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I apply both moisturizing cream and a medicinal ointment/lotion on some recovering injuries. The skin is unbroken, and the medicinal lotion is primarily for the entry point of a titanium rod in my previously broken leg.

Since I want the ointment to penetrate more deeply, which do I apply first?

Logical answer 1: Ointment first, as the lotion will displace it from the uppermost layers, "pushing" it deeper down.

Logical answer 2: Lotion first, since it will occupy the space in the upper layers, allowing the ointment to more easily bypass them.

What does the medical science say?

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Medical science would say we have to know what the ointment and lotion are to be sure, but it's fairly safe to say ointment first for the simple reason that the lotion may act as a barrier to the ointment, and the latter is almost certainly more important.

If the ointment is water-based and the lotion is oil-based (or vice versa), this will definitely be the case. If they're both oil- or water-based, then they will mingle, possibly changing the effectiveness of the ointment.

I think the best course would be to wait a while between applying them. For example, ointment in the morning and lotion at night.

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  • Just curious, ointments are usually about 80% oil. I'm aware of lotions that have petrolatum in them (e.g. Eucerin) but am unfamiliar with water-based ointments. Can you please give me an example? (Not referring to a gel.) – anongoodnurse Aug 10 '15 at 22:51
  • @anongoodnurse A single example is Bactroban. This table shows that water soluble ointment bases are sometimes used, but I agree that most ointments are oil-based. – Carey Gregory Aug 11 '15 at 0:25
  • Thank you! That was very interesting. It's always a pleasure to learn new things. :-) – anongoodnurse Aug 11 '15 at 2:45
  • In my case, the medicinal lotion/ointment is technically water based, but the active ingredient is cannabis oil. – Eris Aug 11 '15 at 3:08
  • Then I would think that using lotion first could reduce the effectiveness since it could either dilute the cannabis oil or interfere with its absorption. I'd go with a morning/night routine if that works for you. – Carey Gregory Aug 11 '15 at 4:06

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