If you’re browsing through the shelves of your favorite drugstore, there’s no doubt you’ll come across Neutrogena. This brand began with a bar of soap and is now one of the best known mass market skincare brands in the world, selling everything from face wash to moisturizers to sunscreen and more.
Neutrogena is even considered to be the “#1 dermatologist-recommended skin care brand”. So why do dermatologists love Neutrogena skin care products? To answer that question, we’ll have to dive into the formulation details, including the key ingredients in Neutrogena skin care products and the research that supports (or doesn’t support) their use in skin care. We’ll also share some Neutrogena reviews so that you can get an idea of what customers really think of these products.
What Are The Top 10 Best Neutrogena Skin Care Products?
With over 200 products in the Neutrogena skin care collection, it can be daunting to find the right product for your skin care needs. That’s why we’ve rounded up the top 10 best Neutrogena skin care products. Here’s our breakdown:
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is by far the brand’s most popular product, likely due to its weightless, silky texture that absorbs into the skin quickly without feeling heavy or greasy. This is because the formula mostly consists of silicones combined with the humectant glycerin.
While texture is certainly important, so are active ingredients, and this formula really lacks ingredients that are going to make much of a difference in the look/feel of your skin long term. The brand claims that hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient in the Hydro Boost Water Gel, but it’s used in a pretty low concentration in this formula (less than 1%). And keep in mind that this product contains a synthetic fragrance blend, which may smell nice, but it’s not doing your skin any favors.
Even though Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is the brand’s #1 best seller, we don’t see what the hype is about. The formula mostly consists of silicones, glycerin, and fragrance. It could be a good option for those with oily skin or if you need a lightweight moisturizer for summer weather. But honestly there are better options out there! (See our recommendations below in the Alternatives to Neutrogena section)
With hyaluronic acid being in the name of this serum, we thought we’d find a higher concentration of it in the formula. But once again sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid) is used in a concentration of less than 1%. Despite this, the formula does contain quite a few humectants (glycerin, butylene glycol, panthenol, and pentylene glycol). These ingredients act like moisture magnets, drawing moisture into the upper layers of skin in order to improve hydration.
A combination of silicones, humectants, and emollients give the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Night Pressed Face Serum a smooth, silky feel. These ingredients will help to lock moisture into the skin, giving you a smoother, more supple complexion. This serum is a good option if you’re looking for lightweight hydration, but if you’re looking for a serum to tackle signs of aging, check out our list of the best anti-aging serums.
If you’re looking for a body moisturizer that hydrates without leaving your skin feeling sticky or greasy, Neutrogena Hydro Boost Body Gel Cream could be for you. The formula consists of the humectant glycerin, the occlusive emollient petrolatum (aka vaseline), the silicone dimethicone, and a couple other emollients. Even though petrolatum is a key ingredient, the formula doesn’t feel greasy whatsoever, and it actually absorbs into the skin pretty quickly.
This Neutrogena sunscreen provides broad spectrum SPF 55 protection due to the combination of four chemical sunscreen ingredients (avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, oxybenzone). While these chemical sunscreen ingredients won’t leave a white cast like mineral sunscreens, research has shown that they do absorb through the skin and into the bloodstream. The formula also includes several different emollients and silicones to give the product a soft, silky skin feel.
If you’re trying to prevent or reduce signs of skin aging, then you’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to add a retinol cream into your nightly routine. Retinol is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. If you want to reap these benefits, then the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Retinol Cream may be a good option for you. Pure retinol is combined with humectants, silicones, and emollients to help keep your skin hydrated and smooth.
This lightweight retinol oil is enriched with 0.3% pure retinol in order to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. Even though it’s a facial oil, it absorbs into the skin very quickly, so you don’t have to worry about looking like a greasy mess!
This Neutrogena face wash is a pretty basic formula, containing surfactants to clear away excess oil, dirt, and other impurities. The formula also contains cellulose in order to physically exfoliate the skin, which helps to remove dead skin cells from the surface of skin that can clog pores and cause a dull complexion. Hyaluronic acid is claimed to be a key ingredient, but it’s actually the lowest concentration ingredient in this formula!
