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CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Two Popular Drugstore Skincare Brands Compared

CeraVe vs Cetaphil

One of the most amazing things for me, as an absolute lover and researcher of skincare products, is this debate: CeraVe vs Cetaphil.

These are two of the most famous and most adored drugstore brands. They certainly deserve an article dedicated to reviewing CeraVe and Cetaphil products.

Before that, let me tell you about the way I want to conduct this debate. I will review products based on their use.

The comparison between these two brands will be divided into:

  • cleansers
  • toners
  • exfoliators
  • serums
  • eye creams
  • moisturizers/moisturizers with SPF
  • sunscreens

Maybe you’ve already noticed what I’m doing by structuring this article this way. I’m actually reviewing their best products in the correct order of skin care products.

Since that’s the order in which we use our products on our face, that’s how we’re going to conduct this debate, too. We’re going to build an entire skincare routine for both day and night just from CeraVe and Cetaphil products.

Your routine will be affordable but also so effective that you won’t feel that there’s anything missing. And you can get it all from the drugstore or online.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Cleansers

When it comes to cleansers I would say that we have a draw. I cannot pick a clear winner because both have some awesome options.

For CeraVe, their cleansers are pretty much what made them truly famous when dermatologists and influencers started recommending them.

They contain a wide array of ingredients, a nice combination that leaves the skin deeply cleansed, hydrated, and protected.

However, when it comes to the best cleanser for acne, between these two, Cetaphil is the clear winner. They have a cleanser that should be more popular than it actually is.

Confession time: I was actually a big lover of CeraVe’s cleansers, too. But, in the past year, I switched to La Roche-Posay, which is another drugstore brand but slightly more expensive. The La Roche-Posay cleanser, with a high concentration of salicylic acid, has made wonders for my adult acne. 2% salicylic acid is a winner for me and that’s what I’m looking in a cleanser due to my breakouts.

1. CeraVe Facial Cleanser

There are a few options to choose from: for normal to dry skin or for normal to oily skin or for normal skin.

The CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, the one for normal skin, actually contains salicylic acid. Even so, this is not an active ingredient, it’s just there mentioned in the list of ingredients. What I’m trying to say is that if you suffer from more than a couple of pimples once a month, I wouldn’t recommend it for handling acne.

For those experiencing breakouts, I would actually recommend the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, which is for normal to oily skin. It cleanses the skin deeply without disrupting the skin barrier. This balance is its main attribute.

And those suffering from dry skin, should get the Hydrating Facial Cleanser.

All these 3 have in common the 3 essential ceramides. This the ingredient that’s essential for our skin barrier. If we have a healthy skin barrier, we are better prepared to fight everything from breakouts to environmental pollutants.

But it also means that we can use serums & creams that contain retinol or we can chemically exfoliate our face without side-effects.

2. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

This is a salicylic acid face wash that’s great for those suffering from breakouts. Still, I prefer the Cetaphil Acne Face Wash 2% Salicylic Acid because it has a high percentage of salicylic acid.

This CeraVe one is a gentle salicylic acid facial cleanser. It can help exfoliate and smooth our skin.

It will remove makeup, oil, and dirt.

Since it contains salicylic acid, it can also remove dead skin cells and soften rough skin. It can unclog pores and create a more even skin tone.

It won’t leave the skin feeling dry. It’s absolutely gentle and perfect for all skin types.

The main ingredients are: glycerin, niacinamide, corn oil (hydrating), 3 ceramides, salicylic acid, cholesterol, and hyaluronic acid.

3. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

If you’re on a strict budget but want something of good quality and that comes in a huge quantity, directly pick the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.

You’ll actually buy 20 oz of cleanser for one of the cheapest prices. You won’t get a better deal.

This one works for all skin types, there’s no worry there. It’s actually used by those with acne-prone skin.

Its action can be described as: hydrates and softens as it gently cleans. That’s why it works for all skin types.

