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Can you use body lotion on your face? Here's what dermatologists have to say

Experts weigh-in on the confusing skin care question.

In the vast and overwhelming world of skin care — and beauty products in general — there's something so comforting about a good moisturizer and lotion. But you know what isn't comforting? Starting your skin care routine and realizing that you ran out of your face moisturizer. Sure, you can let your cheeks tighten up and the skin around your nose start to flake, or you can grab that bottle of body lotion staring at you from across the room. But, wait, can you actually use body lotion on your face?

Quick overview

Since they're marketed differently, it can seem like body products should stay on your body and face products should stay on your face. But both seem to do the same thing, so is it marketing or science that dictates whether we need different products for above and below the neck? It can feel pretty confusing, so we consulted dermatologists to see, once and for all, if you should or shouldn't use body lotion on your face.

The answer? It can be complicated.

woman putting lotion on face
Is it really that bad if you put body lotion on your face? (Getty)

What's the difference between body lotion and face lotion?

The skin on your face and your body are very different and absorb products differently, which is why each kind of lotion is targeted to serve different purposes.

"Facial skin has more sebaceous glands than the skin on your body, making it more likely to produce extra oils," explains Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine. This is why most face lotions are lighter in texture and generally feature little to no oil in the formula.

Meanwhile, body lotions are typically formulated to moisturize the thicker skin on our arms, legs and the rest of our body. "The biggest difference here is how much oil content body products have," says New York-based board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. A lotion with more oil will have more occlusive properties. This means it will create a physical barrier on your skin’s surface to seal in moisture to prevent water loss.

Although the two lotions are formulated to serve different parts of the body, they're not exactly apples and oranges. "There are many similarities between face lotion and body lotion," says Dr. Nazarian. "Namely, ingredients that draw in moisture, improve the skin barrier and prevent loss of hydration."

Can you use body lotion on your face?

Honestly? It all depends on your skin type and the ingredients in the body lotion. "Many people can freely use body lotion on their face," says Dr. Nazarian. "However, I would recommend that people with acne-prone skin proceed cautiously."

Depending on your skin type, too many moisturizing agents can sometimes be a bad thing. "Occlusive properties are more common in products with higher oil content, like body lotion," explains Dr. Nazarian. "This makes them more comedogenic, which means they can clog pores and cause acne."

This doesn't mean body lotions are Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to your face. If you have reactive, acneic or sensitive skin, just take a little step back and do a gut check. "If your skin seems uniform in its hydration level from head to toe, go ahead and mix it up," says Dr. Gohara.

The bottom line? You can definitely use body lotion on your face, but only if you keep it simple. That means no fragrance, no glitter and definitely no self-tanning lotions. "The key is to look for something that's good for sensitive skin and acne-prone skin," explains Dr. Nazarian. "Then you can feel free to use it wherever!"

Now that that's settled, scroll below to shop a handful of dermatologist-approved body lotions that you can also use on your face. And remember that moisturized skin = happy skin.

What lotions do doctors recommend for use on the face and body?

A favorite of both Dr. Nazarian and Dr. Gohara, this daily La-Roche Posay is formulated with shea butter, glycerin and niacinamide to restore the skin's barrier. 

"It’s a perfect example of how you can have a lotion that multitasks for the face and body," says Dr. Nazarian. 

$15 at Amazon
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$20 at Ulta Beauty$20 at Target

Another great lotion that does double duty? This one is from Cetaphil. "It's non-comedogenic, hydrates well and doesn't clog pores," explains Dr. Nazarian. The non-greasy formula is made with skin-loving ingredients like glycerin and niacinamide.

$15 at Amazon

If you're looking for something more lightweight and fast-absorbing, Dr. Gohara recommends this gel cream from Neutrogena. Its hero ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which helps to bind and retain moisture. Its gel texture is a great choice for acne-prone skin and it's also refreshing for irritated skin.

$10 at Amazon
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$13 at Kohl's$9 at Target