Fall is fast approaching, and with it, the increasingly dry, blustery conditions that often lead to parched and flaky skin. The drop in temperature and lack of humidity in the air robs our skin of precious moisture, and because the skin is likely to be drier all over this time of year, a body moisturizer is key. But not just any will do. Dermatologists say you want something that is ultra-nourishing like body butter, that not only hydrates skin from the neck down but also locks in the moisture that is so easily lost to the season’s elements.
Experts In This Article
- Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group
- Geeta Yadav, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology
- Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University
- Nava Greenfield, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York
- Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology in New York City
Best body butters, at a glance
- Best overall: Mutha, Body Butter, $45
- Best budget: Palmer’s, Cocoa Butter, $8
- Best drugstore: Shea Moisture, 100% Raw Shea Butter, $12
- Best splurge: True Botanicals, Clean Body Butter Cream, $58
- Best for sensitive skin: Cetaphil, Moisturizing Cream, $15
- Best for glowing skin: Osea, Undaria Algae Body Butter, $49
- Best for barrier repair: Ren, Evercalm Barrier Support Body Balm, $45
- Best calming: Weleda, Skin Food Body Butter, $16
- Best lightweight: Clinique, Deep Comfort Body Butter, $38
- Best whipped: Josie Maran, Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter, $38
- Best rich: Fenty Skin, Butta Drop Whipped Oil Hydrating Body Cream, $44
- Best for long-lasting moisture: The Body Shop, Mango Body Butter, $24
- Best moisture-locking: Vaseline, Healing Jelly Cocoa Butter, $4
- Best classic: Kiehl’s, Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter, $45
- Best nourishing: Caudalíe, Vinotherapist Replenishing Vegan Body Butter, $38
- Best unscented: Bliss, Body Butter Naked Body Butter Unscented Moisturizer, $13
- Best long-lasting fragrance: Ouai, Melrose Place Body Crème, $38
- Best body butter cream: Dove, Whipped Macadamia and Rice Milk Body Cream, $8
- Best multi-tasker: L’Occitane, Organic-Certified Pure Shea Butter, $40
- Best ointment that can work as a body butter: CeraVe, Healing Ointment, $20
Body butters contain natural butters—as the name implies—like cocoa, shea, avocado, and mango butter, plus oils like Argan, coconut, avocado, and sunflower oils. For these reasons, they typically have a heavier, thicker consistency compared to lotions and creams, as well as a higher proportion of oil to water, says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD—which is especially ideal for combating fall’s moisture-depleting elements.
“Oils in general are wonderful emollients for skin, meaning they can prevent evaporation of hydration from the skin into the environment,” echoes dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD. “Usually in more arid times of year when humidity is low, it’s the tendency of the environment to pull water out of the skin, and so people’s skin is drier—and when people turn on their heaters, which can also cause the air to dry, it’s the same scenario.”
All to say: “Body butters are really great this time of year as the weather starts to cool and the air becomes more arid and less humid, and they’re also really great for people who are just having a hard time keeping their skin moisturized,” says Dr. Nazarian.
What to look for when shopping for body butter
Geeta Yadav, MD, dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology says the two most important considerations to make when selecting a body are the ingredients and texture.
“If your skin is very dry and rough, you’ll want to look for a very rich, plant oil-heavy formula with ingredients known for their ability to deeply moisturize skin, like shea, cocoa, mango, and avocado seed butter,” she says. Many body butters are formulated with one or a combination of these ingredients, and selecting among them is largely a matter of preference.
According to Dr. Nazarian, a body butter may also contain occlusive ingredients, like petrolatum, mineral oil, and lanolin, and waxes, that lock moisture into the skin—and people could also opt to use a body ointment, which contains these ingredients, among others that help to hydrate the skin.
