What's in Your Body Lotion?

Choosing a high performer can mean the difference between skin that feels like silk or rawhide. Let this be your buyer's guide.

Every good lotion should have these:

Oils penetrate skin to rehydrate, plump, and fill in tiny cracks. Coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter are good natural ones, and silicone is a safe version whipped up in a lab. Also, check for glycerin or hyaluronic acid: These water magnets suck H20 from your skin's deeper layers so it reaches the surface.

Some ingredients are in your body and the bottle:

  • Sodium lactate is a salt found in lactic acid, which your body makes when you exercise. In lotion, it coats your skin and locks in moisture.
  • Glycerin, found in your skin's fatty tissues, is so good at preventing water loss that brands sometimes add a synthetic version to creams.
  • Ceramides are fats that help keep skin soft and strong. Moisturizers with ceramides are especially good for ultra-dry skin.

When to call in the big guns:

Got tough, scaly patches on your knees or elbows? Look for lotions with urea or alpha hydroxy acid—both gently dissolve the top layer of dead cells so softening and hydrating ingredients can nourish the skin underneath.

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Is the fancy stuff worth it?

Unlike with face creams or antiaging products, expensive doesn't always translate into more effective when it comes to body moisturizers. If you love the look, feel, or scent of a product, go ahead and splurge, but lots of drugstore moisturizers that have the ingredients listed here can work just as well.

Did you know?

Even lotions labeled "unscented" may contain masking fragrances that neutralize the smell of other ingredients—and companies don't have to list them on the label. So if you have sensitive skin, do a patch test first when using a new cream.

This story originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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