I am cursed with extremely dry skin. Growing up in Colorado, this was only exacerbated by the extremely dry climate. Every winter, my skin would get flaky, itchy, and irritated—and no matter how much normal body lotion I slathered on, I could not get any relief. Desperate, I finally turned to a dermatologist for answers and found the key to all of my problems: body butter. Using body butter instead of body lotion gave my skin a touchably soft appearance that would be at home in a shaving cream commercial, even in the harshest winter months.
There are tons of body butters out there, but finding a good one that will actually work for you is key. I tapped DiAnne Davis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Dallas, Texas, and Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, for the lowdown on all things body butter.
What makes body butter different from body lotion?
The main difference between body butters and body lotions are the weight and the consistency. “Lotions have higher water content and a more liquid consistency, while body butters are usually thicker and creamier,” says Davis.
King adds that body butters also have more oil and less water than a lotion. “Body butters are thick creams that contain mango, cocoa, shea, palm or other butters, and they may contain other oils such as coconut or avocado,” she says.
Who should use body butters?
Everyone can use body butter, but people who have dry skin will benefit the most from adding body butter to their bodycare routine. King says that body butters are so beneficial for dry skin because they are so emollient and occlusive, which means that they help soften skin and keep moisture locked in.
How do you choose the right body butter?
Look for butters, but also look for key hydrating ingredients:
Humectants: According to King, humectants are “low molecular weight substances that bind water into the stratum corneum. They need to be used along with the other components in order to retain the water content.” Look for hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
Emollients: Emollients help repair the skin barrier and improve skin’s overall texture and appearance, according to King. Look for cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and ceramides.
Occlusives: “Occlusives are oils and waxes which form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss,” says King. Look for petrolatum, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin, and zinc oxide.
Davis also recommends looking for moisturizers that come in a jar. “Their consistency is going to be creamier and thicker and provide maximum hydration for their skin,” she explains.
Our Favorite Body Butters for Dry Winters and Beyond
1. Susanne Kaufmann Body Butter
2. Ellis Brooklyn Marvelous CBD Extra Rich Body Lotion Cream
3. Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Body Cream
When I was in college, one of my roommates was experiencing skin so dry it was nearly bleeding. She discovered this cream and has never gone back—it's that intensely moisturizing. Cupuaçu butter, açaí oil, and coconut oil work together to soften and smooth skin. Plus, the pistachio, caramel, and vanilla scent is downright addictive.
4. 54 Thrones Ugandan Vanilla + Ethiopian Honey Beauty Butter
Ethically sourced African oils are blended together to create this luxurious body butter. There's shea butter sourced from both Uganda and Ghana, but there's also jojoba oil, baobab oil, and sweet almond oil to create the most nourishing experience possible.
5. Eu'Genia Shea 100% Pure Shea Butter Dermatological Formula
6. Kopari Ultra Restore Body Butter with Hyaluronic Acid
7. Weleda Skin Food Body Butter
8. Skinfix Barrier+ Lipid-Boost Body Cream
9. Colleen Rothschild Tahitian Monoi Body Butter
This body butter is King's recommendation. "A combination of murumuru butter, bacuri butter, shea butter, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and borage seed oil offers humectants, emollients and occlusives as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties," she says.
10. Byredo Gypsy Water Body Cream
11. Mutha Body Butter
12. Supergoop! Body Butter SPF 40
13. Kate McCleod Daily Stone
Think of this stone as a solid body butter. It glides easily onto skin, imparting tons of moisture. This is one of my favorite body moisturizers—it feels like a luxurious ritual every time I spread it on my skin. Cocoa butter is blended together with almond, apricot kernel, avocado, and coconut oil for a sumptuous experience.
14. Vanicream Moisturizing Cream
This was the body cream that changed everything for me. Petrolatum acts as the butter-like ingredient that makes this cream super rich. A dermatologist recommended this cream to me when I was young, and it's the first cream I turn to if my skin is ever really irritated—it's non-comedogenic and dermatologist tested.