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The best body skincare products for a body routine

Body Skincare: The Best Dewy Skin Ingredients

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After years of (frankly shameful levels of) neglect, I’ve finally started taking the skin on my body as seriously as that on my face.

Because while I’ve traditionally been someone who’ll happily spend approximately 95 per cent of my income on serums/cleansers/SPF, when it comes to my body I become uncharacteristically mean; turning up my snout at any products so complex they cost more than a tenner.

And if I actually do ever buy a body product a bit fancy, I usually just end up placing it at a jaunty angle around my bath – sort of like a piece of art – rather than actually using it…

But the thing is, I had it all wrong: while the skin on the body is both thicker and less exposed to the sun than that on the face (and therefore slightly less high-maintenance), it still ages, still gets hyperpigmentation, and can still look dull – just like the chest, neck and face.

I was also wrong when I assumed great body care had to cost loads.  Because while there are some budget buys that can irritate my sensitive skin, there are also plenty of affordable ones that are instead nourishing, hydrating, and all-around goodies.

So as well as putting together a list of some favourite body products, I thought I’d also come up with an A to Z of some of the most useful ingredients to look out for when putting together a body skincare routine suited to your own specific needs… As well as some to avoid.

I’ve also asked a skincare expert for her views.


The best cleansing ingredients

While most of us like our shower gels to foam up for a proper clean feeling (plus, let’s face it, bubbles are just fun), there are different types of foaming ingredients- some slightly more or less drying than others.  Here are a couple of the very gentlest to look out for:

Coco Glucoside

One of the mildest cleansing agents available, coco glucoside is derived from coconut and sugar and suitable for even very sensitive skin types.

Lauryl Glucoside

Another mild, vegetable-derived cleanser, lauryl glucoside is both high-foaming and biodegradable, making it kind both to the skin and the environment.

Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate

A creamy, lathering cleansing agent derived from amino acids, it is considered one of the mildest, least-drying surfactants (compounds that reduce the surface tensions between oils and water, allowing them to be broken down and washed away). Healthline backs this up, saying that “Sodium cocoyl glycinate is another amino-acid derived cleanser and considered safe and nonirritating.”


Image – Unsplash


Licensed aesthetician Alexis Pfropper agrees, adding, “Coco Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, and Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate are all derived from natural sources (coconut oil and glucose), making them gentle on the skin and suitable for sensitive skin types.

“Despite their mildness, these ingredients effectively cleanse the skin by removing dirt, oil, and impurities without stripping away natural oils or causing irritation.

“They have low irritation potential compared to some harsher surfactants like sulfates (e.g., Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), making them suitable for daily use without causing dryness or discomfort.”


The best hydrating ingredients

In contrast to moisturising ones, hydrating ingredients tend to be those that attract water from the air and trap it in skin cells for a plumped healthy look.  That hydration is then sealed in with a moisturiser (although most body creams will contain a blend of both moisturising and hydrating ingredients to get both jobs done at once).

Finding the right body lotion will depend on your skin type, and often the season as well, but broadly speaking, dehydrated skin (look out for signs like dullness, itchiness and redness) will need a product heavier on the hydrating ingredients, and dry skin (skin that is flaking, feels tight, looks more lined than normal, or feels rough), will need more moisturising ones.

Here are some of the best hydrating ingredients to look out for:

Algae and Microalgae

Probably my favourite body care ingredients, as well as being seriously hydrating (they do after all live in water), algae is also an impressive source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Pfropper affirms, “rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, algae and microalgae provide deep hydration and nourishment to the skin, helping to improve moisture retention and overall skin health”

Aloe Vera

Everyone’s favourite post-sun soother, aloe hydrates, calms and cools skin, and is actually great all year round. Pfropper points out that “aloe vera contains polysaccharides that lock moisture into the skin, making it an excellent choice for hydrating and calming sensitive or irritated skin.”


A skin-softening goodie, glycerin is a humectant which can also help to soothe irritated skin. Pfropper claims, “a powerful humectant, glycerin attracts moisture from the environment into the skin, helping to keep it hydrated and plump. It’s lightweight and non-comedogenic, making it suitable for all skin types.”


Image – Unsplash



As well as being a great humectant (an ingredient that binds water from the air to skin cells), honey is also an antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal; making it something of an all-round skincare hero. “With its natural humectant properties, honey draws moisture into the skin while also providing antioxidants and antibacterial benefits. It’s particularly beneficial for dry or damaged skin,” Pfropper agrees.

