Sense and Sensitivity

The best body moisturisers for sensitive skin

Judy Johnson 9 June 2017

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Body lotions for sensitive skin

You have to look pretty hard to find a moisturiser that's not packed full of heavy perfumes or irritating chemicals. Sensitive types often have drier skin, too, so we need more than just a fruity lotion; we need skin-changing results, as Cosmetic Dermatologist  Dr Sam Bunting  explains: "Sensitive skin needs ingredients that help maintain the skin's outer layer as a flexible-yet-effective  barrier  - which translates into healthy looking skin. We look for body products with a bit more oomph than facial products - it's about long-lasting hydration but also rapid absorption as no one likes the tacky factor of inelegant unguents - which means they simply don't get used."

So what should we be looking for? "I love shea butter - a lush and effective hydrator, locking moisture into the skin," Dr Bunting tells me. "It's also  non-comedogenic  so won't clog pores or promote body acne . I like safflower oil, which contains fatty acids that help reinforce skin barrier function. Oats are also very useful, especially if itching is an issue." I've tried everything from the fruit-filled body butters of my teens to the clinical-looking lotions that sit alongside the nappies in the chemist, but there are body moisturisers out there that cater for sensitive skin while also feeling good. Here's my pick of the best...

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Bliss Naked Body Butter

Rich and nourishing, this paraben-free and fragrance-free cream is ideal for slathering over dusty legs and flaky arms to leave super soft and healthy-looking skin. There's no greasy residue and the coconut oil, vitamin E and arnica extract gives me faith it doesn't just feel good, but does my skin some good too.

£22, Buy online 

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Pai Comfrey & Calendula Calming Body Cream

Created for 'sensitive, dry and reactive skin' (AKA me), this cream has a permanent place on my shelf. Much like the brand's face cream, the formula is incredibly soothing and suitable even for eczema-prone skin. Organic, vegan, and with a beautifully soft finish, this is one body moisturiser that ticks all the boxes - it even doubles up as my after-sun when I'm away on holiday.

£22, Buy online

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Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Fragrance Free

I always loved this Cocoa Butter favourite when I was younger, but it's now a little too strong for my increasingly oversensitive skin. Thankfully, though, this fragrance-free version is not, and allows me to enjoy it without worry. It does contain mineral oil, so avoid if you're not a fan, but if you like the quick and easy formula that sinks in super fast, it's a great budget and skin-friendly option.

£3.75, Buy online

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Eau Thermale Avene Akerat Body Care Cream

Designed for keratosis-prone skins (also known as 'chicken skin', those little bumps that can appear over thighs and arms), this body care cream from one of my most loved French brands has emollient properties, with urea, sweet almond oil and salicylic acid to help soothe irritation. Non-comedogenic and ideal for more scaly skin, it leaves a slight sheen behind but it's a relief rather than greasy.

£15, Buy online

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L'Occitane Ultra Rich Cream

There's something about the potent botanical-loooking labels of this brand that has previously scared me off but this cream is an absolute delight for sensitive skin. With an impressively high concentration of 25 per cent shea butter as well as extracts of marshmallow, linseed, sweet almond and honey, it is as luxurious as it is reparative. It has a baby-soft smell - almost powdery, yet still fresh and by no means overpowering. Dryness is eliminated and even the most sensitive skin feels comforted and calmed.

£34, Buy online

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Murad Body Firming Cream

Since discovering Murad's gel cleanser I've become quite the fan of the brand and this body cream is another winner in my eyes. Full of all the ingredients that dry, sensitive skin could need - that's sunflower seed, shea butter, vitamin C, oat beta glucan and mandarin oil - it has an elegantly fruity scent and a lovely light consistency that's ideal for summer. On application it actually adds a radiant glow too - worth getting your legs out for.

£39.50, Buy online

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Clarins Moisture-Rich Body Lotion

In traditional Clarins style this rich lotion has a delicate scent, which has a fruity undertone - most likely due to the peach milk and orange blossom flower wax which combine with shea butter for a soft and fragrant result. Absorbed in an instant, it leaves a smooth texture to the skin without the telltale sheen that it's not quite what Mother Nature gave you.

£31, Buy online

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Frogleaf Very Dry Skin Cream

I've always done my best to never judge based on looks and, dear sensitive folk, I implore you to follow my lead as when it comes to products you might just be surprised. This unassuming-looking jar of cream with its unusual name was created by Marie Briscoe, a health practitioner who treats skin conditions in her London clinic, and though originally created for eczema patients it works wonders on dry skin, particularly for those with sunburn, dermatitis or even urticaria. I tested this beautifully cooling cream on my legs where I had some lasting damage following too much sun and a reaction and it was blissfully soothing, with a rather lovely organic, herby scent making it a real pleasure to use. Certified by the Soil Association and rich in shea butter and plant oils, it's my go-to for healing, hydrating body care.

£18.35, Buy online

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Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Soothing Emollient Care

Despite a mineral oil base, this fragrance-free, paraben-free intensive cream from Bioderma is one of my favourites when skin is dry or rough. Glycerin, sunflower seed oil and niacinamide feature in the ingredients which would perhaps explain Bioderma's 'Skin Barrier Therapy' complex to which they attribute its soothing itch-reducing powers. It's an ideal body lotion and makes for a great post-shaving cream too.

£13.50, Buy online

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Cetraben Lotion

Previously only available on prescription, it was actually my mother who introduced me to this cream when she needed some soothing skin care after a bout of cellulitis. Free from fragrance and SLS, this lotion needn't just be for conditions such as eczema - I use it as an all-round moisturiser, focusing on drier patches. The emollient lotion helps to protect and repair the skin, and though quite thick (a little goes a very long way!) it sinks in quickly without feeling heavy. The pump bottle comes in handy travel sizes too - great for when you're on the move.

£7.99, Buy online

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Cetaphil Restoraderm Skin Restoring Body Moisturiser

A daily moisturiser that can be used by both children and adults, this lotion from Cetaphil is non-greasy and full of ingredients to restore the skin's barrier, something our sensitive skin is crying out for. Free from fragrances and preservatives, there's nothing in its formula to scare me off and I've even been applying it to my hands when chapped from the cold.

£19.99, Buy online

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Barefoot SOS Daily Rich Body Lotion

This brand has only just appeared on my sensitive skin radar, and I was smitten straight away with this moisturiser. The brand has an ethos of part-science, part-naturals, but has a promise of no artificial fragrances, SLS, paraffin or parabens, and is suitable for vegans too. The packaging suggests it's a no-frills brand, but there's more than meets the eye. This particular lotion contains chickweed and mallow extracts to cool and soothe, shea butter, jojoba and argan oils and my favourite essential oil of them all, orange blossom - for a very subtle scent that my skin doesn't react to. A delight to use, and it leaves skin feeling soft and supple in an instant.

£11, Buy online