Pharmaceutical Cream| Pharmacy Notes

Cream: Topical Preparation

​Pharmaceutical preparations for the treatment of conditions such as rashes, skin irritation, stings, fungal infections, etc. are normally supplied in the form of a cream or ointment as this provides an effective means of delivering the active ingredient directly to the required area

Pharmaceutical Creams (topical preparation) are homogeneous, semi-solid or viscous preparations that possess a relatively fluid consistency and are intended for external application to the skin or certain mucous membranes for protective, therapeutic or prophylactic purposes especially where an occlusive effect is not necessary.

In recent times. Creams are emulsions of either the O/W or W/O type. Pharmaceutical creams are classified as water-removable bases in the USP and are described under Ointments. or Creams are defined as “viscous liquid or semi-solid emulsions of either the oil-in-water or water-in-oil type.

They are semisolids usually consisting of solutions or dispersions of one or more medicaments in suitable bases. They are formulated using hydrophilic or hydrophobic bases to provide preparations that are essentially miscible with the skin secretion.

Creams can be also used for administering drugs via the vaginal route.

Creams of the O/W type include shaving creams, hand creams, and foundation creams, vanishin cream;
W/O creams include cold creams and emollient creams.

Pharmaceutical Creams

Type of Creams

Creams, Vanishing Cream, Foundation Cream, Shaving cream, Hand cream, Cold Cream, Emollient cream, pharmapedia, Pharmacy notes, Pharmaceutics, Pharmapedia,
Types of Creams

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Difference between Ointment & Paste| Pharmacy Notes

Classification of Creams

The Creams can be classified on various basis

  1. According to function, e.g. cleansing, foundation, massage, etc
  2. According to characteristics properties, e.g. cold creams, vanishing creams, etc.
  3. According to the nature or type of emulsion
    • o/w emulsion type cream
      • Vanishing creams
      • Foundation creams.
    • w/o emulsion type creams
      • Cleansing cream,
      • Cleansing milk,
      • Cleansing lotion
      • Cold cream or moisturizing creams/Winter cream
  4. Others creams
    • All-purpose cream and general creams.
    • Night cream and massage creams.
    • Skin protective cream
    • Hand and body creams.

Cold Cream

It is a W/O emulsion cream which when applied to skin, a cooling effect is produced due to slow evaporation of water present in the emulsion.

Cold cream are an O/W type of emulsion but after application on the skin, sufficient water evaporates to permit phase inversion to w/o emulsion.

Cleansing Cream

Cleansing creams are used to remove facial makeup & to improve the healthy/good appearance of the skin. It is used frequently to remove grime, sebum & other secretion, dead cells and applied makeup.

Pepsin is added to cleansing cream to make the facial skin smooth.

Cleansing cream are three types

  1. Liquefying cleansing cream
  2. Emulsified creams of o/w type
  3. Emulsified creams of w/o type
cleansing cream, pharmapedia, Pharmacy notes, Pharmaceutical,
Cleansing Creams

Vanishing Cream

Creams spread easily & seem to disappear rapidly when rubbed on the skin are termed as vanishing creams.

Vanishing creams are an o/w type of emulsions which when applied to the skin leave an almost invisible layer on it so-called vanishing creams.

Vanishing creams can be quickly washed off with water due to the presence of o/w emulsifiers

Foundation cream

These are applied to the face to provide a smooth emollient base for the application of facial makeup.

Foundation creams act as skin protectives to prevent the damage caused by environmental factors like sun, wind, dirt, etc.

Mostly O/W type emulsion

Moisturing Cream

These creams are designed to be left on the skin. An occlusive layer of these creams slows the rate of transepidermal water loss, thus having a moisturizing effect & hence prevent the dry condition of the skin.

Cream Base

The base for Cream should:

  • not produce irritation or sensitization of the skin,
  • not retard wound healing;
  • smooth, inert, odorless or almost odourless,
  • physically and chemically stable and compatible with the skin and with incorporated medicaments.

Antimicrobial preservatives in creams

Creams may contain suitable antimicrobial preservatives unless the active ingredients or the bases themselves have sufficient bactericidal or fungicidal activity. They may contain other suitable auxiliary substances such as antioxidants, stabilizers, thickeners and emulsifiers.

Formulation of Creams

Pharmaceutical Cream can be either water in oil (w/o) or oil in water (o/w) emulsion, consisting of waxes, emollients and lubricants dispersed in an oil phase, and a water phase containing emulsifying, stabilizing and thickening agents, preservatives and in some cases, colorant. Active ingredients are dispersed in either phase or added when the emulsion has been formed and allowed to cool.

