CeraVe vs Cetaphil – The Best Cleansers & Moisturizers for Dry Skin

CeraVe vs Cetaphil Moisturizers and Cleansers
CeraVe and Cetaphil are the titans of value cleansers and moisturizers for dry or sensitive skin. They seem to have nearly identical products, but are they really the same? We decided to dig a little deeper and test the two brands to see which brand has the best cleansers and moisturizers for dry and sensitive skin. As it turns out, we chose CeraVe over Cetaphil. Read on to find out why.

When it comes to your most basic skin care routine, moisturizers and cleansers are essential. Cleansers eliminate excess oil, makeup, sweat, dirt and dead skin cells from your skin while moisturizers and lotions should enhance your skin’s natural moisture barrier, help retain water, and fend off chronic dryness.

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Our Pick
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream | 19 Ounce | Daily Face and Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Dry/Sensitive Skin, Fragrance Free 16 oz
Title
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
Prime
Price
$18.39
$19.99
Our Pick
Preview
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream | 19 Ounce | Daily Face and Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin
Title
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Prime
Price
$18.39
Details
Preview
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Dry/Sensitive Skin, Fragrance Free 16 oz
Title
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
Prime
Price
$19.99
Details

Why We Chose CeraVe & Cetaphil

Choosing which cleansers and moisturizers to use, however, is a bit more complex because there are so many brands out there with different ingredients that fit into different price ranges. We know it’s overwhelming to find products that maintain healthy, hydrated skin without breaking the bank, so we compared two of the most popular (and affordable) brands that make irritant-free, over-the-counter, neutral moisturizers, cleansers, and lotions: CeraVe and Cetaphil.

The two brands are often used interchangeably. Both companies sell fragrance-free cleansers, moisturizers, and lotions in supermarkets and convenience stores all over the country. They are well-known and relatively inexpensive, with most products ranging from $10-$20. They typically get four to five star reviews where customers rave about their ability to moisturize or cleanse without irritating the skin. These cleansers and moisturizers are known for removing excess oil and moisturizing skin, respectively, without causing inflammation or allergic reactions.

Bestseller No. 1
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream | 19 Ounce | Daily Face and Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin
  • [ ALL DAY HYDRATION ] Provides 24-hour hydration and helps restore the protective skin barrier with three essential ceramides (1,3,6-II)
  • [ MOISTURE-RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled-release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization
SaleBestseller No. 1
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Very Dry/Sensitive Skin, Fragrance Free, 16 Ounce (Pack of 3)
  • INSTANTLY HYDRATES : Provides 24 hour hydration that instantly hydrates for long lasting relief that soothes very dry skin
  • PREVENTS MOISTURE LOSS : Clinically proven to nourish dry skin in 1 day, binding water to the skin and preventing moisture loss for soft, supple skin
  • NON GREASY : The non greasy formula is excellent for hands, feet, elbows, knees, and any other areas that require intensive miniaturization

We bought the facial cleanser, facial moisturizer, and lotion creams from each brand and tested them against each other to see how they’re alike, how they’re different, and which one we liked better. At first glance, they are very similar. But after testing the products and doing a little investigating into the ingredients they use, we found that they are far from twins.

How We Tested

CeraVe and Cetaphil Products

To compare CeraVe vs Cetaphil, we conducted a number of blind tests. We focused on smell, feel/texture, application, and longevity to find out which brand has the best cleanser and moisturizers to help people with dry skin. We also lined up the ingredients of the tested products and analyzed the differences.

Facial Moisturizers

CeraVe has an odorless/slight lotion smell, which we found more pleasurable than Cetaphil, which smells a little like chemical sunscreen, though it has a lower SPF rating than the CeraVe facial moisturizing lotion. CeraVe has a relatively thick consistency, while Cetaphil was much thinner, which felt more immediately moisturizing upon application.

Because of this thicker texture, however, the pump towards the end of the bottle had trouble dispensing. There were no issues like this with the Cetaphil bottle. Cetaphil also seemed to dispense a little more moisturizer for a single pump than CeraVe.

Both moisturizers got the job done, leaving our skin feeling moisturized immediately as well as in the hours after application. CeraVe, due to its thicker consistency, left our skin feeling moisturized longer, putting it ahead of Cetaphil.

