cerave hydrating facial cleanser review

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is the cleanser I recommend the most to both my clients and friends. To explain why, let me ask you a question. Do you feel like giving up on cleansing in winter? No matter what you do, your skin ALWAYS feels so tight and dry after cleansing.

Blame it on surfactants. They help oils and dirt mix with water so they can easily be rinsed off. But if your skin’s dry and sensitive, they’ll remove too much oil, damage your skin’s protective barrier, and leave your skin worse for wear.

This cleanser takes a different approach. One that makes it much gentler for all your cleansing winter needs. Let’s take a look at how it works and why you should use it:

About The Brand: CeraVe

In 2005, Cerave together with dermatologists developed a simple line of products with one special feature: the inclusion of three types of ceramides (ceramides 1, 3 and 6-II), fatty acids, and other lipids to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier. These lipids are then delivered into your skin with the help of MultiVesicular Emulsion Technology (MVE), a system that releases ingredients over the course of 24 hours, to keep skin hydrated during the day.

The following year, the brand officially launched its first three products, Moisturising Cream, Moisturising Lotion and Hydrating Cleanser. They’re still staples to this day. The line has since expanded to feature hydrating products that also target wrinkles, acne, and dark spots.

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


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser uses emulsifiers like Ceteraryl Alcohol, PEG-40 Stearate, and Stearyl Alcohol that bind oil and water together. You know what that means? They remove both water-soluble and oil-soluble grime, such as dirt and makeup. Plus, they moisturise skin to boot. Win win. The catch? Emulsifiers are good at removing a light face of makeup but if you’re using those stubborn long-lasting foundations, they’ll struggle.

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banish flakiness and keeps skin soft and supple? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin” cheatsheet 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?!
  • Aqua: This is water, the main solvent that helps dissolve other ingredients in the formula.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that draws moisture from the air into your skin to increase its hydration levels during the cleansing and make the whole process gentler.
  • Potassium Phosphate: It adjusts the pH of skincare products.
  • Ceramide NP: One of the most prevalent types of ceramides found naturally in skin, it strengthens the skin’s protective barrier to keep moisture in and irritants out.
  • Ceramide AP: It reinforces the skin’s protective barrier, making it softer and smoother. It also makes the cleansing process gentler on the skin.
  • Ceramide EOP: Another type of ceramides that strengthens skin’s barrier. It keeps moisture in for softer skin and irritants out.
  • Carbomer: A thickening agent that also prevents the watery and oily parts of a product from separating.
  • Glyceryl Stearate: It helps water and oil to mix together, thickens the texture, and leaves the skin soft and smooth.
  • Behentrimonium Methosulfate: It enhances the texture of any product it’s included in.
  • Sodium Laurel Lactylate: It helps the oily and watery parts of products to mix together.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: A.k.a. hyaluronic acid, it draws up to 1000 times its weight in water, keeping skin hydrated for longer.
  • Cholesterol: Another natural component of your skin’s protective barrier. Like ceramides, it strengthens it to keep moisture in and irritants out.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that prevents bacteria contamination.
  • Disodium EDTA: It prevents ingredients in a formula from binding with trace elements present in water or other ingredients, helping it last longer.
  • Dipotassium Phosphate: It adjusts the pH of skincare products.
  • Tocopherol: A form of Vitamin E. It’s an antioxidant with preservative-like properties that helps skincare products last longer.
  • Phytosphingosine: It strengthens the skin’s protective barrier and makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Xanthan Gum: It’s one of the few naturally-derived ingredients thickeners used in skincare.
  • Cetyl Alcohol: It makes skin softer, helps the oily and watery parts of the formula mix together nicely, and thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Polysorbate 20: A mild cleansing agent that removes dirt and impurities from skin.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin: A hydration booster with preservative-like properties that helps skincare products last longer.


The cleanser has a translucent white texture that feels more like a lotion than a cleanser. It emulsifies well with water, doesn’t really foam, and spreads easily onto the skin to remove all impurities without dryness and irritation.


It’s fragrance-free. I’m a huge fan of fragrance-free products. Fragrance is one of the most irritating ingredients found in skincare products. Cleansing always has the potential to cause irritation – but it must be done. You can’t live with dirty skin, can you? But removing everything else that could irritate skin is definitely a good idea – even if it makes products smell bland.