However, some ingredients in body butters can aggravate acne-prone or sensitive skin—and in this case, you’ll want to select a formulation that is made without comedogenic ingredients, which means they won’t clog your pores. Coconut oil is one ingredient that is highly comedogenic, says Dr. Yadav, while Dr. Nazarian often tells patients to steer clear of cocoa butter. Similarly, you might also want to select an unscented or fragrance-free option as some strong fragrances are known to cause allergic reactions in the skin, as well as some preservatives like formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents such as methylene diphenyl (or MDI) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI). While they note that not everyone will have issues with these ingredients, it might be worth performing a past test if you’re using a new product and/or unsure of potential allergies.
Conversely, Dr. Gohara is of the mind that people with acne-prone or extremely sensitive skin might want to avoid body butters altogether. “I would just stick with fragrance-free, hypoallergenic hydrators and moisturizers,” she says.
When it comes to texture, you can expect body butter to have a thicker consistency than your average lotion and cream. The butter will more slowly sink into the skin than other lotions for longer-lasting moisture. If you want a lighter-weight option, you might want to avoid formulations with an ointment base, which Dr. Nazarian says contain a high concentration of oils that can make them feel thick and—at times—greasy upon initial application.
Best body butters
Best overall: Mutha, Body Butter — $45.00
Key ingredients: shea butter, cocoa butter, mango seed butter
If you want a body butter that does it all, you can’t go wrong with Mutha’s award-winning blend, which feels like a spa day in a jar. Shea butter, cocoa butter, and mango seed butter work together to quench your skin’s thirst like never before for softer, smoother skin that stays hydrated for longer. The brand itself is a champion of purity, and makes products free from nasty chemicals, parabens, and synthetic fragrances, making them safe for every skin type and soon-to-be moms. While it’s a bit pricier than other options, it really is the epitome of luxury and is worth every single penny.
Available sizes: 1.7 fl. oz. and 5.5 fl. oz.
- Triple blend of natural butters for long-lasting hydration
- Dermatologist tested
- Made without synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde
- Subtle citrus scent
- Only one scent available
Best budget: Palmer’s, Cocoa Butter — $8.00
Key ingredients: cocoa butter and vitamin E
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter is a cult-classic—and it is one that Dr. Ilyas recommends. It contains cocoa butter, a mixture of oils including cocoa seed and sunflower, and vitamin E. The balm-like product provides deep moisturization to the skin all over the body while smoothing rough patches on the elbows, knees, ankles, and heels. Oh, and not to mention, it’s cheap; one tub will cost you less than $8. One thing to note is that it contains mineral oil, and though excellent for sealing moisture into the skin, it can be comedogenic—something to keep in mind as you shop.
Available sizes: 7.2 oz.
- Natural chocolate-y scent
- Contains mineral oil, which can seal moisturize into the skin
- Cocoa butter and mineral oil cause an allergic reaction in some individuals
- Can be comedogenic
Best drugstore: Shea Moisture, 100% Raw Shea Butter — $12.00
Key ingredients: shea butter
This body butter from Shea Moisture has the stamp of approval from Dr. Gohara. “The reason I like it is because butters are often consistencies that women of color like to use and Shea Moisture is run by women of color, so they understand skin and beauty needs and science behind skin color,” she says. “And I think that shea butter is the gold standard in terms of body butter.”
The product keeps its ingredients list simple—it’s made with just 100-percent certified organic shea butter—making it a great choice for people who are sensitive to skincare ingredients (so long as shea butter isn’t one of them).
Available sizes: 11.5 oz.
- Made with 100-percent certified-organic shea butter
Best splurge: True Botanicals, Pure Radiance Body Butter — $58.00
Key ingredients: avocado butter, shea butter, jojoba oil, camellia oil
If you’re looking for something a little more luxurious for your self-care routine, look no further than this heavenly body butter from True Botanicals. Formulated with an ultra-rich blend of natural butters, oils, and antioxidants, it leaves skin feeling rejuvenated hours after it’s first applied. Bonus: A burst of linoleic acid and vitamin E act protect skin from signs of aging, like lines and dark spots.
Scent: citrus and sandalwood
Size: 7.4 oz.