Winner: CeraVe

Ingredient Comparison

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM Ingredients
Inactive Ingredients: Purified Water, Niacinamide, Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate and Boron Nitride, Dimethicone, Ceramide 3, Ceramide-6-II, Ceramide 1, Cholesterol, Hyaluronic Acid, Phytosphingosine, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum. Active Ingredients: Homosalate (12%), Octinoxate (7.5%), Octocrylene (2%), Zinc Oxide (3.5%).

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM
  • [ ALL-DAY HYDRATION ] Moisturizes throughout the day and helps restore the protective skin barrier
  • [ ESSENTIAL CERAMIDES ] Formulated with with three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II) that help restore and maintain its natural protective barrier
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled-release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer Ingredients
Inactive Ingredients: Water, Diisopropyl Adipate, Cyclomethicone, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tocopheryl Acetate, Carbomer 940, Disodium EDTA, Triethanolamine. Active Ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Octocrylene (10%).

Sale
Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer
  • Specifically formulated to be light and silky smooth
  • Improves skins ability to retain vital moisture
  • Broad spectrum SPF 15 gives you moderate protection against damaging UVA/UVB rays that can be responsible for premature lines and wrinkles

When looking for a great moisturizer that will not only give you instant relief but also long-term hydration, the key is to look at the list of ingredients. These lists can often look like a whole lot of nothing because they use long, scientific names that most of us would have trouble pronouncing. But if you know what you’re looking for in the ingredients, you’ll know which moisturizers actually do the heavy lifting in keeping your skin hydrated, and which ones don’t get past the surface.

For instance, a great moisturizer usually contains three key ingredients—hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and cholesterol—that strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier, which allows your skin to effectively retain water and elasticity. Your body produces hyaluronic acid to naturally regulate cell renewal and lubricate connective tissue. Ceramides are lipids that serve as one of your skin’s best natural defenses against dryness, eczema, psoriasis, and the negative epidermal effects of aging by keeping moisture in and irritants out. Cholesterol acts as an effective ‘barrier repair moisturizer’ when used topically and is also found in hyaluronic acid.

Armed with this information, we read the ingredient lists on the Cetaphil and CeraVe moisturizers and saw that one was clearly superior. CeraVe’s formula contains hyaluronic acid, three types of ceramides, and cholesterol, while Cetaphil contains none of these essential moisturizing ingredients. So while Cetaphil may give you instant relief after application, only CeraVe’s ingredients work to lock in moisture, preserve elasticity, and fend off the negative effects that aging can have on your skin. Cetaphil moisturization is all about short-term relief, while CeraVe uses ingredients that promote long-lasting hydration.

Winner: CeraVe

Moisturizing Lotion Creams

Like moisturizers, lotions should be designed to hydrate the skin. Lotions, however, are meant for full-body coverage and thus typically have a lighter consistency that allows users to spread it all over the body with ease, while moisturizers intend to soak your face in a thicker layer of hydration.

Both CeraVe and Cetaphil lotions have little to no smell, though Cetaphil’s is a bit stronger. CeraVe’s lotion has a soft, gel-like consistency while Cetaphil employs a smooth texture that is significantly thicker. CeraVe is a lot easier to spread along the body, allowing a small amount to go a long way. Cetaphil, on the other hand, requires you to get a little bit more product in your hands to effectively moisturize.

In the end, both lotions leave the skin feeling soft and smooth, but CeraVe is a little easier to apply, giving it a slight edge over Cetaphil.

Winner: CeraVe

Ingredient Comparison

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Purified Water, Glycerin, Ceteareth-20 and Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-11, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Phytosphingosine, Carbomer, Xantham Gum.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
Water, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Dicaprylyl Ether, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, PEG-30 Stearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide.

Sale
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
  • Intense and lasting moisture to replenish sensitive, dry skin - great for eczema-prone and very dry skin
  • Clinically proven to provide immediate, long-lasting hydration that soothes dry, itchy skin
  • Unique formula attracts water to the skin and helps prevent moisture loss

As with the moisturizers, Cetaphil’s lotion is missing the basic lipids that ensure moisture retention while CeraVe includes hyaluronic acid, three types of ceramides, and cholesterol. CeraVe’s moisturizers and lotions also use Cetearyl alcohol, which is a fatty acid derived from coconuts that emulsifies and thickens products like moisturizers and conditioners, emolliating the skin and leaving it feeling soft and smooth.

