Cetaphil vs. CeraVe: Everything You Need To Know

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With the increasing number of horror stories associated with abrasive and aggressive skincare, there has never been a more important time than now to invest in gentle formulations.

Thankfully, when it comes to that, we have two amazing options to turn to: Cetaphil and CeraVe.

The issue is if you can only choose one between Cetaphil vs. CeraVe, how do you know which to pick?

A woman is putting gentle cleanser on her face on a white background

That is what we will answer in this article.

We will look into their similarities and differences to help you determine which of the two is better when it comes to certain things.

Cerave vs. Cetaphil at a Glance

Suitability for Different Skin TypesBest for sensitive skinBest for dry skin
Key IngredientsGlycerin, niacinamide, panthenolCeramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and salicylic acid
AvailabilityMore than 70 countries40 countries

What Is Cetaphil?

Launched in 1947 by a pharmacist, Cetaphil has been trusted for over seven decades to treat various issues associated with sensitive skin. 

In fact, the brand claims to be the number one dermatologist-recommended line in the United States and abroad for sensitive skin. 

And it offers plenty of benefits and features that support that claim, such as the following:

The Same Gentle Formulation

First off, Cetaphil leverages the same gentle formulation that it used in its very first product in its current iteration, which is the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (then known as the Cetaphil Cleansing Lotion).

This means that its blend of key ingredients is that powerful; the company has never seen the need to change or update it because it’s already loved by so many.

Additionally, its range of products is built on evidence and findings from studies that involved over 30,000 patients.

So when you’re buying a Cetaphil product, you can be sure that you’re buying something that is backed by science.

Effective Key Ingredients

Cetaphil uses three main ingredients in its products, which are as follows:

  1. Glycerin
    Also called glycerol, glycerin is a humectant or a substance that draws moisture from the air and into your skin to carry out several amazing functions, including the following: 

    ◦ Provide hydration to the outer layer of the skin 
    ◦ Speed up wound healing 
    ◦ Protect against irritants 
    ◦ Ease symptoms of dry skin

    Additionally, according to a 2016 study, glycerin is the best humectant at delivering moisturizing benefits to dry skin. 
  1. Niacinamide
    Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is another wonder ingredient found in many of Cetaphil’s skincare products. 

    One of its most important functions is building keratin, which is a protein that helps form the tissues on the outer layer of the skin, making it important to skin health. 

    Plus, niacinamide can do the following:

    ◦ Reduce inflammation from skin conditions like acne and eczema 
    ◦ Lighten and treat dark spots 
    ◦ Improve skin hydration
    ◦ Minimize the appearance of pores
    ◦ Reduce fine lines and wrinkles 
  1. Panthenol
    Panthenol, the active form of vitamin B5, features anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it effective at performing the following functions:

    ◦ Boosting skin elasticity
    ◦ Aiding in recovery from signs of irritation
    ◦ Smoothening skin texture
    ◦ Improving skin hydration 

Wonderful Complementary Ingredients

On top of the key ingredients listed above, Cetaphil products also contain the following:

  • Shea butter — Locks in moisture and helps alleviate dryness while also restoring the skin barrier
  • Tocopherol — Soothes the skin and protects it from free radical damage
  • Aloe vera — Revitalizes the skin

Wide Range of Products for Skin Concerns

Cetaphil also offers several product categories for various skin concerns and skin types. 

Here are some examples of the products they offer:

A woman with a towel on her head is looking at herself while putting facial cleanser on her face in front of the mirror.

What Is CeraVe?

Founded in 2005, CeraVe doesn’t have as extensive a history as Cetaphil.

However, it has the same kind of pull among skincare enthusiasts when it comes to perceived effectiveness in treating various skin issues. 

And like Cetaphil, it purports to be the number one brand recommended by dermatologists. And like Cetaphil, it’s also got a lot of reasons for that claim.

The Ceramide Difference

Ceramides are fatty acids that make up about 50% of our skin’s outer layers and help maintain the skin barrier.

The skin barrier is our initial line of defense against the damage caused by exposure to pollutants and toxins.

So by maintaining the skin’s barrier function, ceramides help make sure that your skin stays healthy.

The problem is as we age, we naturally lose ceramide content. And when this happens, it causes various skin conditions — from dry skin to eczema. 

This is where CeraVe comes in. 

CeraVe is established on this one core piece of knowledge: a compromised skin barrier is central to the development of various skin issues, so improving it is key to solving these problems.

As such, its range of products is specially formulated to contain three types of ceramides (ceramides 1, 3, 6-II) that mimic the natural ceramides found in our skin. 

