Cetaphil: The Gentle Cleanser?

Posted by:  Jordan

What is it about Cetaphil that makes dermatologists and beauty editors fall all over themselves?  I never understood why it was the top recommended “Cheap But Amazing!” product that you can’t live without.  Every time I used it I either noticed nothing spectacular (during the best of trials in my early 20’s when I was blessed with sturdy skin) or it made my skin break out horribly (during the worst of trials in my late 20’s when I started to get classified as a “sensitive skin” type).  After the last trial, a couple years ago, I was so alarmed at the immediate breakout that I did some Googling to find out if anyone else had issues with it (because magazines and doctors made it seem like you were Satan if you didn’t love Cetaphil).  Come to find out, several people had aversions to Cetaphil, and a lot of people were crediting it to the harsh detergent agents (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates) in the formula.  That was really the first time I started looking at the ingredients in my beauty products.  I soon found that a ton of my products contained drying SLS’s.  I ditched the idea of Cetaphil once and for all, and came the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with me, but everything wrong with the fanatics who were pushing this stuff on us poor, unsuspecting “sensitive types.”

Earlier this week a PJR reader, Lydia, wrote in asking for recommendations on what cleansers she could use to replace Cetaphil.  I informed Lydia that there are a couple of great articles about Cetaphil and alternatives to it on Well and Good NYC.

From my own experience I can recommend Vapour’s new cleansing oil (massage on your face to remove makeup, then wipe off with a tissue) followed by a gentle foaming cleanser such as the one I tried by Juice Beauty.  Or, of course, I also really love Weleda’s Wild Rose creamy cleanser and toner for sensitive skin.

Congrats to Lydia for going through the beauty product detox (and be sure to check out her awesome food blog. It’s entertaining, educational food porn at its very finest!)  Leave a comment if you have other natural alternatives to Cetaphil to suggest for Lydia!



Filed under Cleansers

16 responses to “Cetaphil: The Gentle Cleanser?

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! I shared those Well & Good links with my very-sensitive-skinned mother who also uses/will cease to use Cetaphil, and I’m going to take her to Whole Foods to look for a better alternative when she comes to visit me.

    I’m afraid my blog isn’t as regularly updated as it used to be, but there is also a link on it to my books blog. Thanks again!

  2. Maria

    I’ve actually never tried Cetaphil, but I’ve heard that it’s a really popular cleanser.
    I recently changed my cleanser and toner. I wasn’t satisfied with how my skin was looking and I also think I might have been using too harsh products. Iam so used to that squeaky clean, tight feeling when I wash my face. So now I have changed to Dr. Hauschka cleansing milk and toner. It has definitely improved my skin. It takes some time to get used to, because now my skin is soft instead of tight/dry when I cleanse.

    I would recommend that you watch Lisa Eldridge on youtube. She made two videos on her skin care. It kind of changed my look on skin care. (She’s not an all natural product girl, but I like her take on skin care). She’s talking about using really gentle cleansers, no scrubs. Have a look. http://www.youtube.com/user/lisaeldridgedotcom#p/u/44/mYmpcQahvt4 She’s an amazing makeup artist.

  3. Jessica

    Lisa has a lot of great information. I would caution that alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can be too harsh for some people’s skin and can make you more susceptible to sun damage. I can’t use AHAs because they make my skin red but I have no problem using gentle manual scrubs.

  4. Cory

    I clicked on the Weleda link, but it doesn’t look like the cleanser and toner are in the Wild Rose line. Am I missing something?

    • Hi Cory,
      You’re right! I just looked at the site myself, and found the same thing. Weleda just re-did their skincare lines, so maybe that has changed. I hope they have not discontinued these products!?! We will do some investigating and get back to you asap!
      Thanks for reading!

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  6. Ane

    I live in South Africa, I am 21 years old. I use Cetaphil on my skin and know it’s too harsh for my skin. What can I use to replace Cetaphill. I’ve got a very oily and dehydrated skin. My skin doesn’t look attractive at all. I struggle with break outs and oilyness. I surely need help!

    • Jordan

      Hi Ane! Thanks so much for reading all the way from south Africa! I too have oily yet dehydrated skin, aren’t we blessed?? I don’t even know how that’s possible to have both at once, yet it happens. I really like juice beauty foaming face wash with cherry juice in the summer. In the winter when my face is windburned and dry I prefer weleda’s creamy cleansers. I always follow with a weleda toner in my t zone. Unfortunately you just have to try lots of things to see what works for your skin. I also like the lemongrass exfoliating foaming cleanser by suki several times a week to get rid of the dry dead skin cells. Also, this is premature because i just started using this product, but the clear skin probiotic mask from eminence (a hungarian company) is incredible! Good luck and let us know what happens with your skin!

  7. Rachel

    I just went to the Weleda site to check out what face cleansers they have, and saw their Gentle Cleansing Milk. I’m not all that familiar with Weleda but have heard terrific things in general so have been interested to try their products. However, when I went to read all the ingredients in this cleanser, I saw that “Fragrance/Parfum” is listed, which is a bit disappointing. I’ve been on the search for products that don’t contain this. I know you’re a fan of Weleda, so was just curious if you’ve noticed that a lot of their products contain Fragrance or if this surprises you too. Thanks so much! I love your blog!

    • Hi Rachel,
      That is a great question! And I am actually getting ready to review that very product, so you have great timing!! The short answer is that it’s my understanding that, since Weleda is completely natural, that fragrance comes from essential oils or some other natural source (that is what I have always assumed and been told). I will try and investigate further and get back to you– and I will incorporate your question into my upcoming review! Thanks for being such a good product junkie 🙂

    • Jordan

      Hi Rachel,

      Here is what their website has to say on that question:

      How are natural essential oils denoted on your packaging?
      According to the INCI labeling standards, all fragrances—which for us represent all natural essential oils—are prefaced and denoted by* (From Natural Essential Oils).

      According to the European Union Mediation Committee’s 2005 resolution, 26 fragrances—present in over 10ppm (parts per million)—found to cause allergies in sensitive individuals, must be declared on all personal care ingredient listings. These fragrances are listed by their individual components according to their chemical names. As a result, Rose Oil, for instance, which contains over 400 components, many of which have not even been discovered, is no longer listed as “Rose Oil” on the packaging, but by its individual parts, suchas “Geraniol.”

      While only 1-3% of the population has been found to have any allergy to a fragrance, this regulation has been implemented in order to inform those consumers will allergies of all ingredients that make up a product. Most often, a person is not allergic to the complete fragrance / essential oil, such as Rose Oil, but rather its components.

      We use all natural essential oils. By EU law, these natural ingredients are listed under the same name and designations as their synthetic counterparts, regardless of their origin. Natural essential oils—particularly when blended with other essential oils, rather than in isolated form—are generally well-tolerated by the skin and provide numerous physical and psychological benefits.

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