This exclusive report will help you find the absolute best body-care products, regardless of your budget. The Paula's Choice Team has you covered from the neck down with our top recommendations
All of the products you see on these lists are included because of their fantastic formulas, silky textures, and overall performance. All of them will provide results you'll love.
Of course, lots of the products on these lists also make far-out claims that are exaggerated or just out-and-out lies—reality is rarely part of any skin-care product's marketing claims. However, just keep in mind that misleading advertising doesn't have much to do with quality or with how well-formulated or poorly-formulated a product really is: A product's appearance on this list does not in any way mean that the claims asserted on the label are even remotely possible.
There are also several of my own Paula's Choice products on this list. When you follow the links you will find published, peer-reviewed research related to each of those product's benefits. I am confident that my body-care products compete strongly with the best of the best, but as always, the final decision is yours.
Before you get to the lists and prepare to shop, read on for the essential body-care facts everyone must know before they go shopping.
A gentle, water-soluble cleanser for the body is essential. Bar cleansers and soaps are too drying and leave a drying film over the skin that blocks moisturizers from being absorbed and keeps dead skin cells from shedding as they should. Following the cleanser with a well-formulated body lotion or body butter will make your dry skin feel like silk and look absolutely radiant.
Rough, Dry Elbows and Knees? Cracked Heels?
The best way to treat this stubborn malady is with a great, emollient exfoliant. For heels, regular use of pedicure files is essential. Keep one in your shower or on the edge of your bathtub so you don't forget to use it. For dry patches or areas, especially the elbows, heels, and knees, ongoing use of the well-formulated AHA and BHA products listed below will eliminate the problem altogether.
A Body of Neglect—Don't Forget Sunscreen!
Sun damage on the neck, chest, legs, and hands can make you look far older than you are, no matter how well you have protected your face.
Sunscreen is vital for any part of your body that sees the sun. Unprotected, uncared-for skin anywhere on the body develops the same thickened, brown-spotted, lined, and rough texture as the skin on the face, and as far as sun damage is concerned, body skin is subject to the same skin cancers. Please don't make the mistake many people do by diligently protecting your face from sun damage, but ignoring all other areas of exposed skin.
Acne from the Neck Down
Regardless of where a blemish occurs (chest, neck, back, or face), the treatment remains the same. Those with body acne should follow these steps:
Where to Begin?
From the lists below, pick one product from each category depending on your skin's needs and your personal texture preferences. Almost all of the products on the lists are fragrance-free. In the few instances where fragrance is present, the amount is very low and not likely to cause irritation. Every leave-on product contains a reasonably good to impressive selection of key ingredients that all skin types need to look and feel their best. And that's the point, right? When your body skin looks and feels great, you'll feel better about yourself. Get ready to experience the healthiest, most touchably soft body skin you can imagine (without spending a fortune)!
The Criteria: To be included on this list, a body wash must cleanse skin gently, be water-soluble, be pleasant to use, and make your skin feel smooth and soft without being greasy. All of the body washes on this list are fragrance-free, because that's what's best for your skin (fragrance is irritating and a fairly serious problem for skin around the genitals).
Check out Beautypedia Reviews section of this site for the latest body-care product reviews
*Note: Products marked with an asterisk (*) are best for dry skin; others can be enjoyed by all skin types.
The Criteria: All of the body scrubs on this list are gentle and have a texture that cushions skin to minimize the abrasive action of the scrub particles. We excluded any scrubs that contained ground-up nut shells or fruit pits because these exfoliating ingredients tend to have uneven edges that can scratch and tear at skin, which is damaging in the long run.
None of the scrubs on this list are recommended for use over blemishes; you can't scrub acne away, and zealous scrubbing can make body acne worse.
Note: Admittedly, a clean washcloth isn't the most exciting option for a body scrub; however, paired with your body wash, it can work every bit as well as any scrub, and for a lot less money per use!
Second note: We did not include any body scrubs packaged in jars because that is an unhygienic way to use a scrub, or any water-based product, for that matter. Unfortunately, there is an alarming number of scrubs in jar packaging.
The Criteria: To be included on this list, the body creams and lotions had to contain an impressive mix of the critical ingredients all skin types need to look their best. These include antioxidants, skin-identical ingredients, and, whenever possible, cell-communicating ingredients. Also considered was the inclusion of anti-irritants and emollients that research has shown help repair skin's barrier function while preventing moisture loss.
