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Ok, But What Is Really the Difference Between Body Butter and Body Lotion?

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When it comes to finding the right body moisturizer to keep your skin happy and hydrated, you've got options. Take a trip down the body care aisle and you'll find a wide range of not just body lotions but body butters as well.

On one hand, it's great to have a range of beauty products to choose from–each coming with its own unique set of benefits. On the other hand, it can be confusing to figure out which one is the best choice for you.

Continue reading below to learn once and for all how body lotion and body butter differ and how you can determine which might suit your skin type best. We've even highlighted a few of our go-to formulas for soft, healthy skin.

What's the difference between body butter and lotion?

The main difference between body butter and lotion is texture and oil concentration. The best body lotions tend to have a high water content and are therefore thinner with a liquid-like consistency. Body butters, on the other hand, are thick, creamy, and often feel like, well, butter. They contain a high concentration of body oils (like jojoba oil and or coconut oil) and/or natural butters (like shea butter and cocoa butter).

Should I use body butter or body lotion?

There is a time and place for both skincare products. In fact, you might even want to have one of each stocked in your beauty cabinet to keep your body care routine super customized. Here are a few factors that might determine whether you reach for a body butter or body lotion to keep your skin hydrated.

1. What's your skin type and main skin concerns?

Body butters are packed with heavier moisturizers and therefore tend to provide a more intense dose of hydration. These are great for those who are prone to dry skin or anyone who is dealing with dehydrated skin or rough patches. These decadent formulas are great for richly replenishing the skin's moisture levels in rapid time.

For those with oily skin, body butter may leave a greasy feel on the skin. For this skin type, a water or aloe-based moisturizer like body lotion will likely be a better fit. The lightweight, super breathable texture of body lotion is also usually better for those who are prone to body breakouts.

For those looking to boost elasticity in their skin (mature skin types, pregnant people looking to minimize stretch marks, etc.), body butter may be a good go-to as the formulas tend to be higher in elasticity-boosting ingredients like fatty acids.

2. What time of year is it?

The cold, dry air of the winter months is known to zap moisture from the skin, leaving it feeling drier and dehydrated. During this time, you may find that you need to apply body butter on a daily basis to keep the skin barrier healthy and moisturized.

In the warmer months, when humidity is higher and temperatures are more moderate, your skin is often able to retain more moisture naturally. Because of that, it may not need as rich of a formula. During these seasons, a body lotion will likely be a better choice for daily use. 

3. What type of feel do you prefer?

If you have normal skin that's not particularly dry or oily, you may find that you can use either formula regularly to hydrate your skin. If this is the case, it may ultimately come down to what type of feel you prefer.

Body butter is richer and tends to leave a silky feel on the skin. Because they're designed to provide intense hydration and create a protective barrier, they can also take longer to absorb. Like night creams, body butters can be great to use before bed to boost the skin's moisture levels while it's in recovery mode overnight.

If you prefer a body moisturizer that doesn't leave any sort of distinct feel on the skin, a body lotion will be the better choice. Because these are typically formulated with ingredients like water, aloe, and glycerin, they are fast-absorbing for a daily dose of hydration that also feels weightless. Similar to lightweight day creams for the face, body lotion can be a great choice to use in the morning when you need to moisturize and head out the door. No need to wait for the formula to soak in with this type of moisturizer.

The Best Body Butters and Body Lotions

1. Best for Dry Skin: JOSIE MARAN Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter

JOSIE MARAN Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter
Courtesy of JOSIE MARAN

This fatty acid-packed moisturizer visibly revitalizes skin with ingredients like 100% pure argan oil, shea butter, and avocado oil. It also includes antioxidant-rich white tea extract which helps to keep it healthy and protected. While this body butter rapidly restores hydration and improves skin texture, it doesn't feel quite as heavy as some other body butters thanks to the whipped texture.

2. Best for Lightweight Moisturizer: NECESSAIRE The Body Lotion

NECESSAIRE The Body Lotion
Courtesy of NECESSAIRE

If you have oil-prone skin or you simply prefer a moisturizer that absorbs instantly, reach for this option from NECESSAIRE. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, this fast-absorbing lotion hydrates immediately while also providing long-term benefits. Niacinamide is also featured in this formula, which can help control oil production while also strengthening the skin's moisture barrier. It's a win-win.

3. Best Morning Moisturizer: GLOSSIER Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream

GLOSSIER Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream
Courtesy of GLOSSIER

This fast-absorbing daily moisturizing lotion is perfect for morning application. Made with an antioxidant-rich mix of cactus flower extract, prickly pear extract, and yucca extract, it's formulated to keep skin moisturized for hours without feeling heavy or greasy. Plus it also includes an Evodia rutaecarpa fruit extract complex to boost skin's brightness as well as light-reflecting particles for a subtle all-over glow.

4. Best Overnight Moisturizer: KIEHL's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter

KIEHL's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter
Courtesy of KIEHL's

If you're looking for the body care equivalent of your favorite night cream, this bestseller from KIEHL's is it. It's a decadent body butter packed with shea butter, jojoba butter, soy milk, and honey. Together the nourishing and emollient ingredients form a deeply restorative treatment that keeps the skin hydrated for up to 24 hours.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated April 8, 2021 12:00 AM