We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

A person’s skin becomes dry when it cannot retain enough water or natural oils. Various lotions can help keep the skin hydrated.

Research suggests that almost everyone develops dry skin as they get older. Earlier in life, external factors such as a dry or cold climate and overwashing can also cause dry skin.

This article discusses how lotions can be helpful for dry skin and how to choose one. It also provides a list of products and answers some frequently asked questions.

Quick links

A person may be more likely to have dry skin if they:

  • are over 40
  • have a dark or very fair skin tone
  • have a jobs that involves exposure to water
  • live in a cold or dry climate
  • smoke
  • have certain medical conditions

Lotions work by locking existing moisture into the skin to prevent it from drying.

However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, lotions are generally not as effective as creams or ointments.

A 2020 study tested how well oil-in-water moisturizers worked when applied to dry skin on the legs. The researchers found that these moisturizers helped rehydrate the skin.

People with skin conditions, such as eczema, may wish to contact a healthcare professional about prescription treatments or the best over-the-counter options.

Learn more about common skin conditions here.

A person should consider using a lotion that is an oil-in-water emulsion. This means that water is an ingredient.

Oil should not be applied alone, otherwise this will dry the skin out further. Water should counteract the oil and help lock in moisture.

Hyaluronic acid is another ingredient that helps moisturize the skin.

A person should avoid moisturizers with ingredients that can dry out the skin further, such as:

  • fragrances
  • preservatives
  • parabens
  • synthetic dyes
  • alcohol
  • salicylic acid
  • benzoyl peroxide

A healthcare professional can give more specific advice about which ingredients may be most helpful, or potentially harmful, to each person.

How we choose products

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: The products are available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: The products list all their ingredients clearly.
  • Reputation: The products are from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

Learn more about how we choose products here.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Aveeno Eczema Therapy Daily Moisturizing Cream

For eczema-prone skin

This product is suitable for dry, eczema-prone, and sensitive skin.

It contains colloidal oatmeal, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized as a skin protectant that helps lock in moisture. It also contains ceramides and water.

The cream is free from fragrances and steroids, and its makers say that it has received approval from the National Eczema Association (NEA).

A 12-fluid ounce (fl oz) bottle costs around $17.31 on Amazon.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

For a lightweight lotion

This product is suitable for normal to dry skin. It is oil-free and contains:

  • hyaluronic acid
  • three essential ceramides
  • water

Its makers say that this product provides all-day hydration, is fragrance-free, does not clog pores, and has been approved by the NEA.

A 19-fl oz bottle costs around $17.78 on Amazon.

Alastin Skincare Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer

For all skin types

This hypoallergenic and anti-aging product is a face moisturizer and not suitable for the rest of the body.

It is fragrance, paraben, gluten, and cruelty-free.

It contains oat kernel extract which provides a calming effect. It also contains linoleic acid and phospholipids to support the skin barrier.

According to the company, the moisturizer uses TriHex technology, which involves a blend of peptides and other ingredients, to remove damaged elastin and collagen and encourage healthy, new elastin and collagen to form.

A 2-fl oz container costs $70.

Skin Authority Olive Fig Shea Butter Body Cream

For vitamin D

This body lotion is infused with vitamin D to brighten the skin.

It also contains water and essence of jasmine, sage, and citrus to soothe and hydrate dry skin without leaving a greasy residue.

Olive, fig, and shea extracts also form part of the formula. It is non-comedogenic so will not clog pores. The fatty acids in the extracts contain iron, protein, and vitamins A and E.

A 4-fl oz container costs $34.

La Roche Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Body Moisturizer

For a prebiotic formula

Suitable for dry to extra dry skin, this product contains a prebiotic formula to restore the skin microbiome.

It also contains:

The company claims that the formula provides 48-hours of hydration and has a non-greasy and non-sticky finish.

It is suitable for sensitive skin of all ages and has received approval from the NEA. It does not contain fragrances or parabens.

A 13.52-fl oz container costs $29.99.

Avène TriXéra Nutrition Nutri-Fluid Balm

For vegans

This product is suitable for dry and sensitive skin. It contains selectiose to reinforce the skin barrier and thermal spring water to soothe, soften, and calm the skin.

In addition, it contains a lipid-trio of ceramides, essential fatty acids, and plant sterols. These ingredients prevent hydration loss and restore the skin barrier.

It does not contain fragrances, parabens, or alcohol. It is suitable for vegans and people of all ages. The product is also approved by the NEA.

A 6.7-fl oz container costs $29.

Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Body Lotion

For recyclable packaging

This lotion contains cocoa butter to soften the skin, shea butter to hydrate and improve skin’s appearance, and squalane to replenish the skin barrier.

It is suitable for all skin types and free from fragrances and parabens.

The product has a non-greasy feel and the company uses recyclable packaging. The product is also available in a refillable pouch to save plastic.

A 2.5-fl oz bottle costs $14.

Some people have allergic reactions to certain skin care products, particularly those that contain fragrances, preservatives, dyes, and color additives. Metals or latex can also be ingredients that cause these reactions.

Anyone who knows that they have an allergy or sensitivity should check ingredients labels carefully before making a purchase.

People should also consider doing a patch test before using any product more widely. This involves using a small amount on an area of the inner wrist or arm and waiting 12–48 hours to see whether any reaction, such as skin color changes or swelling, occurs.

Individuals with skin conditions should consult a healthcare professional for advice about the best approach to skin care.

Below are some of the most common questions about dry skin and their answers.

What should you not use for dry skin?

A person should avoid ingredients such as:

  • fragrances
  • preservatives
  • parabens
  • synthetic dyes
  • alcohols
  • salicylic acid
  • benzoyl peroxide

Is vitamin C good for dry skin?

Research suggests that vitamin C may help by promoting collagen production and improving the skin’s thickness.

How do I know if my skin is dry?

Try pinching the skin. If it snaps back, it is not dry, but if it wrinkles or takes time to bounce back, it may be dehydrated.

How long does dry skin take to heal?

With an effective lotion, a person might see results in a week or two. Always apply the lotion as directed.

Dry skin is a common issue, particularly as people age. It happens when the skin does not retain enough water or natural oil. Lotions can help lock in moisture to rehydrate the skin.

Make sure that water is an ingredient in any lotion, and avoid products that contain fragrances, preservatives, dyes, alcohol, parabens, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide.

For further advice, speak with a healthcare professional. This is especially important for people with skin health issues or allergies to any ingredients in cosmetics.