Shower creams and gels come in a variety of formulas, textures and fragrances depending on their manufacturers. They sell at a comparable price and often sit side-by-side on the drugstore shelves. When looking for differences between the two, first understand that the terms "cream" and "gel" are used loosely and sometimes don't say as much about the product as they should. Look instead at the ingredients on the bottle and its appearance to determine what kind of body cleanser it is.
Shower cream is usually a moisturizing formula with an opaque or semi-opaque color, and it tends to be thinner than shower gel or body wash. It will develop a foamy lather when gently rubbed into your skin. The thick and smooth consistencies of most creams allow them to be used for for multiple purposes, such as washing, shaving or making a bubble bath. They come in all price ranges, but are often found in luxury lines. The more expensive shower creams are sold in spas, salons and at department store cosmetics counters.
Shower gel is usually translucent and has a gelatin-like texture. Like shower cream, a shower gel creates a foamy lather when rubbed into the skin; however, some gels do not lather profusely. Gels sometimes contain exfoliating beads or have a bubbly or carbonated appearance when displayed in a clear bottle. Other gels are pearlized and more lotion-like. Because shower gel is sometimes very thick, getting all of the gel out of the bottle can sometimes be a challenge. Choose a brand with a good pump dispenser.
What's the Difference?
The primary differences between the two are ingredients and appearance. Shea butter, coconut oil and cleaning agents like polyglucose are commonly found in creams. White and off-white are the most common hues for shower creams, although you might also find light shades of blue, pink, green or yellow.
In contrast, shower gel is often comprised of a clear emulsifying agent called guar gum. Glycerin, also clear, is also found in many shower gel formulas. Another common ingredient for gels is aloe vera gel, a combination of aloe vera extract and glycerin. Cleaning agents in shower gels are usually the same as those in shower creams, with polyglucose and sulfosuccinate two of the more common. Shower gels come in a range of colors, including very bright pink, green and blue.
Which is Better?
When deciding between shower cream and gel, take your skin type and the time of year into consideration. According to Nikki Zevola of FutureDerm, a cream is better suited for dry skin or cold climates because ingredients found in shower creams, like petroleum and mineral oil, have highly effective moisturizing properties. Zevola says shower gel is a good choice for oily or acne-prone skin and normal skin. It's also better for warm climates, especially when the gel has cooling ingredients like mint, aloe or cucumber.