Lotions vs Cream: What's the Difference

Lotions vs Cream: What's the Difference

The debate between lotions vs. creams is one of those funny beauty topics most of us don’t even consider until we actually learn the difference! What constitutes a lotion? What is a cream? Why does lotion vs. cream even matter? Both are used to hydrate and restore moisture to the skin, so what’s the difference and how do you know which one is right for you? Do you use lotions for one purpose and face cream for something else? We’ll discuss all of that so you can make the best possible decisions about how lotions and creams best fit into your skin care routine.


Main Takeaways: The difference between lotions and creams has much to do with the oil and water content of the product. Knowing when to use each will help elevate your skin care game considerably!

Good to Know: Determining your skin type will help determine whether you need a lotion or a cream.

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What is the difference between lotions vs creams?

To better understand the difference between lotions and creams, let’s think about the kind of oil you cook with as an example, specifically olive oil vs. coconut oil. Coconut oil is thick, even solid and has to be scooped out of a jar while olive oil is a liquid and can be poured out. Coconut oil has a higher concentration of fatty acids which have high melting points. This is part of what makes it solid.

That’s basically how lotions and creams for the face and body work!
Generally speaking, a lotion will have a higher concentration of water than oil which is part of what makes it liquid and not solid (many lotions actually contain very little oil at all). If you put a drop of lotion in your hand, it won’t feel thick or greasy.

Creams, on the other hand, are generally much thicker in terms of feel. That’s because they contain more oil--sometimes as much as 50%. For that reason, creams often have more power in terms of being able to hydrate the skin and even lock in moisture.

How do I know whether I need a lotion or a cream?

Knowing whether you need a lotion or a cream depends on what your skin type is and what you’re trying to do in terms of moisturizing your skin--do you need light hydration or do you really need to infuse your skin with a lot of moisture? Are you thinking in terms of something to use every week or so, or is this part of your everyday routine? No matter what you’re looking to do, you should easily be able to find a lotion or a cream that’s right!

Lotion vs. Cream: What’s Right for Each Skin Type

A big part of figuring out whether you need a lotion or a cream is to figure out which skin type you have--depending on that, you may even benefit from using both! For example, if you have combination skin, you might want to choose a lotion for those areas that aren’t really that dry. Or you might like the idea of just using a lighter oil--or even a product with a little oil in it like our Rose and Shine natural rose water toner as a hydrating touch up during the day.

If you have oily skin, chances are, you’ll most likely be drawn towards a lotion as it will have less oil than a cream, and therefore will be less likely to clog your pores which are already prone to clogging. If you do want to use a cream, either because you just like the feel or just want more hydration, we strongly suggest choosing one that uses non-comedogenic oils. Not all oils will clog your pores--for example, jojoba oil is completely non-comedogenic. And whatever you do, do not skip hydrating or moisturizing the skin just because you have oily skin! Even oily skin needs to restore moisture!

Dry skins, you probably know what we’re going to say--go for face cream! Because they have more oil in them than lotions, creams will help rehydrate your skin faster than a lotion. The oils will also help relieve that dry, parched feeling much faster as well. Also, creams in general are better when it comes to really forming a barrier that helps keep moisture in the skin.

And if you’re into anti-aging products, you’ll definitely want to go for creams! Face creams like our Crème de la Cream natural moisturizer will really get to work on those fine lines and wrinkles and will not only infuse your skin with moisture, but will restore the look of hydration to it!

Can I Use Lotion and Cream Together?

The short answer is yes, although it’s still important to figure out what you’re using them for. If you have combination skin you might want to use a lotion on the days your skin is feeling a little oily and a cream on the days it’s feeling dry. Or use a lotion in the morning and a cream to really rehydrate at night. What’s probably not a great idea is to use one on top of the other. Not only will it make them less effective (whatever you put on top probably isn’t going to get through to the skin), you’ll just be wasting product.

Remember, too, that you can switch out lotions for creams depending on the season or even to adjust to day-to-day weather. On a humid, summer day you might want to switch to a lotion and then switch back to a cream when the weather gets dry and cold--that goes for the face or the body!

Lotion vs. Cream for the Body

Just as we’ve discussed lotions and face creams, there are lotions and creams for the body as well. When it comes to this, it’s almost more a matter of what kind of feel you’re looking for, rather than what skin type you have as skin on the body is rarely very oily. If you just can’t stand a greasy feel, then you might want to go for a lotion, but if you have dry skin or skin that’s cracked or flaky, a cream is probably in your best interest.

As you can see, there are many effective ways to use lotions and creams--the key is just to choose the one that’s right for your skin!