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Skin looking scaly? Elbows and knees feeling elephanty? Legs or arms itchy? If the lotion you apply in the morning just doesn’t seem to be relieving these dry-skin-symptoms by the end of the day, it may be time to graduate to a body butter, a richer kind of moisturizer. What exactly is body butter and what can it do for your skin? We talked to leading dermatologists to find out the main body butter benefits, how the intensely hydrating formulas work and what their favorite formulas are so that you can fill your cart with the body butter that targets your needs.
What is a body butter?
“Body butter is a bit like it sounds: a thick, luxurious, dense and richer form of moisturizer,” says Dr. Ava Shamban, M.D., board-certified celebrity dermatologist in Beverly Hills and founder of AVA MD Dermatology and SKIN FIVE Medical Spas. “It is a more intensive moisturizing product that has a very high fat — or lipid — content.”
Unlike regular lotion, which typically has a water base, “very often the base of body butter is shea butter, derived from the butyrospermum parkii plant, a fat which has a high-dense viscosity. They may also include key fats such as palm, coconut, cocoa, olive jojoba, almond, sunflower or avocado or blended combinations of them,” Dr. Shamban explains.
Body butters not only offer more hydration than lotion, but because of the thicker consistency, they help seal it in. They are often almost solid in cool or room temperatures, but they seem to melt when heated or worked into the skin.
What are the main body butter benefits?
1. Body butter benefits: Provides intense hydration
“Body butters are especially good if you have very dry skin,” says Dr. Jodi LoGerfo, a New York City-based doctor of nursing practice and a family nurse practitioner certified in family medicine and dermatology. “They are super hydrating and can help improve the look and feel of dry, rough, dehydrated skin, replenishing skin’s natural moisturizing factors,” she adds.
Again, Dr. Shamban also points to the consistency as part of the magic. These thicker creams “will help to seal in moisture for a longer term,” she says. “Body butter can smooth skin for hours longer than a lighter lotion formulation.”
2. Improves your skin barrier
“Body butter can … correct any dysfunction in our skin barrier, also called skin matrix,” says Dr. Shamban. This protective shield not only helps prevent moisture loss throughout the day, it can also help hold off irritation to soothe finicky areas. According to Dr. Nava Greenfield, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at New York City’s Schweiger Dermatology Group, that’s because the barrier is what your skin needs “to defend and protect itself against outside pathogens and stressors. Without a strong barrier the skin is susceptible to all types of rashes and infections.”
3. Body butter benefits: Ends that itchy feeling
Finding yourself with an urge to scratch as temperatures drop? Adding a body butter into your routine, “can be very beneficial for relief of tightness, itching, tingling or stinging often associated with that type of skin,” says Dr. Shamban.
4. Gives skin much-needed nourishment
Along with intense hydrators, many body butters are loaded with good-for-skin vitamins, ceramides and more nourishers, adding to the impressive list of reasons why they’re a must for the cooler seasons.
How to use body butter to your benefit
To get the body butter benefits? Simply just slather it on! You can rub all over, but Dr. Shamban advises that since they’re concentrated, “It may be a bit harder to rub or spread, and it may take longer to absorb, so plan accordingly for a brief period of time before you get dressed after a body butter application.”
But, remember to keep it below the neck. “I would not recommend a body butter on the face for most people,” explains Dr. Greenfield. “The formulation will be too occlusive for sebaceous concentrated facial skin and may cause acne or breakouts.”
The best body butters for luscious, hydrated skin
Below, our’s and dermatologists’ favorite body butters to slather on this season. All of these body butters benefit your skin and will quench the thirst your its longing for!
Best long-lasting: Cetaphil Healing Ointment
This one packs an impressive punch and made Dr. Greenfield’s list for sealing in hydration with its rich petroleum base. It also contains shea butter to soften and vitamin E for antioxidant protection. It soothes irritation, leaves skin feeling smooth and plumps up small cracks and crevices on contact.
