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What’s the Difference Between Cream and Lotion?

Both moisturize, but their formulas may have distinctions that serve different skin types.
September 19, 2022


Moisturizing is without a doubt one of the key pillars of a great skin care routine. Providing your skin with the moisture and hydration it needs is essential to maintain its health and vibrancy. 

With so many products and formulations on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right options for you and your skin’s needs. And if you’ve perused the skin care section of any beauty retailers, then perhaps you’ve wondered why some moisturizing products are labeled as creams and others as lotions.

If you’re curious about why this is and whether or not creams and lotions are in fact different, keep reading because we’re breaking it down ahead. 

Are Creams and Lotions Different?

At the most basic level, creams and lotions are not all that different. At the end of the day, they’re both moisturizers, they’re both emulsions. 

Essentially creams and lotions serve the same purpose in a skin care routine. Each formulation is created with the goal of adding moisture to or locking hydration in the skin. However, there are some nuances between the two — most notably between the textures and ingredients. 

Lotions tend to be lighter and have a higher water composition while creams lean heavier and more emollient in texture because they have more fatty components in them. Creams can be more occlusive and have more viscosity in their formulas because they tend to have more oil in their formulas. Both creams and lotions have components that are watery and fatty — it’s just the ratio in the formulas that play a role in altering their textures. 

Most importantly, the afterfeel on the skin can differ slightly between the two. Creams can feel richer on the skin while lotions feel more lightweight and often absorb more quickly. So when you’re making the choice between one or the other, it may come down to whether you want something thicker and richer with more oil or something that feels light and sinks into your skin fast.

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Should I Use Lotion or Cream?

Because creams and lotions serve the same purpose, it’s safe to say that either formula will effectively moisturize your skin. However, you might want to take your skin type into consideration when choosing between the two. 

If you have dry skin, you might benefit from a rich cream that can provide tons of moisture and cushion to the skin. The L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Skin Care Cell Renewal Midnight Cream, Antioxidants is a great option because it has a creamy texture that delivers intense hydration to the skin. It’s also formulated with vitamin E for antioxidants and despite its name can be used both morning and night. 

If you have oily skin, a more lightweight option might be appealing to you because it won’t contribute to excess oil. Water-based moisturizers and gel formulas are great for oily skin because of how weightless they are. The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Micro Hyaluronic acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream is our pick because it contains hyaluronic acid for hydration and ceramides for a stronger, healthier skin barrier. It helps to visibly replump fine lines and give skin a brighter appearance over time.

Even a tinted moisturizer that’s water-based, like the L’Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Water Infused Tinted Moisturizer will provide coverage and hydration without feeling greasy on the skin. 

You can also look out for a lightweight cream, like the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Rosy Tone Fragrance Free Face Moisturizer. It’s non-greasy while still delivering necessary moisture to the skin. It’s also excellent for mature skin because it contains imperial peony to help revive the skin’s natural flush tone, as well as lipo hydroxy acid to gently exfoliate.

Next: The Difference Between Daytime and Nighttime Moisturizer

Written by: Alyssa Kaplan, Updated by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn

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