With the exception of the philosophy, Olay and B. Kamins products, all of the body creams and lotions on the list are fragrance-free (synthetic or natural versions), because that's what's best for your skin, especially for leave-on products. Fragrance of any kind can cause irritation and collagen breakdown—and that won't result in younger-looking skin!
Avoid using any body cream or lotion over acne-prone areas. Instead, consider a body moisturizer with an AHA or BHA exfoliant along with a topical disinfectant that contains benzoyl peroxide.
*Note: Each product is suitable for dry skin anywhere on the body; those marked with an asterisk (*) are best for very dry skin.
The Criteria: The AHA products we recommend for the body contain an effective level of AHAs (glycolic and/or lactic acids) formulated at a pH that allows these well-researched ingredients to function as exfoliants. In addition, all of the AHA body exfoliants on the list contain an impressive mix of skin-softening emollients, fortifying antioxidants, and soothing anti-irritants.
Why so few options? Unfortunately, there are only a handful of cosmetics companies that offer beautifully-formulated AHA body lotions. Regrettably, there aren't any effective AHA body exfoliants sold at the drugstore.
With the exception of the DDF product, all of the AHA body exfoliants on this list are fragrance-free.
Note:The Vivite AHA exfoliants contain 15% AHA, a high concentration that may prove too irritating for daily use. Generally, a 10% concentration is fine for use from the neck down. Higher percentages are an option, but with any AHA exfoliant you want the benefits to outweigh the risk of irritation.
The Criteria: To make this list, a BHA product for the body must contain an effective level of BHA (salicylic acid) formulated at a pH that allows this well-researched ingredient to exfoliate skin and help heal acne. Regrettably, there aren't any effective BHA body exfoliants sold at drugstores, spas, or department stores. In fact, as you'll see from the list, there is only one option (but it's an outstanding one if I do say so myself).
Note: My team and I suspected that Paula's Choice was the only cosmetics company that sells a body lotion with salicylic acid (BHA, or beta hydroxy acid) formulated at the correct pH range for exfoliation to occur. After much searching, we were unable to find any other body lotion with BHA that met our criteria. Therefore, this list is limited to a single product. Please note that my facial BHA products (which come in 3.3 to 4-ounce bottles) can be used on skin from the neck down, too.
The Criteria: To make our best list of sunscreens for the body, the product had to be rated at least SPF 25 and contain one or more of the following essential UVA-protecting active ingredients: titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, ecamsule (Mexoryl SX), or Tinosorb. In addition, all sunscreens on the list contain antioxidants to boost skin's environmental defenses and reduce inflammation.
Almost all of the sunscreens on this list are fragrance-free; only the Jason Natural Sunbrellas sunscreens and Mary Kay sunscreen contain fragrance.
Note: Although there are other body sunscreens reviewed favorably in the Beautypedia Reviews section of this site, this report includes only the body sunscreens that come in packaging of 4 ounces or more. Used daily and applied liberally, a 4-ounce bottle of sunscreen should last 1–2 months, depending on how much skin you bare on each outing.
Second note: In addition to sunscreen, be sure to follow other safe sun tips, such as wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses, donning protective clothing, avoiding the sun during peak intensity (typically 10 a.m.–4 p.m.), and seeking shade whenever possible.
*Note: Sunscreens marked with an asterisk (*) are best for sensitive skin; sunscreens marked with a double asterisk (**) are best for oily, blemish-prone skin. All of the other sunscreens are versatile, but best for normal to dry or normal to slightly oily skin.
The Criteria: There are hundreds of self-tanners formulated in various bases (gels, creams, lotions, sprays) and almost all include the exact same ingredient—dihydroxyacetone—to turn skin tan.
The amount of dihydroxyacetone varies among products, but it's not as though expensive self-tanners are using a better form or grade of this ingredient. In determining which self-tanners made this list, we selected those that were relatively inexpensive, easy to apply, dried quickly, and produced reliable results.
We also looked for self-tanners that treated skin to beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants, skin-identical ingredients, or soothing agents just to add some extras for your skin, although such ingredients are not essential for achieving the formula's tanning results.
*Note: Self-tanners marked with an asterisk (*) are fragrance-free.
The Criteria: Just like sunscreens for the body, hand creams with sunscreen must be rated a minimum of SPF 25 and contain additional skin-protecting ingredients, including antioxidants. Each of the hand creams on this list provides broad-spectrum sun protection and includes one or more of the essential UVA-protecting ingredients (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, ecamsule [Mexoryl SX], or Tinosorb). They also have lush, creamy textures that help heal dry skin and make hands feel beautifully smooth.
