There are beauty products that are necessities like a good cleanser, a reliable spot treatment, and a concealer that makes me look like I got enough sleep to be a functioning human. Then there are ones that are totally extra and make me feel like I’m living my best life, like pretty much anything Pat McGrath puts her name on. There’s a bit of a grey area, though, and some products straddle the line between the two, my current favorite being body oils. They have a purpose, sure, to moisturize your body, but they do their job in the most luxurious way possible.
Using a body oil takes moisturizing from a chore to a full-blown experience. When I rub myself down with a body oil after a shower (always moisturize your body when it’s damp!), I’m not in my subpar Brooklyn bathroom, I’m in a gorgeous spa somewhere in the Italian countryside preparing for my date with Timothèe Chalamet. Fantasy aside, they really work—they make my skin smell amazing and softer than any lotion can (I especially love to use one on my legs after shaving).
Dr. Ellen Marmur, a dermatologist in New York City, says that this extreme softness is because oils mimic the natural lipids found in our bodies and “like serums, they sink in between the cells and create a better smoother skin surface.” They also have protective qualities that some lotions don’t and are great at really locking in moisture. Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, adds that oils have natural emollient ingredients that help soften rough skin. Because of these qualities, they can be especially helpful if you suffer from super-dry skin or eczema, especially heavier oils like avocado.
A quick word of warning: If you tend to break out on your shoulders or back, lotion might be the better option for you, as oils can exacerbate body acne. But if you do reach for an oil, Dr. Zeichner recommends looking for ingredients like tea tree, coconut, or lavender oils, which are light enough to keep you breakout free.
If you want to get in on the fantasy, I’ve rounded up some of my favorites, as well as derms’ suggestions. Read on for the best body oils.