Moisturizers come in all different formulas: body milks, body butters, hand creams, foot creams-and if I could only pick one to use for everything for the rest of my days, it would be body cream.
Don’t get me wrong, all the other moisturizers serve a definite purpose, but we’re talking about a, “Take one moisturizer with you to a deserted island,” scenario here. I love my body butters for targeting dry areas like knees and elbows, I love my cuticle creams for rescuing my acetone-abused fingertips, and I love my body lotions for everyday hydration.
Body cream is thin enough to not feel like overkill when my skin isn’t extremely parched while still being thick enough to handle winter chapped hands, cracked heels, and scaly dry skin.
That said, please don’t actually make me choose. They all smell so good!
What makes moisturizers different?
Moisturizers are emulsions of water and oil and if you’ve ever tried mixing those two things together, you have some appreciation of how awesome that really is. When there’s more water in the mixture, you get products like body milk and body lotion. These are thinner and great for everyday use when your skin isn’t uncomfortably dry.
When you increase the amount of oils, you get products like body butter and cuticle cream which have a thick, dense consistency–perfect for dry patches or for parts of your body that need deeper hydration than others like your hands.
TCreams fall right around the middle. They are thick and, well, creamy. Being thicker, they provide a better barrier to keep your skin from losing moisture and drying out making them a great choice for basically any body part except for your face. Some people can pull off using intense moisturizers on their faces, but for acne-prone folks like myself, using cream on my face would lead to an atomic-level breakout.
How to spot a good body cream.
Because they have a higher oil content, creams run the risk of feeling greasy. If your moisturizer leaves a residue, either you’re using a moisturizer with more hydration power than you need (like using loads of body butter when your skin isn’t dry) or you’re using a low quality cream. Some ingredients, like petroleum products, are more prone to feeling greasy than others.
When you’re looking for a quality cream, look for oils and butters with high compatibility with your body which are more likely to soak in quickly, leaving your skin feeling quenched instead of like an oil slick. Some of the top non-greasy moisturizer options that are easily absorbed by your skin include jojoba oil, shea butter, apricot kernel oil, rose oil, and hazelnut oil.
Also, any moisturizer that specifies it contains the esters of an oil is a great thing to look for. Esters are the extracted parts of an oil that your body can make use of so a moisturizer that uses esters is omitting parts of the oil that might not absorb and could leave your skin feeling greasy.
What else to look for in a body cream.
Applying any sort of lotion is good opportunity to nourish your skin with other supportive ingredients at the same time. Here are some beneficial additives to look for.
AHA’s or BHA’s. Alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids are food-derived acids that break down dead skin cells so the soft, healthy skin waiting underneath can shine through. These are the main ingredients in most chemical peels. Our ancestors have been using food-derived chemical peels for thousands of years.
Body peels are great for reducing the appearance of sun damage, age spots and lines, hyper-pigmentation, and scarring. Body peels can even help to remove keratosis pilaris–those permanent goosebumps that some of us get on the backs of our arms for example. To understand more how body peels work and if they’re right for you, read my guide to the best body peels.
Vitamins. Vitamins like E and C help block free radicals which slows down the aging process and prevents fine lines. Vitamin A stimulates the production of collagen which your body loses as you age. This helps to plump skin and reduce existing fine lines. So if anti-aging is your concern, look these vitamins.
Proteins. Your skin is made of the protein keratin and adding proteins (often plant-based) to your moisturizers can help by forming a barrier keeping hydration in. These tiny protein building blocks can slot into gaps in your skin’s protein armor, conditioning your skin and preventing moisture loss.
Botanicals. There are a huge range of plant extracts you find in creams including horsetail extract (anti-aging and antimicrobial), green tea extract (anti-aging and anti-inflammatory), and oat extract (soothes irritation, reduces dryness.) All support different systems so keep an eye out for ones that appeal to you.
Let’s do a breakdown of the best creams of 2018.
I read all the ingredient lists so you don’t have to.
