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What is the difference between lotions, creams, gels and ointments?

Study guide

Many of us confuse gels, creams, lotions and ointments. These products are not difficult to distinguish from each other and each ingredient has a different absorption process and effect. You need to choose cosmetics based on your skin type and for this reason, it is better to know the difference between these products.

Dermal products are produced to treat or care for skin health. The most common types of skin products are:

  • gel;
  • Cream;
  • Ointment;
  • lotion.
In the following, we describe the features of each to better understand the difference between these products.

What is a gel?

Gels are easily recognizable for their transparency. The gel is usually oil-free and more like a lotion, as it is water-based. Because of this feature, it is absorbed very quickly and easily. The texture of the jellies is similar to that of oral jellies. They are light, do not stick and you do not even feel them on your skin. Because of these properties, gel-based products are suitable for the warmer months of the year because of their high hydration power. Applying the gel creates an almost opaque appearance on the skin and does not glow in the light.

Gels are good for oily skin because they contain substances such as hyaluronic acid that keep water molecules in the outer layer of the skin and prevent the appearance of oily and shiny skin.

The characteristics of gels are::

  • They usually dry quickly;
  • Suitable for parts of the skin that have hair;
  • They are clear and contain cellulose or carbromer ethers in water or a mixture of water and alcohol;
  • Upon contact with the skin, they liquefy, dry out, and leave a thin layer of active drug on the skin.

What is a cream?


Worms are usually white and have a thicker texture; Therefore, their absorption on the skin usually takes longer. This long-lasting absorption means that they create a more stable protective layer on the skin. Creams are usually water-based, but also contain oils and fats. Creams are used less frequently during the day. If you use the cream at night, you will get the best results.

In cold and winter seasons, use more cream; Because the cream is very effective in preventing skin problems on sensitive and dry skin.

The characteristics of the worms are:

  • Worms are a kind emulsion They are made of water and oil;
  • They are usually classified as “oil in water (o / w)” and “water in oil (w / o)” emulsions;
  • The type of oil in water (o / w) spreads easily on the skin and does not make the skin oily or sticky;
  • The type of water in oil (w / o) is usually fatter and has more softening power;
  • Creams contain emulsifiers and preservatives that may cause contact allergies in some people.

What is an ointment?


The ointments are semi-solid and their color is creamy and yellow; Of course, depending on the content, they may have other colors. The ointment is based on paraffin and has a thick texture. Ointments are fat-based and impermeable; That is, applying them on the skin creates a thick layer of protective material. Their absorption on the skin takes a long time (longer than creams).

Ointment is often used for medical purposes and to treat skin problems due to its long-term effects.

The properties of the ointments are:

  • They do not contain water and do not need a preservative.
  • They have a great emollient effect and therefore are very useful for problems caused by dry skin;
  • Semi-solid products made from hydrocarbons (gasoline, mineral oils, paraffins, synthetic hydrocarbons);
  • Their blocking effect on the skin increases the penetration of active drugs and improves their effectiveness (especially on thickened skin);
  • They are greasy and sticky and prevent sweating. For this reason, they are not suitable for areas of skin that have hair, as well as for skin prone to folliculitis or hot weather conditions;
  • They create protective layers on the skin and are useful for housewives who work a lot with their hands and also for people with irritating dermatitis.

What is a lotion?

What is a lotion?

This term is used to describe products that contain a liquid in which active or inactive drugs are dissolved or suspended. Most lotions are based on water or hydroalcohol (water and alcohol). Small amounts of alcohol are added to help dissolve the active ingredient and accelerate the evaporation of the solvent from the skin surface. Most acne lotions are hydroalcoholic, which evaporates quickly.

Emulsion lotions usually do not dry quickly, depending on the amount of water (lotions containing more water or less oil dry sooner).

The properties of lotions are:

  • They are not sticky and dry quickly;
  • Suitable for parts of the skin that have hair;
  • They can be easily spread over large areas of skin;
  • Suitable for skin prone to folliculitis (a type of bacterial infection in which hair follicles become inflamed) and acne and areas of skin that are prone to friction.