4. Cetaphil Acne Face Wash 2% Salicylic Acid

Remember when I told you that 2% salicylic acid is what I’m looking in a cleanser because of my adult acne?

Well, Cetaphil has managed to create just that. And it’s really cheap. Plus, the 4.2oz quantity is really nice.

Those who have sensitive skin that is acne-prone should absolutely grab one of these.

In order to balance the action of the salicylic acid, in order to protect and sooth the skin, Cetaphil has also included some skin soothing botanicals on their list of ingredients.

It is clinically proven to reduce inflamed acne by 76%.

It will also defend the skin against a weakened skin barrier, irritation, roughness, tightness, and dryness.

It’s definitely my favorite cleanser on the list. I wasn’t aware that it existed before researching products for this article. Maybe I’ll give it a try after finishing my current bottle or La Roche Posay.

5. Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover

If you’re wearing makeup, you need to remove it first before washing your face with your cleanser.

There are a number of ways to remove makeup: using facial wipes, using an essential oil or using products like the Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover.

This brand also makes facial wipes. Those can work if you travel frequently and you don’t want to always carry numerous bottles with you wherever you have to travel to.

The Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover gently removes waterproof and long-wear makeup to leave skin feeling clean and refreshed.

You still need to use a cleanser to completely remove everything undesirable from your skin.

It is formulated with aloe vera, ginseng, and green tea. These ingredients will protect and sooth the skin while you perform the makeup removal.

It is oil free and fragrance free. It’s awesome for all skin types. It is also clinically tested for sensitive skip.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Toners

Toners are not absolutely essential in a daily skincare routine for the face. They’re great and they can serve many purposes.

However, if you don’t want to add yet another product to your shopping list, you can skip using a toner. This one from CeraVe is cheap enough that you can buy it if you have the budget for it.

CeraVe Hydrating Toner for Face

It’s a perfect toner for normal to dry skin.

It hydrates, removes leftover residue and helps restore the protective skin barrier. Nevertheless, if you’re using a good moisturizing cream, that alone can take care of deeply hydrating your skin.

The main ingredients for this toner are: glycerin, 3 ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E.

The ingredients are great, exactly what we would expect from a hydrating facial toner.

If you want to know more about toners and what needs they can address, you can read my article on the best toners for acne.

You can also check out my article that answers the question if we should exfoliate before or after toner.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Physical & Chemical Exfoliators

First of all, their Cetaphil Acne Face Wash 2% Salicylic Acid can be consider a face wash and a chemical exfoliator in one due to that high concentration of BHA.

But if you want a separate facial exfoliator, we have two main picks to choose from: a gentle facial scrub from Cetaphil that can also be used as a cleanser and scrub and a chemical exfoliator for CeraVe that is gentle and cheap and perfect.

I’m not a big fan of facial scrubs because they can be harsh and, if used incorrectly, they can do more harm than good. Which is also the case if you choose the wrong facial cleansing brush but that’s another discussion.

However, this Cetaphil scrub is an exception. They have managed to create one of the best facial scrubs.

And CeraVe has managed to create a gentle chemical exfoliant that is left on the fact throughout the night.

If you’re using the scrub, use it first and then add then toner.

If you’re using the CeraVe Skin Renewing Nightly Exfoliating Treatment, add it after applying the toner and leave it on for the whole night. Add your moisturizer/night cream on top of the chemical exfoliant.

1. Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub

I said that scrubs can do more harm than good when they’re used incorrectly. That’s not a concern with this scrub because it can be used daily.

Thus, it can replace your cleanser or you can use it after your cleanser and do a double-cleansing + exfoliation of dead skin cells.

It works for all skin types. Even so, I still think that those who battle acne should focus on 2% salicylic acid or a gentle chemical exfoliant with glycolic acid.

This daily scrub will remove dirt, oil, impurities, and dead skin cells. Exfoliation is an absolute step that shouldn’t be skipped in a routine. I consider it just as important as cleansing and moisturizing and using sunscreen every day.

