Shoe Polish vs. Shoe Cream: Which is better?

Shoes are the uttermost part of an outfit; they leave a lasting impression on people. So, you may often wonder about the best secret trick for maintaining shoes. Natural remedies allow you to take good care of shoes without burning holes in your pocket but involve lots of time and hassle. The market-based shoe polish, shoe conditioner, or creams are a savior in this case; they make things easier and hassle-free compared to natural remedies.

It is a well-known fact that shoe oil, cream, conditioner, and polishes are not the same. Every product is individually advantageous and disadvantageous too for some particular materials. Now the question is, which one will be better for your boots? Do you need to have both?

In today’s article, Shoe Cream Vs. Polish, you’ll come to know about the differences in detail; that will come in handy to decide the right choice for your beloved shoes.

shoe polish vs shoe cream



The shoe polishes do exactly what they say on the name – give the shoes a polished finish. It adds layers of wax to the outer surface of the shoes. However, the shoe polishes do not seep into the leather or any type of material; that is only for buffing the outer part of the shoe to a high shine.


Leather material is much more like our skin. It also has pores and imperfections. Just like we apply a layer of cosmetics to even out our skin, shoe polish does the same for leather material.

After plenty of use, shoes may appear dull, and colors get faded, especially on the high wear areas, like toe caps, heel, and on the top, where the foot bends. The polish penetrates the leather and restores its brand-new appearance to make it reach the highest level of shine.

Leather materials lose their outer layer slowly, and the flakes gradually fall away with time. You can’t see these things, as they are too small to notice. The shoe polish not only gives a shiny look to the shoe but also helps restore worn-out leather boots.

Moreover, leather is a porous material, so it absorbs anything that touches the surface. Polishing your shoes before going out will form a protective barrier across the surface.

Thus, the wax-based polish prolongs the shoe’s lifespan by preventing stains and water from being absorbed into the leather and protecting the surface from potential scuffs and scratches.


As mentioned above, people polish their leather shoes for a shiny look and to protect them from strain and scratches; that also enhances the longevity of the shoes.

Leather polishes are useful to add a quick shine to the shoes, but they can cause the leather material to dry out and crack for long-term use. However, soft polishes don’t dry out the leather material, but ammonia or bleach-based too harsh polishes are strictly prohibited.

Remember, shoe polish is usually made of some kind of solid and soft wax, like – paraffin wax, to create a barrier against water and muddy water; that could reduce the breathability of the leather material.

The chemical engineering process mixed ingredients of natural and synthetic materials, such as paraffin wax, gum Arabic, naphtha, lanolin, dyes, turpentine, and ethylene glycol, which could be toxic.

Such toxic ingredients could stain the skin if misused. Moreover, if your pets lick the shoe polish or just polished shoes, they can feel mild lethargic or weak and generate some gastrointestinal symptoms like – nausea. vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, etc.

Some severe signs such as agitation, tremors, seizures, and excessive sedation could generate, and even they could lay in a coma.


People consider shoe polishing a part of the shoe care routine. So, if you haven’t started shoe caring yet, learn the right process before getting into it.

Required Things:
  • Clean cloth or Applicator brush
  • Horsehair shoe brush
  • Shoe polish
Method of Application:
  • Remove the dirt and debris from the shoes, specifically the outer part of the shoes, using a brush and water. If your shoes are very dirty, you can use mild leather shampoo.
  • Now apply a thin coat of polish in a circular motion across the shoe with a cloth or applicator brush.
  • Leave the shoe as it is; for five minutes to let the polish dry.
  • Now, buff the polish out to add shine using a horsehair brush.
  • If you want mirror shine, apply small dots of water on the shoe and buff again with a cloth.

For better understanding, watch the shoe care video and follow the steps to polish your shoes.

Points to Remember:
  • Never forget to remove the dirt, muddy particles, and debris before polishing. Otherwise, it will spoil the look of your shoes by getting trapped under the wax.
  • Since most shoe polishes don’t moisturize the leather material, we would recommend using leather conditioner before polishing to rejuvenate the material.
  • Don’t apply too much shoe polish to the mid-upper portions of the shoes. The polishes can leave a white residue or crack on those areas, where creases form.
  • If you want deeper mirror shine, you have to build up a few layers of wax polish, so follow the process more than once.
  • The natural ingredients-based shoe polish can be left on the shoe for overnight or at least 20 minutes. The more time you’ll keep them as they are, the more nourishment you will get.


The shoe polishes can’t prevent the leather from drying out, so you need a good shoe cream. It is a thick cream based on small amounts of natural waxes, including beeswax and carnauba wax rich in pigments.

The smooth creams rejuvenate and nourish leather material, improve color and maintain the original shine for leather and synthetic materials and leave behind a nice shiny look.

what is shoe cream used for

Choose shoe cream matching the shade exactly 


The shoe creams can’t give the shoes a high shine, unlike polish, but if you love the matte finish, shoe cream is just for you.

