Have you ever wondered what the difference is between lotions and creams? Or about the history of lotions? Join us on another deep dive about this essential skincare product.
What is a lotion and how do they work?
A lotion is a liquid that is applied externally to the skin for cosmetic or medical reasons. It works by replenishing the water content of your skin.
Your skin, the largest organ in the human body, is made up of three layers. There is your epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Most lotions work by improving the water content in your top layer of skin, the epidermis, allowing the cell membranes to rehydrate and help to prevent losing too much water from your skin. This keeps your skin healthy and helps it to feel soft.
What is the difference between a lotion and a cream?
The main difference between lotions and creams is their water content. A lotion has a much higher water content than a cream and less oil. Since lotions have more water in them, they are less greasy and absorb more easily into your skin. This makes them great for daily use.
Meanwhile, a cream is made of roughly fifty percent water and fifty percent oil. This makes creams thicker, and well suited to create a barrier on your skin to help keep water in. Creams may feel heavier, but they are better for hydrating very dry or cracked skin.
What is the history of lotions?
Lotions can be traced all the way back to Ancient Sumerian salves from 3000 B.C.E. They created these salves from natural ingredients like pulverized plants and tree oils in order to help protect their skin from the elements.
Likewise, the Ancient Egyptians also understood the importance of protecting their skin from harsh climates like extreme heat. But they also emphasized their ability to improve the look of skin. Queen Cleopatra bathed in milk to moisturize her skin and used scented oils to keep her skin feeling soft. Meanwhile, Queen Hatshepsut’s lotion made of nutmeg oil, fats and benzopyrene (a dangerous carcinogen) may have eventually killed her.
We have writings that suggest Ancient Greeks used a mixture of bread and milk to pat down their faces before bed as a sort of night cream.
During the Regency period in England, moisturizers became popular for their ability to soften and whiten the skin. One popular mixture was created with ground white lead, almond oil, and lavender oil. Unfortunately, this combination was also a deadly one (even though the use of lead persisted for years).
Most creams and lotions were created at home and used animal or plant-based oils. However, they became more widely and commercially available with the addition of mineral oils and preservatives, which extended the shelf-life of the moisturizers.
Why are lotions important today?
Lotions are an essential part of any modern skincare routine for much the same reasons that Cleopatra favored. They help to protect our skin from external damage, like the weather, while helping to improve the appearance of the skin. However, unlike Cleopatra, our skins face a wider range of irritants. Harsher chemicals and air pollution can severely dry out your skin. We also shower a lot more in hot water, which strips our skin of natural moisture. This is why is you should always moisturize after taking a shower or bath.
Lotions and moisturizers are also extremely popular today because they help to prevent signs of aging. Moisturizers can help minimize the look of wrinkles, and stimulate your collagen by staying hydrated.
What does your skincare routine look like? We’d love your tips.