The exfoliation is done by micro fine granules, which I like. The rest of the ingredients are glycerin, vitamin E and vitamin B5.

Another facial daily scrub to try from a drugstore is the Aveeno Positively Radiant Facial Scrub.

Update: CeraVe has the CeraVe Skin Renewing Nightly Exfoliating Treatment, which is their newest member of their Skin Renewing line. Therefore, it was truly my mistake that I have skipped on including this new drugstore chemical exfoliant from this manufacturer.

It turns out that CeraVe is the winner in this round for exfoliators.

2. CeraVe Skin Renewing Nightly Exfoliating Treatment

This is an awesome chemical exfoliant for a really cheap price. The Skin Renewing Nightly Exfoliating Treatment is a combination of two AHA acid: glycolic acid and lactic acid.

Of course, glycolic acid and lactic acid are two of the best and most effective AHAs. Glycolic acid is more aggressive and penetrates the skin more deeply, while lactic acid has the same effects but it’s a lot more gentle. Nevertheless, combining the two in a product is wonderful.

Just as CeraVe says, this is a 5% blend of glycolic acid and lactic acid for gentle exfoliation. It will help smooth fine lines, accelerate skin’s surface cell renewal and clear away dead skin cells, without causing flaking or redness.

The 5% concentration is not high but that can also be a good thing because it can be used by beginners. However, don’t forget to apply a moisturizer on top of this chemical exfoliant.

The other ingredients are: glycerin, dimethicone and hyaluronic acid for hydrating the skin, 3 ceramides for a healthy skin barrier, and licorice root extract for reducing redness, soothing and brightening the skin.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Serums

I don’t actually believe that CeraVe should mostly be known for their cleansers. They should be known for their serums.

They don’t have many but they have 2 of the most important in any routine: a vitamin C serum and 2 retinol serums. All 3 work for all skin types, including oily, sensitive, and acne-prone.

They also have a hyaluronic acid serum but I don’t think it’s that important in a routine.

1. CeraVe Vitamin C Serum

When it comes to cheap vitamin C serums that are from a brand I truly trust, this is my top choice. The Vitamin C Serum by L’Oreal Paris is a close second but it’s not part of our debate.

The ingredients are simply great: 10% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), 3 essential ceramides for strong skin barrier, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B5.

It’s a brightening serum. But it also has the potential to minimize fine lines and wrinkles in time.

This is the perfect serum for the day to protect against sun damage and to protect against environmental factors (pollutants).

You still need to use a sunscreen but for a radiant appearance, this is the perfect ally.

2. CeraVe Retinol Serum

There are actually 2 serums and I recommended them both in my article on the best retinol cream for beginners.

These 2 serum are perfect for everyone because they are so gentle that you can forget about side-effects and either can be used every night right from the start. Just follow it up with a moisturizer.

The first one, the Resurfacing Retinol Serum for post-acne marks, has the following ingredients: encapsulated retinol, 3 ceramides, licorice root extract (evens out skin tone), niacinamide.

The second one is the Skin Renewing Retinol Serum, which is anti-aging. It contains: encapsulated retinol, 3 ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide.

3. Healthy Radiance Antioxidant-C Serum

This is another powerful and amazing skincare product from Cetaphil that I just had to recommend in this CeraVe vs Cetaphil comparison.

It’s a 12% vitamins and antioxidants serum.

This one is recommended for dull or uneven, sensitive skin. But I would say that it’s the perfect serum to protect our skin against environment factors. It’s great for the day and it should go right on top of your toner. After that, you can apply your moisturizer with SPF.

It defends against surface free radicals while their GentleBright complex reduces the signs of photoaging.

It contains a Vitamin C derivative ( Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) for protection against surface free radicals.

Moreover, this serum promises to defend against 5 signs of skin sensitivity: dryness, irritation, roughness, tightness and a weakened skin barrier.

