What’s the Difference between a Cream, Lotion, Gel, Serum, Toner, and Essence?

There are so many different types of skincare products out there that it can be a challenge to know which one is best for your skin type and specific needs. This guide breaks down the differences betweens creams, lotions, gels, serums, toners, and essences to help you choose the right product types – in addition to the right ingredients! – for your Baumann Skin Type®.


The biggest difference between creams and lotions is that creams have a lower water content, so they are generally thicker and richer. Creams provide a physical barrier on your skin to help seal in moisture, making them ideal for dry skin types. Barrier repair creams contain a specific blend and ratio of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids to mimic your skin’s natural protective barrier. A properly-formulated barrier repair cream such as Zerafite is an effective treatment for dry, cracked, itchy, and flaky skin.


Unlike creams, lotions have a high water content and are usually lighter-weight and non-greasy. These qualities make lotions a good choice for very oily skin types, as they are less likely to clog pores and leave a heavy residue on the skin than creams. Moisturizing lotions can help to keep oily skin hydrated, especially in dry climates or cold, dry winters.

Some lotions also contain treatment ingredients to address skin concerns like wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and other signs of aging. Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion, for instance, contains vitamin C to encourage a brighter, smoother complexion, while also imparting light hydration.


Gels generally contain even more water content than lotions and are usually oil-free, making them a good moisturizing choice for oily skin types. Gels also tend to have a thinner consistency than lotions, so they generally do not leave a film or greasy feeling on the skin. 

Some cleansers such as Medature Plantract Cleansing Gel and Revision Skincare Purifying Cleansing Gel have a gel base to help lightly hydrate the skin while cleansing pores. 


Similar to gels, serums are water-based skincare products that are usually meant to be used under a moisturizer. Different serums contain different ingredients aimed at targeting specific skin concerns, such as wrinkles, uneven skin tone and texture, redness, and more.

DefenAge 8-in-1 Bioserum, for example, is a cutting-edge anti-aging serum designed to treat eight common skin concerns in one.


Toners are water-based products that also contain a variety of beneficial ingredients aimed at shrinking the appearance of pores and leaving the skin looking and feeling refreshed and hydrated. Toners should be applied after cleansing your skin with the proper cleanser for your skin type. 

Choose a toner that is also a match for your skin type and concerns. Acne toners, for example, can be beneficial if they contain ingredients like colloidal silver or salicylic acid that kill acne-causing bacteria. 


An essence is essentially a toner that is misted on the skin. These products can be appropriate for all skin types and help to improve hydration. Use essences under your moisturizer to enhance this benefit.

Like toners, essences can contain specific treatment ingredients to address certain skin concerns. Element 47 Fortifying Mist, for instance, contains silver to help reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin.

Bottom Line

Make sure you are using the right type of product for your specific skincare needs and Baumann Skin Type®. Generally speaking, creams are best for dry skin, while lotions and gels are better suited for oily skin. Serums, toners, and essences can be appropriate treatment products for all skin types, depending on the ingredients they contain.

For more skincare advice and information from Dr. Baumann, don’t forget to follow Baumann Cosmetic on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

©2021 Metabeauty, Inc.

April 9, 2021 Skincare