Cream vs Lotion | Benefits of Moisturizing and Which Option Is for You

With body care products, one type doesn't fit all. With the array of skin care products we are confronted with every day, it can be challenging to find one that is exactly right for your skin type and your skin needs. However, most skin care decisions boil down to one major question first; cream vs lotion?

Cream vs lotion?

Understanding the ingredients and labels on these products go a long way in making a smart skin care choice, but many people choose the ones with the pretty packaging, or the ones that smell like daisies. So, in the lotion vs cream debate, how do you know which is which?

Body cream vs body lotion

Both body lotions and body creams are used to fight skin dryness. They're both ‘anti-ashy’ skin moisturizers. Since they both have the same function, what is the difference between lotion and cream? The choice between the two depends on your skin type and the climatic conditions.

Difference between lotion and cream

By definition, lotions and creams contain water; body butter does not. 

Some lotions contain up to 70% water. To minimize the dryness that no doubt follows when you use that much water content on your skin, lotions add moisturizing agents such as oils and other ingredients. This means that they are thinner in thickness and exquisitely consistent, easy to spread all over the body.

difference between lotion and cream

However, the thing with lotions is that their moisturizing effect wears off too quickly - it's just so much water. For clarity, if you have to carry a bottle of your ‘moisturizer’ in your bag so you can rub some on frequently, that's a lotion.

Different lotions cater to the specific needs of the hands, face, and body.

Creams, on the other hand, are thicker in texture than lotions. They are richer, luxurious and more intense products because they have a higher viscosity. This means that they do more moisturizing because they penetrate the skin deeply and create a film on the skin that prevents moisture from evaporating through the pores.

Since creams do not have as much water content as lotions, the use of preservatives is not necessary. Therefore they are more natural products, depending on the composition.

What is the difference between body lotion and body cream?

The main difference between body cream and body lotion is the water content.

A body lotion is typically a moisturizer, prepared by mixing a higher content of water than oil. They are usually lighter on skin and non-greasy, making them an easy fave for hot weathers like summer. They are also very effective on parts of the body where there is more hair, such as men's chest.

The ideal overall daily hydrator is a body lotion. They have a lighter consistency that spreads quickly and helps replenish the skin’s natural lipid layer — the surface layer of fatty acids that protects the skin from irritation and water loss. Lotions are best for larger areas of skin that require less hydration, and they are ideal for all skin types, from super dry skin to super oily skin. They usually come in bottles or tubes, because of their almost-liquid texture.

What is body cream?

Rough, dry skin can be delicate to quench, and that’s where body creams — sometimes called body butters — come in. Thicker in texture than lotions, creams are more vibrant, more intense products because they have a higher viscosity, or a mixture of water and oil. This is why they often come in jars.  

Those with relatively drier skin can benefit more from body cream vs lotion.

Along with moisture, the various ingredients of body butter such as essential fats and minerals can also make your skin smoother, softer, and healthier.

what is body cream

However, if you use body creams too frequently, you could develop acne problems because the oil would accumulate and clog your pores, unless you shower every night and use a light lotion as a moisturizer instead.

Alternatively, use a light lotion or cream for the daytime hours, but you may require a thicker cream at night before you go to bed.

For rougher areas of the body like the knees, elbows, and heels, body creams are best as moisturizers because they contain enough oil needed to keep the area soft and hydrated.

How do I know which one is better for me?

Now that you understand the differences in content and composition of body creams and body lotions, here are a few factors to consider before you decide for your skin

  • Skin type

Lotions are great for all skin types, but you might need to get a body cream to supply the extra moisture that your body needs. A combo of lotion for day time and body cream for night time moisturizing would give you the most effective results.

People that lack skin moisture should use dry skin creams. However, oil-based creams should not be used on your face unless you have excessive dryness. However, they’re ideal for dry skin on your hands, feet, and legs.

  • Weather conditions

Lotions are an excellent option for hot-weather, owing to the lightweight factor. When the temps get chilly and dry, you would need a body cream for dry skin to stay moisturized.

  • Other skin conditions

skin conditions

People suffering from skin problems such as eczema or acne would have to consider that before making a body lotion vs body cream decision.

To combat eczema, you would need the benefits of a moisturizing cream that lotions might not be able to produce. Also, body creams are more likely to contain the essential oils  that would help alleviate the problem.

Oil-based creams worsen acne problems, so a lotion would be a better option in this case. Always bring your skin conditions to the forefront - a product that worked for a friend might not necessarily work for you.

  • Other ingredients.

Look out for the composition of each product on the labels - some of them might contain ingredients that can be harmful to your skin. In lotions, products that contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) or fruit acids are a plus because they help to get rid of dead, dry skin that causes itching. Body creams that contain natural ingredients like Shea butter, jojoba oil or olive oil would also do more for your skin than say, a basic petroleum jelly product.  

  • Specific use

You'd probably see different lotions for hand, face, and body and wonder, ‘Can't I just buy one and use for all those parts?’

Short answer is, no. There's a reason why these products have specific uses- they were made to supply the right amount of moisture and nutrients needed by specific parts of the body.

Hand lotions

hand lotions

Using hand lotions is the best way to keep your hands looking younger and feeling softer. We tend to wash our hands several times a day, stripping off all the moisture and leaving our hands dry and calloused.

Body lotions do not contain enough moisture to penetrate the hands, so hand lotions always contain more oil than is needed for the face or the body. If you need extra moisture on your digits, you could also opt for hand creams, which are more oil-based and will penetrate the skin better. For better results, use moisturizing gloves to keep the moisture locked in.

Lotion and cream for your hands mostly contain Vitamins A & E to keep the skin soft, nut oils, mild alcohols, and some dairy ingredients.

Hand lotion is formulated to have a thicker consistency than moisturizing face lotions so that they can stay on the hands for longer. If this is used on the face or body, it can clog the pores on the face, leading to blackheads and acne.

Face lotions  

Face lotions are lighter than hand and body lotions. The skin on the face is more sensitive than the thicker skin on the hand, which also makes it ineffective to use a face lotion on your hand or body. Most face lotions contain some form of Sun Protection Factor (SPF)  to protect your face from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

For face lotions, the difference between cream and lotion also comes into play. Look for a non-greasy face lotion that soothes irritation from scrubbing, offers some form of SPF protection and helps defend against the signs of aging. You could use a face cream for a dry face that is specially designed to give you more lightweight moisture.

face lotion

A face lotion would also be ineffective as a hand cream, because the lightness of the cream is not enough to penetrate the hard layers of the hand.

You cannot use these products interchangeably.

The skin-tightening properties of a face lotion that help your face look younger  would not work

well with the hands, and could result in scaling or cracking on the dry textured skin around the knuckles and palms.

Hand lotion is likely to leave the skin on your face looking too shiny and cause reactions or blocked pores.

So, stick with the lotions that best cater to your specific needs.

Now that you understand the difference between body cream and lotion, don't forget to keep healthy lifestyle habits to keep your skin glowing and healthy. Eat well, drink lots of water and here's to good skin all year.

About the Author LYDIA

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