*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for more information.*
In this age of oils, where does lotion fit in?
I happily use coconut oil as a general moisturizer and in DIY skincare recipes while also regularly applying argan oil to my face. But I still use lotion (like Cerave at night because of its anti-aging ingredients) as well and was starting to wonder – what’s the difference between lotion and oil? Do I need to use them both?
What are lotions and oils?
Here’s the thing: lotions and oils are actually quite similar. Lotions are simply skincare products that mix oil, water, and additional ingredient to maintain its texture and shelf life; the emollients in lotion make it creamy and somewhat comforting. Oils typically include a single ingredient unless it is indicated as a mixture of different oils. Lotions and oils are both moisturizers that break down into two groups: occlusive, which create a physical barrier protecting the skin or humectant which attracts water into the skin itself (Livestrong.com) Occlusive ingredients include mineral oil, lanolin, vegetable oils, fatty oils, and fatty acids. Humectant ingredients will include glycerine, urea, alpha-hydroxy acids and lactic acid.
What types of lotions/oils are right for your skin?
What kind of skin do you have – dry, normal, or oily? Different lotions will have a different ratio of oil to water in them. A higher oil content is more suitable for those with dryer skin. For instance, coconut oil is light and absorbs quickly into the skin but may not be moisturizing enough for people with very dry skin (it’s also not recommended for daily facial moisturizing since it can clog pores). An oil like argan oil is non-comedogenic and suitable for the face because it absorbs deeply and contains a healthy dose of Vitamin E to promote cell regeneration (Redandhoney.com)
On the other hand, lotions can still be pretty useful especially because they can combine multiple ingredients. Lotions may also contain added vitamin E as well as natural ingredients like shea butter or coconut butter which do indeed give you that creamy lotion feel. So yes, lotions may have additives and preservatives, but some lotions also contain a mixture of really helpful ingredients that can’t be found in oils. Determine your skin type and then select which ingredients you need most (e.g. light moisturizing, deep moisturizing, anti-aging, etc.) Then read those labels to determine if an oil is sufficient or if your skin would benefit more from a lotion.
What should you avoid?
So now that you know what works for you, what should you avoid? Ditch any mineral oil which is a petroleum based product as well as any product with too many artificial fragrances which may end up irritating your skin (Rodales Organic Life). Remember that not all oils are equally moisturizing so don’t bother using one that won’t work as well for you.
So here is the rundown:
- Lotions and oils are both moisturizers, but in different forms
- Pick a moisturizer with the right level of moisturizer
- Determine if you want a occlusive or humectant moisturizer (or both)
- Look at the ingredients to select a mix that is right for your needs
I’m going to stick with a little bit of both products but am also going to try to do a bit more research on oils to pick a top few.
How about you?