Can You Use Body Lotion To Moisturise Your Face?

My university roommate and I stood worlds apart. She'd slap some body lotion on her face, as in lotion left over from her arms and legs, straight from the pump bottle. Meanwhile, I moisturised with special facial moisturisers. I thought she was doing more harm than good, but her method wasn't as harmful as I thought. Illustration by Sam Woolley.

You couldn't blame me. Walk through a store's beauty aisle and you'll find moisturisers with clear disclaimers about where and how they should be used: Some say you should only apply them to your body, face, hands and even your feet. But skin is skin, right? Well no, the skin on your hands is very different from the skin on your face.

The Skin on Your Face Isn't the Same As Skin On Your Body

The skin on different parts of your body varies wildly. Your face tends to have thinner skin, more oil glands and more hair follicles than the skin on other parts of your body, like the thicker skin on your feet, for example. Even different areas on your face, like around your eyes, are thinner than others. This all just means your facial skin can be more sensitive, and for some people, look shinier and be more prone to breakouts.

Most companies would have you believe that body lotion should never be used on your face, but it's really not the end of the world. Dr Cynthia Bailey, a board-certified dermatologist from California, told me:

[Lotion] is fine. The difference is marketing, so long as it as a bland moisturiser. If it has irritating ingredients, then it may be too strong for facial skin which has less barrier than body skin.

The key here is the ingredients matter more than the so-called "type" of lotion.

Body Lotion Is Fine, As Long As It Doesn't Irritate Your Face

Many body lotions have strong fragrances and contain a wide variety of irritating ingredients like isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl myristate, cocoa butter, pigments and dyes. These ingredients can cause problems for acne-prone skin. A "bland" moisturiser, like CeraVe or Cetaphil typically doesn't have added perfumes and minimises irritants. If you deal with breakouts on a regular basis, body lotions might be too much and you should try something gentler instead.

The viscosity of your moisturiser also matters. There are creams, lotions, gels and oils, all of which feel very different when you apply them. What you use depends on your skin type, how dry your skin is and the climate or season you're in. Creams run thickest because they contain a lot of oil. They're great for dry skin because the heavy consistency helps seal in moisture, especially in the winter or in dry climates. However, if you have oily and acne-prone skin, you're better off with a light, oil-free moisturiser. Lotions and gels, on the other hand, are lighter, less oily and better for summer. Gels, in particular, feel refreshing and don't leave behind that greasy residue.

People with normal (not too oily, not too dry) skin can get away with body lotions to moisturise body and face as long as it doesn't irritate their face and it properly traps moisture in their skin. Ultimately, it comes down to your skin type. Check out our full guide on which moisturisers are best for which skin types for more.

It turns out that my roommate was on to something. She used body lotion because it worked well for her, and that's what's important. If you use body lotion for your face, it's not madness as long as your skin looks and (more importantly) feels great.


    A friend of mine is a qualified chemist and extremely knowledgable. We had a long talk about specialty products. I wrote a comment (almost an article) on specialty marketing, which took snippets from my chemist friend's wisdom.

    We discussed about all sorts of false marketing. He tipped me off about triclosan long before the recent exposure as being harmful and ineffective. All that tells me is that many educated people were involved in a big con for a long time.

    In short, what he said is that most expensive products are almost identical to the cheaper ones. Sometimes, you will pay more for less concentration. It applies to more than just cosmetics, it's soaps/shampoos/etc.

    The trick is knowing what ingredients to look for and which ones to avoid. This applies across most consumables (medicine, butters, yogurt, shampoo/soap).

    The general rule is that if a marketer thinks they can charge more by targeting a particular audience, they will. Hence why I onece said "if you want to be seen as special and buy a tailored marketed product, expect to pay more". Marketers will always exploit the most gullible consumers because it's the path of least resistance.

    Unfortunately, large numbers of consumers have been fleeced into believing they are special because of their gender (girl power anyone?). That has left this group vulnerable to being screwed by all sorts of marketing campaigns. Thankfully, my female friends are far smarter than to assume they are special or victims and are wise to such traps.

    There are so many benefits to being able to see yourself as a person, not a gender or a skin colour. In the 70s, we had a song called "the greatest rock n roll swindle". I'm sure there's an analogy with today's society where most people can no longer look past a person's gender or skin colour (eg. The recent WA politician who HAD to be replaced by a woman rather than looking for the best candidate). How about "the great equality swindle"? Sounds perfect!

    If you want to be a free thinker, minimise your prejudice and be an all round better human being, see yourself as a person only. More than just being a better human being, you are far less likely to be screwed by manipulative marketing schemes. Viva critical thinking!

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