- Deeply hydrating and nourishing
- Contains anti-aging properties
- Subtle citrus sandalwood scent
Best for sensitive skin: Cetaphil, Moisturizing Cream — $15.00
Key ingredients: petrolatum, glycerin, panthenol
Dr. Gohara typically recommends that people with sensitive skin opt for a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free hydrator moisturizer, and one such product that fits the bill is Cetaphil’s moisturizing cream. It’s formulated with glycerin and panthenol to hydrate and draw moisture into the skin—and my partner and I can personally attest to its effectiveness. We’ve relied on this product during the cold season for the last several years. It’s gotten rid of dry patches, flakes, and itchy spots, and it has a denser consistency that makes it feel like a full-body hug.
Plus, thanks to its hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free formula, it has never irritated my partner’s sensitive and eczematous skin.
Available sizes: 1 oz., 3 oz., 8.8 oz., 16 oz. and 20 oz.
- Hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free formula
- Gentle and derm-approved
- Available in five sizes
- Some may not like its thick consistency
Best for glowing skin: Osea, Undaria Algae Body Butter — $49.00
Key ingredients: Undaria seaweed, shea butter, and ceramides
This body butter will moisturize your skin and leave your limbs positively glowing, says dermatologist Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD. “I love this product because it reflects light nicely,” she says. It’s formulated with moisturizing shea butter, ceramides, and saccharide isomerate (a plant-based carbohydrate complex), along with seaweed, which according to Dr. Ilyas can smooth the overall look of the skin. Plus, it’s naturally fragranced with grapefruit, lime, cypress, along with sweet notes of mango mandarin, to leave you smelling like you’ve just stepped out of a spa (but just keep in mind that some people might be sensitive to these ingredients).
Scent: grapefruit, lime, cypress, and mango mandarin
Available sizes: 1.7 oz. and 6.7 oz.
- Boosts skin vibrance
- Formulated with seaweed to smooth the overall look of skin
- Invigorating citrus scent
- Might not be ideal for those who are sensitive to fragrances
Best for barrier repair: Ren, Evercalm Barrier Support Body Balm — $45.00
Key ingredients: barrier support complex, camellia japonica seed oil, and safflower ceramide complex
Dr. Greenfield recommends the Ren butter balm for those with sensitive or eczema-prone skin. “It’s made specifically for sensitive skin, and it also contains ceramides,” she says, a prime moisturizing agent that provides—and seals in—hydration. She also points out that the balm-to-oil product moisturizer uses a combination of sunflower, apricot kernel, sweet almond, and camellia japonica oil to calm an irritated skin barrier, which can be caused or exacerbated by the season’s environmental aggressors, like cold weather and wind.
Scent: not specified
Available sizes: 3.04 fl. oz.
- Made with sensitive and eczematous skin in mind
- Formulates with ceramides that provide and lock moisture into the skin barrier
- Only one size available
Best calming: Weleda, Skin Food Body Butter — $16.00
Key ingredients: cocoa seed butter, shea butter, and sunflower seed oil
Beloved by Dr. Nazarian, Weleda’s Skin Food Body Butter is made with ingredients to rehydrate dry skin. “It has sunflower seed oil, shea and cocoa butter,” she says, which work to soften and moisturize. She also notes that it contains calendula and chamomile, two ingredients that can help temper itchiness and calm inflammation, which in addition to skin dryness, can occur during the colder months of the year. What this body butter doesn’t contain are synthetic fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and preservatives, making it ideal for those who are sensitive to these ingredients.
Scent: Not specified
Available sizes: 5 fl. oz.
- Contains calendula and chamomile to calm inflammation and redness
- Long-lasting multi-tasker
- Made without synthetic fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and preservatives
- Contains cocoa seed butter, which might not be ideal for acne-prone or sensitive skin
Best lightweight: Clinique, Deep Comfort Body Butter — $38.00
Key ingredients: shea butter, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid
Clinique, which makes some of Well+Good’s favorite makeup and skin-care products, also makes a fantastic body butter. It comes with Dr. Greenfield’s stamp of approval because of its “smooth application” and ingredients list. Key among its ingredients are shea butter, plus glycerin and hyaluronic acid to pull moisture deep into the skin. What’s more? Dr. Greenfield says it is hydrating yet lightweight, so it won’t feel heavy on the skin. The formula is also free of fragrance, oil, alcohol, SLES, parabens, and phthalates, making it ideal for people with skin sensitivities.
