One of the most commonly recommended cleansing brands by dermatologists, CeraVe knows a thing or two about washing your face, and washing it well. “CeraVe is named after the word ‘ceramides,’ and ceramides are these lipid molecules that make up our cell membranes. When you have a healthy membrane, your skin cells function better and you have a better skin barrier,” says New Orleans dermatologist Mamina Turegano, MD. “CeraVe’s cleansers contain three essential ceramides that are identical to those found naturally in our skin. The formulas cater to all skin types, and the theme is that while they do what they’re supposed to do to clean the skin, they’re also nourishing the skin at the time. I’ve been recommending CeraVe to my patients for years, and it’s been so cool to see how much it’s benefitted their skin over time.”
Here’s a comprehensive rundown of each cleanser in CeraVe’s current portfolio, all of which are dermatologist-developed, fragrance-free and noncomedogenic.
Skin Type: Normal to Dry
Benefits: This gentle formula removes daily grime while hydrating with hyaluronic acid and nourishing with ceramides at the same time. The brand’s MVE Technology uses encapsulation to slowly release the ceramides throughout the day, ensuring they effectively target the skin barrier (this is the secret sauce in all CeraVe cleansers). It’s a great option for anyone looking for extra hydration and hoping to avoid any potential irritants in their cleanser. It’s also accepted by the National Eczema Association.
Skin Type: Normal to Dry
Benefits: “This one starts as a cream and then gets into the foaming action,” says Dr. Turegano. “You can get the hydration of a cream cleanser with the hyaluronic acid but the lather of a foam cleanser. I find this one is also great for combo skin because, from my personal experience, I’ve had patients who have said that the foaming cleanser is a little too strong, but the hydrating cleanser doesn’t remove enough oil, so this is a good middle ground.” The lather isn’t stripping at all either, as it comes from a mild, amino acid–based surfactant. In a consumer study, more than 98-percent of testers said their skin felt clean, smooth, soft, refreshed and healthy, but not stripped.
Foaming Facial Cleanser ($16)
Skin Type: Normal to Oily
Benefits: This is a gel-based cleanser that turns into a rich lather upon massaging it into wet skin. “Many people think a foamy cleanser is the only way to get a deep-clean, but we know that’s not the case,” says Dr. Turegano. “However, this formula is a good choice for those with oily skin because it removes excess oil without disrupting the skin barrier.” Post-cleanse, skin feels really clean, but not dry or tight.
Renewing SA Cleanser ($15)
Skin Type: Normal
Benefits: Though many people only associate salicylic acid with acne, it’s also a good chemical exfoliating agent. Rather than using a physical exfoliant that can irritate the skin barrier, this gel-based cleanser clears clogged pores in a gentle way for super smooth skin. It’s also well-balanced with calming niacinamide, hydrating hyaluronic acid, antioxidant vitamin D and the brand’s signature ceramide complex.
Skin Type: Acne-Prone
Benefits: “The key ingredient in this one is benzoyl peroxide, which is an awesome over-the-counter ingredient for acne, but it can be a little harsh on the skin, so mixing it into a hydrating cream—with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamide—makes it more tolerable for many users,” says Dr. Turegano. “The cream-to-foam texture potentially offsets some irritation, and the 4-percent benzoyl peroxide concentration is great for most skin types to clear existing acne breakouts, including blackheads, and help prevent new ones from forming. Do note, however, that benzoyl peroxide can have a bleaching effect on linens, so make sure to rinse it off thoroughly before bed so you don’t stain your pillowcase, and use white towels. And if you wash your back with it for bacne, make sure you don’t ruin your pajamas.”
Acne Control Cleanser ($16)
Skin Type: Acne-Prone and Oily
Benefits: The newest addition to the brand’s acne cleanser portfolio, this one is 2-percent salicylic acid–based (instead of benzoyl peroxide like the formula above). Dermatologists will often recommend one or the other depending on your personal skin’s needs. “This is designed specifically to control acne and exfoliate clogged pores, but it also has a key benefit of absorbing excess oil and minimizing shine with hectorite clay,” Dr. Turegano says.
Hydrating Micellar Water ($13)
Skin Type: All
Benefits: This is a liquid, no-rinse cleanser that you apply to a cotton round and then swipe over dry skin. “I am fan of micellar water, but I would recommend using it as step one to remove makeup in a double-cleanse routine,” says Dr. Turegano. “You can use it on your full face, as well as your eyes.” It’s super gentle—it’s also recommended by the National Eczema Association—and ophthalmologist-tested to be safe around the eyes.
Benefits: For those who prefer a bar-soap format rather than liquid, these three options offer nearly identical benefits to their liquid counterparts mentioned above. “Traditionally, we think of bar soaps as being higher-pH and stripping the skin—don’t get me wrong, some brands of bar soap definitely do that—but from a dermatologist’s perspective, there are so many good cleansing bars out there now that are much more gentle and effective,” says Dr. Turegano. “And this might surprise you, but for those with super sensitive skin, I actually tend to be a little bit more comfortable recommending these bar versions because they often contain fewer ingredients than liquid cleansers.” There’s also the sustainability factor: Bars avoid the use of plastic, and therefore reduce the user’s carbon footprint.
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