All in all, it’s an amazing serum to wear daily on your face.

4. Cetaphil Deep Hydration 48hr Activation Serum

As the name suggests, this serum can be wonderful for those with very dry skin. It might also come in handy during the colder months when dry skin is especially affected.

It represents a HydroSensitiv Complex and Hyaluronic Acid.

The lightweight serum instantly absorbs and deeply replenishes skin’s hydration for 48 hours.

Overall, it’s meant to improve the quality of sensitive and dry skin.

For that purpose it is formulated with hyaluronic acid and sunflower seed oil. We already know how good of an emollient hyaluronic acid is.

Sunflower seed oil s a non-comedogenic carrier oil which is highly absorbent, and won’t clog pores.

The vitamin E in sunflower oil has antioxidants that help with premature aging and wrinkles, keeping skin looking young and fresh. Moreover, the linoleic acid helps the skin retain moisture so it becomes less dry.

All in all, these two ingredients are more than enough to convince us that this serum is a wonderful hydrating powerhouse.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Eye Creams

This is another area where we have kind of a draw, with maybe CeraVe a bit on top.

Both manufacturers don’t exactly excel in the area of eye creams. But at least they’re cheap and quite effective for hydrating this sensitive area.

If you want more interesting alternatives, check out my picks for the best drugstore eye creams.

1. CeraVe Eye Repair Cream

This is targeted towards those who are concerned about dark circles and puffiness. It’s something that a lot of us struggle with.

Obviously, dark circles can’t simply disappear because we’re using a drugstore eye cream or an expensive one, for that matter.

They will lighten up a bit. It’s impressive that it actually makes a noticeable difference.

The ingredients present a nice combination, even though they might seem simple at first glance: niacinamide (decreases hyperpigmentation), hyaluronic acid, 3 essential ceramides, sweet almond oil, aloe vera, vitamin E.

The sweet almond oil contains vitamin K, which can lighten dark circles.

2. Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Gel-Cream

Those who suffer from dry skin under the eyes or dry eyelids, should definitely consider using this Hydrating Eye Gel-Cream.

And we can also use it as one of the best under eye primers for wrinkles.

It’s especially nice to have around in the winter. You can use it in your morning routine and use one that contains retinol in the evening, if you’re worried about under eye wrinkles.

It has some nice ingredients: niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, viatmin E, licorice root extract (skin-brightening), rapeseed oil (powerful antioxidants).

Their other option is the Cetaphil Deep Hydration Eye Serum.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Moisturizers

When it comes to moisturizers, there are plenty of options from both manufacturers. Both are the winners here. CeraVe has an impressive array of lotions and moisturizing creams.

I’m not going to review them all because that would take too much and I would bore you. Let’s just see which are the most interesting drugstore moisturizers from these two brands.

1. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream Body and Face Dry Skin

We can’t talk about moisturizers for dry skin without mentioning this one. It has one of the cheapest prices and it comes in a 19 oz container.

It’s a simple combination of hyaluronic acid and 3 essential ceramides that has people use it constantly.

It moisturizes and helps restore the protective skin barrier. Nothing fancy but exactly what some of us need. I really love this one for my dry sensitive skin.

2. CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF30

This is a chemical and mineral sunscreen with very nice ingredients to hydrate our skin. If want a moisturizer with SPF30 for a cheap price, this is great.

The UV protection is offered by: homosalate (10%), meradimate (5%), octinoxate (5%), octocrylene (2%), zinc oxide (6.3%).

The hydrating ingredients are: niacinamide, glycerin, dimethicone, 3 ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.

Niacinamide is the second ingredient after water. As you might now, niacinamide is a wonderful ingredient. It’s perfect when it comes to a moisturizer with SPF because niacinamide also protecting the skin against environmental factors.

If you don’t mind the chemical and mineral combination, you’re going to love this one.

It’s perfect for all skin types.

3. CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream

If your main concerns are getting an affordable night cream that can fight signs of aging and smooth out the skin for a more refreshed and well-rested look in the morning, this CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream might be the answer.

It has a peptide complex for addressing fine lines and wrinkles in a certain measure. Peptides are great for fighting signs of aging. But if you need something more powerful, you’ll have to get anti-aging products with retinol.

It contains tripeptide 1 (aids in collagen production, firms the skin, reduces the appearance of fine lines, reduces inflammation) and tetrapeptide 3 (strengthens the skin to address sagging).

It is also deeply hydrating thanks to these ingredients: glycerin, shea butter, dimethicone, soybean sterols (anti-inflammatory, collagen stimulating), allantoin, 3 ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E.

It’s wonderful, whether we are nearing our 30s or we need a moisturizer for our mature skin.

4. Cetaphil Night Cream Redness Relieving

This is great for nighttime and quite appreciated by those suffering from any conditions that cause redness.

Those who have sensitive skin will really like it.

Moreover, there are quite a few people who are acne-prone who stated that this moisturizer didn’t increase the number and frequency of their breakouts.

It contains glycerin (I like it more than hyaluronic acid), sunflower seed oil (non-comedogenic), dimethicone, shea butter, vitamin E, allantoin, ceramide, panthenol, caffeine, licorice root extract, and niacinamide.

There are a lot of ingredients, I really like this combination.

5. Cetaphil Acne-Prone Skin Moisturizer SPF 30 (Oily Skin)

Unless you’re going to the beach and sitting under a powerful summer sun, you can use just this moisturizer SPF 30 and skip applying a sunscreen. So, for most of the year, you can buy just this one product instead of two.

This is a chemical sunscreen with avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene.

It’s also a great drugstore moisturizer for acne-prone skin. Or for oily skin.

The ingredients responsible for hydration are allantoin, dimethicone, glycerin, ceramide, panthenol, and vitamin E.

It has micropearl technology to provide a matte fish. It claims to control oil production and I’m guessing that the micropearl technology is responsible for that.

6. Cetaphil Healthy Radiance Renewing Cream

We’ve seen what the CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream can do. Since we’re here to debate CeraVe vs Cetaphil, we should see what a renewing cream from Cetaphil can do as well.

This moisturizer for our night routine promises to visibly reduce look of dark spots and brighten our complexion. It sounds nice enough.

It’s also designed for sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, and fragrance free. And, let’s not forget, affordable.

The main ingredients constitute a GentleBright Complex with niacinamide + bachukiol.

You might not know about it but bachukiol is nature’s alternative to retinol. I don’t assume that it’s just as good as retinol is for fighting wrinkles but it’s an ingredient to keep in mind if you think that retinol is not an ingredient that can be beneficial for your skin type.

We also get 2% niacinamide and nourishing antioxidants. That’s impressive.

I love niacinamide because it keeps the skin firm and healthy, minimizes redness and blotchiness, minimizes pore appearance, regulates oil production, protects against environmental factors (UV rays and pollutants), treats hyperpigmentation, and minimizes fine lines and wrinkles.

Both niacinamide and bachukiol are amazing ingredients for a night cream for reducing signs of dark spots, for minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, and for improving skin’s luminosity.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Sunscreens

eltaMD is my first option for a very good pretty affordable sunscreen. It’s not perfect but a lot of people absolutely love it.

La Roche-Posay would be my second option for sunscreens.

However, if you want to buy one a sunscreen from our two brands that are the focus of our CeraVe vs Cetaphil comparison, let’s see what we can get.

Better yet, if you’re looking for a cheap drugstore sunscreen, I recommend the Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Moisturizing Body Sunscreen Lotion With Broad Spectrum SPF 60.

1. CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30

This one is tinted so we get an universal tint for all skin tones. It’s supposed to leave skin with a healthy glow that offsets white cast.