Hyaluronic Acid

Famous for its ability to retain over 1,000 times its own weight in water, hyaluronic acid is naturally present in our cells and is something of a super hydrator. WebMD says that “evidence suggests that hyaluronic acid helps with soft tissue growth, prompts your body to make more collagen and elastin, keeps your skin moisturized, prevents tightness, boots elasticity, and reduces scarring” – great news!


Also known as provitamin B5, panthenol is anti-inflammatory and a great redness soother, in addition to its hydrating qualities. Pfropper adds, “Panthenol helps to attract and retain moisture in the skin, promoting hydration and supporting the skin’s natural barrier function. It also has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.”


Sugar is also a natural humectant, drawing water from the air to skin cells. “It can be used in exfoliating scrubs or as a hydrating ingredient in masks and creams,” Pfropper suggests.

She concludes, “Overall, these hydrating ingredients work synergistically to keep the skin moisturized, plump, and healthy, making them essential components of any skincare routine.”


The best moisturising ingredients

Essential for skin health, moisturising ingredients help to prevent water loss (known as TEWL- transepidermal water loss) from cells by strengthening the skin’s natural protective barrier.


One of the most important building blocks of skin, ceramides are fatty acids that can dramatically improve the skin’s barrier, helping to reduce water loss and tackle more serious skin issues like eczema, per NCBI.

Pfropper agrees, adding, “Ceramides are lipid molecules that are naturally found in the skin’s outer layer. They play a crucial role in maintaining the skin’s barrier function, helping to prevent moisture loss and protect against environmental aggressors. Incorporating ceramides into skincare products helps to replenish the skin’s natural barrier, keeping it hydrated, smooth, and healthy.”

Fatty Alcohols

Like cetyl and stearyl alcohols, which are naturally present in skin’s barrier and help to prevent loss of hydration. “Fatty alcohols such as cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol are emollients that help to soften and moisturize the skin. They also have occlusive properties, forming a protective barrier on the skin’s surface to prevent moisture loss and maintain hydration levels,” Pfropper adds.

Most Oils

Including coconut oil, squalane (look out for olive-derived squalane if you’re avoiding animal-derived ingredients), marula, mango and capuacu oils.

However, Pfropper warns, “Avoid oils that are comedogenic oils – these are oils that have a higher likelihood of clogging pores and causing acne or exacerbating existing acne- ie: coconut oil, palm oil.”


A really soothing ingredient, great for sensitive or eczema-prone skin, oatmeal (and colloidal oatmeal) can help soothe itchiness, support the skin’s barrier, and prevent TEWL.  It is possible to have an allergy to oatmeal, however, (as indeed it’s possible to have an allergy to any other skincare ingredient), so patch test first 48 hours before using.

“Oatmeal is known for its soothing and moisturizing properties, making it particularly beneficial for dry, sensitive, or irritated skin. It contains compounds called beta-glucans, which help to attract moisture to the skin and reduce inflammation, itching, and redness,” Pfropper adds.


As the name suggests, these are ingredients that help to form a layer over the skin and block water loss.  A little heavy for some skin types, they can be a lifesaver for others.  Look out for ingredients like petrolatum (think Vaseline), shea butter and lanolin. 

Pfropper affirms, “Occlusive agents create a protective seal on the skin’s surface, preventing water loss and locking in moisture. They are particularly effective for dry or damaged skin, helping to improve hydration levels and restore the skin’s barrier function.”


The best antioxidant ingredients

Antioxidants help prevent the free radical damage caused by pollution, cigarette smoke and UV rays (amongst other things) that can cause ageing and other cell damage.  For more on antioxidants and how they can help keep skin glowing and healthy, take a look at this article.

The ideal body care product will contain at least some antioxidants to give skin a shot of free radical protection.  For the best results, try to seek them out in body lotions or SPF rather than just shower gels, since they rinse off and won’t offer the same benefits.

Green tea

As well as being calming on redness and irritated skin, green (and also black or white) tea also provides impressive antioxidant protection.

“Green tea contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols, particularly catechins like epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). These antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, protect the skin from environmental damage, and reduce inflammation. Green tea also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it beneficial for acne-prone or sensitive skin,” Pfropper explains.


Image – Unsplash



A vitamin masquerading under another name, niacinamide is actually vitamin B3; best known for its breakout-reducing, anti-inflammatory properties (particularly useful for acne or rosacea types), as well as its antioxidant abilities.

Pfropper adds, “It helps to improve skin barrier function, reduce inflammation, regulate oil production, and fade hyperpigmentation. Niacinamide is suitable for all skin types and can help to address various skin concerns, including acne, rosacea, and aging.”

Tocopherol (vitamin E to you and me)

Another vitamin in disguise, and one of the most commonly used antioxidants, vitamin E is available in both natural and synthetic forms and works especially well with vitamin C.

