Dermatologists most commonly prescribe topical medications. If you have seen a dermatologists prescription I’m sure you would have noticed that the medicines have different bases or vehicles i.e. Cream, ointment, gel, lotion etc. Which one they choose depends on the indication and the site it needs to be used at. Ointments generally tend to be the most potent so generally used for thicker skin lesions and areas such as palms and soles. Since ointments are oil based it tends to be greasy and do not evaporate from the skin. However it gets absorbed the most compared to the other vehicles. Creams are prescribed for less severe lesions. They are generally non greasy and often moisturising. Lotions are liquids, tend to be non greasy and usually evaporate leaving a cooling sensation. Lotions are preferred when larger areas of the body are affected and for hairy areas such as the scalp. Lotions are not as potent as creams or ointments. Thus if a person has dry skin he should use a moisturiser in cream base and not lotion. Gel is usually transparent to translucent and gives a cooling sensation on application. So next time if the chemist tries to substitute a cream for an ointment please confirm with your doctor first.
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The information provided in Dr. Dixit's answer is for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice. The information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with a qualified health professional who may be familiar with your individual medical needs.