Cream or Lotion Moisturizer: How to Choose

Is it better to use cream lotion or moisturizer? Here's how to choose. Pick the right moisturizer for your skin type to get healthier skin.

Is Cream Moisturizer or Lotion Better?

When it comes to moisturizers, creams and lotions do the same things, right? They moisturize. But when it comes to creams and lotions, is consistency the only difference, or is there more to the battle of cream vs lotion? Does it matter which one you choose, or is it just a matter of personal preference?

The Difference Between Cream and Lotion Moisturizers

While it’s true that both cream and lotion are meant mainly to moisturize by restoring the skin’s barrier to retain hydration, that’s where the similarities end.

A lotion typically contains more water than a cream, meaning it has a lower viscosity. Lotion is a blend of water and oil. It’s lightweight and spreadable and non-greasy. It tends to be fast-absorbing. It’s perfect for normal or slightly dry skin. It does not leave a greasy residue. Because lotion contains more water, it works well in the summer to help keep skin hydrated. It typically comes in a squeeze bottle or tube. Besides the mix of water and oil, most lotions contain other skin-nourishing ingredients. Depending on the type of lotion, these ingredients may be natural or synthetic.

Because lotion contains more water than cream, it’s easier for bacteria to thrive. Therefore, most lotions contain added ingredients to prevent bacteria growth. This means they also contain more fragrance in order to cover the unpleasant odor of the chemical preservatives.

Cream is also a blend of oil and water but with a higher concentration of oil or a higher viscosity. Typically, creams contain a fifty-fifty blend of oil and water, along with other beneficial ingredients. Because they contain more oils and less water than lotion, creams are thicker and heavier. They may leave the skin feeling greasier, but this means they are working to promote the skin moisture barrier so your skin can better retain water. Creams are usually too thick to be poured or squeezed from a tube and therefore will usually come in small, lidded pots or tubs.

When to Use a Lotion

Some of the best drugstore moisturizers are lotions. You will find an abundance of choices in the aisles of your favorite Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid.

Because they are low viscosity and contain a lot of water, they are easily spreadable. They absorb quickly and won’t leave you feeling sticky. These qualities make lotions ideal to use all over the body. The best time to use an all-over body lotion is immediately after showering or bathing. Applying your lotion after a shower means your cells are hydrated and your pores are open from the warmth. Because lotion is easily absorbed, applying it after your shower or bath will allow it to be quickly absorbed to promote a helpful skin barrier to keep the moisture in your skin cells from evaporating.

If you have normal to combination skin, a lotion is probably the best moisturizer for your skin type. It will provide just the level of moisture your skin needs to build the skin barrier. Lotion is best when your skin isn’t particularly dry and you only need a hint of oil to lock in moisture.

When to Use a Cream Moisturizer

Cream is useful for treating dry, cracked skin. It works well on heels, knees, and anywhere you have patches of rough, dry skin. Creams are not absorbed as quickly as lotion, making them ideal for protection against chapping in the winter for all skin types. Otherwise, creams are ideal for excessively dry skin. Because they have a higher viscosity, creams are richer and thicker than lotions. They penetrate the skin deeply and create a strong skin barrier to lock in moisture. Creams don’t have to be reapplied as often as lotions.

Because creams don’t absorb and evaporate as quickly as lotions, they are often used to supply beneficial anti-aging ingredients to replenish the skin of the face at night. Some of the best drugstore moisturizers are face creams, meant to remain on your face for hours at night, doing their job to deliver anti-aging ingredients and to keep skin hydrated all night long.

Before you decide if you need a cream or a lotion, it’s best to consider your skin type, where you will be using the product, and the weather. All of those considerations should go into deciding whether to moisturize with a cream or a lotion.

Resources— Hutton Klein Dermatology, DermStore, HowStuffWorks, HealthyTop10

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