What's The Difference Between An Ointment, A Cream And A Lotion?

Question: What's the difference between an ointment, a cream and a lotion?

Answer: Ointments, creams and lotions are different ways to formulate over-the-counter products or medicines. An ointment is 80 percent oil and 20 percent water. A cream is 50 percent oil and 50 percent water. A lotion is similar to a cream but it's an even lighter or less thick formulation. Any of these can be used with different over-the-counter products or drugs, depending on whether your skin is dry or oily. And so you want to ask your dermatologist if you have a prescription medication, which of these formulations is best for you.


Michel McDonald, M.D., Vanderbilt University Medical Center Play

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