Recently, colloidal dispersions based on solid lipids (solid lipid nanoparticles, SLN) and mixtures of solid and liquid lipids (nanostructured lipid carriers, NLC) were described as innovative carrier systems. A spherical particle shape is the basis of features such as a high loading capacity and controlled drug release characteristics due to smaller lipid–water interfaces and longer diffusion pathways when compared to thin platelets. The structures of SLN and the influence of oil load (NLC) on particle properties were investigated by photon correlation spectroscopy (PCS), laser diffractometry (LD), cryo-field emission scanning electron microscopy (cryo-FESEM), Raman spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy (IR), and compared to a conventional nanoemulsion. PCS and LD data show similar size and size distribution for SLN and NLC (approximately 210 nm, polydispersity index approximately 0.15) and suggested a long term physical stability for the dispersions which had been stored for up to 12 months at different temperatures. Using cryo-FESEM droplets (for the nanoemulsion) and almost spherical particles for SLN and NLC were observed. Raman spectroscopy resulted in spectra for NLC that are weighted to the SLN spectra, suggesting an undisturbed crystal structure. Infrared spectra of the NLC are predominantly SLN in nature. Importantly the SLN bands are unshifted in the NLC spectrum indicating that the crystalline structure is unaffected by the presence of the oil.