CeraVe vs. Cetaphil: How Do They Work? | MyEczemaTeam

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CeraVe vs. Cetaphil: How Do They Work?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Posted on September 14, 2023

Cetaphil and CeraVe are well-known skin care brands in the MyEczemaTeam community. But how much do you really know about them — including who the products are for, what their main ingredients are, and which ones are specifically designed for eczema and flare-ups?

If any of these questions left you wondering, keep reading. We’ll provide the answers and discuss important considerations for buying over-the-counter products for your eczema.

CeraVe vs. Cetaphil: Target Audience

CeraVe and Cetaphil are both dermatologist-recommended brands, and most of their products are fragrance-free, which is helpful for sensitive skin types. They make products such as:

  • Facial cleansers and face washes
  • Moisturizing creams
  • Moisturizing lotions
  • Moisturizing oils
  • Sunscreen
  • Eye cream

Cetaphil was founded in 1947 to help people with sensitive skin types. Most of their sensitive skin facial cleansers, facial moisturizers, and sunscreens are fragrance-free.

CeraVe, a newer brand, launched in 2005. It was founded to help people with eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, and acne-prone skin. CeraVe’s main skin care products are moisturizing creams, moisturizing lotions, and hydrating cleansers.

Many MyEczemaTeam members use Cetaphil and/or CeraVe products to relieve their eczema symptoms. They have reported positive results with both skin care brands:

  • “I have extremely dry skin. What works best for me is CeraVe Itch Relief. I’ve just started using CeraVe Daily Facial Cleanser, and so far, it’s working well.”
  • “Cetaphil moisturizer has really helped with the suppleness of my skin, and I feel it has prevented my eczema from breaking out.”
  • “I would just like to serve as a satisfied customer and witness that Cetaphil Body Wash is definitely a real comfort and a soothing experience (for me, personally).”
  • “I use CeraVe bar soap. It lathers nice, feels great on the skin, no smelly fragrance, and it makes my skin feel smooth!”

Keep in mind that not all CeraVe and Cetaphil products are suitable for people with eczema. The active ingredients in products geared toward acne-prone skin types or oily skin types may be harmful to eczema-prone skin types.

Two examples of these ingredients are retinoids (retinol) and essential oils. Retinoids, which are helpful for antiaging and acne-prone skin types, can also cause skin irritation and dryness. Essential oils are fragrances that can lead to allergic reactions. Tea tree oil is an essential oil that’s used in anti-acne treatments, but it can also cause allergy and skin irritation.

CeraVe vs. Cetaphil: National Eczema Association-Accepted Products for Eczema

If you’re looking for eczema-friendly products for your skin care routine, the National Eczema Association’s (NEA) eczema product directory is a trustworthy source. The directory has all of the products that have earned the NEA Seal of Acceptance. The NEA’s Seal of Acceptance is given only to skin care products that pass its sensitivity, skin irritation, and toxicity tests.

Combined, CeraVe and Cetaphil have 38 NEA-accepted products to choose from, all of which are fragrance-free and suitable for eczema-prone skin. However, there are twice as many CeraVe products on the list as Cetaphil products.

CeraVe vs. Cetaphil: The Main Ingredients

The CeraVe and Cetaphil products on the NEA list use many of the same active ingredients. Claims that one brand is better than the other are most likely due to personal preferences rather than objective differences in product makeup.

The main ingredients that the eczema-friendly CeraVe and Cetaphil products have in common are ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide.

Ceramides

Ceramides are lipids (fats) that are on the top layer of the skin. Ceramide lipids act as a natural skin barrier. This natural barrier protects the skin against damage and stops it from losing moisture. Ceramides also help the skin repair itself after it’s been injured.

Ceramides and eczema, particularly atopic dermatitis — the most common type of eczema — go hand in hand. Dermatologists have discovered that individuals with atopic dermatitis have low levels of ceramides in their skin, and the ceramides they do have may not work properly. This weakens the skin’s natural barrier. An abnormal skin barrier is one reason why people with eczema have discolored, itchy skin. Therefore, people with eczema and dry skin types benefit from a skin care routine that includes ceramides.

CeraVe products have more ceramides than Cetaphil products. Every CeraVe product has three ceramides in it. Most of the Cetaphil products on the NEA list have only one ceramide.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a natural humectant. Humectants help the skin take in moisture from the environment. Hyaluronic acid may help make eczema-affected dry skin seem less flaky. Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the body that helps keep the skin and tissues hydrated.

Other studies have shown that hyaluronic acid speeds up the wound healing process. This ingredient could help people with eczema who scratch their itchy skin, which can cause small tears and breaks in the skin.

Glycerin

Glycerin is another humectant that helps with skin moisture. Moisturizing creams or moisturizing lotions with glycerin help hydrate dry skin types. Research has shown that moisturizers with glycerin hydrate the skin very quickly.

Niacinamide

Niacinamide (vitamin B3) helps create ceramides, which make up the skin’s protective barrier. By helping the skin form this natural barrier, niacinamide enhances hydration. It also protects against skin irritation.

Applying a skin care product containing niacinamide twice a day can help reduce inflammation, which shows up as skin discoloration and pain. Moisturizers with niacinamide also have faster and more long-lasting effects on dry skin than other moisturizers.

Niacinamide plays another key role. It reduces hyperpigmentation (dark spots), which can result from eczema flare-ups. This is more common in people of color who have eczema. Using a product with niacinamide can help lighten dark spots. Some people might be extra sensitive to niacinamide. To be safe, start with a lower percentage and slowly increase it as your skin gets used to it.

Which CeraVe and Cetaphil Products Are Good for Eczema?

Several different CeraVe and Cetaphil cleansers and moisturizers might be good for your eczema. These brands have many choices designed for various skin types and needs, so you’ll want to look for the products that suit your skin best.

Cleansers

Skin care experts advises people with eczema to limit their use of cleansers to those that are:

  • Soap-free
  • Neutral or low pH
  • Fragrance-free
  • Hypoallergenic

Soaps shouldn’t be used because they interfere with the skin barrier. As mentioned earlier, CeraVe and Cetaphil are both doctor-recommended brands. As for cleansers, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) suggests these CeraVe and Cetaphil products for eczema:

  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar
  • Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

Moisturizers

Moisturizers are the foundation of eczema treatment. They improve skin hydration and reduce discoloration, itchy skin, and skin breaks. Moisturizers should be used right after bathing to lock in skin barrier moisture.

There are five types of moisturizers: ointments, creams, oils, gels, and lotions. One benefit of ointments is that they don’t have preservatives, which can cause pain and stinging. However, they can leave the skin feeling greasy, which some people don’t like. Lotions that have a lot of water won’t leave the skin feeling greasy. However, lotions aren’t as good for very dry skin because the higher water content in the lotion will evaporate from the skin.

Cetaphil and CeraVe moisturizers to try include:

  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
  • CeraVe Healing Ointment
  • Cetaphil Healing Ointment
  • CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion
  • Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Soothing Moisturizer

Where To Buy CeraVe and Cetaphil Products for Eczema

Cetaphil and CeraVe are over-the-counter drugstore brands that offer a range of products suitable for various skin care needs, including eczema. Although you can usually find them at well-known stores like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Target, eczema-friendly skin care items may not always be in stock. When buying online, remember to be careful and purchase from trustworthy sellers to ensure that your skin care, hair care, and makeup products are authentic.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 49,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.

Have you ever used Cetaphil or Cerave products for your eczema? Which products worked well for you? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on September 14, 2023
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
Christina Nelson, M.D. earned a Doctor of Medicine from the Frank H. Netter, MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in 2023. Learn more about her here.

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