During these dry months, many of us are wondering: natural creams or body oils. Which one is better? We asked a skincare expert for the answer!
By Julia Ferrari
Taking care of your skin can involve all sorts of complex rituals. But the most basic might be the most important of all: moisturise it well. In fact, dermatologists will tell you this simple habit is critical, especially during the time of the year when temperature variations (from dry cold air outdoors to overzealous heating indoors) can wreak havoc with your skin.
UK consultant dermatologist Tee Wei Siah confirms: ‘Skin becomes dry and cracks easily during winter, when there’s less moisture in the air. Therefore, it is not uncommon for skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis to flare up during the colder weather’.
Every cell and component of our bodies relies on hydration in order to function properly. Without it, your skin’s natural barrier breaks down, which makes you more susceptible to itchy and chapped patches but also irritation such as eczema and skin infections — yikes. Applying a moisturiser – whether oil or cream-based – reduces loss of water in your skin and creates a barrier of moisture, resulting in a healthy-looking glow rather than the dull look dry skin can result in.
But which is better: natural body creams, or oils?
The beauty market certainly isn’t short of offers when it comes to moisturisers. The overwhelming amount of choice and options can confuse even the savviest beauty shopper.
Which Is Better: Natural Body Creams Or Oils?
According to Dr Tee Wei Siah, here are a few things about natural body creams you should know:
- All lotions are oil and water held together by an emulsifier (like in salad dressing, oil and water will separate without an emulsifier, which holds them suspended in each other). An emulsifier is usually a lab-manufactured chemical. Some newer ones are non-toxic and biodegradable, but some, including one called “emulsifying wax”, can cause skin irritation.
- Most body lotions are about 65% water. Because there is water in the product, it must be preserved, as bacteria and mould WILL grow in water over time without preservation.
- While some natural body creams contain ingredients that are naturally conserving, others may not have these, and might have a shorter shelf life.
Now, let’s look at natural body oils. What makes them different from lotions?
- Body oils are made of oils alone, without the water component.
- They do not need emulsifiers.
- They do not need preservatives. (But they should contain antioxidants, like vitamin E or rosemary extract, to prevent rancidity and increase shelf life.)
- Many body oils are scented with pure essential oils, rather than synthetic fragrances. (Note – beware of those with citrus oils like lemon and grapefruit – they can cause serious burns when exposed to UV light.)
With information like this, why would you even consider natural body creams over oils, right? Why pay a premium for a product that is 65% water, when you have this commodity readily available from your shower head or bath tap?
Well, as with most beauty products, one solution most definitely does not fit all, and this is certainly true of moisturisers. Depending on your skin’s needs, your lifestyle, and your beauty routine preferences, natural body creams or body oils will be better suited to you. Here’s Dr Tee Wei Siah’s advice, below.
Go for a natural body oil if….
- You have the luxury of time. It can be such a pampering experience to just spend an extra few minutes massaging oil into skin and let it sink in to ensure it doesn’t transfer onto your clothes, allowing to make the most of the beautiful scent of essential oils.
- You want a really pure, natural product. Oils tend to feature a short and simple to read list of ingredients derived from plants, seeds and fruits, so you know exactly what you’re putting on your body. You can even go with single oils such as rosehip or argan oils which can be certified organic.
- Your skin is not sensitive at all. Essential oils (especially from the citrus family) have been known to irritate sensitive skin as they contain many allergens, from Limonene to Linalool and Citronellol. If you’re ensure about your skin’s reaction to certain oils, it’s always best to do a patch test first before covering your entire body in the stuff.
- You want a multi-tasking product. If you like to keep your beauty routine as simple and streamlined as possible then some oils will be suitable to apply on your face as well as your body and even hair and cuticles. Argan oil for example is known for its skin moisturising benefits as well as improving hair health.
- You’re looking for a gentle ‘perfume’. Certain beautifully scented oils can double up as your signature fragrance.
Go for a natural body cream if….
- You have a tight morning routine. With a higher water content and lower viscosity, body lotions are more quickly absorbed by skin than oils. Dr Tee Wei Siah agrees that a ‘lotion hydrates the skin and keeps it supple without the sticky and greasy feeling’. So opt for a moisturizing lotion if time is of the essence and you want your beauty routine to be as efficient as possible.