With this blend, using CeraVe can help reinforce your skin barrier function to ensure your skin stays hydrated and protected.

Other Top-Notch Key Ingredients

In addition, CeraVe uses these two other key ingredients, which are also beneficial for the skin: salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid.  

  1. Salicylic acid

    A beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is also used in many of CeraVe’s skincare formulations as a great skin exfoliator, and it’s considered to be especially helpful in treating acne. 

    Additionally, it can do the following:

    ◦ Help control oil production
    ◦ Reduce signs of sun damage
    ◦ Treat blackheads and whiteheads 
  1. Hyaluronic acid

    A sugar molecule, hyaluronic acid is a wonder ingredient that provides superior hydration to the skin and works well with salicylic acid. 

    And it offers various benefits, including the following: 

    ◦ Keeping your skin moisturized
    ◦ Reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
    ◦ Facilitating faster wound healing
    ◦ Treating eczema and facial redness

Patented MVE Technology

Building on its unique formulation of ceramides, CeraVe products also use a patented delivery technology called multivesicular emulsion or MVE

MVE functions much like a nesting doll. Using this technology, the brand’s ceramide blend slowly opens and releases the formula into the skin layer by layer. 

This is in stark contrast to the way traditional emulsions in other products work, where you get an instant release or burst of ingredients in one go.

So with CeraVe, you’re assured that the products keep working long after you’ve applied them.

Diverse Product Lines

CeraVe also has various types of products that are suited to different skin types. Additionally, they aim to address different skin concerns. 

Here are some of the products they offer:

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe: Some Similarities

Cetaphil and CeraVe have a few key similarities.

Here are some of them:  

  • Price point — Both brands are among the most affordable skincare brands you’ll ever find.
  • Simple formulations — They also both have simple formulas that spotlight a core set of ingredients.

    As such, using either of them is especially ideal for people with sensitive skin, as the same consistent ingredients won’t be as shocking or irritating to the skin.
  • Emphasis on hydration — Both brands also put a primer on providing hydration to the skin and helping lock in moisture.

    They make this possible with their inclusions of glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and shea butter.
  • Shelf stability Cetaphil and CeraVe can last for up to three years! These brands are shelf-stable, which means that their quality stays the same over the course of their lifespan at room temperature. 
A young woman with a towel on her head is putting cream on her face.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe: Some Similarities

However, the two also have some minor and major differences, such as the following:

  • Suitability for different skin types — Cetaphil products are more suited to sensitive skin, while CeraVe can do wonders for those with dry skin.
  • Fragrances — Cetaphil typically has a slight fragrance; CeraVe is fragrance-free.
  • Availability — Cetaphil is widely available all over the world (70 countries), while for CeraVe, the number is slightly smaller (40 countries).

So is CeraVe or Cetaphil better?

This will depend on certain factors, such as what your specific skincare concerns are and which products you’re using. 

Let’s dive right into the comparisons between CeraVe and Cetaphil’s products for different needs. 

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Cleansers

Both brands offer two of the most popular face cleansers on the market, which are the Daily Gentle Cleanser by Cetaphil and the Hydrating Facial Cleanser by CeraVe.

These are formulated to provide gentle hydration to all skin types, even sensitive skin. They’re also recommended by dermatologists and loved by many people.

Cetaphil Facial Cleanser

When it comes to the CeraVe vs. Cetaphil facial cleanser debate, the advantage Cetaphil has over CeraVe is that it can be used without water.

So even if you’re on the go and don’t have access to water, you can still use the product and just wipe it off with some gentle wipes.

Cetaphil also has niacinamide, which can help reduce redness and inflammation from eczema but cannot alleviate the rest of its symptoms.

CeraVe Facial Cleanser

That said, CeraVe’s facial cleanser has more active ingredients in its formulation, such as hyaluronic acid, which makes it more effective at providing benefits for specific skin issues like eczema.

Its inclusion of HA equips it with a more potent ability to actually treat symptoms of eczema, such as oozing and crusting bumps, redness and inflammation, skin cracking, as well as darkened areas around the eyes. 

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Facial Cleanser: Verdict

So if you want a facial cleanser that offers ultimate convenience when you’re on the go, then the Cetaphil Facial Cleanser is for you. 

But if you have eczema and need a cleanser that will relieve its symptoms, go for the CeraVe one instead. 

Cetaphil vs. Cerave Moisturizer

How about a Cetaphil vs. CeraVe moisturizing cream comparison?

Cetaphil and CeraVe have a wide range of face and body moisturizers for everyday use.

And like the facial cleansers offered by both brands, these moisturizing products are perfect for all skin types and various skin issues.

