Why Derms Prefer This $10 Drugstore Cleanser To Prestige Brands

And whether it’s *really* that good.

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cetaphil bottle

Whether you're a skin care aficionado or only have two beauty products in your bathroom cabinet, you're likely familiar with Cetaphil. The beloved brand, most known for its Gentle Skin Cleanser, is a go-to for anyone with sensitive skin or those who take a no-frills approach to skin care. It’s the type of product that you keep just in case your skin decides to act up (whether or not you’re aware of what’s causing it), because you know it won’t cause any further skin care issues. However, it's not just everyday consumers who love it — many experts do, too. But why do dermatologists recommend the Cetaphil cleanser so frequently? It's not because of some magic ingredient. In fact, it's because it doesn't have many ingredients at all.

The Cetaphil cleanser contains just eight ingredients: water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben. The short formula list is a stark difference from most skin care products on the market, and according to dermatologists, that's why it's so effective. "It has a pleasant aroma, but not because of any added synthetic fragrance," Dr. Sapna Palep, MD, FAAD, of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City says. She insists that the formula (and the gentle, yet thorough, cleanse it provides) is why the Cetaphil cleanser has become on of the most beloved skin care products for people around the world — despite a very competitive, crowded marketplace.

Who Should Use Cetaphil Cleanser?

For patients with acne, rosacea and eczema — all conditions that cause inflammation and skin irritation — Dr. Palep says that the Cetaphil cleanser helps to keep skin balanced when used as a part of a gentle skin care routine. Many times, when her patients are having flare-ups, she asks what cleansers or products they're using, and what they list are products filled with all these excess extracts and essential oils. Dr. Palep says that Cetaphil is nothing like that. Rather, it's a simple, straightforward product, perfect for soothing and resetting irritated skin and an overworked moisture barrier.

Dr. Palep says that, while it's not the product she necessarily prescribes the most across the board, Cetaphil is what she prescribes most for skin that is overworked or recovering from invasive skin treatments. "You want to make sure that you're balancing the pH of your skin," she says. "This is to prevent your body from over-compensating by over-producing oil or drying out. Cetaphil is a great marriage between hydration and cleansing." When skin needs a reset, this is the one that Dr. Palep suggests the most.

Is Cetaphil The Best Cleanser For You?

However, like any other skin care product, it's not a fix for everything skin-related. "When I recommend skin care products, I want them to be results-warranting, impactful and beneficial," Candace Marino, celebrity facialist, tells TZR. "Cetaphil doesn't efficiently remove makeup or sunscreen. It's a very basic cleanser. It's not going to do much outside of giving a mediocre, gentle cleanse. Again, it is not efficient for heavy product removal, so if someone is using this cleanser for that purpose, they should use another cleanser prior." This is where double cleansing with an oil cleanser might be beneficial for effective makeup removal

Dr. Palep concurs that it sometimes isn't quite enough, insisting that while the Cetaphil cleanser can serve as a reset for the skin following a flare-up, it shouldn't be used as a constant solution for chronic skin conditions like eczema. "Eczema is one of those conditions that isn't necessarily caused by the use of excess products and harsh ingredients," she says. "It has many triggers including humidity, cold weather, and something that's incredibly prevalent right now: excessive hand washing."

Drawbacks Of The Cetaphil Cleanser

But Cetaphil’s cleanser doesn't necessarily get glowing reviews from everyone due to the alcohol content. According to Marino, the alcohol can do more harm than good for certain skin types. "Cetaphil tends to leave the skin feeling dry and stripped," Marino says. "The ingredient deck makes me question why anyone with dry skin condition should use it when it contains a foaming agent and alcohol. There are so many great cleansers out there that do so much for the skin while providing a thorough cleanse. If I'm going to recommend something for my clients, I want it to be something that they will see and feel a difference from. For my clients that need a gentle cleanser that is non-sensitizing or irritating, and is safe to use on open skin, I'm recommending Cleansing Complex or Cream Cleanser from iS Clinical or Lait U from Biologique Recherche."

And while the Cetaphil cleanser may not necessarily be for everybody, it is accessible to everybody. "I absolutely love Cetaphil," Dr. Shari Sperling of Sperling Dermatology in New Jersey. "It’s easy to get, over-the-counter, and cost-effective." But, just like any other skin care product, the point remains: everyone's skin reacts differently, so consult with a professional or spot test on yourself before fully incorporating Cetaphil into your skin care routine.

We at TZR only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

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