Winner: CeraVe

Cleansers

Cleansers should be used in every skin routine because they eliminate excess oil, makeup, sweat, dirt and dead skin cells from your skin. “Cleansers are products we use to remove normal accumulation of dirt and oils, makeup, sunscreen, remains of pollution, and dead skin cells,” explains Garnier consulting dermatologist Dr. Diane Madfes. “They aid in unclogging pores and exfoliation of the top skin cells. Their main role is to clean our skin without stripping the top layer.”

Finding the right cleanser for your skin is easier said than done. Everyone’s skin is different, so it’s important to pick a cleanser that you can use consistently without upsetting your skin’s natural balance. Both Cetaphil and CeraVe sell facial cleansers that intend to fend off breakouts without drying out the skin, but we tested them both out to see which one comes out on top.

Cetaphil has a very slight, neutral smell while CeraVe smells a little like chemicals, giving it a more pungent scent. Cetaphil’s cleanser is a foaming mixture that is soft to the touch when applying, while CeraVe’s is a liquid that maintains a slippery texture.

Cetaphil’s foam dispenser doesn’t dispense very much with one pump, so two pumps may be needed to lather your entire face. CeraVe applies seamlessly, as you only need half a pump to cover your face thoroughly. Cetaphil has a softer feel than CeraVe, and since the foam isn’t as thick as the slippery liquid, you can wash Cetaphil off of your face much more easily than CeraVe.

Both cleansers leave the skin feeling soft and clean immediately after application. Neither made the skin feel dry, which is uncommon in cleanser formula. CeraVe left the skin still feeling moisturized and clean after an hour, whereas Cetaphil made it feel clean and soft but lacked the hydrating effect.

Winner: Tie

Ingredient Comparison

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
Purified Water, Cocamidopropyl Hydrosultaine, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, PEG 150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Niacinamide, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Propylene Glycol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Phytosphingosine, Citric Acid, Edetate Disodium, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum.

Sale
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
  • [ ESSENTIAL CERAMIDES ] Unique formula with three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II) that cleanses and removes oil without disrupting the skincare barrier
  • [ MOISTURE-RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture and niacinamide to help calm skin
  • [ FOAMY LATHER ] Foaming action gently refreshes

Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser
Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Coco-Glucoside, Betaine, Glycerin, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate 20, Polyquaternium-10, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid.

Many people prefer foaming cleansers because of the way it foams as it washes, allowing it to double as a makeup remover. A foaming agent used some formulas, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), is found in many cosmetics, but this surfactant is so harsh that it’s also used in detergents, floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps, so you definitely don’t want it in your facial cleansers.

Both CeraVe and Cetaphil sell foaming facial cleansers, that don’t have that harsh SLS. Meanwhile, CeraVe still utilizes the moisturizing effects of ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and cholesterol. If you’re currently using a Cetaphil facial cleanser, consider switching to CeraVe for a just as gentle option that keeps your skin healthily hydrated.

Winner: CeraVe

Dermatology Preferences

Both Cetaphil and CeraVe are dermatologist-approved. In fact, they are two of the most dermatologist-recommended drugstore brands around. CeraVe, however, wins over dermatologists with its hyaluronic formula.

“Keep your skin hydrated and look for products that include hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water,” advises Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS (Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery). “Products that support your skin’s surface barrier are also ideal because they’ll retain your skin’s hydration while keeping any unwanted bacteria out.”

Shari Marchbein, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine stresses the importance of ceramides and cholesterol, which are found in CeraVe but not Cetaphil. “Dry skin is caused by an impaired skin barrier and dysfunction or deficiency in the necessary healthy fats in the top layer of the skin — cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides — which are essential to normal skin function.” CeraVe has the science to back up their moisturizers, lotions, and cleansers as great skin care products. The CeraVe formula utilizes the lipids and fatty acids that your body naturally produces, thus improving the chemistry of your skin and its moisture barrier.

The Best Cleansers & Moisturizers for Dry Skin

CeraVe ProductsCeraVe vs Cetaphil Winners Table

As far as first impressions go, CeraVe usually edges out Cetaphil. Its odor isn’t as strong and the consistency and texture of its products leave the skin feeling clean and moisturized. CeraVe application also tends to be a little easier, though there are some dispensing issues with the thick moisturizing cream.

What is the Major Difference Between Cerave Vs Cetaphil?