However, I wouldn’t say that it will work for all skin tones. It will work for light skin tones. So, it’s basically for white people.

It’s also formulate with niacinamide to keep the skin calm and further protect it from UV rays and pollutants.

Hyaluronic acid is also used as an ingredient for hydrating the skin.

Last but not least, the famous 3 essential ceramides are present as well.

The active ingredients are: titanium dioxide 5.5% and zinc oxide 10%.

It’s a 100% mineral sunscreen with a decent SPF. The price is affordable as well. We get the standard 1.7 oz bottle.

Overall, if you want to know which is the best sunscreen in our CeraVe vs Cetaphil debate, this CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30 would be it. The other two that I’m going to review don’t impress me as much.

Some users also mentioned that it could clog pores if you are prone to breakouts. You should keep that in mind. That’s why I tend to get sunscreens that specify that they’re made for acne-prone skin, like the ones from Avene, for example.

2. CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Another mineral sunscreen from CeraVe but this time we get one with SPF 50 and it’s not a tinted sunscreen.

It’s also formulate with 3 essential ceramides and niacinamide.

The active ingredients are: titanium dioxide 9% and zinc oxide 7%.

The reason why I don’t love it is that there are a lot of negative user reviews for this sunscreen with SPF50. Before buying it, you should check out some of them.

3. Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

This one is described as a lightweight 100% mineral sunscreen for sensitive skin.

It is designed for daily use on face and body.

The active ingredients are: titanium dioxide 4.9% and zinc oxide 4.7%.

The main problem that users have with this one is that it leaves a white cast on the skin. Thus, we are warned that we should only buy this if we want to look like a ghost. That’s not good advertising for a sunscreen.

CeraVe vs Cetaphil: Amazing Debate in Skincare

This is no ordinary debate. Oh no, this is a debate between two amazing producers of skincare products. Not only that, these two make some of the best drugstore skincare products. When we’re thinking of drugstores, we’re thinking of affordable prices.

The really affordable prices are certainly a powerful incentive for being beyond excited about this CeraVe vs Cetaphil comparison.

But that certainly wouldn’t be enough. I’m excited because the low prices are correlated with fantastic quality.

These 2 shouldn’t be regarded as replacements for expensive skincare products. You’re not settling in your choices.

Both Cetaphil and CeraVe products are used by dermatologists, celebrities, and regular people simply because they work and they deliver what they promise.

That’s because these two manufacturers actually do their research when they want to launch a new product. They test their products and they analyze how a specific combination of ingredients can work together. They utilize powerful ingredients that actually have amazing benefits for our skin and tell us so.

I totally agree that expensive products have their place, whether we’re talking about moisturizers, serums, exfoliators, etc. But there are cheaper drugstore alternatives, too.

If you want to check out other amazing drugstore brands, besides these 2 that we love, you should focus on: Neutrogena, La Roche-Posay, L’Oreal Paris, No7, Olay, Eucerin, Aveeno, Bliss, Pixi, RoC.

Complete Skincare Facial Routine with CeraVe & Cetaphil

The variety between these two famous brands is the cherry on top. If you don’t have too much money to spend, you can still enjoy a full skincare routine for both day and night just by choosing products from CeraVe and Cetaphil.

And I guess that’s what we actually did. By starting a CeraVe vs Cetaphil debate, we actually gathered all the products needed for a complete skincare routine for both the day and the night.

Since we’ve kind of reached the end of this article, let’s see: is there anything missing? Is there an essential product to a beauty routine that we couldn’t find by reviewing just these two adored brands?

There’s actually nothing missing.

Both have sunscreens but I’m not exactly completely satisfied with them. Their moisturizers with SPF are good but their mineral sunscreens are not the absolute best.

This CeraVe vs Cetaphil debate has proven that these two are at the top, both Cetaphil and CeraVe are two drugstore skincare brands that continue to innovate and to bring out new products for many skin concerns, they’re just awesome.