Select Page

What'sInAName-Pt1-Edited

What’s in a name? Much more than you may think when you are talking about cosmetics and skin care products. I don’t mean company names or brand specific product names such as Bare Face™, Mama’s Sunday Best™ or Chill My Heels™ that are exclusive to us. No, I mean the product identification name such as lotion, cream, body butter, serum, balm, salve, oil (fixed/carrier) and similar. I see these product identification names used often around Facebook groups and on DIY blogs. Unfortunately, I see them being used incorrectly to describe the product being discussed. I see the term “lotion” or “cream” being used when the product is actually a butter or a balm. I see the term “body butter” being used when the product is a balm or salve. And the list goes on and on. So many seem to be confused about what a product actually is called.  Or maybe it’s just ignorance and they just don’t know. I’ll be honest here. It’s a real pet peeve with me because it’s propagating more confusion and spreading more misinformation. So it’s time to stop the confusion and start using the correct terminology or stop trying to DIY or tell others how-to. 

I’m going to take some time in coming months to explain different product identification names and cosmetic terms, why they are not interchangeable and why it’s important to use the correct terminology when referring to them.   The goal is that it will not only help you understand the differences and hopefully stop at least some of the confusion and misinformation circulating but help you make the right choices for your personal skin care needs based in this new found knowledge as well.  Since there are more than a few, I’ll break them up into parts that are digestible and do them through the “Ask the Formulator” series for easy reference and sharing. They may get long but stick with me to the end. I promise you may learn something. 

Today, we’ll look at lotions, creams and body butters. They are NOT the same thing. They are not formulated the same. They do not have the same purpose and use.  While they do have some similarities, they are very different.

Here’s how lotions, creams and body butters are similar.  All three: 

  • Soften, moisturize and condition skin
  • Can help replenish oil and balanced pH to the skin 
  • Lubricates the skin
  • Protects the skin
  • Seals in and helps retain the moisture already in the skin
  • Provides vital nutrients for skin so that it can do its job of being our first defense for essential health and wellness
  • May contain a wax such as beeswax, soy, candelilla, carnauba or other waxes in varying percentages for various formulation reasons

 

Now let’s break down how they are different.

Lotions

  • Are emulsions containing both water/water equivalent and oils/butters
  • Are hydrous; aquatic/water based
  • Are a two-phase or three-phase formulation with a water phase and an oil phase
  • Contain water or a water equivalent, normally 70% – 90% of the total formula
  • Usually contain 10% – 30% oils and/or butters (this includes emulsifiers and stabilizer and all anhydrous ingredients)
  • Usually a water-in-oil emulsion but may be an oil-in-water emulsion
  • May contain a small percentage of wax (beeswax, carnauba, candelilla, soy, etc.) as part of the formulation
  • Are a thick liquid or semi-solid
  • More readily absorbed into the skin because of the higher water content
  • Have a cooling effect on the skin because of this absorption
  • Will usually contain at least one humectant
  • Helps hydrate the skin and lightly seals in existing moisture
  • Good for areas with more hair (Ex: a man’s chest or legs)
  • Lighter on the skin than a cream or butter
  • Suitable for all skin types and especially oily or normal skin
  • Suitable for facial care if formulated for this use
  • Should not be used on the lips
  • Require precise formulation and detailed production methods 
  • Must contain a preservative system that is suitable for the individual formulation as a whole to deter and prevent microbial growth 

 

Creams:

