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Hand Cream vs. Lotion — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Urooj Arif — Published on March 3, 2024
Hand cream is thicker and more moisturizing, designed specifically for hands, while lotion is lighter, suitable for general body use, offering hydration with a less greasy formula.
Hand Cream vs. Lotion — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Hand Cream and Lotion


Key Differences

Hand cream is formulated to provide intense moisture to the hands, which often face harsher conditions and can become very dry. It usually contains high concentrations of emollients and humectants to combat dryness. Lotion, on the other hand, has a lighter consistency and is designed for overall body use, absorbing quickly into the skin without leaving a heavy or greasy residue. This makes lotion a versatile moisturizer for everyday use.
Hand creams are designed to address specific concerns such as extreme dryness, cracking, and aging, while lotions may contain ingredients that target a broader range of skin needs, including mild dryness and skin smoothing. Hand creams often have a denser texture, providing a protective barrier that lasts through hand washings, a feature particularly beneficial during colder months.
Lotions, being lighter, are preferred for application on larger skin areas. Their formula is easily spreadable and suitable for mild to moderate moisturizing needs, making them a go-to for daily skincare routines. Hand creams, with their thicker texture, are more suited for targeted, intensive care, especially for those with dry to very dry skin.
Ingredients in hand creams are selected for their ability to deeply nourish and repair the skin on the hands. These ingredients might include shea butter, glycerin, and oils. Lotions might focus more on ingredients that improve skin's overall texture and tone, such as aloe vera and vitamin E, catering to a wider skin type range.
The choice between hand cream and lotion depends on the specific needs of your skin. For deep hydration and repair, particularly for the hands, hand creams are the best choice. For general moisturization and skin care, lotions offer a lighter, more versatile option.

Comparison Chart


Thicker and richer
Lighter and more fluid

Primary Use

Intensive moisture for hands
General body hydration

Key Ingredients

High concentrations of emollients and humectants
Lighter moisturizers, may include aloe vera, vitamin E


Slower, leaves a protective barrier
Quick, without leaving a greasy residue

Best for

Dry to very dry skin, especially in harsh conditions
Normal to slightly dry skin, for everyday use

Compare with Definitions

Hand Cream

Often contains ingredients to protect against harsh weather.
His hand cream has glycerin to lock in moisture during winter.


A light, hydrating liquid used for moisturizing the body.
She applies lotion daily to keep her skin smooth and soft.

Hand Cream

Ideal for use after washing hands to restore moisture.
I use hand cream every time I wash my hands to keep them soft.


Often preferred for regular, all-over body hydration.
Her lotion absorbs quickly, making it great for morning routines.

Hand Cream

Formulated specifically for the high wear and tear on hand skin.
This hand cream contains shea butter for deep nourishment.


Suitable for use over large areas of the body.
After his shower, he covered his legs and arms in lotion.

Hand Cream

May have properties to reduce signs of aging on hands.
Her hand cream also works to minimize age spots.


Can contain a variety of ingredients for skin health.
This lotion is enriched with vitamin E for extra skin protection.

Hand Cream

A thick, emollient-rich cream designed for moisturizing hands.
She applied hand cream to soothe her dry, cracked skin.


Designed to leave skin feeling soft without greasiness.
The best thing about this lotion is it doesn't leave my skin greasy.


A protective or restorative liquid or cream applied to the skin.


A low- to medium-viscosity topical preparation intended for application to unbroken skin.
Sun-tan lotion


A liquid preparation for bathing the skin, or an injured or diseased part, either for a medicinal purpose, or for improving its appearance.


Any of various cosmetic preparations that are applied to the skin


Liquid preparation having a soothing or antiseptic or medicinal action when applied to the skin;
A lotion for dry skin

Common Curiosities

Can I use hand cream on my body?

Yes, but it may feel too heavy and greasy for some areas compared to lighter lotions.

Is lotion or hand cream better for dry skin?

For extremely dry areas, hand cream is better; for general use, lotion works well.

What's the main difference between hand cream and lotion?

Hand cream is thicker and meant for hands' specific needs, while lotion is lighter and suitable for all-over body use.

How often should I apply hand cream?

As often as needed, especially after washing hands, to maintain moisture.

Can I use lotion if I have oily skin?

Yes, look for light, non-comedogenic formulas designed for oily skin.

Why do hand creams often feel greasier than lotions?

Because they contain higher levels of emollients to protect and repair dry hands.

Can lotion be used on the face?

Some lotions are suitable for the face, but it's best to use products specifically formulated for facial skin.

Do hand creams and lotions expire?

Yes, check the packaging for the expiry date or PAO (period after opening) symbol.

How do I choose the right hand cream or lotion?

Consider your skin type, concerns, and the ingredients that best address your needs.

Why do some hand creams contain SPF?

To protect the hands from sun damage, which can cause aging and spots.

Is it necessary to use both hand cream and lotion?

It depends on your skin's needs; some may only need one, while others benefit from both.

Can using hand cream or lotion too often be harmful?

Overuse can sometimes lead to clogged pores or skin irritation; use as directed.

Do hand creams and lotions help with wrinkles?

Some formulations can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, especially those with anti-aging ingredients.

Are there unscented versions of hand creams and lotions?

Yes, both are available in unscented formulas for sensitive skin.

Are hand creams and lotions safe for children?

Many are, but choose products specifically formulated for sensitive or young skin.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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