What is the difference between ointment and cream?

dry skin cream
dry skin ointment
At the moment the irritated patches of eczema on my face and arms only seem to get more inflamed when I apply any kind of emollient cream for eczema, despite the fact that for many years I used a dry skin moisturising cream every single day!

At the moment the only thing that my skin seems to like is Diprobase ointment

So what is the difference between cream and ointment and why does my skin seem to like one but not the other?

Cream and ointment are both forms of topical (i.e. you apply them to one area of the body) emollients (agents that soften, soothe and moisturise the skin.)

A cream is usually thick and white - it's an oil in water emulsion. When you rub them into your skin they appear to be almost all absorbed apart from a light film on the surface of your skin. However becuase they have preservatives in them they have the potential to cause allergic reactions.

An ointment is usually thick, clear and very greasy. They are more moisurising than creams so brilliant for dry skin and they're less likely to be irritating because they don't have added preservative ingredients. However they are unpopular becuase they are so greasy. When you apply them they sit on the surface of the skin for some time, leaving you looking quite oily and shiny, and your skin feeling sticky. They are what's known as 'occlusive', which means they leave a layer of oil on the surface of your skin. This helps prevent moisture loss from your skin. It can also act as a protective barrier to the drying effects of water on your skin e.g. when you have a shower.

Even though the ointment doesn't look great I am stuck with it for the time being. I find it best to apply generously before bed, then more sparingly in the morning and throughout the day so that my face doesn't look too greasy. Also it helps to keep your hair out of the way/ avoid touching your hair too much if you apply the ointment to your face as it can make your hair greasy too.

I am finding that the Diprobase ointment makes a great lip balm too - that's one area where a little shine isn't unwelcome!
moisturiser 3162873519180096413

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  1. Thanks for this post. I've just recently bought an ointment and was wondering what the difference was. I've found it to be really nice for my skin :)



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