  • Are emulsions containing both oils/butters and water/water equivalent 
  • Are hydrous; aquatic/water based
  • Are hydrous, multi-ingredient products
  • Contain water or a water equivalent, normally 50% – 65% of the total formula
  • Usually consist of 35% – 50% oil and/or butters (this includes emulsifiers and stabilizers and all anhydrous ingredients) but may contain more and be as thick and heavy as a body butter
  • Are a two-phase or three-phase formulation with a water phase and an oil phase
  • Are a water-in-oil emulsion or an oil-in-water emulsion
  • Are a very thick liquid, semi-solid or loose, soft solid
  • Are thicker and heavier than a lotion 
  • Are lighter on the skin than a body butter
  • Adds hydration to skin from water/water equivalent but not as much as lotions do
  • Absorbs well but much less readily and slower than a lotion
  • Have a cooling effect on the skin
  • Light to moderately oily feel and after-feel
  • Occlusive – coats the skin to create a barrier to keep moisture in and outside elements out
  • Will usually contain at least one humectant
  • May contain a wax such as beeswax, soy, candelilla or carnauba wax
  • Normally not as well suited for oily skin due to the higher oil content
  • Suitable for dry skin or tough/rough skin patches, normal skin and sometimes combination skin (depending on the formulation)
  • May be used on the face if formulated for facial use
  • Should not be used on the lips
  • Require precise formulation and detailed production methods
  • Must contain a preservative system that is suitable for the individual formulation as a whole to deter and prevent microbial growth 

 

Body Butters:

  • Are anhydrous/hydrophobic
  • Contain no water or water equivalent
  • Usually will consist of up to approximately 55 – 75% butters (shea, cocoa, etc.) and the remaining content be fixed oils
  • Are a very thick semi-solid or loose, soft solid
  • Very heavy on the skin and usually has an oily/greasy feel that lingers
  • May contain emulsifiers and/or thickening agents
  • May contain a small percentage of wax such as beeswax, carnauba, soy or candelilla wax
  • May contain an oil reducer/absorber or buffer ingredient such as a powered root or starch to lessen oily after-feel
  • Does not absorb quickly or readily into skin 
  • Occlusive – coats the skin to create a barrier which helps keep existing moisture in and outside elements out
  • Can block pores and lead to breakouts, creating a fertile ground for bacteria and the skin’s natural oils to accumulate
  • Suited best for extremely dry/damaged skin or hardened, calloused and tough skin (knees, elbows, feet, hands)
  • May be suited for oily, normal or combination skin depending on formulation
  • Should not be used on the face due to being 100% oil based, making them too heavy for more delicate, thinner facial skin as well as leaving excess oily residue which can interfere with your other facial care products and color cosmetics
  • Is more prone to blocking pores and causing breakouts 
  • May contain a preservative system to deter and prevent microbial growth that may be introduced by the end user
  • Can be used on the lips if it contains a lip safe fragrance or flavor and if preservatives used are lip safe 

 

As you can see, each of these are different in how they are formulated and what their purpose and use is. Different products have different product identification names for a reason. In fact, the United States Food & Drug Administration requires cosmetic products be clearly labeled with product identification names. When someone is talking about a product or asking me questions about a product, the answers to those questions will be based on the name the person uses in reference to the product which may not be what the product actually is.  For example, if you ask me a question and use the term “lotion”, I am going to give answers based on what was said, assuming it’s a true lotion as described above, not a cream or body butter which the product may actually be. Some may see this as splitting hairs, but from a formulation standpoint, it most certainly is not. The issue with not using product identification names correctly is then there is misinformation being given which is based entirely on the wrong terminology being used. And then that information gets passed along to others who don’t know differently. They take it as truthful knowledge and pretty soon, it’s making its way around the neighborhood.  Many people become misinformed from this domino effect which costs people money and often times can be a safety issue , not just simply a minor detail that makes no difference. Make sense?

Hopefully, this article will help you understand why the terminology used when discussing these products, especially in relation to DIY’ing, is important. A name really does matter. I also hope it may help you determine which product you need or want for your own skin care needs and why one may be a better choice than another of these three.

Please….bookmark this article and refer back to it. Share it with your friends if and when you can. Let’s start using correct terminology in reference to cosmetic products. OK? 

Any questions? Feel free to ask. Just send me an email with your question for “Ask the Formulator”. I’ll answer the questions on the blog if I can. 

Signature

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: