Black woman with lotion over eye fixing hair Credit : Anna Shvets / Pexels

Lotion, cream, and balm are words we hear often; like many other beauty terms, they are used interchangeably. When terms are used interchangeably, it becomes harder to differentiate what is what. But don't worry, we are here to help break down the differences between lotion, cream, and balm, so you can use the correct terms for the right products.

We should start with how similar they all are. Each of these products is used to hydrate and moisturize the skin. However, they each use different ingredients and formulas to give your skin what it needs. Rocket Pure reports that one of the simplest ways to identify the product is the packaging, which is usually different for each type. You'll typically find lotion in a bottle, while creams are often in glass or tub-style packaging. 

Here are the major differences between lotion, balm, and cream.


Lotion is typically the most lightweight option among these three. According to Natural Skin Revival, one of the reasons it is so lightweight is that it has the most water in it. This makes lotion great for those who want a product to melt into their skin easily. This also means it is easy to spread on your skin. Lotions are great for every skin type as well! 


A balm is typically made with no water -- or a bit of water for some -- and is wax-based. Balms are wax-based products that make a barrier on your skin that can help lock in your moisture. They can also help heal and repair your skin. Natural Skin Revival notes that these are best to use on red, chapped, or raw skin, making it particularly great for seasonal transitions or drier months.


Creams are noted to be somewhere in between lotions and balms. Natural Skin Revival says that these typically have both water and oils. If you want the best of both worlds, creams are a great option because they spread like lotion but have some of the same benefits as balms. They also include extra hydrating ingredients. Cream works best for people who have normal or dry skin.