Lotion vs. Oil: Which Is Better for Your Body?

New moisturizers offer an oily alternative to slathering your skin with greasy lotion.

By Leah Zerbe

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OIl or Lotion: which is better for you skinWant to try using oils as moisturizers? Keep these points in mind as you shop around for dry-skin soothers:

• Be expert on extraction. It's important to know how your oil is extracted, because you don't want it exposed to high temperatures, or extracted using harmful chemical solvents. Cold-pressed is ideal, but CO2-extracted oils are also allowed in certified-organic products. As a rule of thumb, always stay away from synthetic fragrances, sometimes listed as "parfum" or "fragrance" on the ingredients label, and instead opt for unscented, or scented with cold-pressed essential oils. Harsh solvents are not allowed in USDA-certified-organic beauty products, but buyer beware. Many products claim to be organic or "natural" but do not bear the USDA seal stating that they meet food-grade organic regulations.

• Avoid this oil. Avoid beauty-care products containing mineral oil. This is a processed petroleum product, and who wants to wear that? For a rundown of the safety of all skin-nourishing products' ingredients, and to see how your products fare, visit the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. "Look for products with the fewest ingredients and those that do not contain fragrance, parabens, petrolatum, or petroleum jelly," says Leah. "North Americans, in general, have a misconception that skin care and beauty require fancy products with lots of ingredients to work better. The reality is that an inexpensive bottle of sweet almond oil will likely work just as well as an expensive bottle of the latest big-brand moisturizer lotion to hydrate your skin, give it a healthy glow, and reduce the signs of aging."

• Wear the winners. Jojoba oil is an excellent choice for body moisturizing, as is sustainably harvested coconut oil. Wynters prefers Wilderness Family Naturals. At cooler temperatures, coconut oil solidifies, but if you scoop a bit into the palm of your hand and rub it between your hands, it will turn into a smooth body moisturizer. Some people even use it on their face. Leah likes jojoba, sweet almond, and avocado oils.

• Pick proper soap. Wynters also warns of using synthetic soaps with a pH balance different than that of our "acid mantle," the thin coating on top of our skin that helps protect us from bacteria and other perils of the outside world. She recommends Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps for a pH more in line with our bodies' (between 4.5 and 6 for adults), and notes that people can purchase pH testing strips at the local pharmacy to test their favorite soap's pH.

• Make your own moisturizers! Check out our Nickel Pincher's recent advice on making your own organic skin-care products, including a recipe for a coconut-oil–based moisturizer.

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