Kiss Synthetic Scents Goodbye—An Aesthetician Shares the Best Fragrance-Free Body Lotions

They’ve got nothing to hide.

By Caitlin Clark

If years of beauty writing have changed any one thing about my approach to skincare products, it’s seeking out items that are fragrance-free. That’s a true feat for someone forged in the Juniper Breeze and Cucumber Melons of Bath & Body Works. But, it’s not that I’ve outgrown wanting fruity-flavored lotion (Country Apple forever)—understanding what that synthetic scent or perfume might be masking is what gives the best fragrance-free body lotions their edge.

“If there was one ingredient I would ban for life, it would be perfume,” LA-based licensed aesthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar told us last week about the most important things to avoid on skincare labels. “Especially artificial fragrance.”

Feature image by Michelle Nash.

Iskra Lawrence leaning over couch smiling_best fragrance-free body lotions
Image by Michelle Nash
Natalie Aguilar

Aguilar is a Los Angeles-based dermatological nurse and licensed esthetician.

Because fragrances are considered a “trade secret” by the FDA, companies aren’t required to list the chemicals or ingredients used to scent their products. Meaning phthalates and other harmful ingredients could be lurking beneath intoxicating smells.

It should be said though, synthetic fragrances aren’t all bad. They’re cheaper to make and can be less detrimental to the environment than natural scents like sandalwood, vanilla, or patchouli. But if you’re dealing with reactive, sensitive skin, cutting out synthetic fragrances is probably the first place to start.

But before we dive into the best fragrance-free body lotions, Aguilar offers a primer on why those formulas matter.

Image by Michelle Nash

The Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Fragrances

Fragrances found in products are either natural or synthetic, but what are the major differences to know?

While their origins are different (natural fragrances like lemon or lavender are extracted from a natural source, while synthetic fragrances are made in a lab), both types of scents can irritate the skin for a variety of reasons. According to Aguilar, fragrances are one of the leading causes of allergic contact dermatitis.

“Products are fragranced for many reasons,” Aguilar explains. “For some, scents can be nostalgic, calming, or even make us feel cleaner. They are also put into products to mask offensive odors that other chemicals can give. Those with extremely sensitive or hypoallergenic skin types should avoid fragrance in skincare and hair care products.”

Image by Michelle Nash

The Difference Between Unscented and Fragrance-Free

Here’s a fun little game of semantics: “unscented” isn’t the same as “fragrance-free.” While fragrance-free means no fragrances (synthetic or natural) or other ingredients have been added to create a smell, unscented products may contain chemicals to neutralize or mask the smell of other ingredients. Much like the no-makeup-makeup trend, the no-scent aroma does require a bit of formulation.

best fragrance-free body lotions
Image by Michelle Nash

The Best Fragrance-Free Body Lotions

Perfect for sensitive skin (or any skin type), you can feel confident slathering on the following lotions day after day.

Every product is curated with care by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Nécessaire The Body Lotion – With Niacinamide, Vitamins + Peptides

u003cpu003eFeaturing hero ingredient niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3), this luxurious, fragrance-free lotion keeps skin feeling smooth and moisturized. Bonus: niacinamide can also protect against UV rays and pollution.u003c/pu003e

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream with Pump Dispenser

u003cpu003eu0022For those sensitive to scent, I would recommend any and all products made by Vanicream. There is no fragrance or fragrance masking, making Vanicream products ideal for someone with sensitive skin, allergies, or a sensitive sense of smell.u0022 u003cemu003e— Natalie Aguilaru003c/emu003eu003c/pu003e

Codex Labs Bia Hydrating Skin Superfood

u003cpu003eThe antioxidant-rich lotion from the plant-based bioscience brand features a naturally herbaceous scent. u003c/pu003e

Kopari Organic Coconut Melt

u003cpu003eThis sulfate- and fragrance-free multitasker can be used safely on the body, hair, face… you name it. u003c/pu003e

Public Goods Lotion

u003cpu003eThe direct-to-consumer brand prides itself on sustainability and transparency. Fortunately, they have nothing to hide behind the u0022fragranceu0022 label. u003c/pu003e

Cocokind Sake Body Lotion

u003cpu003eThe buzzy formula’s fermented rice wine features smoothing enzymes, microbiome-friendly prebiotic sugars, and a convenient pump bottle.u003c/pu003e

Biossance Squalane + Caffeine Toning Body Cream

u003cpu003eThis u003ca href=u0022 brandu003c/au003e‘s clean body cream addresses loss of firmness with energizing caffeine and niacinamide. u003c/pu003e

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Dry Skin

u003cpu003eThe dermatologist-loved drugstore staple is eczema-approved and features a powerful blend of ceramides and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture on knees, elbows, and wherever you need it most.u003c/pu003e

Drunk Elephant Sili Body Lotion

u003cpu003eA fantastic option for aging, mature skin, the cult-loved brand’s fragrance-free formula features Marula butter, a super-pure butter concentrated with lipids, fatty acids, and antioxidants. u003c/pu003e

Versed Press Restart Retinol Body Lotion

u003cpu003eAn exfoliating body lotion featuring only the good stuff. u003c/pu003e

Skinfix Eczema+ Extra Strength Body Cream

u003cpu003eColloidal oatmeal and sweet almond oil are the star active ingredients here, creating a rich cream that relieves itching and irritation. u003c/pu003e

The Honest Company Sensitive Face + Body Lotion

u003cpu003eThis lightweight, derm-tested lotion is gentle enough for babies, so you can feel safe slathering it on sensitive skin. u003c/pu003e

EltaMD Moisture-Rich Body Creme

u003cpu003eArmed with hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, and plant-based lipids, the luxurious, non-greasy formula smooths and soothes. u003c/pu003e

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Body Lotion

u003cpu003eThe fragrance-free, drugstore favorite deploys prebiotics, glycerin, and niacinamide with shea butter goodness. u003c/pu003e