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Semi-solid preparations – ointment and cream

Ointment and cream: depending on the specification of dermatological diseases, suitable semi-solid preparations are prescribed. These include ointments and creams, gels, pastes, poultices and medicated plasters. The choice of one of them should be fully justified, as they differ in many parameters: place of action, depth of drug penetration or potency. The purpose of administering the drug to the skin is primarily: local treatment of diseases, often only superficial, obtaining a therapeutic effect in relation to deeper tissues – mainly in muscle pain, transdermal administration of the drug in order to induce a systemic effect (transdermal therapeutic systems).

Ointment and cream: the doctor holds the ointment in his hand

Ointment and cream what to choose?

This question cannot be answered unequivocally. Depending on the pharmacological effect we want to achieve and the disease in which it is to help, both the ointment and the cream may show better effectiveness.

An ointment is understood as a preparation prepared on a lipophilic, anhydrous basis. Its characteristic feature is that it can penetrate into various layers of the skin, and more importantly, much deeper than creams. Depending on the depth of penetration of the medicinal substance into the skin, we distinguish:

  • Epidermal ointments – the active substances remain on the surface of the skin or in the outer layers of the epidermis and thus may provide antifungal, antiseptic, antibacterial and keratolytic properties.
  • endodermal – they reach the living layers of the epidermis, where inflammatory processes take place, they often contain corticosteroids (hydrocortisone)
  • transdermal patches are applied to be absorbed into deep tissues to obtain an analgesic effect.

There are many types of ointments available on the pharmaceutical market, depending on the cause of the disease. Here are some examples:

Cholesterol ointment – chronic treatments with steroid ointments, chemical, mechanical or thermal skin damage, AD.

Calendula ointment – treatment of mild skin inflammations.

Tranowa ointment – treatment of difficult-to-heal wounds

Borna ointment – has antiseptic, drying and astringent properties.

Diprobase, ointment – treatment of acute inflammatory or allergic skin conditions after corticosteroid therapy.

Alantan – ointment for burns and cuts.

Altabactin – antibacterial ointment.

The cream is a two-phase emulsion system. The main difference between the ointments is the much higher water content in these preparations. Thanks to this, creams have a softer consistency and are preferred in medicine, as they spread better on the skin without leaving a greasy film. The type of cream we get, whether lipophilic or hydrophilic, depends on the emulator used. 

Medicinal products in the form of a cream are:

Clotrimazolum – antifungal cream; topical treatment of: mycoses of the feet, groin, body, skin between the toes, fungal infections of the skin and mucous membranes of the external genitalia

Daktarin – treatment of skin mycoses (including mycosis of the head, body, also feet and nails)

Cepan cream – treatment of scars and keloids after surgery

Cremobaza – a cream that exfoliates and eliminates calluses

Herpex – treatment of herpes and genitals caused by the Herpes simplex virus

Linomag cream – a medicine for psoriasis

Ointment and cream, to sum up, the ointment can penetrate deeper into the skin layers. Its consistency is greasy and stays on the surface of the skin for much longer, creating a film that protects against evaporation of water from the skin layers, resulting in better regeneration. Therefore, it will be recommended for dry, psoriatic lesions affecting a small area of the body. It must not be used on the scalp and deep wounds. On the other hand, the formula of the cream is much lighter and can only penetrate the stratum corneum. It can be used to moisturize normal skin and oozing wounds.


Applied pharmacy – Małgorzata Sznitowska, PZWL, 2017.
Pharmacy recipe – Renata Jachowicz, PZWL, 2015.
Characteristics of medicinal products.

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