Available sizes: 6.7 oz.
- Smooth and lightweight application
- Free of fragrance, oil, alcohol, SLES, parabens, and phthalates
- Deeply nourishing yet lightweight
Best whipped: Josie Maran, Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter — $36.00
Key ingredients: shea butter, argan oil, avocado oil, and white tea extract
This body butter made with argan oil can nix dryness and simultaneously improve skin elasticity—and it comes with the stamp of approval of Dr. Ilyas. Moisturizing shea butter and avocado oil are also on the list of ingredients, along with white tea extract, which the manufacturer says, can help protect the skin from environmental stressors. It is offered in seven scents, ranging from Vanilla Apricot to Lavender Citrus, and in an unscented version. Regardless of your preference, you might be pleased to know that all the available options are made without synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde.
Scent: Juicy Peach, Vanilla Bean, Vanilla Fig, Lavender Citrus, Unscented
Available sizes: 2 fl. oz. and 8 fl. oz.
- Whipped, lightweight texture
- Made without synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde
- Available in different fragrances, including unscented
Best rich: Fenty Skin, Butta Drop Whipped Oil Hydrating Body Cream — $44.00
Key ingredients: shea butter, kalahari melon, sorrel, baobab, sunflower, rice bran, coconut, and jojoba oils, and glycerin
Fenty Skin’s Butta Drop contains seven (yes, seven) oils in its formula, along with shea butter and glycerin—and boy, does it deliver on its promises to deliver deep and long-lasting skin hydration. When I first slathered it onto my legs, the results were immediate. It smoothed my dry patches and left my skin with a dewy but not shiny finish. While the texture was thin enough to spread quickly, it took longer to absorb into my skin, but after it dried down, it felt weightless. This body butter has staying power to boot; I had dolphin skin for hours after application. The vanilla scent (which is subtle and not overpowering) also makes applying it a treat.
As a bonus, this body butter is refillable—once you use it up, you can just buy a refill container and pop it into the jar. What’s more, the refill size costs a few dollars less than the product with the outer packaging.
Available sizes: 2.5 fl. oz. and 6.7 fl. oz.
- Leaves skin visibly soft and smooth after application
- Deeply nourishing
- Refillable packaging
- Might take time to absorb into the skin
Best for long-lasting moisture: The Body Shop, Mango Body Butter — $24.00
Key ingredients: cocoa butter, shea butter, and mango seed oil
This body butter is sure to quench dehydrated skin. “The formula features high concentrations of both mango seed oil and cocoa seed butter, as well as shea butter, to help moisturize dry skin for up to 96 hours,” says Dr. Yadav. “I also love the scent!” As a bonus, Dr. Yadav mentions: “Many of the oils and butters used in products from The Body Shop are sustainably and fairly sourced from community cooperatives around the world.” This product, for instance, contains community fair-trade shea butter and mango seed oil, the latter of which is harvested by the brand’s partners in India.
Available sizes: 1.67 oz. and 6.4 oz.
- Moisturizes dry skin for up to 96 hours
- Made with community-fair trade shea butter and mango seed oil
- Contains cocoa butter, which might not be ideal for acne-prone or sensitive skin
Best moisture-locking: Vaseline, Healing Jelly Cocoa Butter — $4.00
Key ingredients: petrolatum, cocoa butter, and shea butter
The Vaseline Healing Jelly Cocoa Butter comes with the recommendation of Dr. Greenfield and Dr. Nazarian. “Pure cocoa butter makes this Vaseline product a winner with its great price point and the reliable hydration it provides,” says Dr. Greenfield. Dr Nazarian agrees, adding: “It’s a body butter with an ointment base, so it’s perfect as a body butter and slugging, which is classically done by Vaseline.” It is also non-comedogenic, making it an ideal option for a variety of skin types. Dr. Greenfield warns that because it’s on the thicker side, it might feel greasy upon initial application.