When it comes to ingredients, CeraVe has more than just a slight edge. Cetaphil lacks the basic ingredients necessary to build up the skin’s moisture barrier while almost all CeraVe products prioritize the lipids fatty acids that are necessary to maintain a healthy moisture barrier and are free of harsh surfactants like SLS. Their cleansers banish impurities from the skin without drying it out, and their moisturizers and lotions keep the skin hydrated with natural ingredients without clogging your pores, making their products a great, affordable option for those seeking long-term skin rejuvenation, repair, or maintenance.

Bestseller No. 1
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream | 19 Ounce | Daily Face and Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin
  • [ ALL DAY HYDRATION ] Provides 24-hour hydration and helps restore the protective skin barrier with three essential ceramides (1,3,6-II)
  • [ MOISTURE-RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled-release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization
SaleBestseller No. 2
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion | 12 Ounce | Face & Body Lotion for Dry Skin with Hyaluronic Acid | Packaging May Vary
  • [ ALL DAY HYDRATION ] Lightweight formula that provides 24 hour hydration and helps restore the protective skin barrier with three essential ceramides (1,3,6 II)
  • [ MOISTURE RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization
Bestseller No. 3
CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM | 3 Ounce (Pack of 2) | Ultra Lightweight, Night Face Moisturizer | Fragrance Free
  • [ ALL-NIGHT HYDRATION ] Moisturizes throughout the night and helps restore the protective skin barrier
  • [ MOISTURE-RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture and niacinamide to help calm skin
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled-release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization

Skin Moisturizing and Cleansing Tips

We want to make sure you’re not only buying the best products for your skin but that you’re also getting the most out of each use. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you improve your skin care regimen.

Your skincare regimen should follow this order:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Exfoliate
  3. Moisturize

You want to cleanse first to get rid of any excess dirt, makeup, and irritants. Then you should use a gentle exfoliant, like an enzyme peel, once or twice a week to remove dead skin cells. It’s important to incorporate exfoliation into your skincare routine because it allows your skin to soak up your moisturizer with ease. If you’re not exfoliating, your moisturizer is just sitting on top of dead skin cells instead of penetrating your pores.

If you want to use a product like CeraVe with ceramides or hyaluronic, you might be hard-pressed to find one that smells as good as it feels. If you’re opposed to that lotion-y smell, you can add a few drops of essential oils to your cleanser or moisturizer. In fact, lavender, carrot seed, lemon, and other essential oils have anti-aging, rejuvenating, moisturizing, and anti-acne qualities that can enhance your skin care regimen. Just be judicious with how much you add and do your research on which oils to add as some can clog pores or cause irritation.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in their skin care regimens is using hot water. Hot showers feel so good (we know), but hot water dries out your skin. Use warm water when washing your face, and try to turn down the temp in the shower.

Final Thoughts

You can’t go wrong with using either of these brands as they both have proven to provide solid products. However, given a choice, we would choose CeraVe products due to the superior ingredients, smell, and application feel. So, with that being said, make sure to get yourself some CeraVe cleansers and moisturizers to keep that skin looking young and fresh all day long!

Bestseller No. 1
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream | 19 Ounce | Daily Face and Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin
  • [ ALL DAY HYDRATION ] Provides 24-hour hydration and helps restore the protective skin barrier with three essential ceramides (1,3,6-II)
  • [ MOISTURE-RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled-release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization
SaleBestseller No. 2
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion | 12 Ounce | Face & Body Lotion for Dry Skin with Hyaluronic Acid | Packaging May Vary
  • [ ALL DAY HYDRATION ] Lightweight formula that provides 24 hour hydration and helps restore the protective skin barrier with three essential ceramides (1,3,6 II)
  • [ MOISTURE RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization
Bestseller No. 3
CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM | 3 Ounce (Pack of 2) | Ultra Lightweight, Night Face Moisturizer | Fragrance Free
  • [ ALL-NIGHT HYDRATION ] Moisturizes throughout the night and helps restore the protective skin barrier
  • [ MOISTURE-RETAINING INGREDIENTS ] Formulated with hyaluronic acid to help retain skin's natural moisture and niacinamide to help calm skin
  • [ PATENTED TECHNOLOGY ] Utilizes patented MVE controlled-release technology to help replenish ceramides and deliver long lasting moisturization