Should I Use a Lotion or a Cream for Dry Skin?

Cooler, dry air has hit San Diego, and it is making my patients’ skin dry. Many tell me that their skin remains scaly and itchy despite moisturizing daily. The best advice I can give is to teach them to moisturize properly.

The first question I ask is: Are you using a lotion or a cream?

The difference between the two comes down to the water content. Creams and lotions are mixtures of oil and water. It is the oil component that is most important for your dry skin.

Lotions are droplets of oil mixed in water. They have a high water and low oil content. As such they are easy to spread on dry skin. However, the water is not well absorbed and quickly evaporates, which actually dries your skin further.

In contrast, creams are droplets of water mixed in oil. They have a high oil and low water content. They are more difficult to smear on dry skin but apply easily to moist skin. Therefore, they are best used immediately after your shower or bath when your skin has soaked up the water like a sponge. Applying cream then creates a layer of oil that locks the moisture in your skin. The water does not evaporate, and your skin stays hydrated.

This is why in the wintertime I advise patients to use only creams. In the warm, humid summer, lotions are actually better.

Products I recommend include: Olay Body Creme Serum and Eucerin Body Creme.

Or, if your budget is a bit tight this winter, even old-school, plain Vaseline Petroleum Jelly works quite well. Rub some onto your hands then apply a thin coat all over your body.

Photo credit: FCC, Mandarin Strawberry.

11 thoughts on “Should I Use a Lotion or a Cream for Dry Skin?”

  1. Hey Doc,

    My son has eczema, really bad. We do lotions, creams and steroid creams and shots.

    My question is I’m wondering if this is just genetic or could some of his meds cause this. He’s panpit and on a bunch of hormones, and growth hormone as well. Any connection?

    Thanks!

    Susan

  2. Hey Doc,

    My son has eczema, really bad. We do lotions, creams and steroid creams and shots.

    My question is I’m wondering if this is just genetic or could some of his meds cause this. He’s panpit and on a bunch of hormones, and growth hormone as well. Any connection?

    Thanks!

    Susan

  3. Hi Doc,
    I just stumbled onto your site and I love it.

    My Question revolves around dry, flaky, itchy, discolored skin (all of which wraps around my torso, which never sees the light of day). I have suffered with this for 8 years now and nothing we do has helped. During the Monsoon season it only get’s worse. I have been into the Dr. a couple of times, but nothing works.

  4. i’m using olay body cream. it is good for my body. i recommend,too

  5. Hope you dont mind me recommending this site, as I have personal experience of how good the goats milk moisturizing cream is for eczema relief.

  6. My daughter’s eczema responded well and even disappeared with using over the counter oil capsules with very high GLA (gammalinolaic acid). Just read the labels and look for high concentrations of GLA. We’ve used evening primose oil. We cut the gel pills open and applied it directly to the eczema spots…did not take it internally. It stinks, but, it works. Redness, itching, and heat would go away within 30 minutes. Lotions prescribed by the doctor made it worse. Stay away from anything with lanolin.

  7. i prefer using vasaline, it is cheap and works for dry skins. i recommed if u dont have enough money but if u have money, go and buy OLAy products 🙂

  8. Abi an Esthetician says:

    First I would like to say that I am very impressed with all the areas of skin that are discused on this site. But I am slightly disappointed on all of the recommendation for vasaline and olay. Arent Parabens and Petroleum based ingredients in these products proven to be quite toxic and carcinogenic. I hope i won’t get a reply back stating that the FDA has passed these products as safe. Apparently, the FDA doesn’t take in consideration the accumlitive affect of years of using toxic ingredients on a small level. To prove my point, if people want to check out Tocopheryl Acetate, an ingredient of Olay, out on http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com; You will find it at a hazard level of 4 out of 10. Shouldn’t the ingredients be a 0?

  9. Hi Abi,

    I completely agree with you. We should avoid, as much as possible parabens, petroleum, sodium laurel sulfate, and estrogens (several cosmetics and lotions have it). Little by little, we’re poisoning our bodies..is it any wonder breast cancer levels (among other diseases) are at sky high levels? My best friend is also very aware and knowledgeable about this and, recently, she told me about a little known skin care line based on ancient east Indian ayurvedic medicine that is not only effective (in our opinions) but is free of all the toxins that I mentioned above. It’s kind of hard to find their products (or their site for that matter) but try going on http://www.vysada.com I think this is going to be a pretty popular skin care line one day.

    -Brit

  10. If you haven’t discovered ‘Made from Earth’ yet, their “Vitamin Enhanced Moisturizer” cream is marvelous. It’s worth every penny – a jar will last you forever since there’s no water in it, it’s a very concentrated and rich emulsion of natural ingredients. it heals uncomfortable dry patches anywhere on your body, it softens cuticles, it makes a great eye cream when my eyes are irritated by allergies.

    It is a little rich and heavy for a regular face moisturizer for me (my skin is normal although it’s a little dry in the winter), although from time to time if my face is feeling tight I will dab on a little at night.

  11. which cream I can use for my dry skin still I am not using any cream or lotion

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