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Which will clog my pores the least? Lotion, cream, or gel?

Q: What’s the difference between a lotion, a cream, and a gel? Which will clog my pores the least?

A: The consistency of the products is the biggest difference.

  • Gels tend to be the thinnest and absorb most quickly into the skin. Oftentimes, gels contain alcohol, which can contribute to some drying of the skin, also making them unlikely to clog the pores.
  • Lotions contain a higher percentage of water than creams do, which tend to be thicker than lotions.
  • Also worth mentioning, ointments, like Vaseline®, are the thickest topical agents that are available for the skin and are the most likely to clog the pores.

For moisturizing skin on the trunk, arms, and legs, ointments and creams are the most effective, as they contain the least amount of water and best repair the skin’s barrier function. But note that ointments are the most effective at moisturizing the skin (due to the lower water content). Oils and gels are the thinnest agents and are the least effective at moisturizing the skin. For use on the face, the moisturizer of choice should be labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free” to prevent clogging the pores. Many of these specially made facial moisturizers are available in cream and lotion forms to effectively moisturize facial skin without contributing to clogged pores (comedones) and acne.

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