CeraVe Foaming Cleanser review

Is it me or foaming cleansers have gotten a bad rep lately? I can totally see why.

I started using foaming cleansers when I was around 15. Back then, my skin was oilier and pimple-prone. I figured, the more foam a cleanser makes, the better it cleanses my skin and gets rid of the extra oil and pimples.

Big mistake! Those cleansers were too harsh and just dried my skin. Guess how it responded? More oil and more pimples. Not my smartest skincare move, I tell you.

If you’ve had a bad experience with foaming cleansers like I did, it’s easy to paint them all with the same nasty brush. That’s unfair. Foaming cleansers are still the best option for oily, acne-prone skin. And they’re now a lot gentler than they used to be in my teen days.

If I were a teen today (or just still had oily skin), I’d turn to CeraVe Foaming Cleanser. Here’s what sets it apart from other foaming cleansers:

About The Brand: CeraVe

CeraVe is my fave brand for dry skin (I know this is a review about a cleanser for oily skin, but hear me out). The brand was founded in 2005 after they noticed the commonality between skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin: a compromised skin barrier. Developed with dermatologists, their products are enriched with 3 essential ceramides to restore your skin’s protective barrier and healing these conditions faster.

Oily skin can have a compromised skin barrier, especially when using harsh cleansers and exfoliants that strip it bare. By adding ceramides to the mix, CeraVe ensures even this skin type stays healthy and strong.

Key Ingredients In CeraVe Foaming Cleanser: What Makes It Work?


Surfactants is how you call those ingredients that help water mix with oils and dirt so they can be rinsed away. In other words, they do the cleansing job.

CeraVe Foaming Cleanser uses coco-betaine and sodium cocoyl glycinate. They’re both derived from coconut and produce a creamy lather that is NON-drying.

Another thing they have in common? They’re mild. They remove dirt, impurities and even makeup without disrupting the skin’s protective barrier and drying out skin.


Ceramides are some of the building blocks of your skin. Literally. Together with fatty acids, cholesterol and co, ceramides make up the glue that holds skin cells together. When this barrier’s intact, your skin is soft, supple and able to withstand harsh weather, germs and everything else that attacks it every day.

Problem is, most foaming cleansers damage this glue, making skin drier and prone to irritation. CeraVe Foaming Cleanser doesn’t. Its surfactants are gentle enough to keep this barrier intact. Plus, it goes one step further: it’s loaded with ceramides that strengthen your skin’s protective barrier. Because your cleanser may not damage it, but the colder winter weather might.

I don’t know about you, but I want to give my skin all the help it needs to survive the colder winter months unscathed.

Related: Are Ceramides The Key To Healthier Skin?

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banishes excess sebum, acne, and blackheads? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Purified Water: Water that’s been purified of all trace impurities that could irritate your skin. It’s a solvent that helps dissolve other ingredients in the formula.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that draws water from the environment into your skin to keep it hydrated during the cleansing process.
  • Propylene Glycol: Another humectant that hydrates skin by drawing water from the environment into it.
  • PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate: A cleansing agent that removes dirt and impurities. It also enhances the texture of skincare products.
  • Sodium Chloride: It thickens textures and keeps the oily and watery parts of a product from separating.
  • Acrylates Copolymer: It thickens the texture of cosmetics and binds the ingredients together, so they don’t separate.
  • Citric Acid: It’s used to adjust the pH of the cleanser, so that it’s skin-friendly.
  • Capryloyl Glycine: It makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: It makes skin softer and smoother. It also has preservative-like properties that make a product last longer.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: It helps to balance the pH of the cleanser, so that it works its best – and doesn’t irritate or dry out skin.
  • Niacinamide: A multitasker that hydrates skin, fights acne, reduces the look of wrinkles, brightens dark spots, and soothes skin. Here, it doesn’t do much. It just ends up down the drain. Shame.
  • Disodium EDTA: It binds to the metal ions in the water that could spoil the formula and deactivates them.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: A humectant that attracts water to the skin and binds it there. It’s so powerful, it can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water. All the extra moisture keeps skin softer and smooth during and after cleansing.
  • Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate: It’s a thickening agent that also keeps the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that kills a wide range of bacteria, helping the product stay safe and effective for longer.
  • Phytosphingosine: Like ceramides, it’s another component of your skin’s protective barrier. It strengthens your skin’s barrier, keeps your skin softer, and protects it from irritations.
  • Cholesterol: Part of the skin’s protective barrier. Like ceramides, they patch up any holes in this barrier, helping your skin stay soft and healthy.
  • Xanthan Gum: It thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Carbomer: A thickening agent that also keeps the oily and watery parts of a formula together, so they don’t separate.
  • Ethylhexyl Glycerin: It has antimicrobial properties that keep bacteria away from your cleanser, so it’s safe to use.


CeraVe Foaming Cleanser has a lightweight, gel-like texture that lathers well, especially considering how gentle the cleansing agents here are (as a rule, the harsher the cleansing agent, the more a cleanser will foam). Yet, it’s not drying at all!


It’s fragrance-free. If you’re a regular here, you know I like that. Fragrance makes products smell good – and I’m a sucker for a good fragrance like everyone else. I do have a good perfume collection. But fragrance is also one of the most irritating ingredients used in skincare. Foaming cleansers can be irritating on their own (thankfully this isn’t – unless you use it too often), so not using a fragrance is a smart choice here.

