Bath & Body Inspired by Nature

Despite all the marketing hype, there are 3 top body lotion ingredients that should be part of a well balanced formula.  Please note that this discussion is specifically for body, not facial, lotions.

We know the marketplace is very competitive to get your attention and your dollars but after having reads hundreds of labels and researched countless formulations, these top 3 body lotion ingredient categories provide hydration, conditioning and skin protection.

Keep in mind that butters, cremes and lotion's primary purpose is to moisturize, smooth and condition.  If you are looking to apply anti aging actives you should consider a serum instead.  

Emollients/Fatty Acids

Oh, don't let the word acid scare you - this is simply referring to the building blocks of your favorite oils and butters.  Just like amino acids make up proteins, fatty acids combine to make wonderful skin softening agents.  There are actually a number of excellent emollients to place in the top 3 body lotion ingredient list but our top picks are:

  • Shea Butter - Yes, the smooth, rich, creamy butter from Burkina Faso (Africa) is loaded with vitamin E which and is a natural anti-oxidant.  Shea butter consists of the fatty acids stearic acid (helps with skin repair), oleic acid (anti-inflammatory properties), linoleic acid and palmitic acid.  It also has cinnamic acid esters which are thought to help reduce redness and exhibit mild SPF properties.  Shea butter naturally contains retinol which could help fade photo-age spots with continued use.  Shea butter is also an occlusive so it serves double duty - no wonder shea butter has become a well loved favorite throughout the skincare industry!

  • Babassu Oil - This oil comes from Brazil and is a bit new to the US market but what a fabulous oil!  Babassu oil has many qualities similar to coconut oil but it is less greasy and leaves a lightweight, conditioned feel on the skin.  Babassu oil is made up primarily from the fatty acid lauric acid which has antibacterial properties.  It also contains vitamin E, phytosterols and is also finding its way into many hair care products!

  • Squalane (Olive) - This botanical lipid is bio-identical to the human lipids in molecular weight and structure.  When we are young our natural sebum contains about 12% of this bio-identical lipid, however, as we age levels drop which contributes to skin's loss of elasticity.  Squalane was originally sourced from shark livers but modern technology allows us to produce it from olives!  This is a rather expensive ingredient so expect to pay a little more for the product.

  • Caprylic Capric Triglycerides - Also known as CCT, this ingredient often surprises people!  Despite its chemical sounding name, CCTs are natural and derived from coconut/palm oils!  Oils typically contain a number of different fatty acids (oleic, lauric, palmitic, myristic, linoleic, etc), but CCTs are created by just separating out caprylic and capric fatty acids.  What's the benefit of that?  Well, these are fatty acids with shorter carbon chains which results in a lightweight, silky, non greasy, almost powdery feel!  Adding CCTs to a body lotion prevents it from feeling too heavy and they are also well suited of sensitive and oily skin.

  • Cetyl/Stearyl/Cetearyl Alcohol - Not to worry!! These are wonderful skin softening emollients and are NOT to be confused with drying alcohol such as ethanol!  And as a bonus, these are generally considered comedogenic.  Cetyl alcohol is considered a top body lotion ingredient that is oil free.  For more info on Understanding Alcohols in Skincare click HERE.

Of course, there are so many different & lovely body lotion ingredients that could be added to a moisturizer.  Mango butter, kokum butter, almond oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, evening primrose oil, cupuacu butter, sunflower oil etc.  Some are lighter, some are heavier and some are actually considered a wax (jojoba)!  As long as your body lotion contains at least two of the bulleted ingredients you're on the right path!

Humectants 

No good moisturizer would be complete unless it had a humectant in its top 3 body lotion ingredients!  And a great body lotion will contain TWO humectants!

A humectant is an ingredient that is hygroscopic, in other words, it pulls moisture from the air onto your skin.  This creates a dewy, plumped and cushioned feel to your dermis.

  • Glycerin - This is perhaps the most common humectant you'll see in body lotions.  It is said that glycerin absorbs its own weight in water over a 3 day period.  Glycerin is also suggested to do well when the environmental humidity is less than 40%.  One downside is that glycerin tends to feel a bit sticky when used above 3-4% but this is often a matter of personal preference.

  • Sodium Lactate - A fabulous humectant that does well over a wider range of humidities including for those who live in the desert South West.  In fact, sodium lactate is reported to be twice as effective as glycerin!  Its downside is that it may increase sun sensitivity when used over 3%.  For that reason we recommend that it be used with a second humectant for that ultra hydrating feel!  