Available sizes: 1.75 oz., 7.5 oz., and 13 oz.
- Non-comedogenic formulation
- Ultra-nourishing multi-tasker
- May leave behind a greasy finish
Best classic: Kiehl’s, Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter — $45.00
Key ingredients: Shea butter, jojoba butter, and honey
If you’re looking for a body butter that is deeply hydrating without being too heavy, Kiehl’s whipped body butter is a classic that delivers on both fronts. It blends together shea and jojoba butter with honey, resulting in a product that not only looks like butter, but also spreads like butter.
When I tested it, it applied smoothly and evenly onto my skin. The product dried down quickly and left me feeling supple and silky, if a little tacky upon the initial application. It didn’t hurt that this body butter left behind a pleasant scent that reminded me of a freshly baked almond croissant.
Available sizes: 8 oz.
- Hydrating without being heavy
- Butter-like spreadability
- Has a light, pleasant, subtle scent
- Initially feels tacky on the skin
Best nourishing: Caudalíe, Vinotherapist Replenishing Vegan Body Butter — $38.00
Key ingredients: shea butter, grapeseed oil, and desert date oil
Caudalíe’s take on body butter is this incredibly nourishing formulation. Its standout ingredients include moisturizing shea butter, antioxidant-rich grapeseed oil, and desert date oil, which is said to help with free radical damage. Upon application, it seamlessly melted into the skin and blanketed it with dewy hydration. I used this body butter before bedtime and I woke up with skin that was soft and smooth to the touch—a testament to the lasting moisturization provided by this formula. If anything, its scent was reminiscent of playdough. Still, it won me over for its sumptuous consistency and effectiveness.
Scent: sweet almond
Available sizes: 8.4 oz.
- Made with ingredients to moisturizes and protects skin from free radical damage
- Provides lasting moisture
- Deeply nourishing
- Some may not like the scent
Best unscented: Bliss, Body Butter Naked Body Butter Unscented Moisturizer — $13.00
Key ingredients: shea butter, coconut oil, soybean oil, sodium hyaluronate, candelilla wax
For those who prefer unscented formulas, Dr. Nazarian highly recommends this body butter from Bliss. “It has shea butter and coconut oil,” she says, the combination of which works hard to nourish skin from your shoulders to your toes. In addition to these ingredients, there is soybean oil and candelilla wax to improve moisture retention, plus sodium hyaluronate, a water-soluble salt derived from hyaluronic acid, that penetrates deep into the skin, and according to Dr. Nazarian, “pulls and seals water into the skin” for long-lasting hydration.
Available sizes: 6.7 oz. and 32 oz.
- Vegan and cruelty-free formulation
- Made with soybean oil and candelilla wax to seal moisture into the skin
- Fragrance free
- Contains coconut oil, which might not be ideal for acne-prone or sensitive skin
Best long-lasting fragrance: Ouai, Melrose Place Body Crème — $38.00
Key ingredients: cupuaçu butter, coconut oil, squalene
Scented body moisturizers are a dime a dozen, but Ouai’s Melrose Place Body Cream was a clear standout. It has a subtle rose scent that lingered long on my skin after the initial application—so much so,I’d get subtle whiffs throughout the day. The rose-scented body butter also contains notes of cedar, sandalwood, and amber, making for a sweet yet sultry fragrance that smells like the olfactory equivalent of a slinky slip dress. Made with cupuaçu butter, coconut oil, and squalane, it left my skin looking and feeling soft, smooth, and moisturized without leaving behind an oily sheen.
Available sizes: 7.5 oz.
