The Lightest Heavy Duty Lotion


If there's one takeaway from our recent exploration of drugstore body lotions (and the ensuing comments), it's that everyone has a favorite. However one very clear trend ran through the thread: that someway, somehow, we missed Vanicream. Not ones to ignore the possibility of a good product review when it's standing right in front of us, here it is. Consider it Best Drugstore Body Lotions, The Addendum.

I discovered Vanicream at the holy place where sample-sizes abound: the dermatologist’s office. It was the dead of winter and, deep in the throes of my second round of Accutane, my skin was flaking off.

Sometimes, I felt like it would all happen at once and, the way a cicada sheds itself, I’d wake up next to an entire and intact mask of skin on my pillow. If that sounds disturbing, then you haven’t known the true horror of touching your face with a black wool glove and assuming that, somehow, you must have accumulated parmesan cheese crumbs around your mouth. You keep touching, thinking they will wipe clean until you realize that you don’t have anything on top of your face. That these little flakes are your face. It’s your own skin and, cell-by-cell, it’s abandoning its post.

So, as I was leaving the derm’s office, I made my usual stop at the sample basket and picked up a miniature tube of Vanicream. The next day, during a desperate moment, I tried it for the first time. Putting it on my skin felt as natural as water, like sinking into a warm bath—calming, soothing, and instantly quieting. Right there, in my high school bathroom, I was converted.

What Vanicream contains is almost as great as what it doesn’t. In addition to being fragrance-free, it’s also paraben-, formaldehyde-, lanolin-, sulfate-, phosphate-, and even gluten- free. On top of that, it’s lovely vehicle for other products if you want to whip up your own dermalogical concoction—I sometimes stir in some argan or olive oil for deeper hydration.

Vanicream never turns greasy. It absorbs cleanly and wholly. You can put your jeans on shortly after using it on your legs and not feel like a losing contestant on “Figure It Out,” slimed up and walking stiltedly away.

Now, I’m usually as much an ingredient snob as anyone else who devotes as much time as I do to cosmetics. But, every so often, you just have to concede that some things just work. I thought I’d never buy modal and then Alexander Wang’s T line came out. And now, Vanicream has changed my mind on petroleum as an ingredient. I still don’t worship at its proverbial altar, but it’s used well here. And that’s the thing—it’s been formulated by scientists and developers as relief for sensitive skin, even eczema. I’m still a devotee of coconut oil and all manner of natural remedies—nothing hooks me more than a product advertised as “the ancient beauty secret of women for centuries,” But, you know what? The ancients didn’t have Vanicream. I dare say that, in another thousand years, Vanicream will be being marketed as the beauty secret of this current age’s women.

So, enjoy—and know that you’re a thousand years ahead of the trend.

—Trace Barnhill

Photographed by Tom Newton.