The Story Behind CeraVe
CeraVe is a brand of dermatologist-developed skin care products that can alleviate a range of common skin concerns by starting at the source of the problem: the skin’s natural barrier. The importance of a strong, intact skin barrier can be compared to the importance of having a strong, intact roof on your house. If your roof is damaged or weak, the interior of your home could be damaged by things like rain, wind, or even animal intruders. Similarly, a damaged or weak skin barrier allows things like bacteria, pollutants, or other irritants to pass through the top layers of your skin and cause damage. Plus, a weak barrier also allows moisture to escape from the skin. Ultimately, this leads to common skin concerns such as acne, rashes, and sensitive skin.
Based on this concept, the dermatologists that developed the line of CeraVe skin care products incorporated specific ingredients that would help to repair and strengthen the skin’s natural barrier. In this review on the various CeraVe lotion products, we’ll discuss the key ingredients that help to strengthen the skin barrier, CeraVe lotion reviews, an alternative for you to consider, and more.
The Top 5 CeraVe Lotion Products
Since this review is focused on the various CeraVe lotion products, let’s take a closer look at the most popular CeraVe lotions.
Daily Moisturizing Lotion
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that is said to help hydrate the skin and restore its natural barrier. The formula is non-comedogenic (it won’t clog pores), which means you can use this CeraVe lotion on both your face and body. A few of the key ingredients in the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion include glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.
PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
The CeraVe PM lotion is a non-comedogenic night time moisturizer that is ideal for those with normal to oily skin. It is said to strengthen the skin’s barrier while increasing hydration. The key ingredients in this CeraVe lotion include niacinamide, ceramides, and sodium hyaluronate.
AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen
The CeraVe AM lotion is a daily face moisturizer that provides broad spectrum SPF 30 protection due to a combination of chemical sunscreen ingredients (homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, and octocrylene) with the mineral sunscreen zinc oxide. In addition to protecting the skin from the sun’s UV rays, this CeraVe lotion is said to strengthen the skin’s barrier while increasing hydration thanks to supporting key ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, and sodium hyaluronate.
The “SA” in the name of the CeraVe SA Lotion stands for salicylic acid, a type of beta hydroxy acid (BHA). This CeraVe lotion is meant to restore skin smoothness by exfoliating and softening dry skin on the legs and other problem spots like the elbows and knees. Salicylic acid provides these benefits because it has the ability to dissolve keratin, the protein that acts as a “glue” to keep dead skin cells together in the stratum corneum. This is effective because dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin, leaving it looking dull and feeling rough.
The CeraVe Ultra Light Lotion is a lightweight facial moisturizer that provides broad spectrum SPF 30 protection due to a combination of four chemical sunscreen ingredients. This non-comedogenic oil-free lotion is ideal for those with normal to oily skin, and is said to help the skin retain its natural moisture while reinforcing the skin’s barrier. Like most of the CeraVe lotions we’ve talked about so far, the CeraVe Ultra Light Lotion includes hyaluronic acid and ceramides as key ingredients.
What Are The Key CeraVe Lotion Ingredients?
All CeraVe skin care products, including the five CeraVe lotion products we introduced in the last section, contain essential ceramides that your skin needs to help restore and maintain its natural barrier. Ceramides are a family of waxy lipid molecules that are naturally found in the stratum corneum. According to a publication in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, ceramides are important for skin barrier function, and exogenously applying ceramides may help to improve skin barrier function. But what exactly is the skin barrier and why is it important?
The skin barrier can be thought of as a “brick and mortar” system. The bricks are the corneocytes (dead skin cells) and the intercellular lipids (ceramides) represent the mortar. Without ceramides, the skin barrier is weakened, just like without mortar a brick wall would be weak and unstable. The result is skin that can easily become dry, itchy, or irritated. A properly functioning stratum corneum is essential for healthy skin as it maintains epidermal hydration and serves as a barrier that responds to environmental stressors, infections, irritants, and allergens. Topical application of ceramides can help to replenish ceramide levels, thus restoring the skin’s natural barrier.
In order to facilitate the delivery of these essential ceramides to your skin, CeraVe has developed something called MVE Delivery Technology. MVE stands for multivesicular emulsion and it represents a way of delivering ceramides to the skin in a time-release manner for a continuous rather than burst effect. In order to accomplish this, the MVE Delivery Technology contains layers of oil-in-water emulsions. A 2016 article published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatologycompares this technology to “nesting dolls” as one vesicle is contained within another inside the MVE. After applying CeraVe lotion, there is a sequential opening of each vesicle, with a gradual release of ceramides and other ingredient contents, rather than the burst of immediate release with some other products.
Another key ingredient that you’ll find in the CeraVe lotion products is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is an excellent ingredient to use for increasing skin hydration. That’s because hyaluronic acid is able to absorb and hold more water than any other natural substance—up to 1,000 times its weight in water! Furthermore, according to the scholarly journal DermatoEndocrinology, hyaluronic acid helps to reduce signs of aging by protecting collagen and decreasing epidermal water loss associated with sun exposure, low humidity, and other external factors associated with skin dryness.
