Cream vs. Lotion - which is best for you?

If you’re anything like me you know that skincare can be complicated and confusing, even for those who have used skincare products for many years and have a well-established skincare routine.

Brands spend huge amounts of money and time on the development of new ingredients, application methods, application regimes, and of course marketing and advertising all with the aim of trying to get you to buy their products.

Claims can be bewildering (and complicated!), and it was this landscape that encouraged us to develop the Nerys range.  Our guiding principles are integrity, sustainability, and ethical practices.

So let’s talk about some of the most common misunderstandings that occur when purchasing skincare: the difference between lotions and creams and which is best for you.

Moisturisers come in a variety of forms. The most common of these are creams and lotions.  

The primary purpose of both is to deliver moisture to the skin, keeping it healthy and supporting it as we lead our busy lives.  

The secondary benefits can be almost endless, dependent upon the ingredients that are included in your cream or lotion.  It is important to note, both creams and lotions are emulsions, and the defining difference is the oil and water content that are found in each.

In order to introduce moisture to the skin, we need to use both oil and water.  Used alone, water evaporates, but when it is used in combination with oil, the water is held on the skin until it is massaged in.

So, let’s discuss the differences.


Creams are generally designed to penetrate, nourish, pamper, strengthen and deeply moisturise the skin.  They often have a ‘heavier’ feel than a lotion, due to the ratio of oil to water in the formulation.  Creams are often used at night to deeply nourish the skin, particularly if you have a drier skin type.  Creams can also be an excellent carrier for a wide array of specific, beneficial ingredients - anti-aging elements being an example.


Lotions have a lighter consistency than creams, due to having a higher water content.  They are absorbed by the skin more quickly than creams and feel lighter.  Lotions are an excellent choice for those with oiler skin types, where a thicker cream may be too heavy and cause break-outs.  Lotions can also be a wonderful source of moisture, although they are less moisturising than a cream.  Having said this, lotions can be the perfect option in summer due to the lightness of their formulations, ease of use, convenience for example lotions can be easily applied under makeup due to the lower oil content and easy absorption. 

So How Do You Choose?

When choosing between a cream vs. a lotion, consider your skin type, the outcome you are pursuing, the time of application, and the season of use.  Your skin type is the most important of these.

Understanding the basic differences between a moisture cream and a moisture lotion is the first step to determining which type of product to use.  The choices thereafter can be a little more complicated, however, this fundamental understanding will head you in the right direction.

Photo credit @skincaresweets

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