Peruse any aisle of skincare products—digital or in person—and you’ll see a multitude of lotion and moisturizers. You’ve got a host of face creams, lightweight gel lotions, rich eye creams, ointments, and beyond. How do you know which you should pluck from the shelf and add to cart? Trust us — you’re not the only one with dizzying visions of products swirling around your head as you ask questions like “What’s the difference between cream vs. lotion or ointment vs. cream?” Luckily, we’ve created a handy cheat sheet detailing different types of moisturizers. Now you can discover which is best for your skin type and how to use each.
What Does Moisturizer Do for Skin?
Adding a moisturizing product to your skincare regimen is important whether you have a dry complexion, oily skin, or are prone to blemishes. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains that moisturizer adds moisture while also locking in whatever moisture’s already there.
A good moisturizer formula goes above and beyond to:
- Support the skin barrier, which is responsible for keeping skin looking and feeling healthy
- Make skin feel soft, smooth, and plump
- Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Help you feel comfortable since dry skin can feel itchy, tight, or irritated
Moisturizer should be applied after cleansing while skin is still damp. For an extra boost of hydration, you can also layer it with a nourishing serum, like a hyaluronic acid serum. Apply it, give it a moment to absorb, then follow with your preferred cream or lotion.
Is It Better to Use Lotion or Moisturizer Cream?
Both lotions and creams are considered types of moisturizers since they supply the skin with a boost of moisture. Choosing between a cream vs. lotion formula ultimately depends on your skin type and preferences. The difference between the two comes down to water content.
- Lotions contain more water and therefore have a lightweight, fluid-like texture. Many lotions still contain some oil, unless it’s a gel that specifically states it’s oil-free. Lotions and gels are a great option for people with oily skin types. They can also be nice in hot or humid climates when you may want or need less moisture.
- Creams contain a higher ratio of oil-based ingredients, which creates a thicker consistency that’s suitable for dry skin. Creams also tend to be a better choice in cold or dry climates where there’s less humidity in the air.
If you’re unsure of your skin type or aren’t sure which concerns you should address first, check out the IT Cosmetics DermaScan tool. It scans your face digitally and provides a personalized skincare routine.
Related: How to Know Your Skin Type
7 Different Types of Moisturizers
The goal at IT Cosmetics is to ensure you look and feel confident, beautiful, and ready to conquer the day. To do that, we’ve formulated a variety of moisturizers that meet a range of skincare needs, whether that’s hydration for oily skin or dry skin, combatting the look of fine lines and wrinkles, or targeting the appearance of an uneven complexion. As you’ll learn, some can be used individually, while others can be paired together. Our most robust offerings can be found in the Confidence skincare lineup of products.
Type: Moisturizing Cream
Best for: Dry & Combination Skin
A facial cream is formulated with a higher ratio of oil-based ingredients to hydrate and moisturize. For example, IT Cosmetics best-selling* Confidence in a Cream Anti-Aging Hydrating Moisturizer contains 3% squalane oil to reinforce the skin's moisture barrier, hyaluronic acid to visibly plump and smooth, and ceramides to replenish and lock in hydration. It’s also been recently supercharged with a 2.5% Peptide-Lipid Complex to improve the look of elasticity, fine lines, and skin firmness.
Type: Gel Lotion
Best for: Oily, Blemish Prone, and Combination Skin
While traditional skin creams are formulated with rich oils and butters, a gel lotion is formulated with water-based ingredients. IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Gel Lotion Moisturizer is an oil-free formula with a lightweight consistency that’s perfect for oily, blemish-prone, and combination skin types.
“Confidence in a Gel Lotion provides up to 72 hours of hydration with cactus flower extract,” says Annie Oliva, Education Manager for IT Cosmetics. “It also has ‘quick-break’ innovation. [That means] it instantly turns into a water-light liquid when you begin applying, which makes it feel completely weightless.”
You can also use it to help prime your skin for a smooth and even makeup application.