Best budget buy: Tree Hut Moroccan Rose Whipped Body Butter
You may not think you’d find such heavy hitters as shea butter, Moroccan argan oil and rosehip oil in a wallet-friendly formula, but this one proves that wrong. The blend not only moisturizes, it leaves skin with an irresistible glow that keeps die-hard fans coming back for more. They also go crazy for the bergamot, tea rose and amber scent.
Best for rough patches: Burts Bees Shea & Tropical Mango Hand & Body Butter
If you’re looking for a non-greasy formula with ingredients you can pronounce, this body butter from Burt’s Bees is your answer. Made with shea and mango butters and ingredients of 98.9% natural origin, it’s a good stripped-down butter you can count on to tackle all your parched areas on contact.
Best whipped formula: Jergens Shea and Cocoa Body Butter Scented
If a blendable, airy, whipped texture is your speed, this formula is for you. It makes for fast absorption with no wait time after application, so it’s great for busy mornings. But with cocoa butter, vitamin E and vitamin B3, it still manages to deliver all the benefits you want out of a butter and more.
Best non-greasy butter: Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter Moisturizing Body Butter
Dermatologically-tested and formulated to last 72 hours, this cult-favorite formula is a true winner. It’s packed with with shea butter, aloe vera, vitamin E and rosehip seed oil, yet has a completely non-sticky feel. And the rose, jasmine, violet and bergamot scent is heavenly.
Best sustainable formula: The Body Shop Shea Body Butter
If this was the one that got you hooked on body butter in your younger years, we have good news: and the formula and feel is just as good as you may remember. Plus, since it’s made with fair trade ingredients and packaging made of recycled materials, it’s as kind to the earth as it is to your skin.
Best for crepiness: OSEA Undaria Algae Body Butter
“Seaweed, oat and shea butter are a winning combination,” says Dr. Shamban of this formula that she loves. “It will reduce the visible appearance of lines and wrinkles as well as the crepiness on arms, knees, elbows and the decolletage.” And if you get the travel size, it won’t break the bank!
Best for sensitive skin: Clinique Deep Comfort Body Butter
This fragrance-free and allergy-tested formula offers shea butter, glycerin and hyaluronic acid for an intense dose of hydration that lasts and lasts without causing any additional irritation. Dr. LoGerfo calls it “very hydrating, luxurious and soothing.”
Best restorative: REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Barrier Support Body Balm
Why it’s a favorite of Dr. Greenfield’s: “It’s preservative-free, has natural ceramides, which are nutrients and supplements for dry skin, and a unique blend of oils for barrier support.” She adds, “It melts in your hands and is easy to apply with a subtle nice fragrance.”
Best for the skin barrier: Necessaire The Body Cream
Dr. LoGerfo loves that this formula offers both ceramides — five of them, to be exact — and niacinamide to give the skin’s barrier a boost. It also offers a 1% linoleic acid blend to help soothe any finicky spots, which makes it great for anyone suffering from chapped skin in the winter.
Best lightweight: Wild Elements RE:SET Restorative Overnight Body Cream
This rich cream is a go-to for Dr. LoGerfo because it has skin-perfecting ingredients like plant-based retinol, is made with sustainable ingredients and packaging, and is lighter weight than you might expect for something made for nighttime. Protective holy basil and radiance-boosting red clover offer bonus beautifying powers that make it hard to resist.
Best for hectic days: Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Lavender Whipped Body Butter
Not only will this body butter leave your skin so soft, but slathering it on is sure to have you feeling like you just had a relaxing spa day. That’s thanks to it being infused with eucalyptus essential oil (a strong woody, yet sweet scent, that’s been found to promote feelings of relaxation), lavender essential oil (It eases stress and boosts your spirits), shea and cocoa butters and coconut oil (all known as super skin hydrators).
Best splurge: Tatcha the Indigo Body Butter
Packed with squalane and glycerine along with Japanese indigo and soothing colloidal oatmeal, Dr. Shamban says this butter “will soothe even the driest skin type.” She calls it “a great healing salve for those who suffer from psoriasis or eczema.”
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