Two specific products, the Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream and the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, have three particular similarities:

  • Both of them come in a white plastic tub.
  • Both products are safe to use on the face and body.
  • Both have glycerin, which is important for drawing moisture to the skin.

But they also have marked differences.

First off, they feature distinct ingredients that specialize in different things.

Cetaphil Moisturizer

Cetaphil has sweet almond oil, which contains several types of vitamins and performs several functions like improving uneven skin tone and reducing scarring, under-eye circles, stretch marks, and puffiness.

It also has lactic acid, which can exfoliate the skin and target hyperpigmentation.

CeraVe Moisturizer

On the other hand, CeraVe has hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which provide hydration while improving the skin barrier function.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Moisturizer: Verdict

So if you need a moisturizer with amazing hydrating properties, opt for CeraVe.

But if you need your moisturizer for sensitive skin and specific skin issues like uneven skin tone and scarring, choose Cetaphil.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Eye Cream

Both the Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Gel Cream and the CeraVe Eye Repair Cream are ophthalmologist-tested, and they’re known to provide a multitude of benefits for the eye area, which include the following:

  • Reduce puffiness
  • Brighten, hydrate, and nourish the under-eye area
  • Help improve skin resiliency

Both also contain niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, which all work to moisturize, strengthen, and renew the undereye area. 

Additionally, they are safe for people with sensitive skin and contact lens wearers.

Now what is the main difference between the two?

Cetaphil Eye Cream

The only major point of contention between Cetaphil and Cerave’s creams is their specific formulation.

Cetaphil’s eye cream contains licorice extract and a vitamin E and B3 blend, which offers these benefits:     

  • Anti-aging properties
  • Protection against damage caused by free radicals and sun exposure
  • Improvement in skin texture and tone

CeraVe Eye Cream

The CeraVe Eye Repair Cream, for its part, contains chamomile extract, which performs these actions:

  • Protection from free radical damage
  • Treatment for irritation and redness
  • Relief from sunburn

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Eye Cream: Verdict

In a nutshell, both creams can address certain signs of aging. 

But if you want an eye cream that also helps improve skin tone, Cetaphil is your best bet; if you need something that helps relieve easily irritated skin, opt for CeraVe.

Cetaphil vs. Cerave Sunscreen

For sunscreens, both Cetaphil and CeraVe have sheer options that are ideal for those who don’t like the white cast left by other sunscreens.

They also feel weightless, help the skin feel and look supple and hydrated after application, and of course, protect against harmful UVA/UVB rays.

And they’re the perfect base for a smooth, even makeup application!

But let’s take a closer look at how the sunscreens from these two brands differ. 

CeraVe Sunscreen

CeraVe’s Hydrating Sheer Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 uses zinc oxide and chemical sun filters (homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene) to provide a product that delivers a two-pronged approach to sun protection.

Zinc oxide, found in mineral sunscreens, forms a physical barrier on the skin to keep out harmful rays.

At the same time, the chemical filters absorb UV rays and convert them into non-damaging heat to be then released from the skin. 

Also, CeraVe’s sunscreen does not transfer onto your clothes or run when you sweat.

Cetaphil Sunscreen

Meanwhile, Cetaphil’s Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50 also has zinc oxide, as well as allantoin, bisabolol, niacinamide, and vitamin E. 

As such, it doesn’t just keep out harmful rays from the sun, it’s also an excellent hydrating, brightening, soothing, and nourishing product.

It also leaves a matte finish that doesn’t feel greasy and won’t clog pores.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Sunscreen: Verdict

As such, Cetaphil is best suited for those with oily skin. CeraVe, on the other hand, should be the main go-to for those who like to stay active while they’re out in the sun.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe Acne Products

If you’re concerned about whether Cetaphil or CeraVe is better for acne, you’ll be pleased to know that either of the two will work, as they both use salicylic acid in their formulations.

Salicylic acid gets underneath the layers of the skin and exfoliates the dead skin cells that clog pores and leave acne-causing bacteria trapped in the skin. 

Additionally, it can help control excess oil production, which can prevent future breakouts. 

However, the way these two brands use salicylic acid — and other ingredients — in their formulation is central to their efficacy against acne.

Cetaphil for Acne

Cetaphil has a range of products that especially target acne-prone skin, which include the Gentle Clear Complexion-Clearing BPO Acne Cleanser and the Gentle Clear Mattifying Acne Moisturizer.

In these products, you’ll find either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient, supplemented by other skincare goodies such as niacinamide, aloe and white tea, shea butter, and glycerin. 

The Gentle Clear Mattifying Acne Moisturizer only has 0.5% salicylic acid, which makes it a milder option for targeting breakouts than products with higher concentrations of the ingredient.

