Difference between Ointment Cream Paste Gel Lotion Jelly

Difference between Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel, Lotion, and jelly. It is a very common query in a curious mind. Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel are semisolid dosage forms intended for topical application only. USP defines the term dosage form is a combination of drug substance(s) and/or excipient(s) in quantities and physical form intended to allow the efficient and accurate administration of the drug substance (API) to either the human or animal patient. Certainly, semisolid is not easily pourable, displays plastic flow behavior, at room temperature does not readily conform to its container, and does not flow at low shear stress.

However, Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel are  popular semisolid dosage forms.  Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel, Lotion, and jelly are external use only medicine. If you have no clear idea about the difference between drug and medicine, read this.  I think the confusion about Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel, lotion, and jelly will clear by reading this article.

Definition of Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel, Lotion, and jelly with examples:

What is Ointment?

Ointments are semisolid dosage forms that comprise less than 20% water and volatiles, and more than 50% hydrocarbons, waxes, or polyols as the vehicle [1]. Active pharmaceutical ingredients delivered in ointments intended for only local or for systemic absorption.

Types of ointments

Based on penetration ointment are classified as

  • Epidermic ointment
  • Endodermic ointment
  • Diadermic ointment

Generally, ointment bases recognized for use as vehicles fall into four general classes [1]

  1. Hydrocarbon bases, also known as oleaginous ointment bases.
  2. Absorption bases
  3. Water-removable bases
  4. Water-soluble bases, also known as greaseless ointment bases,

The choice of an ointment base depends on the desired action, the characteristics of the incorporated drug substance, and bioavailability.

For example, Hydrocortisone Ointment, Bacitracin Ointment, and Lidocaine Ointment.

What is Cream?

Creams are opaque, viscous, relatively soft, consistently spreadable, semisolid emulsion dosage forms that often comprise more than 20% water and volatiles and normally less than 50% hydrocarbons, waxes, or polyols as the vehicle for the drug substance [1]. Drug substances delivered in creams, intended for external application to the skin or to the mucous membranes. Creams are either a water-in-oil (W/O) emulsion for example cold cream (fatty cream as in the European Pharmacopoeia) or as an oil-in-water (O/W) emulsion, for example, Betamethasone Valerate cream.

Types of creams

Generally, creams are 2 types:

  1. Aqueous cream (oil-in-water emulsion)
  • Anionic emulsifying wax cream
  • Cationic emulsifying wax cream
  • Non-ionic emulsifying wax cream
  1. Oily cream (water-in-oil emulsion)

For example, Betamethasone Valerate Cream, Zinc Acetate 0.2% cream, and Econazole Nitrate cream.

What is Paste?

Pastes are thick, stiff, semisolid dosage form in which s high concentration of insoluble powder substances (20% to 50%) finely dispersed in a fatty or aqueous base [2].

According to USP, Pastes are semisolid preparations of stiff consistency and contain a high percentage (20%–50%) of finely dispersed solids [1]. Pastes are intended for application to the skin, mucous membranes, oral cavity. Generally,  pastes do not flow and thus can function as protective coatings and occlusive at normal body temperature.

For example, Triamcinolone acetonide paste, zinc oxide paste, and phenylbutazone paste.

What is Gel?

Gels are usually clear, transparent, semisolid dosage form containing the solubilized active substance [2].

According to USP, gels are semisolid preparations that contain dispersions of small or large molecules in an aqueous-based vehicle rendered jelly-like through the adding of a gelling agent. A gel is an intermediate state of matter that has both solid and liquid components.

Gels may be formed by dispersing the gelling agent in the continuous phase (for example by heating starch), by crosslinking the dispersed phase gelling agent, by changing the pH (as for Carbomer  co-polymer), or by reducing the continuous phase by heat or vacuum (as for gels formed with sucrose).

Types of Gel

Generally, gels may be classified into two primary types:

  • Hydrogels that contains aqueous continuous phase,
  • Organogels: that contain organic solvent (as the liquid continuous medium).

According to USP, Gels may be classified into 2 groups:

  • Chemical gels: usually covalently cross-linked gels,
  • Physical gels: consist of molecular chains or small molecules that are physically cross-linked into networks, or solutions, or colloidal dispersions that are stiffened by a gelling agent.

For example, Aluminum Hydroxide Gel, Diclofenac sodium gel, and Oxybutynin chloride gel.

Cream vs Ointment

Image of Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel and Lotion

Further, Lotion, and jelly also popular dosage form like Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel.

What is Lotions?

Lotions are pourable, an emulsified liquid dosage form intended for external use. They are usually prepared by dispersing or dissolving the API into the more appropriate phase (oil or water), adding suitable emulsifying or suspending agents and finally mixing the oil and water phases to make a uniform fluid emulsion [1].

According to BP, Lotions are Liquid preparations for the cutaneous application that are intended to be applied to the unbroken skin without friction [3].

For example, Calamine Lotion, Salicylic Acid Lotion, Selenium Sulfide Lotion, and Dimethicone Lotion.

What is Jellies?

Jellies are transparent or translucent, non-greasy, semisolid preparations, prepared from synthetic derivatives of natural substances such as methylcellulose, sodium carboxymethylcellulose or natural gums such as pectin, tragacanth etc.

Generally, Jellies are 3 types

  1. Medicated jellies
  2. Lubricated jellies
  3. Miscellaneous jellies

For example, Lidocaine Hydrochloride Jelly White Petrolatum Jelly Acetic Acid and Oxyquinoline Sulfate Jelly.

Also, You may read:


  1. The United States pharmacopeia (2020). The National formulary. Rockville, Md.: United States Pharmacopeial Convention, Inc.,
  2. Lachman, L., & Liebermann, H. A. (2013). The Theory and practice of industrial pharmacy. Washington Square, Philadelphia USA: Lea & Febiger.
  3. British Pharmacopoeia Commission. (2019). British Pharmacopoeia 2020.

Feel free and leave your comments regarding Ointment, Cream, Paste, Gel, Lotion, and Jelly.