How Do You Use CeraVe Foaming Cleanser?

It’s the first step of your skincare routine in the morning. Unless you wear as much makeup as a Kardashian, you can use this to remove makeup in the evening too – without double cleansing. If you do prefer to double cleanse, this is your second cleanse.


A big white tube with green accents. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s huge, so it’ll last you for a long time. I don’t know about you, but I like not having to restock my skincare products every month. The bottle has a pump applicator that pumps out just the right amount of product you need.

Performance & Personal Opinion

My skin’s more on the dry side now that I live in London but I thought I’d try the cleanser anyway cos a lot of you have been asking me about it.

I didn’t expect it to work too well for my skin type, but I had to eat my words. While I’d still recommend CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser to anyone with dry skin, the foaming version does a great job at cleansing my skin without drying it out.

I massage it onto wet skin and soon, all my makeup, dirt and whatever’s else on my skin melts away. The best part? Afterwards, my skin doesn’t feel tight at all.

I still cringe when I think about my teen years. Back then, I thought that tight feeling meant it had done its job. Now I know it’s your skin’s way of telling you you’ve destroyed its protective barrier. Ouch!

If you’re struggling to find a gentle but effective cleanser for your oily/acne-prone skin, look no further. Try it now and thank me later.

cerave foaming cleanser review

How Does CeraVe Foaming Cleanser Compare To Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser?

TEXTUREGel texture.Instant foam.
ACTIVE INGREDIENTSGentle cleansing agents.Use the harshest cleansing agent, SLS.
PERFORMANCETakes everything off effortlessly without drying out skin.Takes everything off, but can be drying.

CeraVe Foaming Cleansers and Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser are considered dupes, but they’re quite different. For staters, CeraVe Foaming Cleanser has a gel texture, while Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser is an instant foam. I prefer the former texture, but this is a matter of personal preference.

The real issue is that Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser contain SLS, one of the harshest surfactants used in skincare. Even if it’s formulated to reduce its irritating potential, there’s no reason to use it. CeraVe is much gentler on the skin and still gets the cleansing job done well. It’s hands down my fave of the two.

How Does CeraVe Foaming Cleanser Compare To The Other CeraVe Cleansers?

CeraVe makes several cleansers for oily, acne-prone skin. Let’s see how the Foaming Cleanser compares to them:

  • CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser ($15.99): It contains 2% Salicylic acid, an exfoliant that gets inside your pores and unclogs them from within. This way, it can treat blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Salicylic acid needs to stay on the skin to work. In a cleanser, it won’t do much. But, if your skin’s so sensitive, it can’t tolerate salicylic acid for long periods of time, this may be worth a try. It’s less effective, but also gentler. Available at Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic and Ulta.
  • CeraVe Acne-Foaming Cream Cleanser ($15.99): It contains 4% Benzoyl Peroxide, a powerful active that kills the bacteria that cause acne. Benzoyl Peroxide is harsh and drying. In a cleanser, its powers are diluted because it stays on the skin for a very limited time before it’s rinsed off down the drain. If you want to use Benzoyl Peroxide, but your skin can’t tolerate it for a long period of time, this is a good compromise. Available at Ulta.
  • CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($17.99): This is a very similar formula to CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser. It has 2% Salicylic Acid to prevent and treat acne, but it doesn’t work as well as it did if it were left on your skin. Its texture makes it more suitable for normal skin to combination skin. Available at Look Fantastic and Ulta.

What I Like About CeraVe Foaming Cleanser

  • Doesn’t dry out skin (unless you use it too often).
  • Gentle, doesn’t irritate skin.
  • Removes makeup, excess oil, and impurities from your skin.
  • Big bottle will last you for ages.

What I DON’T Like About CeraVe Foaming Cleanser

  • I’d like a prettier bottle, but that’s being picky.

Who Should Use This?

This cleanser is suitable for oily and acne-prone skin that need a good, non-drying cleanse.

Does CeraVe Foaming Cleanser Live Up To Its Claims?

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser was developed with dermatologists to deeply cleanse, remove excess oil and refresh the skin without over-stripping it or leaving it feeling tight and dry.True.
Featuring three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, this gel-based foaming cleanser is an effective yet non-irritating way to cleanse and care for your normal to oily skin.True.

Is CeraVe Foaming Cleanser Cruelty-Free?

Unfortunately, CeraVe is not cruelty-free. They may test on animals, when required by law. Ditto for L’Oreal, the brand that owns CeraVe.

Price & Availability

$14.99/£14.00 at SephoraUlta and Walmart

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you have oily skin, this is an excellent option to consider. It’s one of my fave cleansers for your skin type and the one I recommend more often to my oily-skinned clients.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Rosette Ceramide Dense Foam Cleanser ($12.35): A gentle cleanser that removes makeup and impurities. It’s enriched with ceramides to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier during the cleansing process. Available at Yes Style.


Purified Water, Glycerin, Coco-Betaine, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, Sodium Chloride, Acrylates Copolymer, Citric Acid, Capryloyl Glycine, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Niacinamide, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Ceramide NP, Phenoxyethanol, Ceramide AP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Ceramide EOP