If you ask a dermatologist for cleanser recommendations, CeraVe will likely be in the mix. The brand 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. The beauty of CeraVe cleansers (and the reason they’re recommended by so many derms) is that they 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 guide to each of the 15 CeraVe cleansers, 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: Dry to Very Dry Skin (it’s also good for sensitive skin, eczema-prone skin and babies older than three months)
Texture: Oily Gel-to-Foam
Benefits: “This is the brand’s first oil cleanser,” says New York dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD. “Oil cleansers are really fantastic for people who need to remove makeup, dirt or impurities. They’re great alone, or great as the first step in a double-cleanse routine. The second step would be a gentle foam or creamy hydrating cleanser. The beauty of this product is that in addition to containing the brand’s three essential ceramides, the oil that’s used is squalane, and it’s noncomedogenic. Therefore, you can use this cleanser even if you’re acne-prone or super sensitive.”
It comes out like a gel but the second you mix it with water, it turns into a foam. It leaves your skin super soft, not stripped. It also has the National Eczema Association Seal, and can be used on the body too.
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 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.
Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser (4% Benzoyl Peroxide) ($16)
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.”
Skin Type: Acne-Prone
Though this cleanser looks nearly identical to the product mentioned above, this formula contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide versus 4 percent. Dr. Marchbein says 4 percent BPO is indicated for face only and 10 percent is considered maximum strength. “I think there is always a patient for both: 4 percent is great for those who are a little more sensitive and 10 percent is great for acne on the chest and back, and those who have really oily skin and aren’t as sensitive.”
“Benzoyl peroxide is one of my favorite acne-fighting ingredients because it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and it also treats blackheads. It’s also pregnancy-safe, versus salicylic acid, which isn’t. However, I recommend using this cleanser in the shower because benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabric. You can use it on your face, chest, back, tush—wherever you have acne.”
Because benzoyl peroxide can be drying on the skin, the brand combined it with ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and glycerin. “My patients who have acne already have diminished levels of ceramides in their skin and a diminished skin barrier, so these amazing ingredients keep the skin balanced and healthy,” Dr. Marchbein adds, noting that it’s oil-free, pH-balanced and noncomedogenic as well. “You can also use this more than once a day if needed, like if you shower after the gym, and then again at night.”
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.
“One of the brand’s newest launches, it’s appropriate that this cleansing balm is coming out now because more people are wearing makeup again,” Dr. Turegano says. “Double-cleansing has also become more popular. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy if my patients can wash their face just once, but we are seeing the benefits of that extra step. A lot of makeup products now are waterproof or long-wearing, so skin benefits from that extra step of removing makeup—typically with an oil-based product like this one—before cleansing.
In addition to the three ceramides, it also contains nourishing jojoba oil. And when you think of oil-based products, you sometimes wonder if it’s good for oily skin, but I find that they’re even better-suited because oils work better at removing oils. You only need a little pearl-size amount—a little goes a long way—and the solid melts on your fingers as you rub it into your skin. It’s made for the full face, so it will also take off eye makeup and face makeup in one step.”
“Another summer 2022 launch, this eye makeup remover is ophthalmologist-tested and formulated for the eye area,” says Dr. Turegano. “It has hyaluronic acid, so it’s extra hydrating and nourishing for the skin around the eyes, which doesn’t have oil glands. Ultimately, when it comes to removing eye makeup, it comes down to preference. With this, you apply it to a cotton swab and then remove your eye makeup on dry skin. Then you wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove any residue.”
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 bar cleansers because they often contain fewer ingredients than liquids.” There’s also the sustainability factor: Bars avoid the use of plastic, and therefore reduce the user’s carbon footprint.