Original Research

Variations in Preference for Topical Vehicles Among Demographic Groups

Author and Disclosure Information

Patient satisfaction and outcomes can be optimized by identifying preferences for topical vehicles by age, gender, and ethnicity. Our study sought to identify variations in preferences for creams, lotions, and ointments among different age groups, genders, and ethnicities. Each demographic group revealed statistically significant differences in vehicle preference (P<.05).

Practice Points

  • Variations exist in preference for topical vehicles by age group, gender, and ethnicity.
  • Identifying and utilizing preferred treatment options can help maximize patient outcomes.



Topical medication is a mainstay in the treatment of dermatologic conditions. Adherence to medication regimens can be challenging in patients requiring long-term topical treatment, and nonadherence is multifactorial. A major modifiable contributing factor is patient dissatisfaction with the vehicle used. Medications often have options for different topical preparations. Therefore, it is important to consider patient preference when prescribing topical treatments to maximize adherence, ensure patient satisfaction, and optimize outcomes.

We hypothesized that notable differences exist among demographic groups regarding preference for topical vehicles. Little research has been conducted to delineate trends. This study aimed to identify variations in preference for creams, lotions, and ointments by age, gender, and ethnicity.


Data were collected through surveys distributed to all patients seen at the Truman Medical Center University Health Dermatology Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri, between September 2018 and June 2019. The study was approved by the University of Missouri Kansas City institutional review board. An estimated response rate of 95% was achieved. Each patient was informed that the survey was voluntary and anonymous, and declining to complete the survey had no effect on the care provided. Each patient completed only 1 survey and returned it to a collection box before departing from clinic.

In the survey, patients provided demographic information, including age, gender, and ethnicity. Age groups included patients younger than 40 years, 40 to 60 years, and older than 60 years. Gender groups included male and female. Ethnicity included white, black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander or other. Patients then chose 1 of 3 options for topical vehicle preference: cream, lotion, or ointment. Each of these options was accompanied by a brief description of the vehicle, a photograph, and examples of common commercial products to aid in decision-making. The expected values were calculated based on a probability distribution under the assumption that variables have no association. Therefore, the discrepancy between the expected value and the observed value was used to describe the significance of the association between variables.

Data were analyzed using χ2 tests with the aid of a statistician. P<.05 was considered statistically significant.


A total of 404 surveys were collected and recorded. Data showed statistically significant trends in each demographic parameter.

First, we analyzed differences in preference based on age (Table 1). Of 404 patients, 163 were younger than 40 years, 171 were aged 40 to 60 years, and 70 were older than 60 years. Patients younger than 40 years preferred lotion (68 vs 46.0 expected). Patients aged 40 to 60 years showed preference for cream (83 vs 76.6 expected) and ointment (56 vs 46.1 expected). Patients older than 60 years preferred cream (41 vs 31.4 expected). These findings were statistically significant (P<.0001).


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