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Many people know the benefits of moisturizing skin, but applying it to the back can prove tricky. Dry skin can become irritated and itchy, but these simple solutions may help someone apply lotion to hard-to-reach areas.

Some people use moisturizers as part of their daily skin care routine. Others use creams and lotions to combat the symptoms of sensitivity or skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

Whatever the reason, these tips and techniques demonstrate how to reach awkward places on the body that may otherwise prove difficult to moisturize.

This article will explain why a person needs to moisturize their back and the best ways of applying it. We will also suggest what to look for when choosing a suitable moisturizer.

a woman rubbing lotion on her upper backShare on Pinterest
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The skin is the body’s largest organ. It is a protective barrier between the body and the outside world. Skin also protects the body from environmental hazards, such as pollutants and bacteria.

Itching, burning, and stinging sensations may be signs of skin sensitivity, according to a 2017 review of studies. People may also report that their skin feels tight and uncomfortable. Researchers say that moisturizers can reduce these signs of dryness and leave the skin feeling smoother and more elastic.

Additionally, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) warns that hot water can strip the natural oils out of the skin, which can lead to dryness. They recommend keeping showers and baths short, ideally between 5–10 minutes, with the temperature warm instead of hot.

The AAD also recommends applying moisturizer to damp skin immediately after bathing, ideally within the first 3 minutes.

The simplest way of ensuring complete coverage for moisturizing the back is to get someone else to do it. However, this may not be practical in every situation, and manufacturers have made various products available to help people moisturize.

Use the forearms

If a person is fairly flexible and can place the back of their forearm and hand across their back comfortably, they may not need an applicator.

To perform this method:

  • apply moisturizer to the back of the arm from the elbow to the fingertips
  • take care not to rub the lotion into the arms, but let it sit on the skin’s surface
  • place the arms behind the back with the elbows bent
  • rub the forearms and backs of the hands up and down the back until the skin absorbs the lotion
  • repeat as necessary until the back is sufficiently moisturized

If a person is not very flexible, it may help to warm up slightly first with some gentle stretches. Someone may also find it helpful to use one arm at a time.

However, the AAD points out that people need to gently massage moisturizers into the skin for optimal results. An individual may have issues maintaining an even pressure over the whole surface of their back.

Use an applicator

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.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Manufacturers design sponges on long, curved handles to help people apply lotion.

These foam sponge heads may have a textured surface to reduce the risk of the moisturizer sliding off before it reaches the back. The person puts the moisturizer onto the foam head and rubs it over their back.

The following is an example of a lotion applicator featuring a long handle:

Vive Long Lotion Applicator with 4 Pads

Some people find the sponge heads of these applicators too small and prefer a wand design, with a longer applicator head covering most of the handle. The principle is the same, with people putting moisturizer on the applicator, but they may be able to cover a larger area of their skin with one swipe.

The following is an example of a wand-style lotion applicator with a long handle:

GranNaturals Lotion Applicator

Other versions of long-handled applicators incorporate massage into their design. The heads of these products feature several small balls that can roll across the skin.

The person pours their chosen moisturizer into a reservoir behind the balls before rubbing it across their back. The moisturizer flows over the balls as they roll, and the product massages it into the skin.

The following is an example of a long-handled lotion applicator and massager:

OneLeaf Lotion Applicator and Massager

People also use straps or bands to help them reach awkward spots on their backs. A person puts moisturizer onto the middle of the band and then slides it across their back. Some people prefer this way of applying moisturizer, as they can use the band diagonally across their back and move it from side to side.

The following is an example of a lotion applicator brand:

ANSPHIE Back Lotion Applicators

Another popular lotion-applicator design looks more like a mini paint roller than a bathroom accessory and works similarly. A person puts moisturizer on the roller and wipes it across their back.

The following is an example of a lotion applicator roller:

Bearback Lotion Applicator

There are many creams and lotions on the market that all aim to moisturize dry skin. However, competition between manufacturers can lead to misleading advertising claims and the liberal use of scientific terms, according to Harvard Medical School.

The authors of a 2017 article journal point out that there is no agreement on how to define a moisturizer. They explain that there are three main types of this skin care product:

  • Emollients: These are lipids or fats that work on the surface of the skin, keeping it feeling smooth. They fill in the gaps between skin cells, making the skin feel soft and flexible. Examples of emollients include fatty alcohols and squalene.
  • Occlusives: These are usually oil-based moisturizers that trap water against the skin, stopping it from evaporating. These include petroleum jelly, lanolin, and lecithin.
  • Humectants: These absorb water from lower layers of the skin and, to a lesser extent, draw moisture from the air, particularly in humid conditions. These include sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, and glycerol.

Many moisturizers contain all three substance types, so choosing one may come down to personal preference. The AAD recommends using fragrance-free options immediately after bathing and whenever the skin feels dry. They add that people with very dry skin may prefer an ointment instead of a cream.

Learn about the best lotions for dry skin here.

Dry skin can feel itchy and uncomfortable. Moisturizers help by reducing inflammation that can irritate, smoothing the surface, and trapping moisture.

Dermatologists recommend using moisturizers all over the body. Applying it to the back can be difficult, but manufacturers have invented applicators to make this process easier.