Leather Conditioner vs Cream: 7 Differences You Should Know

Leather Conditioner vs Cream

One major way of maintaining the rich qualities of leather is by giving the leather the tender loving care it needs. But with so many leather care products such as leather creams, conditioners, etc on the market, you’re probably scratching your head and asking, “What’s the difference?” Well Favored Leather is here to break it down for you.

So what is the difference between a leather conditioner and a leather cream? The key difference between leather conditioner and leather cream is that the leather cream can be used to put a medium shine on leather items while the leather conditioner is primarily used to moisturize and nourish leather items. Also, the leather conditioner will usually come with special protective ingredients than the leather cream.

In the remaining parts of this article, I’m going to share with you a lot more differences between the leather conditioner and the leather cream so that you will be able to easily tell the difference between them and use the right one for the right purpose. Keep reading this article to find out more!

1. Shine

There’s a unique difference between the type of shine a leather conditioner and a leather cream puts on leather. The level of shine you will get with either of these leather care products is significant. Here’s a side by side comparison!

Leather Conditioner

When it comes to shine, the leather conditioner will almost never put a shine on leather. A leather conditioner is a basic and pretty standard leather care product.

The leather conditioner will typically ensure your leather remains moisturized and nourished and will not have in its main ingredient a polishing substance.

Leather Cream

The leather cream, on the other hand, can be used to put a nice sheen on leather.

Unlike the leather conditioner, the leather cream can be added to the surface of the leather item and then buffed to add a beautiful medium shine to the leather surface.

Creams are definitely good alternatives to polishing your leather goods such as shoes, boots, saddles, to mention a few.

Although it’s possible to use the leather cream to achieve a very high gloss spitshine, it’s also important to add that in other instances the type of shine you get with a leather cream is going to be reasonably moderate shine and not going to be very deep.

2. Color Variety

Another distinguishing factor that sets the leather conditioner from the leather cream is the pigment ingredient added in these leather care products.

Leather Cream

Another unique quality of the leather cream, as opposed to the leather conditioner, is that not only does it go on leather well it also comes in a wide variety of pigments even more than most wax polishes.

Due to the rich pigments of the leather cream, it can be used to restore the color of leather items and help to repair day-to-day scuffs that take away the rich and dark color of the leather.

It also has such a great effect on the original color of a leather item and it’s certainly a great way to build patina on your leather items.

Leather Conditioner

The leather conditioner on the other hand, generally, does not come with any pigments.

The only color change you will sometimes be able to achieve with a leather conditioner is the leather becoming a couple of shades darker.

You’re less likely to have an actual color change on your leather goods when you use a leather conditioner than creams.

3. Leather Treatment

Both the leather conditioner and leather cream have different levels of treatment it offers to leather goods.

Leather conditioner

Leather is very similar to our skin. Unless treated, leather can be affected by weather elements such as sunlight, cold, rain, and snow. When it’s exposed to these elements without any form of treatment, leather can dry or harden.

Because of this, leather has to be treated and nourished with a leather conditioner from time to time so that the harsh elements of the weather does not affect it or destroy it.

This is what the leather conditioner is exclusively great for. It’s applied on the surface of the leather item to prevent it from drying up and cracking.

The leather conditioner will also help to keep the leather looking healthy, flexible, soft, and supple.

Leather Cream

When it comes down to it, the leather conditioner will be better absorbed by the leather and will remain active within the fibers of the leather for a very long time than a leather cream.

4. Use

There’s a slight difference between the way a leather conditioner is used when compared a leather cream.

Leather Cream

Leather creams are usually not meant for all types of leather so you don’t want to go around applying leather creams on all of your leather items without doing due diligence.

The leather cream is almost exclusively used for boot-grade leather. This means that you’re likely to use leather cream a lot more on leather boots than any other leather item.

However, in some cases, you will be able to use leather creams for some other leather items such as belts, wallets but this will depend on the kind of tanning that was used and the finish given to the surface of the leather.