1. Oribe Cote D’azur Restorative Body Crème
Oribe is known for their amazing hair products and addictive signature scents. I love how hydrating their products are on my hair so I’m excited that Oribe has gotten into skincare. The Restorative Body Crème doesn’t disappoint. It’s thick, luxuriant, and feels heavenly going on. It feels heavenly after too because the hydration really lasts leaving dry skin silky soft.
The scent fits right in with the signature fragrances of Oribe’s hair products. It’s a soft, musky floral with a hint of sandalwood which works with all genders. That said, if you like your lotions to smell like caramel candy apple or sugared roses, this one might not be feminine enough for you.
The Restoraitve Body Crème is deeply and intensely hydrating, using over 10 essential oils to give your skin the moisture it so dearly needs. It’s a long list and includes jojoba oil esters, passion fruit oil, shea butter, borage seed oil, illipe nut butter, meadowfoam seed oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and starflower oil.
Oribe also includes non-oil moisturizers like aloe vera, silicone (which seals in moisture), and hyaluronic acid spheres. When Hyaluronic acid meets up with water, it absorbs it, swelling up like a sponge. Since it both holds onto moisture and helps to plump up skin making it appear firmer and younger, you’ll find it in lip pumpers, anti-aging creams, and other moisturizers.
This body creme also makes uses of botanical extracts of carrot root, edelweiss flower, and amber to support and condition your skin’s texture. It’s a truly decadent experience and a cream that can tackle the roughest, driest skin. If you can swing it, this one is worth every penny.
- Great list of oils including shea butter, passion fruit oil, and jojoba esters
- Nourishing botanicals like carrot root extract and edelweiss flower extract
- Contains hyaluronic acid spheres
- Dreamy texture
- Intensely hydrating
- Signature, gender-neutral Oribe fragrance
- Vegan and cruelty free
- Free of parabens, petroleum products, mineral oils, and gluten
- Designer price tag
- Scent may not be feminine enough for some
2. Ahava Dead Sea Plants Firming Cream
This cream from Ahava is a decedent way to care for your skin and help to reduce the signs of aging that make your skin appear looser. The Dead Sea Plants Firming Cream uses the herb gotu kola which is known for its skin healing properties. Gotu kola increases bloodflow to your skin, stimulates the generation of new cells, improves the tensile strength of skin, and stimulates the production of collagen.
In addition to gotu kola, this cream also harnesses the antioxidant power of ginko biloba, caffeine, green tea, sugar maple tree, bilberry leaf, peppermint leaf, artichoke leaf, lemon, and orange extracts. All these things cause skin to appear firmer and can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
The cream is intensely hydrating with soothing aloe vera and essential oils like coconut oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, glycerin, and silicone to keep your skin from losing more moisture.
Like all Ahava moisturizers, the Firming Cream uses water from the Dead Sea which contains salts and other minerals that help your skin be able to retain more moisture in the long run so it actually prevents dry skin after the hydrating oils have worn off. The scent is light and barely there, just a clean sort of smell.
- Contain Dead Sea mineral water
- Anti-aging botanical extracts like gotu kola, green tea, sugar maple tree, and ginko biloba
- Paraben and sulfate free
- Never greasy
- Conditions and plumps skin
- Contains PEG’s
3. Yu-be Moisturizing Skin Cream
One of the best selling skin creams in Japan, the Yu-be Moisturizing Skin Cream has been making waves in the States as well. It has a thick consistency that hydrates with coconut oils and vegetable glycerin. While it’s definitely not a greasy cream, it does take a little longer to soak in than many of the other creams on this list.
While the Yu-be Moisturizing Skin Cream doesn’t use any fragrance, there is a recognizable smell to Yu-Be’s skin products because they harness the power of the camphor leaf. Camphor is a tree native it Asia and the oil soothes itching and irritation, prevents acne, and helps treat eczema.
