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Dry, itchy back? Derms say you should be moisturizing it more — lotions and applicators they recommend

These expert-approved tools will help you hydrate the hard to reach spot.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

Moisturizing efforts tend to focus on the places you look at every day; your face, hands, arms and legs. And while that makes perfect sense, you shouldn't be leaving the rest of your body out to dry.

The back is often forgotten in people's skin care routines because it's so hard to reach, said Dr. Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. And that's one reason why she often hears patients complaining about dry, itchy skin in that area. "As we mature and the levels of ceramides and natural moisturizing factors drop, dry skin and itching become a more frequent problem," she said. "So if you have to practice your stretching skills or invest in applicators to help you out, do it."

Dr. Robert Finney, a board-certified dermatologist at Entière Dermatology in New York, added that he sees the issue most often in the winter, as people are taking longer and hotter showers, which can strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture. Since the shower head is aimed directly at your upper back, that tends to be an area of concern.

How to apply lotion to your back | Best lotion applicators | Best lotions | How we chose | Meet the experts

How to apply lotion to your back

If you don't live with a partner or friend who you'd be comfortable asking to help you apply lotion to your back every day, Chang said you can try using your forearms. Simply apply the moisturizer to your forearms and use them to rub in the moisturizer up and down your mid to lower-back, she instructed.

That requires some level of stretching and flexibility, so an easier solution can be to invest in an applicator. That's why we rounded up the expert-approved applicators (and lotions to go with them), so you can keep your skin feeling hydrated all year long.

Best lotion applicators for your back

Vive Lotion Applicator For Your Back

What we like
  • Good grip on handle
  • Comes with extra sponges to replace if necessary
Something to note
  • Sponge doesn't absorb much product

Chang recommended this option partly because of its versatility; the replaceable sponge can be used as a body wash or moisturizer applicator. It also features a long handle, which makes it easier to reach even the toughest areas on your back.

Maddak Roll Easy Lotion Applicator

What we like
  • Lightweight, easy to use
Something to note
  • Handle breaks after little use, for some reviewers

Chang also recommended this rolling applicator, which works similarly to a paint roller. "Its pivoting head can help reach the whole back by multiple angles," she said. The handle folds, so you can easily store it or take it with you on the go.

Slick Lotion Applicator for Your Back

What we like
  • "Game-changing" 
  • Soft, easy to use
Something to note
  • Material absorbs a lot of the lotion

Finney suggested this option — a soft, velvet band that you hold in both your hands and rub across your back to apply the lotion. It's washing machine and dryer friendly, which makes cleaning a breeze.

GranNaturals Lotion Applicator

What we like
  • Foam is soft, but firm
  • Perfect size, easy to clean afterwards
Something to note
  • Lacks flexibility, hard to maneuver in different angles

This applicator, also recommended by Finney, features a curved handle, which makes it easier to cover those hard-to-reach spots of the middle on your back. It can be used in the shower or afterward to apply both body wash and lotion.

Best lotions for your back

Pacifica Beauty Wake Up Beautiful Retinoid Body Lotion

What we like
  • Has a less irritating retinoid
Something to note
  • It's scented
  • Contains melatonin

Melatonin and retinol work in tandem in this body lotion, to help fight acne while also helping you relax overnight.

This night cream includes petroleum-free retinoids, meaning it's less irritable than harsher retinols.

Vanicream Moisturizing Cream With Pump

What we like
  • Lightweight texture
  • Fragrance-free
Something to note
  • Formula changed from prior versions
  • Greasy residue left behind

Chang recommends using creams over lotions, especially in winter, since they're thicker and have a higher oil content. This dermatologist-approved cream fits the bill and is great for people with sensitive skin, since it's free of dyes, fragrances and parabens.

Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Body Lotion

What we like
  • Moisturizing ingredients
  • Transparent retinol percentage
Something to note
  • Has a thicker consistency

While it’s commonly used for treating acne on the face, products that contain retinol are good for treating bacne as well, according to experts.

Multiple Shop TODAY editors love this retinol lotion from Versed, including editorial director Adrianna Brach and editor Julie Ricevuto, thanks to its hydrating ingredients like cocoa butter, Vitamin E and squalane.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+

What we like
  • Good for those with sensitive skin
  • Truly long-lasting moisture
Something to note
  • Formula is different from prior versions
  • Thick texture

This option from La Roche-Posay, recommended by Finney, includes hydrating ingredients like niacinamide, shea butter and glycerin. You should use your moisturizing cream twice a day, even if your skin doesn't feel dry, he said, to keep the skin barrier moisturized and protected.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

This ultra-hydrating cream is also a derm favorite, thanks to its rich consistency and "clean" ingredients, free of artificial fragrances, parabens, phthalates and sulfates. It's fast-absorbing and won't leave a greasy after-feel.

How we chose

The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. We interview expert sources and use our own personal experiences with the product and brand to make shopping easier for our readers.

Meet the experts

  • Dr. Y Claire Chang is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
  • Dr. Robert Finney is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York.