“Tocopherol is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. It also has moisturizing properties and helps to strengthen the skin barrier, reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and keeping the skin hydrated and supple. Vitamin E can also help to improve the efficacy of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C,” Pfropper agrees.

Vitamin C

Brightening and pretty impressive at tackling uneven skin tone, vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant.

Pfropper confirms, “Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a potent antioxidant that helps to neutralize free radicals, brighten the skin, and stimulate collagen production. It also helps to fade hyperpigmentation, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and protect the skin from UV damage. Vitamin C is particularly beneficial for promoting a more youthful, radiant complexion.”


The best exfoliating ingredients

While our skin does a pretty good job of renewing itself roughly every six weeks, we can help encourage the process along by gently removing the dead skin cells that can block pores and create a dull appearance.  Here are some of my favourite exfoliating ingredients for the body:

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are not only generally pretty smooth and fairly non-irritating to skin, but they also contain caffeine (obvs), which has been shown to improve microcirculation of blood, which in turn can help give skin a glowing, healthy appearance.

Lactic Acid

One of the mildest AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acids- a group of chemical exfoliators), lactic acid is usually derived from milk (but vegan-friendly alternatives are available too) and gently loosens the bonds between dead skin cells to reveal brighter skin.

“Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that gently exfoliates the skin by dissolving dead skin cells and promoting cell turnover. It’s suitable for most skin types, including sensitive skin, but it’s important to start with lower concentrations and gradually increase usage to avoid over-exfoliation,” Pfropper clarifies.


Image – Pexels


Salicylic Acid

Most commonly used in skincare for unplugging blocked pores, it’s also used in body care for tackling bumpy skin, blackheads and breakouts and can be particularly useful for acne types.

“Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that penetrates deep into the pores to unclog them and exfoliate the skin. It’s particularly effective for acne-prone and oily skin types but can be drying if used excessively. It’s generally safe for facial use but should be used in moderation,” Pfropper continues.


Anti-microbial and mineral-rich, salt can be a great exfoliator as long as the grains aren’t too sharp.  To avoid irritating skin, look for salt scrubs of the less gritty variety, and which contain plenty of oil.  Also, use on soaking wet skin to help grains dissolve quicker.


As well as being a natural humectant, sugar also makes a great physical exfoliant thanks to its gritty texture. It’s generally less sharp than ingredients like salt, too, while its easily dissolvable quality makes it hard to be too rough with if used on soaking wet skin.

Pfropper indicates, “Sugar is a natural exfoliant that gently buffs away dead skin cells without causing irritation. It’s suitable for most skin types, including sensitive skin, but it’s important to choose fine sugar granules and avoid using it on active breakouts or irritated skin.”

Better still, you can quite easily whip up a sugar-based scrub from home by combining equal parts brown sugar and olive oil.


The best sunscreen ingredients

Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine

A high-performance, broad-spectrum, insoluble sunscreen is generally accepted to be safe on the skin.

Methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol

Another insoluble sunscreen that provides broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB) protection.

Titanium Dioxide

An opaque white ingredient, titanium dioxide is one of the most common physical sunscreens (also often known as mineral sunscreens) for its ability to reflect UV rays.  It’s generally non-irritating and therefore suitable for even the most sensitive skin types, but it does tend to leave some pretty ghostly-looking white marks in its wake so is best used in a tinted formula.

Tris-biphenyl triazine

An insoluble active ingredient that cannot be absorbed by the skin and which filters both UVB and UVA2 (shorter wavelength UVA rays).

Zinc Dioxide

Another physical sunscreen, zinc oxide works by scattering UV rays so they can’t penetrate skin.  It also has a similar white cast problem, so again, look out for tinted formulas.

Pfropper elucidates the benefits of zinc oxide, adding, “Zinc oxide provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It forms a physical barrier on the skin that reflects and scatters UV radiation, preventing it from penetrating the skin and causing damage.

“It’s a mineral sunscreen ingredient that is gentle and less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions compared to chemical sunscreen ingredients. It’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin and children.

“Zinc oxide is photostable, meaning it doesn’t degrade or lose its effectiveness when exposed to sunlight. This ensures reliable protection throughout sun exposure

“It’s also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores or aggravate acne-prone skin. It’s a safe choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin.”


Some ingredients to avoid


Specifically the drying varieties (not the fatty alcohol kind which is, confusingly, actually good for the skin).  Watch out for ingredients like alcohol denat., ethanol, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol which can sensitise or dry skin.

Pfropper confirms, “Alcohol can be drying and irritating to the skin, especially for those with sensitive or dry skin. Look for formulations that are alcohol-free or contain fatty alcohols, which are less drying.”