A typical manufacturing process breaks down into four individual operations

  1. Preparation of the oil phase:- Flake/powder ingredients, sometimes dry blended in advance, are dispersed into mineral oil or silicone oil. Heating may be required to melt some ingredients.
  2. Hydration of aqueous phase ingredients:- Emulsifiers, thickeners and stabilizers are dispersed into water in a separate vessel. Heating may be required to accelerate hydration.
  3. Forming the Emulsion:-The two phases are blended under vigorous agitation to form the emulsion.
  4. Dispersion of the Active Ingredient:-The active ingredient often makes up only a small proportion of the formulation; this must be efficiently dispersed to maximize yield and product effectiveness.

Using conventional agitators a number of problems can be encountered:

  • When added to water, thickening, stabilizing and emulsifying ingredients can form agglomerates which agitators cannot break down.
  • Similarly, oil phase ingredients can form lumps which require shear to disperse.
  • Ingredients must be fully hydrated to obtain the required viscosity and develop yield.
  • Partially hydrated materials can build up on the vessel wall, in-tank baffles and parts of the agitator.
  • Agitators cannot sufficiently reduce droplet size to form a stable emulsion.
  • Active ingredients can be temperature sensitive. Cooling of the product before adding the active ingredient further increases processing time.
  • Poor dispersion of the active ingredient impairs product effectiveness.
  • Long mixing times and additional equipment may be required to obtain a homogeneous and stable finished product
  • Overcome of these problem by using  Silverson mixer.
    • A Silverson mixer can rapidly disperse solids into liquids, hydrate thickening and stabilizing agents, break down agglomerates, and finely reduce particle and globule size to form stable emulsions and suspensions


a. Water:

  • Water, which is free of any toxins, pollutants, microbes, etc. is the most important and widely used raw material used in preparation of creams.
  • Purified water is used.

b. Oil, fates and waxes

Waxes act as an emulsifier, fats act as a thickener and oil act as a perfuming agent, preservative, etc. according to its function .Oil may be two types’ mineral and glyceride.

c. Mineral oil

  • clear, odorless, and heavily refined oil and it is widely used in cosmetic.
  • consists of hydrocarbons derived from petroleum oil.
  • rarely causes allergic reactions and it cannot become solid and clog pores of the skin.
  • Example
    • Light liquid paraffin
    • Heavy liquid paraffin
    • Liquid petroleum

d. Glyceride oil

  • mostly vegetable oils
  • Examples
    • almond oil, arachis oil, castor oil, coconut oil, olive oil etc

e. Waxes

  • Used in preparation of cream includes beeswax, carnauba wax, ceresin, spermaceti.

f. Fats

  • May be obtained from animals, plants or mineral origin
  • consist of combinations of higher fatty acids and glycerin.
  • fatty acid are lauric, margaric, plamitic, stearic, saturated group.
  • Oleic acid is liquid and most popular unsaturated fatty acid.

g. Lanolin

  • It is derived from wool fat of a sheep.
  • Lanolin are of two types-
    • Hydrous lanolin contains between 25%- 30% water.
    • Anhydrous lanolin has point of 38°C- 42°C and has a slight odour.
  • These are act as a lubricant on the skin surface, which gives the skin soft and smooth appearance.

h. Emollients

  • Also commonly referred to as moisturizers, help to soften skin or to treat dry skin.
  • Oil or grease, such as mineral oil, squalene, and lanolin work by increasing the ability of the skin to hold water, providing the skin with a layer of oil to prevent water loss, and lubricating the skin

i. Humectants

  • are hydroscopic organic compound
  • can absorb or retain moisture
  • Example
    • glycerin, Hydroxyethyl urea, betaine, sodium PCA, Sodium-L-Lactate,

j. Perfumes

k. Vitamins

l. Preservatives

  • To prevent alteration caused by microorganism and contamination during formulation, shipment, storage and consumer use.
  • Antioxidants can also be used to protect alteration caused by exposure to oxygen.

Packaging & Labelling of Creams

  • Creams should be packed in well-closed containers fitted with closures that minimize contamination with micro-organisms
  • Creams should be packed in collapsible tubes of suitable metal or plastic.
  • Labelling
    1. The cream is sterile, where necessary;
    2. The name and concentration of any added antimicrobial preservative
    3. The storage conditions.
  • Storage. Store at temperatures below 25″ unless otherwise directed. Do not freeze.

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Test for Evaluation of Cream | Pharmacy Notes

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