Difference Between Cream and Ointment

All of us are aware of different types of cold creams available in the market. People use these creams on their faces and other body parts to moisturize their skin and to keep it nourished in dry and cold season. We are also aware of many creams that are prescribed by doctors and applied on the skin, to treat many skin disorders. There is another term ointment used to refer to medications and beauty products available in the same type of packaging that confuses many people. Sometimes the medication prescribed by a dermatologist is available in the market both as a cream as well as an ointment. Let us find out the difference between a cream and an ointment.


A cream is an emulsion containing half water and half oil. Creams also contain solid particles of the medication that is intended to be absorbed by the skin. When a cream is rubbed on the skin, the water in the emulsion gets evaporated leaving a thin film of medication and oil on the skin. Because of this property, creams are prescribed by doctors when they want the medication to be absorbed by the skin quickly. Creams are also better for people having oily skin as fast absorption of the cream means the skin is kept dry. The watery base of the creams makes them perfect when medication has to be applied over a large area of the body. Creams are also easy to wash off should there be any side effect or any other problem. Creams are always available in tubes or plastic or glass tubs as they are thick and cannot be sprayed like a liquid.


An ointment is a topical medication that contains nearly 80% oil with the rest being water. Because of the high oil content, ointments are very good for patients with dry skins. They moisturize the skin with their oil, but some patients do not like to apply ointments on their bodies because of the greasiness of these topical medications. Being oily, ointments remain on the skin for much longer than creams. They are good when moistening the cream is required, and slow absorption of medication is needed. As far as spreadability is concerned, ointments do not spread easily and are, therefore, good to be used when the area is small.

What is the difference between Cream and Ointment?

• Ointments contain a higher percentage of oil than creams in their bases (80% in comparison to 50% in creams).

• Ointments are thus greasier than creams and remain on the skin longer.

• When quick absorption is required, creams are preferred as their watery base helps in evaporation of water.

• When a large area of body needs medication, creams are better as they are easy to spread.

• For patients with a dry skin, ointments are prescribed as they help in moistening the skin.

• Ointments can leave stains on clothing whereas creams get easily absorbed and have no such problems.