The main differences between gels, creams, ointments and lotions

The main differences between gels, creams, ointments and lotions

Each of these products has different performance and properties; But in terms of some appearance features and production method 4 Difference The main have:

1. Absorb

Ointments usually form a layer on the skin and disappear very late. Worms also have less absorption power. On the other hand, gels are not sticky and are absorbed very quickly.

2. Appearance

The concentration of these products varies. Gels are thinner and clearer and can be produced in different colors. Creams and ointments are usually white and milky. The cream is more concentrated than the gel and the ointment is the most concentrated skin product.

3. Application

These products may have very similar uses, but differ in some features; For example, ointments create a sticky and shiny appearance on the skin. For this reason, you probably do not like to apply it on the skin. Ointments are usually used for a small area of ​​skin and to treat specific skin problems; While gels, creams and lotions are easily spread on a wide area of ​​the skin.

4. Ingredient

The most important difference between these products is their ingredients. Creams and gels are usually water-based; But the ointment is based on fat. Of course, some creams also have fat, but the amount is less than the ointment. The oils used in creams and ointments are usually lanolin or petroleum. Gels are usually fat-free, but depending on the application of the product, a little oil may be used in their preparation.

A summary of the properties of gels, creams, ointments and lotions

Color and texture Based on Duration of absorption Suitable skin Suitable for
gel Transparent and delicate Water Fast Oily skin, hairy areas Warm seasons
Cream Usually white and slightly thick Water and oil Middle Dry and sensitive skin Cold seasons
Ointment Semi-solid and thick, often yellow and cream Oil (paraffin) Long Dry skin, hairless areas Medical goals and treatment of skin problems
lotion Usually white and fluent Water or water and alcohol Fast Hairy areas

What is the difference between moisturizer and lotion, cream, gel and ointment?


Moisturizer is not a new category for skin cosmetics. All kinds of gels, creams and ointments and lotions can all be moisturizing, if they can keep the skin moisturized and hydrated. Moisturizers, due to their properties, in addition to preventing the skin from drying out, can have other benefits; For example, protecting the skin from the sun and anti-aging properties.

Moisturizers can be used in the morning. Of course, it is more recommended to apply moisturizer to your skin at night. By doing this, your skin begins the process of repairing daytime injuries.

Advantages of using moisturizers:

  • Prevent flaking;
  • Reduce the appearance of wrinkles on the skin;
  • Hydration (if you feel your skin is tired and dry, you should use a moisturizer);
  • Anti-aging effects of the skin (use moisturizers for face, ears, neck and arms to make your skin look younger and fresher).

Things to know about choosing skin products

Leather products

1. Always consider the effects of each product

Obstructive products usually increase the absorption of active ingredients in the product and increase their effectiveness. The product itself containing the active ingredients can also have various properties such as cooling, softening or protective. If these products are too drying or blocking, their use may have side effects.

2. Choose according to the health of your skin

The products you choose for different skin problems should be appropriate for the type of problem and injury that has been created in your skin; For example, for infectious dermatitis, you should not use greasy ointments.

3. Choose the one that fits your location

The type of product you choose should be appropriate for the part of the skin you want to treat; For example, products such as gels or lotions are more suitable for areas of the skin where hair grows.

4. Consider the potential for irritation or sensitivity

In general, water-based ointments and creams in oil (w / o) are less irritating to the skin; While gels are irritating. If you are allergic to many skin products, ointments do not contain preservatives or emulsifiers and are therefore a better choice.


  • Skin products fall into four main categories: gels, lotions, creams and ointments.
  • Ointments are mostly therapeutic and in other categories, a wide variety of products with different applications are produced.
  • Moisturizer is not a new category for skin cosmetics. All kinds of gels, creams and ointments and lotions can all be moisturizing.
  • To choose these products, you must first know your skin type and its problems, and then, according to the characteristics of each product, choose the best option to maintain the health and beauty of your skin.

You say

Many leather products with different uses can be found in stores these days. Understanding these categories as well as the characteristics of each of them mentioned, along with recognizing their differences with each other, will help you a lot in choosing the right and principled option. If you have any experience or opinion in choosing these products, we would be happy to share it with us and other audiences in the “Submit a Comment” section.

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you should consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information






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