Leather Conditioner

The leather conditioner, on the other hand, is generally an all-leather appropriate leather care product. You can use the leather conditioner on almost all types of leather items to nourish, moisturize, and protect them.

5. Leather Darkening

Leather Conditioner

While the leather conditioner is going to give you all the protection and nourishment your leather needs for a healthy and luxurious look, it can darken the leather item in the process.

A lot of the leather conditioners contains oils and waxes that can substantially darken your leather.

Generally, this in most cases is not going to be a big problem as the leather will return to its original color after a couple of days or weeks.

Leather conditioner darkening your leather items may also not be a problem if your items are dark-colored.

You can also use a leather conditioner to darken your leather if you would want your leather item to be a couple of shades darker than it originally is.

Related Article: Will Leather Conditioner Darken Leather? Check out the full details on why and how this happens!

These amongst other reasons is why you’re always required to test out a leather conditioner on an inconspicuous part of your leather items before applying it to the whole leather article.

It’s essential to add that this does not mean all leather conditioners will darken leather. There are some special leather conditioners on the market that you can use on your leather goods without darkening them.

If you’re interested, you can check out the Lether Honey Leather Conditioner on Amazon which is a good example of a non-darkening leather conditioner.

Leather Cream

On the flip side, you can use the leather cream to nourish and put a medium shine on your leather goods without substantially darkening the leather.

9 out of 10, leather creams will go on the leather without having a darkened effect – even on light-colored leathers.

Leather creams allow the leather item to maintain its original color, brightness, and tone for many years if correctly used.

Related Article: 5 Best Ways To Darken Leather Without Dyes: Ultimate Guide

6. Scratches Removal

Leather Cream

When it comes to minor scratch removal, the leather cream will not be as effective as the leather conditioner.

Although the leather cream may contain some nourishing and pigment components, you will not be able to comprehensively take care of scratches with it.

You will have to be ready to deal with scratch build up on your leather with other leather care products.

Leather Conditioner

On the other side of the coin, the leather conditioner stands tall above the leather cream when it comes to scuffs and minor scratches removal.

There are specially formulated leather conditioners that are great for healing scratches and effectively removing scuffs from leather.

If you’re interested, you can check out my go-to leather conditioner when it comes to fixing scratches and scuffs on leather.

Another good example of leather conditioners that you can also use to remove minor scratches and scuffs from leather is the mink oil or the all-natural leather conditioner.

7. Leather Protection

Leather Conditioner

There are several conditioners on the market that offer solid protection against liquid stains, the sun’s harmful rays, salts, etc.

While some leather conditioners will come with an all-in-one solution for complete protection of your leather, others will come only specialized for specific treatments.

Related Article: 6 Best Leather Conditioners With UV Protection

Leather Cream

Almost entirely, leather creams will have virtually no protective ingredients or components.

Similarities Between Leather Conditioner & Cream

  • Both the leather conditioner and leather cream can moisturize and nourish leather goods.
  • Although the leather cream has some pigment, it does not have enough pigment load to help conceal severe blemishes on the surface of leather just like a leather conditioner.
  • Both the leather conditioner and leather cream are extremely effective for softening and restoring dried and brittled leather

Leather Conditioner vs Leather Cream Summary

Leather Conditioner Leather Cream
1. Shine Leaves almost no shine on leather Leather cream will leave a nice moderate shine on leather
2. Color Does not come with any pigment ingredients Comes in a wide array of pigment components
3. Leather Treatment Absorbs better into the leather fibers Does a great job treating the surface of leather
4. Use Mostly used for all leather goods Usually great for boot-grade leathers and boots
5. Leather Darkening Usually darkens leather Never darkens leather
6. Scratches and Scuffs Removal Leather conditioners can heal leather scratches and scuffs Leather creams can only effectively remove scuffs
7. Leather Protection Offers leather protection than leather cream Offers leather no protection



Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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