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.

Image by Michelle Nash
Natalie Aguilar
  • Dermatological Nurse & Esthetician
  • Instagram

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.

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

Featuring 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.

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream with Pump Dispenser

“For 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.” — Natalie Aguilar

Codex Labs Bia Hydrating Skin Superfood

The antioxidant-rich lotion from the plant-based bioscience brand features a naturally herbaceous scent.

Kopari Organic Coconut Melt

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

Public Goods Lotion

The direct-to-consumer brand prides itself on sustainability and transparency. Fortunately, they have nothing to hide behind the “fragrance” label.

Cocokind Sake Body Lotion

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

Biossance Squalane + Caffeine Toning Body Cream

This innovative brand‘s clean body cream addresses loss of firmness with energizing caffeine and niacinamide.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Dry Skin

The 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.

Drunk Elephant Sili Body Lotion

A 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.

Versed Press Restart Retinol Body Lotion

An exfoliating body lotion featuring only the good stuff.

Skinfix Eczema+ Extra Strength Body Cream

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

The Honest Company Sensitive Face + Body Lotion

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

EltaMD Moisture-Rich Body Creme

Armed with hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, and plant-based lipids, the luxurious, non-greasy formula smooths and soothes.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Body Lotion

The fragrance-free, drugstore favorite deploys prebiotics, glycerin, and niacinamide with shea butter goodness.

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