It has a cooling effect so skin irritated by dry scaly patches or even bug bites are comforted by this cream. Camphor has a menthol-like smell that probably will remind you of Vicks. It’s not everyone’s favorite smell, but it doesn’t linger and is well worth it for the skin benefits.
- Soothing camphor is a balm for irritated skin
- Great for eczema
- Gluten free
- No animal testing
- If you’re sensitive to camphor, skip this one
- Contains parabens
4. Elemis Frangipani Monoi Skin Cream
Monoi is a Tahitian word for “scented oil” and the Polynesian tradition of soaking Tahitian gardenia petals in coconut oil until the oil is deeply infused with the fragrant flowers. So that sounds magical, right? Frangipani is another name for the plumeria flower. The Elemis cream contains both plant and flower extracts of plumeria and is beautifully and delicately floral with none of that sharp, artificial smell you get with cheaper lotions.
Along with the Monoi oil, macadamia nut oil, sunflower seed oil, and sesame seed oil provide deep hydration that soaks in quickly and never feels oily. The texture of this cream is silky and luxurious. The skin softening results are immediate and maybe a bit addictive. I’ve recently featured Elemis in my guides to the Best Body Peels.
- Quenching oils like macadamia nut oil and coconut oil
- Delicate floral fragrance that is true to the scents of frangipani and gardenia
- Free of parabens
- Floral scents aren’t for everyone
5. Lafco House & Home Nourishing Cream in Moonglow Apricot
Lafco is a fragrance house known for their amazing candles and home fragrances. I’ve featured their House & Home Collection scents, which correspond to the atmosphere of each specific room in your house, in my Best Luxury Candles and Best Home Fragrance Products articles. I’m excited they branched out into bath and body so I can take these fragrances out of the house with me.
This body cream is thinner than some of the others on this list, considering that it comes in a pump. Don’t let that put you off or make you think it’s less moisturizing. It’s packed full of shea butter, jojoba oil, and argan oil to give your skin the moisture it needs. The Lafco Nourishing Cream also contains orange blossom extract and citric acid which is an alpha hydroxy acid, providing that mild chemical peel action I mentioned in the introduction.
And then there’s the scents. I’ve chosen to feature one of my favorites, Moonglow Apricot, which has juicy top notes of apricot and lychee fruit with a heart of delicate white tea. If you don’t fancy that, Lafco has over a dozen other fragrances including Redwood (cedar and forest fern) and Sea & Dune (sea grass and salt air.)
- Deeply hydrating shea butter, jojoba oil, and argan oils
- Citric acid for gentle chemical peel action
- Many scents to choose from
- Product of Italy
- Free of parabens, dyes, and silicones
- Pump bottles don’t travel well
- Thinner than others
6. Crabtree & Evelyn Body Creme in Evelyn Rose
Crabtree & Evelyn is one of those established brands you can trust. It doesn’t always have the same spice of newer brands like Lafco, but their moisturizers have stood the test of time. This body creme uses shea butter, olive oil, and primrose oil along with silicones hydrate dry skin and prevent moisture loss.
This makes for a silky cream that spreads easily and leaves your skin touchabley soft. A little goes a long way with this cream so you know your jar will last you a while. The scent is light and airy and won’t interfere with your personal fragrance if you wear one. The one thing that I’m not into is that it does contain PEG’s.
- Hydrating shea butter, olive oil, and primrose oil
- Light fragrance
- Nourishing botanicals like rosemary oil and citric acid
- A little goes a long way
- Contains silicones and PEG’s
7. L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Cream
L’Occitane is a French brand that strives to use ingredients grown locally in Provence, France. It’s called “Ultra-Rich” and it feels ultra-rich.
The texture is thick but not so dense that you have to struggle to spread it over your skin. It’s almost a whipped consistency that feels undeniably luxuriant and leaves your skin hydrated and silky soft.