  • Sodium PCA - PCA stands for pyroglutamic acid.  Similar to sodium lactate in that it works well over a wider range of environmental humidities.  It does not create any sun sensitivities and holds moisture more effectively than glycerin and even sodium lactate.

  • dl-Panthenol/ProVitamin B5 - This lovely ingredient is often associated with hair products but your skin loves it too!  Panthenol is perfectly suited as a body lotion humectant as it is highly hygroscopic.  When combined with glycerin or another humectant it improves dryness, scaling and erythema associate with a number of dermal conditions.  The same beneficial properties of improved elasticity and smoothness of hair are also benefits to your skin.

  • Hyaluronic Acid - This power house humectant far exceeds the others by a wide margin.  However, it is also extremely expensive especially for the ultra low molecular weight versions.  Unfortunately, many manufacturers use a version of hyaluronic acid with a much larger molecular weight but there is no way of knowing from reading the label which molecular weight has been used.  For hyaluronic acid to be most effective it needs to be less than 500 Daltons to be able to penetrate the upper layers of your skin. On a side note, some of the hyaluronic acid used in skincare comes from the combs of roosters!  If you're vegan we suggest checking with the manufacturer regarding the source of their HA.

    And speaking of Daltons:  A Dalton is an atomic unit of measure where 1 Dalton = 0.00000001 of a millimeter.  This means 500 Daltons is about 0.000005 millimeter.  According to the Dalton Skin Rule, in order to penetrate deep into the skin the molecule size must be smaller than 500 Daltons.  It's not a bad thing if it just sits on top of the skin, the product just shouldn't make the claim that it regenerates your skin's hyaluronic acid level at a deeper layer and, therefore, charge you over $50 per ounce.

    Another common ingredient seen in skincare and cosmetics is propylene glycol.  Propylene glycol makes for a better solvent than humectant but its popularity is explained by its low cost. 

    TOP TIP!  Use an exfoliating scrub in the tub/shower to remove dead skin.  Then do not dry completely off, instead apply your body lotion/creme to slightly damp skin to lock in extra hydration!

    Occlusives

    Your occlusive is your holy grail.  Your crowning jewel. Your Rosetta Stone.  Your....well, you get the point.  Without an occlusive to SEAL everything into your skin, humectants and emollients would be only minimally effective!  Your occlusive is what prevents transdermal water loss, or loss of skin hydration.

    Take for instance your humectant.  Imagine you are in an environment with an extremely low humidity but very hot (think desert South West again).  If there is no air humidity to draw from would your humectant potentially draw it out of your skin instead, resulting in even more dry skin?

    Fortunately, all lotions and cremes are made with a certain percentage of water.  The humectant has already bonded to the lotion's water content and the occlusive will prevent transdermal water loss.  It's the perfect marriage of ingredients!  Besides, we don't know anyone who would slather on only glycerin which is why a well formulated body lotion is essential.

    You may have read that occlusives tend to be comedogenic and should be avoided if you are suffering from acne, however, there are a variety of occlusives that even acne suffers can benefit from.

    • Cocoa Butter - Yes, the cocoa butter you have always loved!  Of course, we could have placed this ingredients in the emollient category but cocoa butter has such a high melting point that it serves an a great occlusive.  It's natural and soothing so what's not to love?  It is usually well tolerated even among acne suffers if it is kept to under 10%.

    • Dimethicone -  This is part of the silicone family and creates a soothing, velvety glide over the skin.  If your are an acne sufferer you may only tolerate it in small quantities (<5%), but all other skin types benefit from dimethicone's protective film cover and ability to fill in uneven texture.  The only stipulation we would add is that dimethicone should be used in smaller quantities, usually less than 3% of a product's formula.  If you see it listed as one of the top 3 ingredients within a product it is generally more than 3% so stay away!

    • Quinoa Protein -  This hydrolyzed protein has film forming abilities for better hydration!  Quinoa contains all 8 essential amino acids but it is also gluten free.  This protective barrier is great for skin and hair and is also suited for those with acne.

    • Allantoin and/or Aloe Vera - Similar to Quinoa protein, Allantoin is a great barrier ingredient.  It is considered an anti-irritant and is also found naturally in aloe vera.  It is not comedogenic. Yea!!

    A very common occlusive that has bee around for decades is petrolatum or petroleum jelly.  In clinical studies it has shown to be effective in treating atopic dermatitis but for daily use we find petrolatum to be too heavy and greasy.

    There you have it!!  Take two from each category and you'll have a product with the top 3 body lotion ingredients.  Keeping your skin conditioned and smooth is the first step to healthy, youthful looking skin.