Experts weigh in on the pros and cons of each.

Claire Harmeyer
Nov 16, 2020 @ 1:01 pm
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body oil vs. body lotion
Credit: Getty Images

There are thousands of moisturizing products on the market, and while you may have been loyal to body lotions your whole life, nowadays, body oils are giving them a run for their money. We enjoy using both of them but were curious to find out if one was better than the other. To answer our questions, we spoke to three skincare experts to ask how body lotions and body oils stack up against each other, and if one reigns supreme.

First of all, it's essential to know which skin types react best to each moisturizer. "Dry, dehydrated, sun-damaged skin and those that deal with certain skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis and keratosis pilaris do better with body oils and creams," celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar tells HelloGiggles. "Bodies that suffer from body acne, ingrown hairs, and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) do better with lightweight moisturizers such as lotions."

If you don't deal with any of these skin issues, she recommends focusing on the product that targets the skin goals you have, regardless if it comes in oil or lotion form. Next, take into account the timing that's best for applying either oils or lotions.

Aguilar recommends using oil during colder, dry months and switching to lightweight lotions during the hotter summer months. Below, read these experts' pros and cons for body oils and body lotions.

Body oil

Pros of using body oil as a moisturizer:

  1. It's extremely hydrating. "Body oil helps reinforce your skin's outer barrier level to seal in moisture," licensed Senior Esthetician Ali Tobia tells HelloGiggles.
  2. It evens your skin tone. "It can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, cellulite, and redness," Tobia says. Additionally, Aguilar says that it can also brighten discoloration.
  3. Oily skin types will benefit from it. "Oily or acneic skin types respond better to oils since they help balance the skin and reduce its natural tendency to produce oil itself," Tobia explains.

Cons of using body oil as a moisturizer:

  1. It can feel greasy. Oils are messier than lotions and can leave your skin feeling slick for a while, which isn't ideal if you're trying to get out of the door pronto.
  2. It can stain clothing. "If you're in a rush, sometimes oils are not the best to use since they can rub onto clothing and give you that sticky feeling," Tobia explains. However, this depends on the formula since many of them absorb quickly and are transparent.
  3. It's not effective in the long-term. "Body oils are a great skin moisturizer for the most superficial layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, since oil penetrates the skin really well and has an instant soothing effect," Walch says. "However, it will remain in the stratum corneum and won't penetrate the layers beneath it, the epidermis, which will prevent a longer-term moisturizing effect."

Body lotion

Pros of using body lotion as a moisturizer:

  1. It keeps the skin soft and supple. "Dry skin can lead to your skin feeling extra tight and possibly cracking, so body lotions can combat that by nourishing your skin with the added moisture it's craving," Tobia explains.
  2. It absorbs quickly. "Using body lotion is a great way of hydrating the skin with a thin, yet non-greasy texture," Aguilar says. "It absorbs quickly and is great for people who don’t like feeling sticky."
  3. It has a long-term moisturizing effect. Walch explains that a body lotion is an emulsion (a mixture of two liquids that would not normally combine, such as oil and a water-based ingredient) and that both the stratum corneum and the epidermis layers can benefit from this mixture.

Cons of using body lotion as a moisturizer:

  1. It can cause negative reactions. Every body lotion has a different formula, but ones that have fragrance and some additives can cause inflammation or a negative reaction if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to a certain ingredient, explains Tobia. "Often, you'll need to find lotions that are made specifically for sensitive skin in order to prevent this." To prevent having a reaction, read the skincare label closely to make sure all the ingredients work for your skin.

Best body oils:

Dermalogica Phyto Replenish Body Oil

This Dermalogica body oil is packed with unique ingredients like French plum seed, avocado oil, and sweet almond oil, which all work together to hydrate and soften the skin. Bonus: it smells like lavender and orange blossoms, aka a super-soothing scent.

Rodin Luxury Body Oil Geranium & Orange Blossom

Yes, this oil is a splurge but the high price tag is equal to the high quality of this product. We love it so much that it even won the 2020 HelloGiggles Beauty Crush Award for Best Body Oil, and testers raved about the oil's luxurious scent and lightweight feel. One tester even said that she kept it at her desk and would apply it throughout the day, noting that her keyboard never got greasy.

Bio-Oil Scar Treatment Skincare
($19.97 save 28%)

Bio-Oil is a lot more affordable than many other options on the market, and it does the trick! Not only does it hydrate the skin, but it also works wonders on stretch marks, hyperpigmentation, and burns. Keep this baby on hand for all of the above.

Rahua Body Oil

Get more bang for your buck with this oil that can be used on both your body and face. It defends the skin from dryness with antioxidants and promotes healing and moisture retention with ingredients like vitamin E, essential oils, and herbal extracts. Also, the spray feature makes for an easy application process.

iS Clinical Youth Body Serum

"This product is super lightweight and it has hyaluronic acid, which acts as a humectant to retain water," Tobia explains. "I also like that it applies like a mist, so it feels really refreshing."

Best body lotions:

Athena Club Dewy Body Lotion
Athena Club

"It’s loaded with multivitamins, omegas, and  antioxidants," says Aguilar of her favorite body lotion. "It has a very thin texture that absorbs fast and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy. Instead, you're left feeling clean, hydrated, and happy."

Curél Dry Skin Therapy Itch Defense
($11.99 save 8%)

This won the 2020 HelloGiggles Beauty Crush Award for Best Drugstore Body Lotion, and for good reason. This moisturizer has approval from the National Psoriasis Foundation and holds a seal from the National Eczema Association, is packed with ceramides, vitamin E, and oatmeal extract—and its moisturizing effects last all day. 

Jergens Skin Smoothie

"I’ve been loving the Jergens Skin Smoothies lately," Aguilar says. "They have great ingredients like avocado and apple which are really soothing. They also come in a couple of scents, so I love switching them up depending on my mood."

Cetaphil Restoring Lotion with Antioxidants

This lotion also won a 2020 HelloGiggles Beauty Crush Award, but for Best Expert-Recommended Body Lotion. This affordable body lotion has been clinically tested on sensitive skin, and it's fragrance-free and paraben-free, meaning it won't irritate sensitive skin.

Love Beauty And Planet Murumuru Butter + Rose Body Lotion

Not only does this body lotion come in a pretty bottle, but it smells of Bulgarian rose petals, too. Infused with glycerin and sunflower seed oil, this lotion will soothe dry, damaged skin, leaving it feeling soft and supple.

Drunk Elephant Sili Body Lotion

We're big fans of Drunk Elephant at HelloGiggles, and the brand's body lotion is no exception. It contains a combination of shea and marula butters, plant oils, and amino acids, which creates a blend that restores lost moisture to your skin.