It also soothes redness and calms the skin. 

In addition, some Cetaphil products for acne contain BPO or benzoyl peroxide. 

While the brand specifically uses micronized BPO, which is considered to be less irritating than its traditional form, it still carries that risk for those with sensitive skin. 

CeraVe for Acne 

Like Cetaphil, CeraVe also has product formulations specific to acne, which include the Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser, Acne Control Cleanser, and Acne Control Gel.

Asian woman applying a facial foaming cleanser in front of a mirror.

And like Cetaphil, these products contain a powerful blend of salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, glycerin, and lactic acid.

However, unlike Cetaphil, CeraVe has the added advantage of ceramides.

This means that even as their products treat acne, they also fortify the skin to be more resilient against more (and future) issues.

The concentration of salicylic in these products is also at the recommended level, which is 2%.

The Acne Control Cleanser also has oil-absorbing technology, which makes it especially beneficial for oily skin, while the Acne Control Gel is free of drying alcohols.

However, those who are sensitive to benzoyl peroxide should steer clear of its Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser as it contains 4% BPO.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe for Acne: Verdict

All in all, if you want acne products that are capable of combating redness and mild breakouts with gentle formulas, go for Cetaphil. 

However, if you want more potent anti-acne products that treat and prevent acne, CeraVe may be ideal for you.  

Cetaphil vs. Cerave Eczema Products

For eczema, both Cetaphil and CeraVe have received seals of approval from the National Eczema Association.

This means that both brands are great options for managing the flare-ups that come with eczema.

Both also contain a great mix of ingredients to fortify the skin barrier and help ease, treat, and prevent inflammation, flakiness, bumps, and other symptoms associated with the condition.

As with other skin concerns, Cetaphil and CeraVe have specific products for eczema.

Cetaphil for Eczema

CeraVe for Eczema

The only main difference between the two is that CeraVe uses more ceramides than Cetaphil, making the former more powerful in terms of strengthening the skin’s barrier function (which is weakened by eczema).

However, CeraVe also uses hydrocortisone in one of its products, which might cause side effects like easy bruising, blistering, scaling, itching, and swelling. 

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe for Eczema: Verdict

So if you’re looking for extremely potent eczema treatments that also restore the skin’s barrier function, choose CeraVe.

But for treatments that pose a reduced risk of unwanted side effects, opt for Cetaphil. 


Can You Use Both Cetaphil And Cerave In Your Routine?

Of course! There’s no problem with using CeraVe and Cetaphil products together.

But if you have acne-prone skin and you want to use these brands’ range of acne relief products, make sure you don’t use those with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide together.

Using both of these ingredients in one routine can increase your risk of irritation.

Cetaphil vs. CeraVe For Oily Skin: Which Is Better?

CeraVe has a slightly less greasy texture than Cetaphil, which makes it particularly ideal for those with oily skin.

Is CeraVe or Cetaphil Better For Dry Skin?

While both brands contain hydrating ingredients, CeraVe is a better option for those who need relief for their dry skin.

It features more hydrating ingredients across its formulations compared to Cetaphil.

Is Cetaphil or CeraVe Better For Sensitive Skin?

For those with sensitive skin, Cetaphil’s simpler and more minimalist set of ingredients might be safer as you won’t need to navigate as many potential skin reactions.

Which Is Better: Cetaphil or CeraVe?

Both Cetaphil and CeraVe are well-loved gentle, effective, and affordable brands.

When it comes to deciding whether one is better than the other, CeraVe seems to offer more skin benefits in most instances compared to Cetaphil.

This is because it features a triple-ceramide core formulation with a patented delivery system on top of the other skincare constants found in their products.

However, in certain situations, Cetaphil can be the better option.

For example, if you want a more minimalist skincare brand, Cetaphil leverages fewer ingredients, which may be more to your liking.

The key to knowing which to opt for is to understand your specific concerns, check out the ingredient labels, and use your experience to guide your decision.

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  • Kat

    Kat brings a seasoned voice to our beauty blog with 13 years of dedicated writing experience. Her deep-seated passion isn't just limited to words; she's always on the pulse of emerging makeup trends. Beyond her articles, Kat crafts hand-made crochet swimwear and sundresses, and effortlessly steps in as a muse for beauty photoshoots. Kat holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

One Comment

  1. Carol Burr says:

    Cerave or Cetaphil for mature skin ?
    Benefits compared
    Best for mature, over 60 skin?

    This is the best, most comprehensive review I have read comparing Cetaphil and Ceravé. Thank you so much!

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