Essential Oils

While I personally love essential oils in my body care for their general spa-like, zen vibe, many essential oils are common allergens. These (sadly) include some of the absolute loveliest, like lavender, rose flower extract, citrus, peppermint, eucalyptus and cinnamon oils.

For sensitive skin types, the results of an essential oil reaction can be symptoms like redness, bumps under the skin, itchiness and flaking.

I think whether or not you use these ingredients will come down to your own particular skin type and views on the risk-reward payoff. If you do use them though, patch test a product first somewhere inconspicuous between around 48 hours before use, and avoid using further if you notice any skin reaction.

And if you’re a particularly sensitive skin type but don’t want to ditch the soothing scents, either keep the essential oils to a diffuser or candle or alternatively stick to ingredients that naturally smell great and are also brilliant for the skin.  These (happily) include cucumber, almond, mango, and melon extracts, as well as shea butter.


One of the most commonly used sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone is a common allergen (and can cause eczema-like symptoms).  It is also thought to damage coral reefs. “Oxybenzone is a chemical sunscreen ingredient that has raised serious concerns about potential hormone disruption and considerable environmental harm,” Pfropper agrees.


While some skin types can tolerate small amounts of artificial fragrance better than others, parfum (as it’s often listed on the label) is one of the most common sensitising ingredients.

“Fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, can be sensitizing and irritating to the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema. Opt for fragrance-free or unscented products whenever possible,” Pfropper adds.

Again, taking into account the risk-reward balancing act, I personally use a mixture of fragrance-free products interspersed with occasional perfumed ones.  I find this tends to keep my own skin redness and dryness-free but still gives me some fun (and yummy-smelling) options to play around with.

But if you find your body lotion/shower gel/exfoliators leave skin irritated, hot-feeling, red, blotchy or drier than before, it might be worth making a switch to fragrance-free options (check out some favourites listed below), to see if artificial fragrance could be the cause.


Image – Pexels



Again, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)- a foaming agent commonly used in shower gels- can be tolerated better by some skin types than others, but drier, eczema or sensitive skin can find it drying.

“SLS is a surfactant commonly found in cleansers and shampoos. It can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause dryness, irritation, or allergic reactions, particularly for those with sensitive or dry skin,” agrees Pfropper.

So if you find skin routinely feels tight, blotchy or itchy after showering, it might be worth taking a look at some of the alternative ingredients listed in the Best Cleansing Ingredients list above (or some suggested products at the bottom of this article).

Not to be confused with sodium laureth sulphate (SLES), a similar cleansing agent, but generally considered to be less drying than SLS.


And some product favourites

The Shower Gels

Similar to my approach to facial cleansers, I tend to go pretty gentle when it comes to body washes and generally stick to either oil-based or creamy varieties.  Favourites include Drunk Elephant’s fragrance and SLS-free Kamili Cream Body Cleanser or a bar soap like Herbivore’s Pink Clay Cleansing Bar Soap.

The Scrubs

For a fragrance-free body wash containing salicylic acid to tackle body breakouts, Cerave also makes the excellent SA Body Wash for Rough & Bumpy Skin

Another favourite (this time of the gritty exfoliator variety and containing some fragrance), which I return to again and again is Frank Body’s Original Coffee Scrub, which noticeably helps improve the tone of my skin when used consistently over months.

The Moisturisers

For everyday body care, you can’t go far wrong with beauty editor and dermatologist favourite Cerave, and their ceramide-rich, fragrance-free Moisturising Lotion.

But when I do go for something fragranced, my absolute favourite of favourites are cult Portuguese brand Benamor’s light as air (and absolutely amazing-smelling) Body Creams. With a high proportion of natural ingredients (although, yes, some artificial fragrance), these metal-tubed creams have a lightweight, whipped texture which applies and absorbs beautifully and leaves my skin insanely soft and glowing for at least 24 hours after.  Romantic types will love the Rose Amelie Milky Body Cream, while warm, cinnamony scent fans will enjoy the Nata version, scented like Portugal’s famous creamy dessert, the pasteis de nata.

The SPFs

I’m something of an SPF junkie, and I’m also something of a body oil junkie… happily, these two products happen to coincide beautifully when it comes to sun protection and one of my favourite results is Mimitika’s Sun Oil SPF 50.  For those not averse to a little parfum, I also really love the scent of Sol de Janeiro’s Bum Bum Soil Oil SPF 30.


Meet the expert

Alexis Pfropper is a licensed aesthetician and owner/founder of asthetik skincare.


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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.

Expertise: Skincare, Body care
Education: University College London

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