CeraVe vs Cetaphil: A Clear Winner?

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CeraVe and Cetaphil are possibly two of the most hyped-up “dermatologist recommended” skin care brands ever.

Both are available pretty much everywhere, are super affordable, are no-frills and – frankly – really good.

Even their packaging looks remarkably similar, with uninspiring blue, green and white labels and sans-serif fonts, and their names even sound the same (“CeraVe” vs “Cetaphil”).

I wouldn’t be surprised if the average person thought they were the same.

So – if not their name or their packaging, what’s the difference between CeraVe and Cetaphil? Is there one brand you should be choosing over the other?

Well, it all depends on four things – and lucky for you, I’ve compared the two…

Overall Winner

Overall Winner: CeraVe


Ingredients Winner: CeraVe

Ever wondered why Cetaphil is so heavily recommended by doctors and dermatologists? It’s because it’s one of the most plain brands ever.

Seriously. Just take a look at the bottle if you’re not convinced and that’ll show you everything you need to know. It’s the vanilla yoghurt of skin care – about as boring inside as it is on the outside.

There’s no fragrances, dyes, essential oils, parabens, surfactants, or antioxidants in the formula – nada. This makes it the bread and butter of a routine for people with deeply troubled skin who are trying to eliminate the possibility of irritation. It’ll just do the job – get your skin clean or hydrated or whatever, and nothing more.

That’s not to say it’s bad! Just simple.

Cetaphil is perfect for those with very vulnerable skin, like babies or the elderly, or someone who’s just had a bad skin reaction or invasive procedure. I myself used the Cetaphil Moisturising Face Wash religiously for more than 5 years, much of it during dealing with the worst skin of my life.

Cerave products, on the other hand, have an abundance of ceramides in the ingredients lists (which if you read this post you’ll know why I love them). The addition of these hydrating, soothing, healing ingredients means the products are more rich, effective all-rounders. They’re designed a little more with actively repairing the skin barrier in mind – and we know how much I care about my skin barrier.

While extra ingredients could be an issue for those seeking to eliminate all unnecessary potential irritants, it’s still very unlikely to upset your skin. And better yet, it won’t just be cleaning or moisturising your skin, it’ll also keep it protected!

CeraVe is a very sensible brand choice for most people, especially those who need something a little more complete and multi-functional.


Overall Price Winner: It’s a Tie

Of course, whether we like to admit it or not, almost all of us are just looking for a good deal.

We don’t have unlimited funds and especially when you’re building your very first routine, each product adds up! Killer ingredients and laser-focused effectiveness are awesome, but when it comes down to it, our skin probably isn’t priority #1 in the budet.

There are three ways to look at cost – overall range affordability, cost per volume received, and a direct comparison of some of their most popular competing products.

Investment: Average individual product cost

Investment Winner: Cetaphil came out at ~15% cheaper than Cerave overall.

We can get a sense of how affordable a brand is as a whole by averaging the cost of all of their offerings. This gives us an idea of how much you can reasonably expect to spend when you walk out of a store or check out your online shopping cart with just one of their products – which is often important to those on a budget.

Both these brands are quite affordable, but are they exactly the same? I scoured both CeraVe and Cetaphil on Amazon and came up with the following average price estimates:

Cerave (26 products including packs sampled) averaged $15.95.

Cetaphil (36 products including packs sampled) averaged $13.61.

This means it’s easier to make the initial investment into a Cetaphil product.

Value: Cost per ounce

Value Winner: CeraVe averages about 15c cheaper per ounce

While you buy products per bottle, in the long term it’s crucial to consider how much product you’re actually getting for that much money. While smaller products might make more affordable initial investments, you’ll also replace them faster.

So do the two brands compete ounce for ounce?

Just to be sure, let’s compare a small sample of comparable/identical products shall we? The creamy facial cleansers and basic moisturising creams.

Disclaimer: These are the prices as on Amazon from mid-October 2019.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial CleanserCetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
$ per ounce$0.86$0.60
CeraVe CreamCetaphil Cream
$ per ounce$0.75$1.32

The overall cost difference between the two brands is not enormous and they very much compete in price.

However, despite Cetaphil coming out ahead in terms of affordability individual product, in terms of value ounce-for-ounce, CeraVe wins.

Product Range/Skin Type

Range Winner: CeraVe

Let’s be real – neither of these brands really stretch the limits in terms of imagination. Both stick pretty closely to simple cleansers and moisturisers. You won’t be able to find any crazy actives or cutting-edge technology here.

However, CeraVe has branched out into some awesome anti-acne and anti-ageing ageing lines that include retinol, salicylic acid and more. See here their pretty big range:

This is as compared to Cetaphil, who still have a fairly limited range of products and lack diversity for different skin concerns and types.

if you’re looking for flexibility and diversity in your options, CeraVe is the brand for you.


Availability Winner: Cetaphil

Both Cetaphil and Cerave are drugstore brands and due to their huge popularity are available pretty much everywhere. Chemists, supermarkets, even at some newsagents! Wherever you can buy toiletries, you’ll be sure to see these brands. I think that’s fantastic, especially for beginners to skin care who are looking for something they can pick up while doing their regular chores.

However international availability is unfortunately where CeraVe falls behind. It’s just not easily found in many places other than North America. While services like Amazon are rapidly improving our access to great products here in down under, it’s not as convenient or affordable as grabbing your skin care while you’re at the grocery store. Where CeraVe has cropped up in person, the prices have been pretty exorbitant. This makes Cetaphil the winner for accessibility in my eyes.

What’s right for you?

Use Cerave if you’re looking for a well-rounded, basic and hydrating skin care regime, with some more varied choices for different products suited to your skin type.

Use Cetaphil if you have very sensitive skin and are focusing on a bigger skin issue like cystic acne or allergies, or value accessibility and affordability most of all.

My recommendation – which is better, CeraVe or Cetaphil?

We’ve covered every possible angle in the CeraVe vs Cetaphil debate. Now it’s time to make the final call… What brand do I recommend to you? Well, though it depends on what matters most to you, in a very general sense:

Overall Winner: CeraVe

CeraVe’s wide range of products and great ingredients are more up my alley and I think better for 90% of you who are interested in a more complete and effective skin care regimen.

If Cetaphil is all that’s available near you, is what you can afford, or is all your skin can tolerate that’s no problem, but perhaps look at ordering some CeraVe next time you get a chance. Or better yet, use both! You can find products you love in each of these brands and they’ll work great together.

Do you have a drugstore skin care brand you just love? Tell me about it below!


One comment

  1. […] standard, low- or no- foaming affordable cleanser is a great start for anyone as a staple cleanser. Cetaphil and Cerave make two of the most popular and reliable options on the market. But really, use whatever cleanser […]

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