In case you weren’t aware, salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid) is one of the best acne-fighting ingredients. It works by exfoliating the pore lining, which loosens clogged dirt and oil. It also 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 also possibly clogging pores.
Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash includes 2% salicylic acid (the maximum amount that can be used in an OTC product). The rest of the formula consists of surfactants. A surfactant molecule contains one end that is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and one end that is lipophilic (attracted to oil). This allows surfactants to attract and suspend oils, dirt, and other impurities that have accumulated on the skin and wash them away.
This Neutrogena moisturizer promises to improve the look of skin discoloration and dark spots in just one week. The formula consists of pure retinol combined with emollients, silicones, and humectants. Vitamin C is claimed to be a key ingredient in this moisturizer, however, the formula contains a very low amount of this ingredient. In fact, this Neutrogena moisturizer contains more fragrance than vitamin C!
Is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Right For You?
Before purchasing Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, here’s a summary of the most important factors to consider:
- Key ingredients? Glycerin and silicones
- Skin type? Most skin types, except those with very dry skin
- Texture? Weightless water gel
- Fragrance? Yes
- Cruelty free? No
- Cost? $23.99 for 1.7 oz
Which Neutrogena Face Wash is Best?
Earlier we mentioned just two of the best sellers from the Neutrogena face wash collection: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Daily Gel Cream Exfoliating Cleanser and Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash. But the brand’s face wash and toner collection actually consists of almost 100 different products, which makes choosing the right one pretty daunting.
The Liquid Neutrogena face wash would be our top pick because it’s fragrance free and contains a basic formula of surfactants to clear away excess oil, dirt, and other impurities. However, if you’re struggling with clogged pores and acne breakouts, the Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash would be a better option since the formula contains 2% salicylic acid.
What Are The Key Ingredients in Neutrogena Skin Care Products?
After evaluating the top 10 best Neutrogena skin care products, we noticed that this brand primarily focuses on using a few types of ingredients in their products: emollients, humectants, and silicones.
An emollient is an oily substance that fills in the spaces between dead skin cells, thus creating a smooth skin surface. Basically, an emollient is a film forming substance that makes the skin feel and look smooth.
Examples of emollients you’ll find in Neutrogena skin care products include:
- Fatty alcohols (cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, etc.)
- Caprylic/capric triglyceride
- Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate
You’ll also find plenty of humectants in Neutrogena skin care products. A humectant is a hygroscopic substance that has a molecular structure with several hydrophilic (water loving) groups, such as hydroxyl groups (OH) and/or amine groups (NH2). These groups hydrogen bond with water, essentially “grabbing” it and holding it on the skin. Humectants pull water from the dermis to the epidermis and stratum corneum. In addition, humectants can draw water vapor from the air to help moisturize the skin if the humidity is over 50 percent.
A few examples of humectants that you’ll find in Neutrogena products include:
- Glycols (butylene glycol, propylene glycol, etc.)
- Panthenol (provitamin B5)
- Sodium hyaluronate
Silicones are the final type of ingredient that you’ll find in nearly all Neutrogena products (except Neutrogena face wash and toners). The main function of silicones in skin care is to improve a product’s spreadability while imparting a silky, smooth skin feel.
Silicones also help to improve moisture retention in the skin. After topical application, silicones form a protective covering on the skin that provides both water-binding and water-resistant properties. The water-binding portion of the molecule is the highly flexible and mobile siloxane backbone, which binds to moisture in the air and holds it to the skin. This backbone also allows the water-repelling methyl groups to orient themselves toward the surface, creating a waterproof “umbrella” that prevents trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that nearly all of the Neutrogena skin care products contain synthetic fragrance ingredients. The use of synthetic fragrance ingredients can be a problem because the brand can use a proprietary blend of chemicals to create the fragrance, and they do not have to disclose which chemicals they use on the label. They are allowed to list this blend as “Fragrance (Parfum)” on the ingredient list.
