Body Lotion vs. Body Oil: What's the Difference?

From glowy oils to creamy butters and everything in between, there are endless options when it comes to moisturizing skin from the neck down. No matter which you choose, most of us have the same goals in mind when reaching for a body moisturizer: remedy dryness, soften texture, and achieve a healthy, glowing complexion.

We dive into the benefits of body moisturizers below, including the difference between body lotion and body oil and how to apply each. 


The reasons we moisturize our face are the same reasons we moisturize our body: Hydrate dry skin, strengthen—or repair—the moisture barrier (which can prevent premature fine lines and other signs of aging), restore firmness, and soften uneven, flaky texture. Depending on the specific product, some formulas can also heal body acne and brighten dark spots, too. (Psst: If you’ve got bacne on the brain, treat pimples with our Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist. Its combination of 2% salicylic acid, witch hazel, and tea tree oil fight bacteria and zap away acne.) 


When it comes to body moisturizers, most products fall under two types of formulas: lotions and oils. 


While every formula is unique, most body lotions, butters, and creams contain a mix of oil and water. This allows them to treat both dry and dehydrated skin (dryness craves oil, while dehydrated skin lacks water), a major benefit if you’re unsure which you’re dealing with. Because water has a fast absorption rate, lotions quickly hydrate the surface of the skin and penetrate the layers beneath it.

Some of the best ingredients to look for in a body lotion are squalane, hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf juice, lactic acid, and cocoa butter. If you want a lotion that goes beyond moisturization, look for one that contains an active like vitamin C or retinol, too. Our Retinol Body Lotion doesn’t just moisturize, it also helps firm sagging skin and reduce crepey texture. Retinol-based lotions are also great for healing body acne and treating hyperpigmentation, too. 


Body oils, unlike lotions, do not contain any water. While water quickly penetrates the pores, oils’ large molecules take much longer to absorb. This means they are an optimal choice for locking in moisture on the skin’s outermost barrier. Aesthetically, oils also have a glow-like shimmer to them, instantly restoring radiance to dull, lackluster skin. While they can be used year-round, this makes them even more appetizing during the warm, summer months.

Just because oils are thicker in viscosity doesn’t mean they have to feel that way. Look for one that contains dry oils—a.k.a. a type of oil that’s quick-absorbing and doesn’t leave behind any residue. The sunflower seed oil in our Keep It Supple Body Oil is a dry oil, meaning this moisturizer absorbs in a snap, so you can get dressed without fear of stains or grease. Some other skin-friendly ingredients to look for in your body oils include avocado, almond, marula, and jojoba oil


Because moisturizers do much more than hydrate dryness, every skin type can benefit from adding one to their routine (not just dry ones). Choosing between body lotion and oil mostly comes down to texture preference and your individual skin goals. If you’re focused on dullness, you may enjoy an oil’s instant glow. If you’re dehydrated, perhaps you gravitate towards a lotion’s oil-water hybrid. If you’re super dry or focused on signs of aging, you may even choose to layer both together. If so, stick to the “thinnest to thickest” rule: Lotion first, then oil


Body moisturizers, like facial ones, can be applied 365 days a year (not just during the winter months) during your AM and/or PM routine. We specifically recommend applying while skin is freshly cleansed and slightly damp—such as after a shower or bath. 

Moisturizers should be the final step in your routine unless you’re applying during the daytime, in which case you should always follow up with sunscreen. This is especially important if you’re using a formula with an active like retinol. Apply by squeezing or spritzing a generous amount on the legs, shoulders, chest, elbows, bum…anywhere from the neck down. Take your time massaging into the skin for an ultra-soothing experience. 

Shop recommended body care products below.