You’ve probably seen a variety of tubes and tubs labeled, “moisturizing lotion,” or “hydrating skin cream” on the shelf in your local drug store.
You may have thought it was just a marketing term and wondered if there’s a difference between lotion vs cream. We’re here to let the truth be known: these two moisturizer products are indeed different.
Lotion vs Cream: What are the Differences and Similarities
Let’s start with the overlap. Lotions and creams are both moisturizers intended to hydrate your skin. They are both emulsions made from a combination of water and oil.
Lotion, however, has much more water than cream. In fact, lotion may contain only a few drops of oil. This substance is absorbed much more quickly, making it feel lighter on the skin. This water-based moisturizer can be used all over the body.
Cream, on the other hand, is typically about a 50/50 split of water and oil. Because creams are oilier, they tend to be thicker and greasier when applied to the skin.
This quality is why you’ll often find oil-based creams in tubs instead of tubes or bottles with pumps. The ingredient is easier to apply with fingers than the squirt of a bottle. It’s also why you’ll find more of these products made for hands and feet — like our vegan hand cream — as its thickness penetrates more deeply on rough skin.
Know Your Skin Type
You may be wondering why you’d want to choose either lotion over cream or vice versa. The fact is that every skin type is unique. Some people have sensitive skin and must be more cautious of the moisturizer products they introduce to their skincare routine. Others have normal skin and have more leniency when it comes to selecting their moisturizer.
Another factor to keep in mind is your skincare goals. Perhaps you want a facial moisturizer with anti-aging properties or a simple body oil product to soften your skin. Consider what you want to achieve before purchasing a product.
You’ll want to choose the best option for your skin type. This decision may take some experimentation, but the following list should help you narrow the choices.
For Acne-Prone Skin
If you suffer from acne-prone skin, you’ll want to stick with lotion. Because the oil content is low, it tends to go on light and get absorbed quickly.
Cream, on the other hand, may cause your natural oils to become trapped, leading to clogged pores.
Be sure that the lotion you choose is free from alcohol. The chemical can cause dry skin and worsen breakouts.
In lotions, you may find ingredients such as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and even isopropyl alcohol. Manufacturers add these ingredients to make lotion feel lighter and allow moisture to be absorbed more readily.
The problem with these alcohol-based additives is that they’re intended to break down your skin’s natural barriers. Regarding your long-term health, It’s not a good ingredient to regularly apply to your face.
For Oily Skin
It’s tempting for people with oily skin to avoid moisturizing altogether. You may feel the urge to apply astringent and alcohol to dry your face.
Nonetheless, this attempt to dry the skin can actually result in even oilier skin. Why? Because it triggers your skin to produce even more oil, creating a never-ending grease battle.
Instead, use non-greasy lotion to hydrate your skin for a few days. Then watch your oil levels decline. As your skin gets accustomed to the additional hydration, it’ll calm down its oil production.
For Excessively Dry Skin
If you suffer from excessively dry, cracking skin, skip the lotion and go straight for the cream. It will create a protective barrier that prevents moisture from evaporating. Coat and soothe your dry skin with the healing powers of nourishing cream.
Lotion vs Cream for Normal or Combination Skin Care
If you have normal or combination skin, give lotion a chance to hydrate you. Because in this modern world people are showering daily, you need to practice a daily skincare routine of moisturizing.
Seasonal Uses of Lotion vs. Cream
Because lotion is lightweight with minimal oil, it’s great for use in the summertime when you really want to avoid that greasy feeling. During the summer your skin is usually hydrated with sweat and the air’s humidity. It can become burned and therefore dried by the sun and harmful UV rays, so it’s important that you continue to moisturize in the summer months. You can use a lotion with SPF for additional sun protection.
Cream, however, is thick and oily, making it perfect for dry winter months. It creates an extra barrier on the skin, elevating hydration by trapping your skin’s natural moisture and oil.
Dermatologists often recommend using cream for hand, foot and body moisturizing because its thickness can help moisture penetrate through these thick layers of skin. However, if your face is excessively dried out by the winter elements, you can find non-comedogenic creams that are light enough to keep your pores unclogged.
Which is Better for Your Skin Care Needs?
At the end of the day, each product serves a unique purpose. You’ll find yourself switching from a hefty dollop of ultra-penetrating body cream in the wintertime to a spurt of refreshing lotion in the summer. Or, you may find your feet are rough from summer adventures and use cream to help them heal.
Both types of moisturizer products have specific uses and benefits, and it helps to know the difference.
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