A 2018 study by Women’s Voices for the Earth discovered that in over 3,000 chemicals reportedly used for fragrances, 1,242 were chemicals of concern – and that included at least 7 possible carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents. Fragrance ingredients also have the potential to cause skin irritation and sensitivity.
Where to Buy Neutrogena Skin Care Products?
Neutrogena Skin Care products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as numerous third party retailers, such as Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Amazon, and many more.
What is The Neutrogena Return Policy?
The Neutrogena return policy states, “If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your Neutrogena.com purchase you can return the products for a full refund of the purchase price (less original shipping and handling fees) within 30 days of purchase. Shipping costs for any returns will not be reimbursed by Neutrogena.com unless there was a shipping error or product damage.”
Is Neutrogena Cruelty Free?
No, Neutrogena is not cruelty free because Neutrogena products are sold in mainland China where animal testing is required by law.
Neutrogena reviews on the brand’s website are a mix of very positive and very negative. The product with the most reviews is the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, which has earned an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars after more than 1,500 customer reviews.
The positive reviews for the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel mention how well it helps to hydrate skin without leaving it greasy, oily, or sticky.
For example, one review says, “Yes. This works sooooo well. I have really sensitive skin and for the past few weeks I have had a dry and sensitive face that feels vulnerable to the elements (wind, humidity, sun and heat damage, stress). Hydro-Boost did the trick. Upon using Hydro-Boost my skin feels hydrated; the water gel is not heavy, it’s not oily and it won’t make your face look shiny. You don’t need to slather it on even – I just use a little each time and it immediately calms my face.”
And another very positive review for Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel says, “This product leaves my skin feeling fresh and soft. It’s very light and I feel like it makes my skin glow. In the summer, I wash my face, apply this and I’m good to go!”
However, there are quite a few negative reviews for the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel from customers who experienced reactions after using this product, such as burning, redness, and itching. This is likely due to the inclusion of fragrance in this product.
One reviewer even had to go to urgent care due to her reaction to Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. The review says, “I ended up with the equivalent of an unwanted chemical peel on my eyelids. Within 45 minutes, I had swelling, burning, and looked like I’d been in a fight. I spent time at my urgent care, was given medication and when the swelling subsided, my skin peeled. I thought Neutrogena was supposed to be gentle, but this was a painful, ugly nightmare.”
And a similar review says, “I bought this product after reading reviews for the best facial product for dry skin. After using it 2 days in a row I had to stop, as my face had a burning sensation during that time. I had applied it all over, including under eyes because I wanted more hydration in that area. Now my under eyes are wrinkled and parched. I am now trying to repair the damage.”
Overall, we think that Neutrogena is an affordable brand, but there are definitely better options out there. Some Neutrogena products are better than others, and we recommend avoiding the products with synthetic fragrance ingredients and parabens.
- Products contain emollients, humectants, and silicones
- Many positive Neutrogena reviews
- Some products contain low concentrations of key ingredients
- Most products contain synthetic fragrance ingredients
- Some products contain parabens
- Several Neutrogena reviews mention allergic reactions
What Are Some Alternatives to Neutrogena Skin Care Products?
Although Neutrogena is a popular drugstore brand, it may not work for everyone. One brand we recommend is Formulyst. Formulyst maximizes the use of powerful ingredients and minimizes the use of superficial ones, resulting in clinically advanced skin care solutions that help promote healthy, more youthful-looking skin.
If you’re looking for a moisturizer that’s lightweight yet hydrating, we recommend Formulyst’s Ultra Light Gel Moisturizer. With a “light-as-air” texture, the Ultra Light Gel Moisturizer helps to provide instant hydration and a soft, matte finish. The formula is specifically developed for dull, aging complexions. Cloudberry extract and vitamins A, C and E work to replenish and revitalize the skin, while snow algae extract helps support cells’ natural resilience against environmental damage.
Another brand that balances the power of plants with cutting edge science is Carrot & Stick. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals commonly found in skin care products.