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Difference Between Lotion and Liniment

Last updated date: 09th Apr 2024
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An Introduction to Lotion and Liniment

It's very often to confuse two semi-liquids with the same consistency, like the characteristics of lotion and liniment. It's more confusing when both are used for medical purposes and are over-the-counter products. 

Similar is true when one wants to explain lotion and liniment. But, the good part is, they share differences! And the difference between lotion and liniment is discussed in the article below!

Explain: Lotion and Liniment

If the question- "What is lotion and liniment?" is put forth, a lot of thoughts swirl around in our minds. To give them all a break, below is a little overview on both lotion and liniment: 


The lotion is a liquid or semi-liquid skincare preparation applied to the skin for moisturizing, soothing, and protecting purposes. It contains various ingredients, including moisturisers, and is known for its lightweight, easily absorbable texture. Lotions are commonly used for general skin care and hydration after bathing or sun exposure.


Liniment is a liquid preparation primarily used for external application to relieve pain, inflammation, and muscular discomfort. It has a thicker, more viscous consistency and contains active ingredients such as analgesics, counterirritants, or rubefacients. Liniments are often massaged into the skin to penetrate deeper into tissues, providing targeted relief for muscle strains, arthritis, or sports injuries.

Difference between Lotion and Liniment

It's very important that we are able to tell the difference between lotion and liniment. This work is made easier for you, by the table below:







A liquid or semi-liquid preparation for the skin

A liquid preparation for external application



Moisturizes, soothes, or protects the skin

Relieves pain, inflammation, or muscular discomfort



Usually has a lighter, smoother texture

Often has a thicker, more viscous consistency



Contains various ingredients, including moisturizers

Contains active ingredients for pain relief



Applied to the skin and rubbed in for absorption

Applied externally and often massaged into the skin



Lotions for- Hands, Body, and Face

Muscle liniment, arthritis liniment


Primary Use

Hydrates and nourishes the skin

Alleviates pain and discomfort in muscles and joints



Provides moisturization, softens the skin

Relieves pain, reduces inflammation


Skin Benefits

Enhances skin health, maintains moisture balance

May provide temporary relief to sore muscles and joints


Active Ingredients

May include vitamins, antioxidants, or emollients

Often contains analgesics, counterirritants, or rubefacients



Absorbed by the skin for localized effects

Absorbed by the skin, penetrates deeper into tissues for targeted relief


Commonly Used

For general skincare, after bathing or sun exposure

For treating muscle strains, arthritis, or sports injuries


Side Effects 

Rare, but may include allergic reactions or skin irritation

Rare, but may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions if sensitized



Check for specific instructions and potential allergens

Follow directions, avoid contact with eyes or broken skin



Regulated as cosmetic products

Regulated as drugs (over-the-counter)

Explain: Lotion and Liniment similarities

There is more than one difference between lotion and liniment. But there are still similarities in some characteristics of lotion and liniment. To learn, read the points below:

  • Both lotion and liniment are for external applications. Thus, they aren't meant to be used internally. 

  • Liniment, as well as lotion, are applicants for the skin surface.

  • They are both massaged or rubbed into the skin. In this way, the product (lotion or liniment) is absorbed better. 

  • Come in various formulations. Therefore, they are accessible in different textures, scents, etc. 

  • They are typically available as over-the-counter products. So, there's no need for a prescription.


Conclusively, lotion and liniment have their differences. Now whenever the question- what is lotion and liniment pops us, you can craft an answer using the difference between lotion and liniment discussed above. Not only that but you can also vary the two in different categories like- side effects, common uses, absorption, skin benefits, examples, effects, etc. Alongside this, the above article also discusses the similarities between the two. So, read it now and get all the information about lotion and liniment differences and similarities. 

FAQs on Difference Between Lotion and Liniment

1. Which oil is used to make a liniment?

When it comes to the oil used for making liniment, there are 5 oils altogether. These oils are namely- menthol, camphor, methyl salicylate, and virgin olive oil. In case virgin olive oil is not available, you can replace it with- vegetable oil that is the same as virgin olive oil. Another substitute can be liquid petrolatum. To prepare liniment, a water bath is used. Using it, camphor and menthol are dissolved in olive or vegetable oil. After the dissolving process is complete, methyl salicylate along with olive or vegetable oil is added. This completes the process of making liniment using oils.

2. How are lotion and ointment different?

Any products or medicine that are over-the-counter are formulated using different ways like creams, ointments, and lotions. When it comes to an ointment, it consists of oil and water. Here 80 percent is oil and 20 percent is water. When it comes to cream, there's 50-50 percent of oil and water. Then there's lotion, which is like a cream but a little lighter, it has a less thicker formulation. All of them can be used with other over-the-counter drugs or products, you can choose them as per your skin's likeliness- whether oily or dry.

3. Why is a lotion usually yellow in color?

The lotion is a skincare product. If any skincare product is exposed to light or for that matter-air, it oxidizes. On oxidizing, the color of the skincare product turns into colors like brown, yellow, or sometimes orange. But, it doesn't mean that you should let any color go, just because the color changes on oxidizing. Therefore, whenever you find a new tinge of color in your lotion that wasn't there before, it's a sign that the lotion needs to be changed to a newer one.

4. Why is camphor used for making liniment?

Camphor oil is used for different purposes and one of those is making liniment. It has properties that are anti-inflammatory. This is the reason that camphor is used as an ingredient in liniments, balms, and vapor rubs. It's also utilised by people for getting relief from pain, itching, and irritation. Therefore, by being used in different products as an ingredient, it helps in easing chest congestion and inflammatory conditions. Thus, camphor is helpful to liniments' purpose to relieve inflammation and aches.