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What are Different Types of Topical Creams?

By Patti Kate
Updated: Feb 20, 2024

There are a wide array of topical creams that are available to treat various conditions. Over-the-counter (OTC) topical creams are available at most pharmacies. Some of these include antibiotic ointments to prevent or treat infection due to cuts, scrapes and burns, while another type is a hydrocortisone cream. All types of topical creams are applied directly to the skin rather than taken orally.

Typically, a hydrocortisone cream is used to treat inflammation of the skin. In many cases, insect bites, poison ivy or even sunburn can irritate sensitive skin and cause painful burning, itching and a rash. Hydrocortisone creams are designed to reduce the symptoms associated with those conditions.

When infants develop the irritating symptoms of diaper rash, pediatricians typically recommend a type of topical cream or ointment formulated for that purpose. Many ingredients include zinc oxide or petroleum. The skin on a infant is generally thinner and more sensitive than an adult's; therefore, special care is needed when choosing an ointment.

Other types of creams include those that are only available through a physician's prescription. Prescription creams are generally a higher or stronger dose of medication than OTC treatments. The prescription creams come in an assortment of medications for treating a broader ranger of ailments or conditions than those created to be sold over-the-counter. Some of these prescribed creams might incorporate medications that are known to cause skin sensitivity or other issues, such as skin allergies.

Many organic health stores often carry topical creams that are all-natural. These ingredients might have a more gentle effect on those with sensitive skin. These creams are also created for individuals who prefer not to use harsh chemicals on their skin. Creams made with herbal ingredients are another type of ointment similar in concept.

Topical cream ointments that are made for the treatment of hemorrhoids may incorporate an anesthetic as well. Many of these ointments and creams provide witch hazel as an active ingredient. This acts as an astringent, which in turn helps to shrink swollen tissues or membranes. Anti-itch medications might be used in some ointments for the symptoms of hemorrhoids as well.

Some ointments are used for cosmetic purposes. These often include anti-wrinkle creams, which are one of the more popular types. Typically applied to reduce the appearance of fine lines, ingredients in these creams may vary. Other cosmetic creams include those designed to minimize the appearance of skin scarring. Ingredients in these creams might include botanical extracts and sorbic acid.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On May 28, 2013

I had no idea that there are so many over-the- counter topical creams available. The only one I have at home is a topical antibiotic cream. I use it whenever I have a cut or burn to prevent infection. I use it almost daily for my son because he loves falling off his bike. I've been using on myself a lot recently because we adopted a cat and she hasn't learned not to use her claws yet.

My daughter also sometimes uses antibiotic cream for her acne. She applies it on infected pimples to help them heal faster.

Antibiotic cream is truly a life-saver in my house.

By fBoyle — On May 28, 2013

@ysmina-- Yes, I've used aminophylline cream before for cellulite and to reduce fat in some areas. It does work, I could see a difference in how the skin looks after a few weeks. But when I stopped using it, the cellulite seemed to be back with a vengeance.

So this is a temporary treatment, it has to be used regularly to see effects.

You might want to speak with a doctor before you use it. It is available over-the-counter but I've heard that it can increase blood pressure in some people.

By ysmina — On May 27, 2013

Has anyone here tried aminophylline cream for cellulite?

I've heard good things about it but it's kind of expensive so I want to make sure that it's going to work before I buy it.

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