- You’re a sun worshipper. According to the American College of Healthcare Sciences, ‘photosensitivity is a process where a given chemical absorbs ultraviolet light and initiates a reaction, typically on the skin. Certain essential oils, especially expressed citrus oils, can contain constituents such as furocoumarins, coumarins, and linalol/linalool, which are potential photosensitisers. This means they can cause serious skin damage when exposed to the sun such as redness, itching, burns, blisters, and permanent skin discoloration.’
- Your skin is sensitive. Although oils can be classed as ‘natural’, this doesn’t mean that they are automatically suitable for you (you can be allergic to eggs or peanuts right?). They can certainly bring on irritation and allergies.
- You want to target a specific skin concern. Whilst oils will moisturise skin for a radiant and supple result, creams can have the added benefit of addressing concerns such as blemishes, fine lines, skin conditions like stretch marks, and uneven skin tone.
Wondering which brands are best? Read on!
5 Natural Body Creams to Try
This lightweight lotion is great for summer! It contains 25 pure flower and plant essences to help you create luxuriously smooth skin, and will also leave you smelling gorgeous with Aveda’s beautiful signature aroma.
Price: Around $20
Skin feeling tight? This wonderfully scented body cream contains a blend of bergamot, mandarin, lemon tree leaf, cucumber and fresh mint oils, as well as plant-derived glycerine to moisturise your body. It will leave your skin smelling amazing, and feeling velvety soft.
If, like me, you have what I call ‘scrunchy wrinkles’ around your cleavage, this is the body lotion for you! Enriched with essential fatty acids and a revitalising blend of grapefruit, rosemary and juniper oils, this cream will hydrate, soften, and best of all, plump up those fine lines on your chest.
This is such a great product, for so many reasons! First up, the texture is between a natural body cream, and an oil. So, it’s perfect if you can’t decide which is best for you. Secondly, it’s profoundly hydrating, thanks to the presence of olive and sweet almond oil. And finally, since it has arnica, it’s ideal for soothing body aches and pains.
Price: Around $45
Achieve smoother skin with REN’s Moroccan Rose Otto firming cream! This ultra hydrating formula delivers spa-like results, thanks to extracted oils of rose, camellia and rice germ. I especially love the fact that there’s Hyaluronic Acid in there too, to plump and hydrate.
Got sun spots on your skin? Before turning to clinical treatments, try Esker Beauty’s clarifying elixir! It’s created from blend of essential oils that specifically improve the appearance and discoloration. Cypress is added to even out tone and prevent blemishes, while squalane, avocado and Evening Primrose deeply nourish.
Price: Around $75
Infused with a host of beneficial ingredients, this luxurious, lightly citrus-scented oil moisturises and hydrates skin as it combats dry, flaky patches for long-lasting comfort.
Packed with vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, the nut-free blend improves elasticity and minimises the appearance of stretch marks, making it perfect for use during pregnancy. Skin feels smooth, replenished and rejuvenated without greasy residue.
Price: Around $20
Packed with organic, botanical oils including sandalwood, rose, grapefruit and neroli to soothe irritation, dryness and heal cracked skin, this antioxidant-rich oil promises to fight free radicals and environmental toxins to help promote a more radiant and youthful skin.
Price: Around $70
Feeling sluggish? Skin looking dull? This may be the best natural body oil for you! It contains a powerful mix of detoxifying ingredients which can apparently help you to fight the build up of toxins caused by a poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise, in your system. But that’s not all! This energising body oil also helps to address cellulite and stimulate circulation.
Price: Around $45
If you’re on a budget, we’ve found the perfect natural body oil for you! Jason’s pure vitamin E oil not only helps prevent wrinkles and dry skin, but also heals cuts and prevents stretch marks. And all this for around ten bucks!
With over 10 years’ experience in the beauty industry, London-based beauty blogger Julia Ferrari shares her insider knowledge on FreshBeautyFix, from showcasing product reviews to discovering new emerging natural brands. For more beauty tips follow Julia @freshbeautyfix on Instagram and Twitter.