Moisturizers come in all different formulas: body milks, body lotions, body butters, hand creams, foot creams–and as much as you might think a moisturizer is a moisturizer, there is actually a difference. 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. But, for me, body cream is a moisturizer that 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.
Body creams 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 body cream on my face would lead to an atomic-level breakout. Check out my guide to the best acne treatment systems for adults of 2017 to see what I’ve using to keep my acne under control.
How to spot a good body cream.
Because they have a higher oil content, body 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 body 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.
Using a body cream is good opportunity to nourish your skin with other supportive ingredients at the same time. Here are some beneficial additives to look for in a body cream.
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 for body creams with 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 can find in body 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.
If you’re reading this and not sure if body cream is really the moisturizer you’re looking for, try checking out my other moisturizer comparisons including guides to the best body butters, best body lotions, best body milks, best luxury hand creams, and best cuticle oils and creams.
But if body cream is sounding like the moisturizer you’d pick to take with you to a deserted island, read on to see breakdowns of the best body creams of 2017.
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 recently featured Oribe in my best hair spray for women guide and best luxury candles for their Cote D’azur scented candle. 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 even dry, scaly 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. For a better explanation of what hyaluronic acid spheres do, see my best lip plumpers article, but the short version is that this molecule loves water like I love glitter (a lot.) Hyaluronic acid in its dehydrated form is added to beauty products because when it soaks into your skin and 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 cream 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 body 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 Body Cream
This body 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 Body 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. All these things cause skin to appear firmer and can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. I’ve had gotu kola as a tea and it gives you a boost like caffeine without the jitters, so I’m excited to see how it affects skin tone. In addition to gotu kola, this body 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. 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 Body 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. I recently featured Ahava’s Dead Sea moisturizers in my guides to the best body butters of 2017, best body lotions of 2017, and best luxury hand creams.
- 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 body creams on this list. 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. I recently featured Yu-be’s thinner body lotion in my best body lotions of 2017 guide.
- 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 Body Cream
Frangipani and Monoi are words you may not recognize. 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 body 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 and best luxury hand creams.
- 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 Body 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 Body 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 Moisturising Jojoba Oil Body Cream
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 cream uses jojoba oil, an oil is which one of the closest in structure to the oils that our bodies make naturally, along with glycerin, corn oil, silicones, and beeswax to hydrate dry skin and prevent moisture loss. This makes for a silky cream that spreads easily and leaves your skin touchabley soft. I love beeswax in my moisturizers and that can sometimes have a sticky feel if not done well and this one isn’t sticky at all. 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 parabens.
- Hydrating jojoba oil
- Light fragrance
- Soaks in fast
- A little goes a long way
- Contains parabens
- Not vegan (beeswax)
7. L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Body Cream
L’Occitane is a French brand that strives to use ingredients grown locally in Provence, France. This body cream is 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 body 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 milks of 2017 and best body lotions of 2017.
- 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 consistancy
- 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 other body creams don’t. Glycerin, vegetable oil, sunflower seed oil, and petroleum moisturize dry, flaky skin. While 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 the body cream is “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. (For a break down of occlusives, emollients, and humectants see my guide to body lotion.)
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 body 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 Cream
Another firming body cream, the C+C Vitamin Body Cream by Natura Bisse harnesses the natural 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 body cream that smells amazing. It has this fruity, bright citrus scent that’s 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 Cream 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 the body cream.
- Anti-aging body cream
- Natural chemical peel effect
- Hydrolyzed elastin proteins
- Rose oil for non-greasy hydration
- Smells amazing
- Contains parabens
- Price tag
10. Borghese Tono Body Creme
If what you need is a non-greasy body cream that is packed with botanical extracts to support skin health, then you need to check out the Borghese Tono Body Creme. This is a very thick, buttery cream. I probably wouldn’t risk it, but it looks like you could hold the open tub of this cream upside down and it would stay put. For being so thick, it isn’t a dense cream and spreads quickly over your skin and soaks in like a dream with no residue left behind. The intense moisture of this cream comes from coconut oil and hyaluronic acid spheres which pull double-duty to help your skin appear plumper and firmer.
To support your skin in the the long run, this cream uses sea salt and collagen to improve skin strength and increase your skin’s ability to hold onto moisture and prevent dryness. Botanical extracts including dandelion root, ivy, hops, chamomile, lavender, rosemary, coltsfoot, and horse chestnut nourish your skin, soothing irritation and fighting free radicals. Witch hazel acts as an astringent to prevent your skin from losing more moisture and fights acne causing bacteria. The scent is fresh and neutral and won’t interfere with perfumes. Whether you’re really into the botanicals or just want a cream that is luxe feeling and will keep you hydrated, you can’t go wrong with the Tono Body Cream.
- Creamy coconut oil
- Contains hyaluronic acid spheres
- Loads of nourishing botanical extracts including witch hazel, chamomile, and hops
- Contains hydrolyzed collagen and sea salt
- Never greasy
- Fragrance is light and neutral
- Contains parabens
- Be sure to check long list of botanicals for allergens