- Long-lasting fragrance
- Absorbs quickly
- Might not be ideal for those who are sensitive to fragrances
Best body butter cream: Dove, Whipped Macadamia and Rice Milk Body Cream — $8.00
Key ingredients: macadamia and rice milk
This body moisturizer from Dove comes with the approval of Dr. Nazarian, and though it markets itself as a body cream, “it has a very high oil content,” she says, which is atypical of body butter. It packs the moisture, thanks to the inclusion of macadamia and rice milk. Plus, “there’s rice germ oil and rice bran extract, which is great for repairing the skin barrier,” she says. She also loves that it comes in two other options—Pomegranate and Shea Butter ($8) and Lavender and Coconut Milk ($8)—and at a wallet-friendly price. One 10-ounce tub will cost you less than $10.
Scent: white florals, vanilla, and warm woods
Available sizes: 10 oz.
- Large size
- Available in two other versions
- Lightweight texture
- Only formulated with oils, not butters
Best multi-tasker: L’Occitane, Organic-Certified Pure Shea Butter — $40.00
Key ingredients: organic shea butter and vitamin E
“If you are suffering from seriously dry skin, this product is a game changer,” says Dr. Yadav. “This formula from L’Occitane is made from 100 percent pure organic shea butter, with a small amount of vitamin E added to stabilize the product,” she says. “Because it is pure shea butter, it is solid in cooler weather, but melts into the skin once applied.” Made with only two ingredients, this option is straightforward yet effective. While the product’s primary purpose is to moisturize your body, the brand indicates that you can use it to hydrate dry strands, too.
Available sizes: 0.35 oz. and 5.2 oz.
- Made with 100-percent pure organic shea butter
- Can also be used to moisturize on hair and lips
- Deeply hydrating
- Might entail some effort to work into skin
Best ointment: CeraVe, Healing Ointment — $20.00
Key ingredients: petrolatum, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides
If you’re looking for something on the thicker side, consider an ointment like this one from CeraVe. It isn’t body butter, per se, but “it can be used as body butter,” says Dr. Greenfield, who recommends this product. “It’s a petrolatum-based product, [and] it’s incredibly hydrating.” Thanks to petrolatum, it has occlusive properties, which means it locks hydration in, while hyaluronic acid and ceramides pack a powerful one-two punch of moisture. Just a small amount will tackle dry patches, whether on your hands, elbows, or knees, and she also notes that it’s ideal for reactive skin—the formula is non-comedogenic and fragrance- and dye-free.
Available sizes: 3 oz., 5. oz., and 12 oz.
- Non-comedogenic and fragrance- and dye-free formula
- Contains inclusive ingredients to lock moisture into skin
- Only formulated with oils, not butters
- Can be greasy
How to use body butter
As for how to use body butter, all the dermatologists we spoke to say that it should be used after showering when your skin is still damp.
“Pat—don’t rub—the skin dry and immediately apply the butter within a minute or two minutes after you’ve dried yourself off,” says Dr. Gohara, adding that this will help maximize the effects of the product. You can use it all over your body, or use it on dry areas, like the knees and elbows.
While you can apply it at any time of the day, it’s important to note that body butter takes longer to absorb in the skin, and some can feel a little wet when first applied. With this in mind, wait for the butter to dry before getting dressed, or alternatively, use it before bedtime to prevent any residue from transferring to your clothes.
Frequently asked questions
Is body butter better than body cream?
The main difference between body butter and standard cream is the richness. Which one you choose is often a matter of personal preference and skin type, but generally speaking, you may want to consider a body butter if you have dry skin or in the colder months when the skin is typically drier due to the season’s moisture-depleting elements.
Is it okay to use body butter every day?
Yes, you can use body butter every day just as you would a body lotion or cream, although Dr. Nazarian mentions that because of a butter’s thicker consistency, it might feel “stifling” on the skin for some people during the warmer months. “I would say if you still feel like you need [a body butter], even though the weather is hot, use it at night before you go to bed rather than during the daytime,” she says.
Is body butter best used in the shower or out?
It is best to use body butter immediately after a shower or bath when your skin is still damp.
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