If you have normal skin, finding a good moisturizer probably isn't that difficult. You can breeze through the drugstore, pick up just about any bottle, and chances are it'll work just fine.
But if you have dry or sensitive skin, you probably haven't been so lucky in the moisturizer department. You might have to try out quite a few brands (and waste a good deal of money) to find one that works. Even the lotions that claim to help extra-dry skin might not have any kind of noticeable effect, especially during the winter months. So what's a scaly-skinned person to do? We have two words for those in desperate need of moisture: body butter.
Body butter is basically super-concentrated lotion. It contains less water and more butters and essential oils than conventional lotions do, so it's extra moisturizing. It's too thick to be squirted through a pump, so it comes in jars -- you just scoop out the butter with your hand and slather it on.
Body butter can also be a godsend for people with sensitive skin because it's often made from very simple, all-natural recipes, which means no more reading through long, unintelligible ingredients lists to hunt down potential allergens or irritants. They often have a cocoa butter or shea butter base with various oils added to that, and not too much else.
Pretty much anyone can use body butter, but probably only people with very dry skin will want to apply it everywhere. But body butter can benefit normal to oily skin, too -- everyone, at least from time to time, can experience patches of dry skin. Body butter melts right into your skin, absorbs quickly and is excellent for smoothing out rough spots like elbows and heels.
There's a body butter out there to suit any need or taste -- here are 10 of the best flavors we've found. First up: shea butter.
Shea butter -- which is derived from the nut of the African shea tree -- is kind of a rock star in the world of moisturizers. It can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and stretch marks, soothe sunburn, and alleviate psoriasis and eczema. It also contains beneficial fatty acids and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. And all of this without greasy residue or an overwhelming scent.
It's not exactly breaking news that mangos are a great source of vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium. But you might not know that this delicious tropical fruit can also work wonders on your skin. Mango body butter is packed with antioxidants and, some claim, does a bang-up job clearing clogged pores.
Many health experts say that coconut oil is the most beneficial oil out there. For centuries, coconut has been used to treat an amazing range of ailments, and studies have shown that it has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, can increase your metabolism and help in tissue repair (and that's just for starters). Oh yeah, and it's also an amazing moisturizer and wrinkle-fighter.
All body butters are super-moisturizing, of course, but the side benefits change with the specific oils and "flavors" that are added. The appeal of body butter made with lavender oil has more to do with its aromatherapeutic properties than with physical benefits to your skin. Lavender is hailed in the aromatherapy world for being a stress and anxiety reliever, so reach for lavender body butter if you need a little relaxation along with your moisturization.
Cocoa butter is the fat from a cocoa bean -- it's another one of those multitasking moisturizers that's been used for centuries all over the world. Besides having strong emollient properties, it's known to stimulate collagen and elastin production, reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars and relieve eczema and dermatitis flare-ups. Smells great, too!
Here's yet another wonder product. Almond oil -- rich in vitamin E, calcium and magnesium -- has been used in Ayurvedic skin treatments for thousands of years. It's also full of fatty acids, which bolster your skin's moisture barrier, and will soothe eczema, itchiness and irritation. Almond oil has a light but calming scent, so it'll subtly relax your mind while it's working its magic on your skin.
Besides being sweet-smelling, there's a long list of reasons that mandarin oil is a perfect addition to body butter. It has antiseptic properties and is said to promote cell and tissue growth. On the aromatherapy side of things, it's known for being relaxing and sedative. Most importantly, it's a moisturizer, dull-skin reviver and wrinkle-fighter. And smelling like fresh oranges is never a bad thing in our book.
Olive oil isn't just for cooking. It's an amazing moisturizer that works wonders on extremely dry and sensitive skin. It might also be able to combat cancer and sun damage. If you can't get past the image of reaching into the pantry and applying olive oil straight from the bottle onto your face or body, an olive body butter is a great alternative.
Hemp seed oil might get somewhat of a bad rap because of its marijuana connection, but it's coming into its own as a versatile skin healer. Hemp seed oil is unique among oils because of its high fatty acid content (around 80 percent) and its rare complete lineup of amino acids. It's a natural antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent. Its chemical make up is very close to that of our skin, so it absorbs easily and doesn't clog pores or leave any greasy residue.
Where do we start with aloe vera, the "miracle plant"? The gel inside the aloe vera plant is an antioxidant that can soothe sunburn, reduce skin inflammation, aid circulation, repair skin tissue and cleanse the digestive system -- and it also contains an astounding 20 minerals, 12 vitamins and 18 amino acids. It's not too shabby as a moisturizer, either.
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- Coconut Research Center. "Coconut." (May 27, 2012) http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/
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- Herrington, Diana. "10 Health Benefits of Mangos." Care2.com, March 14, 2012. (May 26, 2012) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-health-benefits-of-mangos.html?page=1
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- Skincare Naturals. "Pure Cocoa Butter Benefits and How to Use." March 30, 2010. (May 27, 2012) http://skincarenaturals.com/natural-skin-care-blog/blog/recipes/pure-cocoa-butter-benefits-how-to-use/