I should change the title of this post to “I was wrong nine years ago when I reviewed Cetaphil because I ignored my dermatologist’s advice and fell for junk science and fear mongering.”
Back in 2008, I wrote about the so-called nasty and harmful ingredients in Cetaphil, which is one of the most highly recommended skin cleansers ever. It is recommended by dermatologists (including mine) and pediatricians alike. Again, junk science and scary articles swayed my own view. I fell for fear and believed that if I loved my kids, I’d only buy the most natural stuff ever. Many of us fall for this even if THESE FEARS HAVE ZERO SCIENTIFIC BASIS.
Not long ago, I returned to a very old stand by of mine, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. I had been trying out the Korean Skincare Routine (more on that month-long experiment next week!) and my skin was dealing with product and multi-ingredient overload. I bought Cetaphil because I know how quickly it soothes and calms my skin.
I am a convert. This one now sits in both showers and by my bathroom sink for me to use at night. I used to like Cetaphil. I just stopped using it because of “chemi-killz” and unfounded fears. I am human, make mistakes, and believe in owning up to them. I was wrong in that 9 year old review.
More about Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
The formula is NOT sexy. It lacks sophistication, the latest in ground-breaking botanicals, and slick packaging. One might say it is very ordinary, even boring. And that is okay. This is a damn good no frills product for sensitive skin.
If you wear long-wearing makeup and/or waterproof mascara, this will need to be your second cleanser. In fact, I love double cleansing and I use my cleansing oil to remove makeup, rinse that off, and then follow with Cetaphil.
Can we please talk about the ingredients? They are so basic, but serve a purpose:
Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben
That is it. Now I know what you may be thinking if you are a long-time reader. It might be something like, “Has she completely come undone? This is full of – gulp – parabens and sulfate and nothing NATURAL.”
It contains just what the skin needs for a gentle cleansing and NOTHING more. That is why it will be effective for most people. There is water, a fatty alcohol (not drying) which is an emollient, sodium lauryl sulfate (a surfactant), stearyl alcohol (another emollient), and preservatives to keep it fresh.
But isn’t Sodium Lauryl Sulfate bad?
No, it is not. Even the alarmist “clean” consumer resource of the EWG
rates it as safe. It is a tried and true cleansing agent.
And what about those nasty parabens? The truth of the matter is that parabens have a long history of safety and efficacy. They are used around the globe, including in the European Union, where cosmetic ingredients are quite regulated. They serve a purpose: to protect the integrity of a product and keep the nasties OUT so you don’t get harmed.
The Beauty Writer’s Bottom Line
If you are a budget beauty shopper — or even if you are not — Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (NOT the oily skin version with fragrance and a totally different consistency) is a solid choice. No bells and whistles. I consider this the L.L. Bean backpack of cleansers. Those backpacks have been around forever. They may not be fashion forward, but they are sturdy and functional. If they don’t live up to your expectations, they can be replaced for life. I consider this cleanser to be that dependable, kind of boring item. It is very affordable and because it contains so few ingredients, is a very solid choice if your skin is sensitive. It is fragrance free, which I am really happy about.