What are dermatologists thinking?!
You know how they always recommend Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser to their patient – even those with sensitive skin?
Turns out, there’s stuff here that would make sensitive skin scream in pain! Are they just being irresponsible or do they know something we don’t?
Let’s take a look at the ingredient list to find out:
Key Ingredients In Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Cetyl Alcohol And Stearyl Alcohol
Wait, the first ingredient is alcohol?! Isn’t that drying to the skin?
It depends. Some types of alcohols do make sensitive skin scream in pain. I’m talking about Alcohol Denat, Ethanol, Isopropyl Alcohol, and SD Alcohol. If you find these at the top of an ingredient list, beware.
But Cetyl Alcohol and Stearyl Alcohol – the alcohols used in Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser – are fatty alcohols. Completely different thing. Fatty alcohols are moisturizing. Phew1
These good alcohols also bind the oils on your skin with water so that they can be rinsed away. In plain English, it cleanses and moisturises skin at the same time.
Related: What Does Alcohol-Free Really Mean?
Isn’t this the industrial antifreeze used in brake and hydraulic fluids?
Yep, but don’t worry. Derms know something about it you probably don’t: it’s the dose that makes the poison.
Propylene glycol is dangerous at 100% concentrations. In the minuscule doses used in cosmetics, it’s perfectly safe.
But why is it in Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser? Propylene Glycol is a humectant: it attracts water from the environment into the skin, keeping it hydrated during the cleansing process.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Cetyl Alcohol and Propylene Glycol are terribly misunderstood but Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has gained a bad rep for a good reason: it’s irritating as hell.
When scientists want to know how irritating a substance is, they compare it to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate! Surely, that tells you everything you need to know about it, right?!
Not. So. Fast.
High concentrations of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can and do strip the skin of the natural oils that keep it moisturised, dry it out and irritate it.
But Sodium Lauryl Sulfate isn’t the only cleansing agent in Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Even if it’s in third place on the ingredient list, the emollients that come before it counteract its drying and irritating effects – to an extent.
In other words, you can’t judge a product based on one ingredient. How that ingredient plays with its teammates matters too.
But, if your skin is sensitive or dry, I would still err on the safe side and avoid this. I know this seems to counteract what I’ve just said but these skin types are quite delicate.
For some of you with dry and sensitive skin, the addition of these emollients will be enough to avoid any side effects. But others may still experience them. At the end of the day, everyone’s skin is different and can react differently to the same product.
Sensitive skin, in particular, is such a wild card as you never know when it may throw a tantrum. So while I applaud Cetaphil for doing its best to counteract the irritating effects of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, I wish it replaced it with a gentle alternative altogether.
Is there anything in Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser that didn’t gain a bad rep for one (bad) reason or another?!
Parabens got a bad rep when a study found them in breast tumours. Problem is, that study has so many flaws, even the scientists who did it claim they didn’t find any proof parabens cause cancer.
If you’re interested in the long version and why this study can’t be taken seriously, check out this post where I use science to debunk this and other parabens myths (hint: you shouldn’t worry about their estrogenic properties either).
Parabens ARE sensitive skin friendly. A lot of preservatives that are replacing them are actually more irritating!
What Else Do You Need To Know?
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser has a very basic formula that only contains what’s strictly necessary: a surfactant to remove oils and dirt, moisturizing ingredients to prevent dryness and preservatives to keep it safe and effective.
I usually complain about such basic formulas, but in this case, it makes sense:
- No reason to use antioxidants or other goodies that would just be rinsed down the drain.
- The more stuff it contains, the higher the chance it’ll bother sensitive skin. Basic and simple works best for this skin type.
Still, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can’t help but wish they removed Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and replaced it with gentle cleansing agents. It’s true its friends make sure it won’t irritate most people’s skin but we have gentler options now, so why not use them?
The Bottom Line
I wouldn’t say Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is the best option for sensitive skin. But it’s a basic cleanser that will do the job without irritating most skin types.
Have you ever tried Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleaner? Share your experience and opinion below.
Ingredients: Water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.
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