Despite all of these beneficial ingredients found in the CeraVe lotions, we think it’s important to point out that most CeraVe skin care products include parabens in their formulations. Parabens are preservatives used to extend the shelf life of a product by preventing microbial contamination. The use of parabens in cosmetics and skin care products is controversial because there is conflicting research on the potential health consequences of long term exposure to parabens. According to the EWG, parabens can act like the hormone estrogen in the body and disrupt the normal function of hormone systems affecting male and female reproductive system functioning, reproductive development, fertility, and birth outcomes. Parabens are easily absorbed into the skin, which means that continuously using products that contain parabens could lead to elevated estrogen levels and eventually estrogen dominance.
Where is CeraVe Lotion Sold?
CeraVe Lotion and other CeraVe skin care products are not sold on the brand’s website. You must buy CeraVe skin care products on third party ecommerce websites such as Amazon, eBay, Ulta, and more. CeraVe skin care products are also sold in physical retail locations throughout the United States, such as Walmart, Target, Walgreens, etc. CeraVe has a store locator on their website so you can find a location near you.
What is The CeraVe Return Policy?
CeraVe does not have a return policy on their website since they do not sell products on their website and, therefore, don’t accept returns.
Is CeraVe Cruelty Free?
CeraVe is not cruelty free. CeraVe is owned by L’Oréal, a company that tests on animals. L’Oréal does not conduct animal testing on their products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law. Since L’Oréal products are sold in China, they must test their products on animals by law.
CeraVe Lotion Reviews
Even though CeraVe does not sell their products on their website, they still display reviews for their products. CeraVe lotion reviews on the brand’s website are a mix of positive and negative. The product with the most reviews is the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, which has received an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars after 124 customer reviews.
Positive reviews for this CeraVe lotion mention that it is lightweight yet effectively hydrates the skin. For example, one very positive review says, “I didn’t realize how dry my skin was until it drank this lotion up like water! My skin is now hydrated, moisturized, soft, dewy, and younger looking as a result! This lotion is lightweight, quick absorbing and gives just the right amount of moisture throughout the day. I have used this lotion for a few years now. I’m happy with the results, however, I do hope CeraVe removes parabens from all of their products in the near future. I want to feel safe when applying things to my skin daily.”
Interestingly, there are many negative reviews for this CeraVe lotion that mention it has a very unpleasant “fishy smell”. For example, one review says, “I really liked this product and have been using it daily for our whole family. But this last bottle is so nasty smelling. I put it on and suddenly started getting this whiff of something fishy on my skin. At first I thought maybe it was coming from outside, but after several uses now, it is definitely coming from my skin after I apply the lotion. Before tossing it in the trash I googled “cerave lotion smells like fish.” I see there are plenty others who agree. Too bad — looks like it goes in the trash and I need to find a new product. I just hope it isn’t something toxic, as I have seen no explanation for the stink. I prefer non-scented, but if there is going to be a scent, please not fish!”
What Are Some Alternatives to CeraVe Skin Care?
Overall, we think that CeraVe lotions are formulated well. Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide are very good skin care ingredients that offer many benefits to the skin, especially with strengthening the skin’s barrier and increasing hydration. However, one thing that the CeraVe lotions lack is a variety of anti-aging ingredients. Yes, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide can indirectly reduce signs of aging by increasing the skin’s hydration and strengthening the barrier. However, when it comes to really tackling signs of aging like age spots, lines, and wrinkles, we typically like to see retinol, peptides, and antioxidants in a skin care product.
Looking for a night cream with retinol? Try Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream with Retinol, which is formulated to help hydrate, soothe, and transform your skin while you sleep. Rather than using standard retinol, the formula contains innovative Encapsulated Retinol Technology in order to deliver a higher concentration of retinol to your skin without irritation. Retinol is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, fade dark spots, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. The Anti-Aging Night Cream with Retinol also helps to lock in moisture and restore the skin’s barrier function with emollients such as safflower oil, squalane, and jojoba oil.
Another anti-aging serum that we recommend is Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Concentrate, which combines vitamin C with plenty of other antioxidants to protect the skin against environmental free radicals that are known to degrade collagen. In addition, this serum contains Matrixyl 3000, a peptide complex composed of the matrikines palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. These two peptides work synergistically to restore and maintain the skin’s youthful appearance by signaling to cells to produce more collagen. Overall, Formulyst Anti-Aging Concentrate is a multi-tasking serum that is formulated to help promote the five signs of youth – radiance, elasticity, firmness, skin tone and smoothness.
1. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, July 2014, pages 177-184
2. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 30 Nov 2016, 9(12):26-32
3. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 253–258
EWG “What Are Parabens, And Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics?” April 2019