Difference Between Ointment and Cream (With Table)

Skin allergies or side effects are way too common. People tend to face various types of such allergies. Some are normal allergies, while some of them result in skin rashes and then diseases. Solutions to these problems are found through medication. As the type of skin allergy varies from person to person, the medication has to be such that it suits the allergy and cures it. In order to meet these issues, ointments and creams are commonly used.

Ointment vs Cream

The difference between Ointment and Cream is that Ointment is an oily substance, whereas, Cream is a substance that has equal oil and water content. Ointments are more oily and greasier in texture as compared to creams. Creams are used as a cosmetic, medication and also, moisturiser. Ointments are used as both and also in medication.

An ointment is a smooth substance with an oily texture used as a medication or cosmetic. It has a comparatively high oil content, which makes it sticky and greasy. When rubbed on the skin, it does not absorb instantly. Rather takes some time to absorb completely. This is why an ointment is known to lock the moisture onto the skin and prevent it from getting dry.

On the other hand, a cream is a substance with a light and watery texture used as a medication and cosmetic. It contains an equal amount of oil and water. When rubbed on the skin, it gets absorbed into the skin quickly and does not have the ability to lock moisture, unlike Ointment.

Comparison Table Between Ointment and Cream

Parameters of Comparison Ointment Cream
Appearance Due to the oily texture, ointment appears shiny on the skin. As cream has a light texture, it seems invisible on the skin.
ConsistencyIt has a thick and greasy consistency. It has a smooth and light consistency.
Absorption It stays longer on the skin and takes time to absorb. It is absorbed quicker than ointments.
Composition It contains more oil than water. It has equal oil and water content.
Base It has an oily base and is difficult to spread smoothly. It has a watery base and can be spread smoothly.
StabilityIt can go deeper into the skin. It evaporates and does not go deep.
UsageIt is used for moisturising and treating various skin problems. It moisturises and prevents minor allergies.
SuitableWith oil content, it is more suitable for dry skin. It is more suitable for oily skin as it has less oil content.

What is Ointment?

An ointment is a form of topical medication, i.e. a substance or medication that is applied to the surface of the skin. It is a semi-solid substance that has an oily texture and is applied to the skin or specific areas with allergies or any skin-related issues. It is also used as a cosmetic, sometimes.

Ointments are prepared with more oil content than water. This is why they tend to appear oily in texture and leave a shiny cast on the skin. Petroleum jelly, Wax, Vegetable oil, Anhydrous lanolin, Lard etc., are used as bases for ointments commonly. However, they also contain preservatives and added scent.

Although ointments have an oily base, there are different types of them. They are categorised into various types based on their bases. Hydrocarbon bases, Absorption bases, Water-removable bases and Water-soluble bases are the ones.

Hydrocarbon bases allow contact between the medication and the skin and moisturise it. Absorption bases add water-based solutions to the medication and moisturise the skin. The water-removable bases are emulsions of oil-in-water and are used mainly as cosmetics. Lastly, the water-soluble bases are greaseless and have substances that are soluble in water.

Ointments of various types are used for treating different skin problems. While some of them just act as moisturizers, others can be used as topical steroids and antibiotics. Due to their high oil content, ointments are generally used for treating dry skin conditions and are also a help to sensitive skin.

What is Cream?

Cream is also a form of topical medication that is semi-solid and has a watery base. It is applied to the skin in order to get rid of any allergies, rashes or even used as a cosmetic. Due to an equal ratio of oil and water, the Cream gets absorbed into the skin within a short time. Unlike ointments, it does not make the area sticky or oily.

The Cream is prepared with an equal amount of oil and water. It has comparatively lesser oil content than ointments. This is why it cannot trap moisture onto the skin and does not go deep into it. It stays on the surface of the skin and gets evaporated and absorbed within seconds.

Although creams have a watery base, some substances are added to them in order to provide that semi-solid consistency. Oil, water, emulsifier and thickening agent are the primary ingredients of the Cream.

Creams are divided into two categories based on the type of their emulsion. Creams with oil-in-water emulsions have small droplets or amount of oil disseminated in the watery phase, while creams with water-in-oil emulsions have small droplets of water disseminated in the oily phase. Oil-in-water creams are less oily and greasy in texture than water-in-oil creams.

With a smooth and light consistency, creams are way more easily spread on the skin as compared to ointments. So they are mostly preferred for larger areas of skin. Even creams are moisturising, but they are not as oily as ointments. Therefore, they are mostly preferred for avoiding greasiness.

Main Differences Between Ointment and Cream

  1. An ointment has more oil content, while a cream has more water content.
  2. An ointment has a thicker consistency than Cream.
  3. The Cream absorbs instantly while Ointment takes time to absorb.
  4. Ointment goes deep into the skin, but the Cream does not.
  5. Ointment moisturizes more than Cream.


Topical medication is a common way of treating skin diseases and allergies. The Ointment has an oily base, while the Cream has a watery base. This is why Ointment takes longer to absorb in comparison to Cream.

When it comes to healing power, ointments are preferred because of their ability to go deeper into the skin and make sure the allergy or rash is cured. While creams just stay on the surface of the skin and evaporate thereafter, without going deep into it.

However, both Ointment and Cream have their advantages and disadvantages. The cream is good for minor allergies and oily skin, whereas the Ointment works well with major allergies or dry skin.


  1. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/353667
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2133.1974.tb06384.x
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