Know The Difference: Serums Vs. Lotions Vs. Creams

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Your friend tells you that you need to get a skin product that contains retinol, so you search for one on Amazon. You see a few products that fit the description, noticing that some are much cheaper than others. Seeing that they seem to have the same active ingredient, you naturally buy the cheaper one. Upon closer inspection, you see you have bought the cream or lotion formula, and that the more expensive one was a serum. Does it make a difference?

With the overwhelming selection of skincare on the market, it’s hard enough to choose a product with the right ingredients, and now it seems you have the added challenge of choosing the right formula. So, is there a difference between a cream, a lotion, and a serum? Apparently. And you should probably know what it is.

Lotions
Lotions are made of a mix of oil and water and are generally thin and free flowing. That means they can be easily applied to large body parts like legs and arms. Besides oil and water, lotions contain glycerin to keep in moisture, fragrances for an appealing odor, dyes to lend color, and preservatives to increase longevity. Lotions are generally preferred in the summer, because of their cooling sensation, and by eczema sufferers or those whose hairy bodies who call for a formula with a high spreadability factor.

Creams
Also a mix of oil and water, Creams are thicker than lotions, which means they don’t penetrate the skin as easily, although they are absorbed more quickly. This makes them better for applying to areas such as the skin around the eyes to prevent the fluid drip associated with lotions, and also makes them better for applying under clothes in the winter. Like lotions, creams contain glycerin to moisten the skin and also contain preservatives and fragrances. Some contain aloe, which reduces inflammation. Creams containing heavy oil bases are not recommended for facial use.

Lotions Vs. Creams

  • Both are a mix of oil and water that hydrate the skin.
  • Lotions can be more easily applied to larger body parts.
  • Lotions are best for hairy body parts. Creams are best for facial wrinkles and eye areas.
  • Creams are thicker than lotions.
  • Lotion penetrates the skin faster.

While lotions and creams both come under the category of moisturizers, one is not generally considered superior to another; preference is usually a matter of which is more tailored to your needs. Serums, on the other hand, are generally considered to be of a higher quality and tailored to address more specific needs.

Serums
Serums typically contain active ingredients that you want to penetrate deeply into your skin. This is why you’ll want to apply a serum to your skin immediately after cleansing and before moisturizing or applying sunscreen. They can be used morning and night and, while they will not replace your moisturizer, they may enhance its effects. Serums are made to address a variety of issues. Some contain skin brighteners, others prevent acne, while still others offer anti-aging properties. While they tend to bear a somewhat heftier price tag than creams and lotions, they are also more potent and a small quantity can go a long way. Bottom line: moisturizers are great for hydrating and preventing water loss, but when the going gets tough, it may be time to call in the serum.

What do you think? Does formula make a difference, or is it all about ingredients? Let us know!

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