By Nwadiogo Quartey-Ngwube

Lotions, Creams, Oils, Oh My!: How to Moisturize?

With so many moisturizing options out there, how do you know which one to use? Before you can pick, you need to know what they are and their differences. Let’s break it down.



Lotions and creams can both be emollients, but they won’t always be. The terms aren’t interchangeable. Emollients keep your skin moist by preventing water from leaving. They provide a barrier to trap the moisture in. For people with dry skin, especially eczema and psoriasis, this is an essential in your skin care regimen.

What makes lotions stand apart from creams is their oil content. Lotions have less oil content than creams and are typically lighter because of it. If you need an emollient find a lotion with those properties, especially in warmer weather when there’s more moisture in the air.


Creams are usually made with richer oils than lotions, such as Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter. They tend to keep your skin hydrated for longer and in more severe weather conditions because of the slow absorption of their fats, especially when compared to lotions and their higher water content.

Creams are great at tackling dry and flaky skin, especially during cold weather. Cold weather has less moisture in the air. This is a great time to swap your lotion for cream.


As you may know by now, oil is the common ingredient in both lotions and creams. Some people prefer to skip the middleman and just get right to the oils!

Choosing oils that meet your specific skin needs can be an empowering step to your skin care regimen. This means you can create a moisturizer specific to your skin’s needs. This can be by blending oils or using one oil directly on your skin.


Regardless of what you choose to use to moisturize, keeping some with you will help you maintain healthy moisture throughout the day. This is especially useful for your hands, face and feet because they take the most beating. If your favorite moisturizer doesn’t come in travel sizes, get a small empty bottle, pour some in and throw it in your bag! Whip it out after washing your hands or after a swim. Consistency, throughout the day, is key in moisturizing with lotions, creams or oils.