CeraVe Skin Smarts Skincare Tips Advice The Difference Between Lotion Cream And Ointment

Overview of Lotions, Creams, and Ointments

Regardless of which skin type you have, moisturizing products are a valuable addition to any skincare routine. The amount of sebum (natural oils) secreted by your skin—along with your current routine, environment, and skin goals— are just some of the factors that can help dictate the best type of moisturizing product to support your skin’s hydration levels. Ahead, we’re breaking down some of the fundamental differences between lotions, creams, and ointments to help you soothe dry skin, balance oil production, and effectively hydrate your skin year-round without clogging pores or causing unwanted shine.

Quick Tips on Lotions, Creams, and Ointments

  • All CeraVe moisturizing products contain three essential ceramides, which help restore and maintain your skin's natural barrier.
  • Daily application of moisturizer, after bathing or facial cleansing, promotes healthy hydration levels in all skin types, including oily skin.
  • Lotions have a higher water content compared to creams, making them lightweight and easily absorbed by the skin.
  • Creams have a thicker consistency than lotions, making them ideal for individuals with dry skin on the face or body, especially during the drier winter months.
  • Ointments are the thickest option and act as occlusives, primarily used for very dry body skin.

Choosing Between Ointment, Cream, and Lotion

Your skin requires moisture throughout the day. CeraVe offers a range of daytime and nighttime moisturizers that provide soothing and skin-smoothing benefits for various concerns, including dryness, anti-aging, and rough and bumpy skin. To incorporate CeraVe products effectively into your skincare routine, it is important to understand the distinctions between lotions, creams, and ointments.

Continue reading to explore the unique characteristics of lotions, creams, and ointments, and discover which moisturizer is best-suited for your skin type.

  • Discover the role of moisturizers in skincare and the differences between lotions and creams. Moisturizers are skincare products designed to provide hydration to the skin, available in various forms such as lotions, creams, and ointments. These products contain sealing agents, like petrolatum, which prevent moisture loss and maintain skin hydration by creating a protective layer on the skin's surface.

  • Lotions are a specific type of moisturizer that falls under the broader category. They are lighter in texture compared to creams, making them easily absorbed by the skin. Lotions have a higher water content, which contributes to their non-greasy nature. They are suitable for normal to oily skin types, as well as for the summer months when humidity is high. Moisturizing lotions are also ideal for acne-prone skin, providing lightweight hydration for daytime and nighttime use.

  • Creams, like lotions, are moisturizing skincare products. The key difference lies in their thicker consistency, which creates a stronger barrier to seal in moisture. Creams are particularly beneficial during the cold, dry winter season and for individuals with dry skin on the face or body. When choosing facial creams, opt for non-comedogenic options to avoid clogged pores and acne flare-ups. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a recommended choice. Creams are also popular for anti-aging purposes or as nighttime moisturizers, as they help replenish moisture lost with age. Consider CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Night Cream for this purpose.

    By understanding the distinctions between lotions and creams, you can select the most suitable moisturizer for your skin type and specific skincare needs.

  • Moisturizing ointments are highly effective options for extremely dry skin. These skincare formulas provide temporary protection, soothing, and hydration. Ointments are the thickest moisturizers with the highest oil content. Their primary function is to act as occlusives, creating a protective barrier on the skin's surface and preventing moisture loss.

    Typically reserved for very dry body skin, ointments can also be found in products designed to prevent and treat diaper rash. During the dry winter months, applying ointments to affected dry areas can be particularly beneficial. If you have extremely dry, cracked, or chafed skin, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist for personalized assessment and guidance.

  • Selecting the appropriate moisturizer depends on various factors, including your environment, skin type, and specific concerns. Identifying your skin type is crucial in narrowing down the ideal moisturizing products for you. To understand your skin type better, refer to our helpful guide on the characteristics of each type.

    CeraVe moisturizers are formulated with three essential ceramides to restore and maintain the skin barrier. They are fragrance-free, non-irritating, and developed in collaboration with dermatologists. When incorporating lotions, creams, and ointments into your CeraVe routine, consider the following:

    • Assess your skin type and concerns to determine the most suitable product.
    • Explore CeraVe's Skincare Solution Finder for personalized recommendations.
    • Seek the advice of a dermatologist for individualized assessment and guidance if you are unsure about the right moisturizing product for your skin's needs.

    By considering these factors and utilizing CeraVe's expertise, you can find the perfect moisturizer to nourish and hydrate your skin.

Dry Skin

Restoring moisture to dry skin begins with the right type of moisturizing products. For dry skin, CeraVe recommends using heavier moisturizing formulas, such as facial creams, instead of lotions.2 For very dry skin on the body, look for intensely hydrating products that are free of fragrances, dyes, and lanolin (to minimize the risk of any potential irritation)—such as CeraVe Healing Ointment.

Oily Skin

Since this skin type over-produces sebum (often resulting in excess shininess), a lightweight moisturizing lotion is usually ideal for oily facial skin. Opt for lotions that are labeled “non-comedogenic,” meaning they are specially formulated not to clog your pores. CeraVe recommends an ultra-lightweight moisturizing lotion with SPF in the morning, followed by an oil-free nighttime moisturizer before bed. Remember: Oily skin also requires sufficient moisture to appear healthy and vibrant, especially after cleansing.

Normal or Combination Skin

Normal and combination skin types may benefit from a mix of well-balanced moisturizers in both the lotion and cream categories. Since normal skin is neither too dry nor too oily, CeraVe recommends a moisturizer that focuses on maintaining moisture balance. This may mean intuitively switching between lighter lotions in the morning and heavier night creams, with targeted ointment application (if needed) to specific parts of the body.


If you’re still unsure about which moisturizing product is right for your skin’s needs, try CeraVe’s Skincare Solution Finder for personalized recommendations to help you begin your skincare journey.

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