Surprised by the small selection of products? We were, too! Given that hands are almost constantly exposed to daylight, they are incredibly vulnerable to sun damage. Surprisingly, most hand creams with an SPF rating do not provide enough UVA protection, which means that the sun's age-inducing rays are still causing a considerable amount of damage. It is essential that you check the active ingredient list for any hand cream with sunscreen you're considering.
Also keep in mind that when you wash your hands you are removing sunscreen, so you must reapply it to maintain protection.
Of course, any well-formulated moisturizing sunscreen (of which there are plenty) can perform double duty as a hand cream; you don't need a special sunscreen just for your hands. However, if you insist on a sunscreen specifically for your hands, the options on the list below won't disappoint, although they're definitely pricey for the small amount of product you get.
The Criteria: Just like for our list of best body creams and lotions, to make the list, a hand cream must contain an impressive mix of the critical ingredients all skin types need to look their best (remember, skin is skin, from head to toe). These include antioxidants, skin-identical ingredients, and, whenever possible, cell-communicating ingredients. Also considered was the inclusion of anti-irritants and emollients that research has shown help repair skin's barrier function while also preventing moisture loss.
When dry, chapped hands are the issue, you need an emollient product that's chockfull of replenishing ingredients. The options on the list accomplish this without leaving hands with a lingering slick or slippery feel. The hand creams on this list are recommended for nighttime use only; for daytime, your hands need sun protection, either from a moisturizing sunscreen or from a hand cream with sunscreen. You will be surprised at how healing regular use of a sunscreen can be for your hands!
*Note: Hand creams indicated with an asterisk (*) are fragrance-free.
The Criteria: We were more lenient with foot creams and lotions than with any other body-care category because the elegance of the formulation is far less important for the feet. But even our leniency didn't leave us with many options. Why? The vast majority of foot creams and lotions are either boring formulas or contain irritants such as menthol, peppermint oil, or camphor. Those ingredients may feel soothing and provide a cooling sensation, but they're causing undue irritation that skin doesn't need, anywhere on the body.
The foot products on the list have beautifully emollient textures that smooth dry, cracked skin while providing a nice complement of moisturizing and restorative ingredients. The Alpha Hydrox option also includes glycolic acid for exfoliation, and you might also consider the Paula's Choice Resist Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA, which is excellent for treating callused, thickened skin on the feet!
*Contains 12% glycolic acid to exfoliate feet.
The Criteria: There's a glut of shaving creams and gels being sold, and this is one category of body care where fragrance reigns supreme. Unfortunately, fragrance isn't skin care and you don't want to subject your skin to excessive fragrance while you shave (or afterward, for that matter). As you may have noticed, finding a fragrance-free shave cream or gel is no easy task—many are advertised as not containing fragrance, but either list fragrance itself or contain fragrant plant oils that cause irritation. Every shaving cream and gel on the list is absolutely fragrance-free, provides a cushiony layer of protection between your skin and razor blade, leaves skin feeling wonderfully smooth, and contains soothing agents to calm skin.
The Criteria: We examined well over 100 different post-shave products for this report, and you'll notice that only a handful made our list; that's because the majority of post-shave products are anything but soothing! Almost all of them are loaded (and I mean loaded) with irritating ingredients. From alcohol to menthol, witch hazel, essential oils, fragrant plant extracts, and on and on—this is one body-care category that will hurt your skin if you don't know exactly what to buy.
The products on our list are irritant- and fragrance-free. Each contains a superior assortment of soothing ingredients to reduce redness and inflammation from shaving. Is a post-shaving product a must? No, you can simply apply a well-formulated body or facial moisturizer right after shaving. However, products packed with potent anti-inflammatory agents definitely provide an additional anti-irritant punch that reduces razor burn, redness, and bumps that can occur from routine shaving.
The Criteria: Almost everyone must deal with some amount of callused skin on the feet. Whether from ill-fitting shoes, your natural gait, or simply subjecting your feet to undue pressure or friction (think dancers and runners), calluses are an ugly fact of life. Despite being unsightly, a callus is actually the way skin protects itself from excessive use. The daily wear and tear all of us put our feet through are reason enough for some amount of callusing to occur.
The standard treatment options involve using pedi-files or pumice stones to remove thickened, dry skin. Those work when used often (almost obsessively), but there are other options as well. Among the best are products that contain urea and salicylic acid, both of which are ingredients that prompt exfoliation and work beautifully to turn unsightly calluses into the picture of perfect smoothness. Our list includes the top picks for moisturizers that help eliminate calluses.
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Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:
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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.
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