Cremes vs. Butters: What’s The Difference?

In the world of hair products, and especially within the realm of natural hair, there can be a lot of confusion and misdirection about what type of products one curlfriend needs for her tresses. Finding a brand you like can be a daunting project within itself, let alone choosing between between different products within the same brand — should you get a shampoo, a cleanser or a cowash? If you buy a deep conditioner, do you need a leave-in conditioner as well?

Before you can answer any of those questions, the most important piece of information you need to know is your hair type. What kind of curl pattern (or patterns — yes, you do have different curl patterns in your hair!) do you have? Is your hair high porosity or low porosity? How does it respond to different products? These questions obviously take a bit of trial-and-error to pin down, so there is a bit of patience involved. But once you figure it out, your natural hair journey can take off in a brand new direction!

One of the questions we’re asked most frequently is “do I need a creme or butter for my hair?”. Or, more generally, “what’s the difference between cremes and butters?”. It’s a commonly-asked question throughout, and with so many different products named in so many different ways, it’s completely understanding how it can be confusing.

The main difference between these two types of products is the texture and consistency of the products themselves. Cremes are usually lighter in body and feel, and are, well, creamy to the touch. They can be used as everyday moisturizers as well as aid in styling process, for wash-n-gos as well as twist-outs or braid-outs.

Butters, on the other hand, have a thicker consistency (or viscosity), and are often whipped; as a litmus test of sorts, if you were to take a finger-full of a cremes and turn your hand to the side as if to let it drip down, the cremes would almost immediately slide off of your fingers, while the butter would take a few seconds before succumbing to gravity.

In most cases, both products can serve similar purposes, in terms of being both moisturizers and styling aids. It is also not uncommon for cremes and butters to be used in tandem with one another. However, the results (and your level of satisfaction with your style) will vary depending on your hair type.

But which should you lean toward? Again, it’s all predicated on your hair type, density and the style you’re trying to achieve. If you have looser, coily curls (3a, 3b, 3c), you may fair better with the texture and consistency of a cremes. If you have kinkier, tighter curls (4a, 4b, 4c), a butter may be best for styling.

Hair density plays a part as well. Butters tend to work better with high density (or as your grandmother would say “thick”) hair in enabling you to have better manageability and control over your style. As we age, our hair tends to get thinner. If you have traditionally used butters, you may find that cremes works better for your hair now that the density has decreased.

Maybe more important in determining the best moisturizer for you is your hair’s porosity, or how easily your hair cuticles accept and retain substances like water, oil and cremes or butters. Curls with high porosity accept moisture well, but lose it just as easily. In that case, you may opt for a butter that can stick to your hair cuticles for as long as possible.

As you can see, so many variables play a part in what works for your hair. There are no hard and fast rules, but rather guidelines that help point you in the right direction. In the end, you need to know your hair like a mother knows her own children. Name it. Love it. See what she likes or doesn’t like, then keep her happy with a constant supply of what she loves!

Which type of moisturizer does your hair prefer? Let us know in the comments!



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