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: moisturize it well. In fact, dermatologists will tell you this simple habit is super critical, especially during this time of the year when temperature variations (from dry cold air outdoors to overzealous heating indoors) can wreak havoc with your skin.
I consulted UK consultant dermatologist Tee Wei Siah to create this article, and she 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 moisturizer – 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.
The beauty market certainly isn’t short of offers when it comes to moisturizers, but where to start? From body oils to creams and lotions, the overwhelming amount of choice and options can confuse even the savviest beauty shopper.
Which Is Better: Body Oils Or Creams?
Here are a few things about body lotions 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 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 preservatives in natural beauty products are improving (not many green brands use parabens anymore), no preservative system is without flaws, and some are highly allergenic.
Now, let’s look at 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 a body lotion over an oil, 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 moisturizers. Depending on your skin’s needs, your lifestyle and your beauty routine preferences, a lotion or an oil will be better suited to you.
Go for a 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 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 bit of a lizard (in terms of exposure to sun not scaly skin). 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 photosensitizers. 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?) as they can bring on irritation and allergies.
- You want to target a specific skin concern. Whilst oils will moisturize skin for a radiant and supple result, creams can have the added benefit of addressing concerns such as blemishes, fine lines and uneven skin tone.
5 Natural Body Creams to Try
All of the products below are 100% vegan and cruelty free – but beware that the parent companies of some of these, namely Estee Lauder (which owns Aveda) and Unilever (which owns REN) are NOT, on the whole, vegan OR cruelty free.
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.
Containing rich shea butter, nourishing rosehip oil and antioxidant-rich Arctic cloudberry, this luxurious moisturizer replenishes and rejuvenates, whilst nourishing and protecting for long-lasting comfort. Your skin will feel immediately smoother and more hydrated – and you’ll smell delicately of roses!
This wonderfully scented lotion encourages micro-circulation and fights ageing, to soften and firm your skin. It contains a blend of grape-seed, sesame and borage oils and plant-derived glycerine to moisturise deeply and leave your skin feeling velvety soft.
Enriched with essential fatty acids and a revitalizing blend of grapefruit, rosemary and juniper oils, this body lotion will hydrate, plump and soften.
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. We especially love the fact that there’s Hyaluronic Acid there too, to plump and hydrate.
5 Natural Body Oils to Try
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.
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 vitamin, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, the nut-free blend improves elasticity and minimizes the appearance of stretch marks, making it beneficial for use during pregnancy. Skin feels smooth, replenished and rejuvenated without greasy residue.
Beautifully packaged and based on an ancient formula, Buly 1803’s ‘Mexican Tuberose’ dry body oil is formulated with naturally derived organic ingredients that pack anti-inflammatory and nourishing properties. It’s perfect for healing parched, cracked skin in the depths of winter, and smells so wonderful, it’s essentially a perfume substitute!
Packed with organic, botanical oils including sandalwood, rose, grapefruit and neroli that 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.
Revive and rejuvenate your skin, leaving it with a dewy glow with this lightweight formula. It uses super-hydrating Omega oils including macadamia, avocado and coconut to deeply penetrate your epidermis.
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.
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