Type: Night Creams
Best for: All Skin Types
As you might have guessed, night creams are meant to be applied before jumping into bed. Whereas your regular cream or lotion sets you up for a brilliant day, a night cream essentially works while you sleep, which is when skin goes into self-repair mode.
Confidence in Your Beauty Sleep Night Cream visibly improves the top five signs of aging while you catch those Zzz's, including fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, dullness, and loss of firmness.
“I wish everything I wanted to improve in my life could be done while I’m sleeping, but I’ll happily go with improving the top signs of aging for now,” says Oliva. “After the first sleep, skin [looks] more hydrated and supple. After seven sleeps, fine lines will lessen in appearance and skin feels firmer.”
You can use it in place of a traditional moisturizer in the evenings as a way to level-up your skincare game. In addition to treating your skin, it also doubles as a self-care ritual. “The lavender scent is heavenly,” Oliva says. For extra credit, pair this cream with Confidence in Your Beauty Sleep Triple Antioxidant Brightening Serum. The formula contains vitamin C, ferulic acid, and polydatin to hydrate and visibly brighten, smooth, and plump.
Type: Eye Cream
Best for: All Skin Types
It may be tempting to write off eye cream as unnecessary, especially if you’re already using other facial lotions and moisturizer. However, eye creams are formulated specifically for the delicate, thin skin around your eyes that’s particularly sensitive to signs of aging. They’re often thicker in consistency and can instantly help the appearance of crow’s feet and dark circles.
Confidence in an Eye Cream Anti-Aging Peptide Eye Cream formula, now containing a 2% Super Peptide Concentrate, targets four common signs of eye fatigue. You'll see the difference in crow's feet, dark eye circles, lack of firmness, and dryness in 4 weeks*** with consistent use.
Related: Our Best Eye Cream For Every Age
Type: Gel Cream
Best for: Oily, Dry, and Combination Skin
A gel cream utilizes water as its primary ingredient and often has a lightweight, bouncy texture. It’s a great option for people who want a bit more moisture than they’d get with a completely oil-free moisturizer but still prefer a lighter,non-greasy consistency.
Secret Sauce Anti-Aging Moisturizer counteracts visible signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles and discoloration. The formula features a Ferment Concentrate to fight the look of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as proprietary Drops of Light Technology™, which has been clinically tested to visibly reduce discoloration while making skin appear instantly glowy.
Type: Retinol Moisturizers
Best for: All Skin Types
Retinol is a powerful anti-aging ingredient that’s been scientifically proven to help improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s often combined with a moisturizer to hydrate and soothe skin while it works its magic.
The Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream formula has a blend of free and encapsulated retinol along with niacinamide and has been clinically tested to reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.* While some retinol products can feel harsh on the skin, Hello Results is a gentle, moisturizing formula suitable for daily use from day one for all skin types.
To learn more about retinol, read through our Retinol 101 guide.
Type: Color-Correcting Moisturizers
Best for: Sensitive, Red, or Irritated Skin
Color-correcting face moisturizers moisturize skin while concealing discoloration. For example, Bye Bye Redness Neutralizing Color-Correcting Cream instantly neutralizes the look of redness and simultaneously targets the underlying cause of your irritation, including rosacea. “It’s a must-have for sensitive skin types or those who have facial redness,” says Oliva. “It’s all about soothing, calming, hydrating, and neutralizing.”
In this formula, colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera helps soothe red and irritated skin while also improving the appearance of skin elasticity and dryness. Avocado oil further moisturizes and protects skin from visible signs of skin damage and aging.
If you're struggling with red skin, check out our guide on how to cover redness on your face with IT Cosmetics’ problem-solving, confidence-boosting makeup and skincare.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “How to Pick the Right Moisturizer for Your Skin.” https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/pick-moisturizer
- Siddharth Mukherjee; Abhijit Date; Vandana Patravale; Hans Christian Korting; Alexander Roeder; and Günther Weindl. “Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety.” Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2006. 10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327
*The NPD Group/U.S. Prestige Beauty Total Measured Market, Face Cream with Anti-Aging Benefit, Skincare Product Unit Sales, January-December 2022.