How To Use It

You can use this cleanser both in the morning and night. It’s the first step of your skincare routine. I also use it to remove makeup at night, but keep in mind I only wear light makeup. Simply apply mix a small dollop with water, massage it onto your skin, and then rinse everything away with lukewarm water.


This cleanser comes in a white and green bottle with a pump applicator that releases the right amount of product you need. Nothing gets wasted. But my fave thing about it is the size: it’s HUGE. It’ll last you for months.

Performance & Personal Opinion

I use CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser only in the mornings because I swear on Clinique Take The Day Off Balm or Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser to remove my makeup anyway. As I mentioned, if you’re wearing as much makeup as a Kardashian, you’re better off with an oil-based cleanser.

For everyone else, this cleanser is all you need. For starters, it’s super gentle: if I swipe a cotton pad imbued with toner afterwards, it comes out perfectly clean – a telltale sign the cleanser has removed everything. Yet, my skin doesn’t feel tight or dry in the least. On the contrary, it’s – dare I say it – a little hydrated. If your skin is flaky and sensitive, this’ll be a game changer for you.

Related: My Full Review Of Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser

cerave hydrating cleanser

How Does CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Compare To Other CeraVe Hydrating Cleansers?

CeraVe has several hydrating cleansers, so how do you choose the one that’s best for you? I’ve done the comparison for you to make skincare shopping easier for you (hint: it depends a lot on the texture and format you prefer):

  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar ($9.99): I’m usually not a big fan of soap bars. The ingredients that keep them together and remove impurities can dry out skin and clog pores. Thankfully, CeraVe has created a gentle bar soap that removes makeup and dirt without side effects. Plus, it’s enriched with ceramides to moisturise skin. If you like bar soaps, this is a good option for you. Available at Boots and Target.
  • CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser ($13.25): This foaming oil cleanser uses gentle surfactants, like Coco Betaine, to help water mix with impurities and makeup, so they can be rinsed away. Surfactants are more suitable for oily skin, but the moisturising oil base with squalene and hyaluronic acid makes this suitable for dry skin types as well. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, and Sephora.
  • CeraVe Cream To Foam Cleanser ($12.47): A gentle foaming cleanser for dry skin enriched with ceramides. It removes dirt and impurities and leaves skin softer and smoother. Available at Boots and Sephora.

What I Like About CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

  • Creamy texture.
  • Fragrance-free.
  • Removes dirt and impurities from skin.
  • Moisturising, doesn’t dry out skin.
  • Big bottle, will last you for months.
  • Affordable.

What I DON’T Like About CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

  • Doesn’t remove heavy makeup well.

Who Should Use This?

It’s a fragrance-free, creamy cleanser, so it’s best suitable for dry and sensitive skin types. If you have oily skin, opt for a pH-balanced foaming cleanser. If you wear a lot of makeup, this isn’t enough for you either.

Does CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Live Up To Its Claims?

A hydrating and soothing facial cleansing lotion for normal to dry skin on the face and body.  True.
Specifically formulated for sensitive facial skin that is normal to dry and prone to irritation, including eczema. True.
This soap free, non-foaming lotion gently removes dirt and oil while increasing skin hydration after just one use. True.

Is CeraVe Cruelty-Free?

Unfortunately, CeraVe is NOT cruelty-free. They sell their products in mainland China, where animal testing is still required by law.

Price & Availability

$14.99/£9.50 at Dermstore, Sephora, Look Fantastic, and Ulta

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

Yes! This is one of the best cleansers for dry and sensitive skin types. At this price, it’s a steal, too!

Dupes & Alternatives

  • La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser (£13.00): One of the gentlest creamy cleanser, it removes dirt and impurities without irritating skin. Suitable even for the most sensitive of skin types. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Dermstore, La Roche Posay, and Sephora.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser ($17.00): This moisturising cleanser uses a mix of surfactants and natural oils to remove impurities and makeup from skin, leaving it soft and clean. Available at Paula’s Choice.


Aqua, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, PEG-40 Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Potassium Phosphate, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Carbomer, Glyceryl Stearate, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Sodium Laurel Lactylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cholesterol, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tocopherol, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Cetyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin