The Key Differences Between Balms, Salves, and Creams

The Key Differences Between Balms, Salves, and Creams

Have you ever wondered what the difference between a balm, a salve, and a cream is? Have you had difficulty choosing which of these products would be best for you and your skin? Well, we’re here to shed some light on the subject, and help you understand which product to use when, and why they’re beneficial. 

So, let’s take a look at some of the differences between these products: 

  • Cream: Creams contain a mixture of oil and water. Usually, creams have a consistency of butter. Most creams are formulated for the face to moisturize the skin and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They are usually used on a daily basis to moisturize and maintain the elasticity of the skin. 
  • Balm:  Balms are typically plant oil and wax-based ointments used to heal or soothe the skin. They don’t contain water. Balms usually have a thick, hard consistency. They provide superior protection and deeply nourish skin because they use plant oils, butters from nuts and fruit, and waxes such as beeswax. While balms may feel greasier than lotion, those oils are doing their job at nourishing your skin.
  • Salve: For the most part, salves are made up of the same ingredients of a balm. Salves usually contain less beeswax than balms and utilize more herbs. They typically have a smoother, lighter consistency than balms, and are usually used medicinally. 
  • Now that we understand a bit more about the ingredients of each of these items, let’s talk about how to use these products to best help your skin. 

    Creams are best used on the face and neck, as they have specific ingredients that help retain moisture in the skin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and keep the skin soft and radiant. Creams can be applied to the skin at any time, and should be used daily to maintain elasticity in the skin. Creams should only be used on the face and neck, nowhere else on the body. 

    Balms soften the skin, so they need to be applied to wet or damp skin to have the maximum benefit to seal in moisture. Unlike creams, balms contain no water. Their oil-based makeup is what gives balms such a powerful and nourishing protective layer to the skin, sealing in moisture while shielding from external elements like cold or dry air. This makes them excellent in cold weather and in areas with high pollution. Balms also moisturize, are great for lips, face and on the body, whereas creams are for one specific area. A little goes a long way!

    Salves are similar to balms, but salves primarily exist to support healing, while balms exist to prevent damage. You can usually find salves in a first aid kit or medical cabinet, as they are created to heal and soothe. Use salves on cuts, bruises, bites, and burns. They’re great to have on-hand, especially if you find yourself outdoors. 

    Uses of Creams, Balms, and Salves: 

    Uses for Creams: 

    Moisture Retention

    Creams should be used daily on the face and neck to maintain moisture levels in the skin. Maintaining moisture levels helps maintain elasticity in the skin, which results in the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. Our Rose Phyto3 Night Cream checks all these boxes.  

    Protective Barrier 

    Creams are a protective barrier against dryness, wind, and elements that you want to protect your skin from. An effective cream is full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Our Power Repair Face Cream has all of this goodness, plus more!

    Uses for Balms: 

    Makeshift Band-Aid

    With their oil and beeswax bases, balms are great tools for clogging up cuts to keep dirt and grime out. This is especially useful in outdoor settings. Balms with lavender essential oils are best for this, as lavender is known to help heal wounds. Our Lavender + Frankincense Balm is a great option for this!

    Hair and Beard Care

    Balms are great to use in your hair to maintain frizz, reduce tangling, and increase hydration (especially on your ends!). Balms can also be used to style the hair in a natural, no-fuss manner. The Juniper + Vetiver Balm is a fan-favorite for folks' hair. 

    Dry Spot Removal & Prevention 

    If you have dry spots anywhere on your body, make sure to use a balm after showering or bathing on these spots. The balm will lock the moisture in, while protecting the dry spot from any further damage from the elements. Say goodbye to dry, flakey skin with our Pinyon Pine balm

    Cuticle Care 

    If you push back your cuticle in your nail care, use a balm to act as a natural aid to this routine. It helps keep bacteria out and makes sure that skin stays strong. Take care of those hands with our Sage + Bergamot balm!

    Uses for Salves: 

    First-Aid Powerhouse

    Use your salve on anything life throws at you: cuts, bruises, bites, burns, scars, chapped lips...the list goes on! Salve is one of those products that you should have within reach at all times...you definitely won’t regret it! The cult-favorite, Super Salve, is our go-to. 

    Easing Muscle Pain

    Some salves, like Super Salve’s Arnica Salve, have specific healing mechanisms for deep healing. Arnica salve is perfect for use on strains, sprains, bruises and bumps. If you’re ever feeling achy, this is the salve for you (river guides love it for their sore backs after long days of rowing!) 

    Easing Sunburn 

    Super Salve’s Calendula Salve is incredible for sensitive skin, so it is the perfect choice when you need to ease a sunburn. Cooling and relaxing, it’s exactly what you want after a long day in the sun. 


    1 comment

    • Gayle Williamson

      A spray nasal moisturizer is so needed in the West. My nose is always dry, even making breathing hard at bedtime.


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