The cream polishes leave a thin layer to enhance the original color but never change the color, not even when you can’t find an exact match for your shoe color, unlike leather dye.

With that said, shoe creams are available in various colors, so getting an exact match for leather or synthetic shoes wouldn’t be a chore.

Some shoe creams have a natural base of shea butter, which adds some conditioning to the leather. They add subtle color, but it does not add much shine.


The shoe creams add colors to the shoe, help maintain the original finish, rejuvenate the material, keep them healthy, and mask scratches and uneven fading, but can’t polish them to a high shine.

The shoe cream is a must-have for those who own leather boots, sneakers, and any type of shoes for maintaining good leather health. When used regularly, the leather shoes will neither dry out during winter nor even in extreme snowy weather conditions.

The shoe cream doesn’t affect the original color but enhances the shine and vibrant look, though we would recommend choosing color-specific shoe cream to get a well-defined color.

Another best part of the shoe cream is they are not permanent. So, if you apply the wrong color and you don’t like the mixed color, you can remove the layer of shoe cream easily and quickly.

Air could pass through the leather material to keep your feet cool and dry, as well as stop them from smelling. So, if you use waxy paste type shoe cream, used for waterproofing, restoring shine and appearance, it could negatively affect the breathability by clogging the opened pores.


The shoe cream is basically used for providing nourishment to leather materials. So, moisturizing the shoes with a good shoe cream once a week is enough to keep them healthy and long-lasting. The application process is very similar to the application method of wax polishes.

Required Things:
  • Clean cloth or Applicator brush
  • Horsehair shoe brush
  • Shoe polish
Method of Application:
  • Remove dirt and debris, clean the shoes with leather shampoo and add conditioner to moisturize the material.
  • Take a thin coat of shoe cream and apply it in a circular motion.
  • Wait for at least 5 minutes to let the cream get absorbed into the leather.
  • Now blend the cram into the shoes using a horsehair brush with firm pressure.

This shoe care video will show how to apply shoe cream on leather shoes.

Points to Remember:
  • Shoe creams are available in various colors and shades; try to find out the exact match for your shoes.
  • Take a thin layer of cream or as much cream as you need to cover the whole outer part of the shoe and blend them evenly over the entire area.
  • It would be wise to invest in a shoe care kit that contains all the soft clothes and brushes; you may need for shoe conditioning and polishing.


1. Better Options for Shining and conditioning:

The shoe polishes put a fast mirror shine on the leather shoes but can’t prevent the material from drying out. The liquid-based polish could moisturize the leather material, but the presence of excess water could strain it and change the original color.

On the other hand, shoe creams are thicker and richer in wax pigmentation than shoe polishes, so they provide the required conditioning that has been lost due to regular wear and tear.

2. Better Option for Scratch and Scuff Prevention

The shoe polishes form a smooth, protective layer; that hides small scratches, but can’t prevent the out layer from getting scratched again. The shoe cream can’t give you a high gloss mirror shine but protect the leather material from damaging or scratching further.

shoe cream vs shoe polish

3. Possibility of Toxicity

Due to natural ingredients, shoe creams can’t be toxic, unlike shoe polish. So, you have to be careful regarding your kids and pets, when you polish your shoes. Never leave your just polished shoes before them.

In summary, shoe cream is a mandatory thing for the leather shoe owner and shoe polish is a great add-on for adding shine quickly to the shoes before going out anywhere.


The shoe conditioners are used for moisturizing the leather material to prevent them from excessively drying out and damaging. After absorbing the shoe conditioner, the shoe material becomes soft and supple. After that, you could apply shoe cream to polish and restore the color.

Remember, you should not use any shoe conditioner; that is not meant for leather. Otherwise, it will clog the pores and reduce breathability, resulting in excessive sweat and odor.


1. Do I Need Both Shoe Cream and Shoe Polish?

You should use a shoe cream to keep it healthy and maintain its original color and finish. It’s not mandatory to have both, but shoe polish is the quickest way to restore brand-new high shine to the leather shoe.

2. How Often Do I Need to Polish My Shoes?

It depends on how often you wear your shoes. However, shoe polishing is a basic treatment and is considered part of regular maintenance. Generally, it is recommended to polish the leather shoes every four to six weeks. With so, you don't have to put much effort into achieving the high shine; that lets you see your reflection in it.


Now you know all the differences and know what will suit your requirements. In short, if you want conditioning and color enhancement, shoe creams are the best way to go, and for waterproofing and adding mirror shine to the shoes, you need shoe polish.

While you may have a preference, we would recommend having both, including a shoe conditioner to enhance the longevity of the expensive leather shoes. If you still have any queries, feel free to let us know in the comment section. If you enjoyed reading and found this article helpful, please share it with your friends.

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