Gel, cream and lotion - what's the difference, and which one to choose

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Hello, smart one! It's incredibly interesting to answer your questions on skin care and this one question got us especially excited - what's the difference between a gel, cream and lotion? And which one should I choose? Read on to get the simple low-down!

What is a gel?

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In the skincare world, a gel is a thickened liquid comprising mainly water and water-soluble compounds (e.g., glycerin, aloe juice). Thickening the liquid helps make it easier to apply. It is possible to include a very small quantity of oils or oil-soluble substances in a gel usually less than 5%. Anything more than this and you are mostly looking at a lotion or a cream.

And a lotion?

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A lotion has between 5 and 25% oil-soluble substances and oils. For e.g. Argan oil, Almond oil and sunscreens. The consistency is kept liquidy(as opposed to a cream) to help with ease of spreading and absorption.
Both lotions and creams are emulsions i.e. oils mixed with water to make a single phase.

And so what is a cream?

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A cream usually has between 15 and 40% oil content. And butters sometimes even higher. Depending on the kind of chemistry used, you can have creams ranging from very light to super heavy.

So which one should I pick?
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It depends. On your skin type AND what need you are solving for. 

Oily skin: You should be looking at mainly gels and perhaps sun lotion because your skin is naturally well endowed with oily matter.

Normal-Combi skin: You are blessed to be able to choose from any of the above depending on what you need the product for. For e.g. if it is just a light hydrator you want, go for a gel. If your need is for true moisturiser you should settle for a cream. 

Dry skin: You ought to be looking largely at creams. If you do have to use a gel for its ingredients apply the gel first, let it absorb into skin and top it up with a moisturizing cream.

 

Bonus Question: What then is a serum?
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A serum is a concentrated source of nutrients for your skin containing largely water-soluble and some oil-soluble actives. Think of a serum as a more liquidy gel designed for super quick absorption. 
Hope this short post made things clearer for you. Got more questions? Shoot them to us and we'll be happy to get those answers. Until then, cheers and be good!

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1 comment

Really appreciate such bits of simple and useful information! :) I like your work, Plum Team!

Sindhura May 17, 2019

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