That’s probably because this cream is a whole 25 percent fair trade shea butter. With such a high percentage of shea butter, even the driest, scaliest skin can’t resist this cream’s quenching power. Just in case 25 percent shea butter wasn’t enough, L’Occitane includes glycerin, wheat germ oil, sunflower seed oil, apricot kernel oil, and silicones to supplement and make sure your skin is absorbing a wide range of lipids.
Extracts of honey, rosemary, and marshmallow root support skin health and texture. It has a clean, fresh scent that is gender neutral so the whole family can take advantage of it (which could be a plus or minus, I guess.) I recently featured other L’Occitane moisturizers in my guides to the Best Body Lotions of 2018.
- 25 percent fair trade shea butter isn’t messing around
- Essential oils like apricot kernel oil and wheat germ oil
- Nourishing botanical extracts like marshmallow root
- Decadent, whipped consistency
- Free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates
- Contains paraffin
- Not vegan (honey)
8. Mustela Stelatopia Moisturizing Cream
Okay, this is marketed as for babies, but, in general, we humans of all ages have skin and I think this cream occupies a very important spot on the list. We’ve looked at lot of creamy, decadent moisturizers with fun and relaxing scents, but what about people with extremely sensitive skin?
Some folks can’t tolerate fragrances or dyes or have skin conditions like eczema that make some lotions sting. The Mustela Stelatopia Moisturizing Cream is formulated to be hypoallergenic and soothes eczema prone skin in a way others don’t. Glycerin, vegetable oil, sunflower seed oil, and petroleum moisturize dry, flaky skin. W
hile I’m not usually wild about the use of petroleum, it does have minimal risk of allergic reactions and is very effective so it makes sense here. The brand says it’s “non-occlusive” but petroleum is about as occlusive as it gets so I’m not entirely sure what’s going on there. Just be aware.
This cream also contains citric acid which is a very gentle chemical peel making it a great choice to help break down scaly, itchy patches of eczema. It’s free of parabens, fragrances, dyes, and phthalates.
If your biggest concern is worrying your cream will turn irritated dry skin into irritated allergic skin, Mustela is the brand to try.
- Free of parabens, dyes, fragrances, and phthalates
- Helps soothe eczema
- Intensely moisturizing
- Contains petroleum
- Claims to be non-occlusive but contains petroleum
- No pretty scent
9. Natura Bisse C+C Vitamin Body Creme
The C+C Vitamin Body Creme by Natura Bisse harnesses the natural firming power of citrus to fight free radicals and slow the aging of your skin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your skin and helps to reduce hyper-pigmentation.
Citric acid acts as a mild chemical peel to remove build up dead skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and sun damage. Rose oil hydrates, soaking in lightning fast to plump skin and make it appear firmer, and silicones seal that moisture in.
All this combines to result in a scent that is fruity, brightly citrusy, but not overwhelming or overly sweet.
As we age, our body’s connective tissues begin to lose their strength. The protein elastin is responsible for a lot of the spring and firmness of our skin. Without it, our skin begins to sag. The C+C Body Creme contains natural free-form elastin to condition and tone your skin for a more youthful appearance. The effect isn’t permanent, but you will see some lifting while you’re using it.
- Natural chemical peel effect
- Hydrolyzed elastin proteins
- Rose oil for non-greasy hydration
- Smells amazing
- Contains parabens
- Price tag
10. Rituals Skin Cream in Dao
For a cream that feels like pure pampering, try Rituals Skin Cream in Dao. It’s silky and buttery and is a real pleasure to apply. This cream is packed with botanical extracts like green tea and Yi Yi Ren to support skin health.
Rituals uses a wide range of silicones and oils to moisturize your skin incluing shea butter, sunflower oil, cocoa butter, glycerin, and vegetable oil. The white lotus fragrance is clean and not overpowering.
- Hydrating shea butter, cocoa butter, and sunflower oil
- Indulgent silky texture
- Nourishing botanical extracts
- Fragrance is light and neutral
- Contains alcohol
- Vegetable oil is a vague ingredient