Demystifying Drugstore Lotions

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Moisturized legs are all alike; every dry leg is dry in its own way.

I find something similar to be true with drugstore lotions. All the bad ones are bad for the same reasons (they don't work) and all the good ones have their own selling points. But who can tell the difference at the store? There are probably hundreds of lotions that come in handy-dandy pump bottles—convenient for one-hand, just-out-of-the-shower application—screaming at you how SCIENTIFIC and NEW & IMPROVED they are. It's downright overwhelming. Sure, there's that thrilling moment when you're standing in front of the aisles, contemplating their vastness, finally settling on one formula, cradling its heft in your arms. Now, you think, now I will be well-moisturized. From now until the end of time. But most people have done little in terms of experimentation. And why would you? Buy a new one and you're stuck with at least 15 fluid ounces of lotion you may or may not use. That would be wasteful. And silly, seeing that we're about to do it for you.

Because you deserve an explanation. We all deserve an explanation.

*The Fan Favorite

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I’m still unsure if CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion is for your face or for your body. Theoretically, it shouldn’t matter, right? Skin is skin. Regardless, the entire internet compelled me to try it because apparently it is the Holy Grail of moistened people. And if you're looking for lightweight, this is your bottle. It's thin, but it's serious. Sensitive skin tested and approved, too.

*The One I’d Never Heard Of

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Another internet recommendation: AmLactin. Going beyond the uncomfortably syllabled name, this stuff hard core rocks. Smells a little funky, but you'll feel like a leggy dream when you wake up.

*The Medicated One

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Gold Bond Triple Action Relief actually has Drug Facts. It smells like menthol, which is a pro or con, depending on who you are. It's also cooling on contact—perfect for uncomfortable skin, especially if you plan on being ill at all in the future.

*The Overachiever

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Eucerin Intensive Repair is not screwing around. The bottle tells me that it simultaneously moisturizes, exfoliates, conditions, and repairs my sad-sack skin. The bottle is ugly and the texture is sticky, but damn if it doesn’t do one hell of a job. Reserve for your dire situations.

*The One To Use If You Like Body Oil

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I don’t really get the hype around Keri Shea Butter Conditioning Therapy. This was the lotion I just HAD to have after Alexandra Spencer claimed it airbrushed your legs. I scoured New York and after weeks of finding everything but, eventually made my mom send it to me from Chicago. It’s fine, unless you really dig feeling oily (which I do). I also like to put it in the ends of my hair before I go to sleep. Jury's still out on whether this is a good idea in the long run, but I can report that I wake up with super shiny, ’50s wave hair and I’m not mad about it.

*The Cream That’s Masquerading As A Lotion

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Lubriderm Intense Skin Repair (and maybe also Advanced Therapy, because I’ve tried both and can’t make out a difference) is thick and wonderful. Sort of like crème fraîche. You'll have to apply it every day to see results (as opposed to the Amlactin, which was like boom, moist legs galore), but at least it'll be an enjoyable experience.

*The Simple, No Frills Standby

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When in doubt, Aveeno. Always Aveeno. You won’t be sorry. And you’ll be that much closer to Jennifer Aniston.

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton.

More drugstore shopping guides: the best concealers, makeup brushes and face wipes courtesy of CVS and friends.