Moisturizers have so many different names that to the ordinary consumer, they could pretty much seem synonymous. But as a dermatologist, I find that my patients dealing with dry skin will use a moisturizer and still be unsure, asking me what the difference would be if they used ointments, creams or lotions instead. Do they all sound the same to you? They won’t after I break it down for you!
Moisturizers hydrate dry skin
Dry skin always needs water, and showers or baths are the best time to try and lock down that little water in your skin with a regular moisturizer before it evaporates. However, be aware that hot water definitely dries that all out much more than lukewarm or cool water, so avoid scalding showers if you can. And if you want the best results, using suds-less soaps are ideal as suds can actually be quite drying as well – now you know!
Ointments target very dry skin
Ointments may be greasy, but they really are the best at sealing in moisture if you’re dealing with extremely dry skin. Obviously, you may not want to use them first thing in the morning before you head out for work, but applying ointments in the evening before you sleep is probably your best option.
Creams are a little trickier
Creams are usually just white, thick mixtures that are less greasy than ointments, but they do contain more preservatives, and this means there’s a higher risk of your skin becoming irritated. As such, it’s best not to use them if you know your skin is very sensitive. On the upside, they are better at trapping water than lotions are, but as you may have figured out already, less so compared to ointments.
Lotions are subtle
Lotions are very light, and water is usually the main ingredient. A lot of people use lotions all the time but still find their skin not fully moisturized, and that’s because the water in your skin after a shower will evaporate along with the water in the lotion… And that makes for a job not well done on the hydration front.
As a final note, I would also suggest moisturizing immediately after bathing (within two minutes) as the double hydration effect of the moisturizer on top of trapped water is really the best way to hydrate dry skin. I hope you’ll find this helpful in trying to assess which moisturizing agent will work best for you!