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Moisturizer vs. Lotion: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 26, 2023
A moisturizer is a skincare product designed to hydrate the skin, whereas a lotion is a lightweight liquid or cream intended to soothe or soften the skin.

Key Differences

A moisturizer primarily aims to maintain or boost the skin's hydration levels, trapping and retaining moisture. It does so by creating a barrier on the skin's surface to prevent water loss. On the other hand, a lotion is typically a lightweight blend of oil and water, often accompanied by other therapeutic ingredients, designed to soothe, soften, or treat specific skin conditions.
Moisturizers can be found in various forms, including creams, oils, gels, and serums. Their primary purpose is to combat dryness, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and maintain a youthful complexion. In contrast, lotions are generally more fluid and less concentrated than moisturizers. They spread easily, making them ideal for covering larger areas of the body.
While both moisturizers and lotions serve to hydrate the skin to some degree, the intensity and duration of their effects can differ. A moisturizer tends to offer deeper hydration and longer-lasting benefits, especially for particularly parched skin. Lotions, with their lighter texture, are often preferred for daytime use or in humid climates where a heavier product might feel too greasy.
In the broader skincare industry, the terms "moisturizer" and "lotion" are sometimes used interchangeably. However, it's essential to understand their distinct properties and purposes to make informed skincare choices. While a moisturizer focuses predominantly on hydration, a lotion provides a combination of hydration and other therapeutic benefits depending on its formulation.

Comparison Chart

Primary Purpose

Hydrate the skin.
Soothe or soften the skin.


Can be thick or thin, but often heavier.
Typically lightweight and fluid.

Main Components

Ingredients that lock in moisture.
Blend of oil and water, often with therapeutic ingredients.


Typically used on the face or specific dry areas.
Often used on larger body areas.

Duration of Effects

Deeper hydration, longer-lasting.
Quicker absorption, might need reapplication more often.

Moisturizer and Lotion Definitions


A skincare product that hydrates and retains skin moisture.
She applied the moisturizer to combat her dry skin.


A liquid or cream product designed to soften or soothe the skin.
She used the lotion to soothe her sunburned skin.


Essential for maintaining a youthful and radiant complexion.
Daily use of the moisturizer kept her skin glowing.


Typically a lightweight blend of oil and water.
The lotion absorbed quickly without leaving any residue.


Often formulated to combat skin dryness and signs of aging.
The moisturizer claimed to reduce the appearance of fine lines.


Suitable for providing hydration to large body areas.
After showering, she applied lotion all over her body.


Creates a protective barrier to prevent water loss.
Her moisturizer ensured her skin stayed hydrated throughout the day.


Often contains therapeutic ingredients for specific skin conditions.
The lotion had aloe vera to treat her irritated skin.


Available in various forms like creams, gels, and serums.
She preferred a gel-based moisturizer for her oily skin.


Popular for daytime use or in humid climates.
She chose a lightweight lotion for the summer months.


A cosmetic lotion or cream applied to the skin to counter dryness.


A protective or restorative liquid or cream applied to the skin.


Something that causes moisture or a a condition of wetness; something that makes things moist.
The oil acts as a moisturizer to the wood.


Moisturising cream, emollient.


Why is my lotion so runny compared to my moisturizer?

Lotions generally have a higher water content, making them more fluid than many moisturizers.

Is a lotion the same as a moisturizer?

Not exactly; while both provide hydration, lotions are typically lighter and can have therapeutic properties.

Can I use lotion on my face?

It's possible, but ensure it's non-comedogenic to avoid clogging pores.

Can I mix lotion with other skincare products?

It's best to follow product guidelines or consult a skincare professional to ensure product compatibility.

Can I use a moisturizer on my whole body?

Yes, but moisturizers are often formulated for the face, so lotions might be more cost-effective for the body.

Can I use a lotion as a hand cream?

Yes, lotions can be used on the hands, but hand creams might offer more intensive hydration.

Why does my moisturizer feel greasy?

It might be too heavy for your skin type. Consider switching to a lighter formulation or gel-based product.

Can a lotion help with skin conditions like eczema?

Some lotions are formulated with ingredients to soothe conditions like eczema, but always consult a dermatologist.

Do lotions expire?

Yes, over time, the ingredients can degrade. Always check the product's expiration date.

What's the main purpose of a moisturizer?

A moisturizer's primary aim is to hydrate and retain moisture in the skin.

Do I need both a moisturizer and a lotion?

Depending on your skincare needs, you might benefit from both, with moisturizer for the face and lotion for the body.

Is moisturizer necessary for oily skin?

Yes, even oily skin needs hydration. There are oil-free moisturizers formulated specifically for oily skin.

Can I wear makeup over moisturizer?

Absolutely, a moisturizer can act as a base, ensuring makeup applies smoothly.

Should I refrigerate my lotion?

While not mandatory, some people prefer the cooling sensation of refrigerated lotions.

Are there lotions for specific body parts?

Yes, there are lotions formulated for areas like the feet, hands, or body in general.

Are there lotions with SPF?

Yes, many lotions contain SPF to protect the skin from sun damage.

Why does my skin still feel dry after using moisturizer?

You might need a more hydrating product, or external factors like climate might be affecting your skin.

Is moisturizer necessary if I drink lots of water?

Drinking water is beneficial, but a topical moisturizer directly addresses skin dryness.

Why does my moisturizer sting?

You could be sensitive to an ingredient. Stop use and consult a dermatologist.

How often should I apply moisturizer?

Ideally, moisturize daily or whenever your skin feels dry.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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