Lotions and Creams - What's the Difference?

Have you ever looked at the various names of things that we use to moisturize ourselves? Lotions, creams, ointments, salves...the list seems to go on and on. The most common two I see are lotions and creams. But what are they and are they different from each other? Or is this just some marketing tactic?

Good news - they actually are two different things.  Let's take a look at each.


Lotions tend to be a lighter formulation with a higher percentage of water. This means that they flow easily out of a bottle and sink into our skin quickly. They don't generally feel greasy. 


Creams tend to be a heavier formulation with a higher percentage of oils. For this reason, they are typically sold in jars and may need to be rubbed into our skin for a bit longer before they sink in. Some may feel a little greasy, depending on their ingredients.

So which one should I use?

That's not something that's easy to answer. Everyone has different skin types, so what may be perfect for one person may not work at all for another. If you have dry or very dry skin, creams will likely be your best option because they are heavier. It may even depend on the time of year! During the more humid summer months, lotions usually work better for most people. But during the drier winter months, creams are your best bet.

(Salves and ointments are something else entirely and do not generally use any water in their formulations at all.)