Which do you prefer and which is better for your skin? You won’t really know which base is best for your skin until you try them out.
Generally, gels are the preferred choice. They are less emollient and therefore aren’t as pore clogging, which can be a life-saver for those with very clog-prone and congested skin.
A gel has the appearance of a jelly and is transparent. It looks like a cross between a solid and a liquid and does not behave either like a solid or like a liquid. In reality, they are closer to liquids than solids but behave like a solid because of the presence of cross linking of molecules that prevents a steady state of flow. Most of the gels are water based and are known as hydrogels.
Gels also enhance penetration, making the retinoid stronger and more effective. The skin absorbs gel quickly once you apply the gel on it.
However, as a trade-off, gels tend to cause more irritation and dryness-related side effects.
Creams may be better choices for those with dry and/or sensitive skin. Their emollient base makes them less penetrating than gels, but they are usually less irritating as a result. Cream-based are also perfect as anti-aging products. However, the cream vehicle, usually oily, can be problematic for those with acne prone or finicky skin.
Most of the creams are also water based though some creams do contain a little bit of oil base too. Creams also make use of thickening agents to give them a smoother appearance. Creams are thicker and take more time to get absorbed under the skin.
Gels tend to be stronger than creams because they enhance penetration whereas the oils in cream bases act as slight buffers. Alcohol-based gels are stronger than water-based gels, which in turn are stronger than cream.
Which do you prefer now? Well, if you find the gel version to be too drying or too irritating, then switch to the cream. If the cream gives you clogged pores, then see if the gel makes things a bit better. If the cream gives you clogged pores but the gel makes your skin too dry, you can always use a moisturizer to buffer its effects.
Whichever formulation you choose to use, it’s absolutely essential that you know how to apply them the right way. Both are effective. Therefore, you have to choose one that suits your interest. Therefore, consider all the facts and then only decide what you want: a cream or a gel.
NOTE: Sometimes, gels actually look like creams because they are white in texture and not translucent like most of us imagine gel products to be.