key ingredients: Glycerin, dimethicone, petroleum jelly Paraben-free? No

Buy from Boots

7. Sanctuary Spa Wet Skin Moisture Miracle: The best dry skin moisturiser to use after the shower

Price: £8 | Buy now from Look Fantastic

Sanctuary Spa’s Wet Skin Moisture Miracle goes on as soon as you step out of the shower or bath, without you having to even dry off first. It’s the ideal formula to use if you find your skin dries out quickly after the bath or shower, trapping in the skin’s own oils and moisture quickly and with minimum hassle.

The lotion itself is full of good stuff, too, with apricot and avocado oils as well as patchouli, sandalwood and jasmine fragrances. Wet Skin Moisture Miracle leaves you smooth and hydrated all over, and smelling amazing too.

Key specs – Pack size: 200ml Key ingredients: Apricot oil, avocado oil Paraben-free? Yes

Buy from Look Fantastic

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