[REVIEW] Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (Before and After)

[REVIEW] Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (Before and After)

  • Price :8 oz / 240ml 6.33$ (link), 20 oz / 600 ml 11.90$ (link), 33.80 oz / 1 L 24.99$ (link).

  • Texture: Like a moisturizer mixed with water

  • What you get: 240 ml, 600 ml or 1 L (33.80 oz, 20 oz or 8 oz)

  • Cruelty-free: No


Ingredients: Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

🔵Majority of information taken directly from incidecoder.com:

Cetyl Alcohol: A so-called fatty (the good, non-drying kind of) alcohol that does all kinds of things in a skincare product: it makes your skin feel smooth and nice (emollient), helps to thicken up products, and also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier). It can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. [Emollient + Emulsifying + Viscosity Controlling + Surfactant/Cleansing + Emulsion Stabilising]

Propylene GlycolIt's main job is to improve the so-called freeze-thaw stability of the products. This means that it makes sure that a product doesn't freeze or melt in low or high temperatures. To achieve this, small amounts - usually less than 2% - is used. Other functions of PG include being a humectant (helps skin attract water), being a solvent for other ingredients, and being a penetration enhancer. [Moisturizer/Humectant + Solvent + Viscosity controlling]

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: A cleansing agent known for being too good at the job and potentially irritating the skin. It is a so-called "primary irritant", a substance that irritates the skin in one go , without prior sensitization, but doesn't do any other big harm - it isn't carcinogenic or systematically toxic. One paper states: "Dermal toxicity studies demonstrate that 24-hour exposure to a 1–2% (w/w) solution of SLS can increase the transepidermal water loss of the stratum corneum – the outermost layer of the skin – and cause mild yet reversible skin inflammation. Human patch tests (typically a 24-hour exposure) confirm that SLS concentrations >2% are considered irritating to normal skin". The Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser has this ingredient below the Propylene Glycol; since PG is usually at a concentration of 2% or a max concentration of 5%, the SLS is lower than 5% or 2%. Moreover, the study was made while exposing skin for 24 hours to this substance; the cleanser will only expose it for a few seconds while you clean your skin, so I think having it in here is fine and probably won't amount to any irritation of your skin. [Surfactant/Cleansing + Emulsifying]

Stearyl Alcohol:  It makes your skin feel nice and smooth, stabilizes oil-water mixes, and gives body to them. It's a so-called fatty alcohol - the good, emollient type of alcohol that is non-drying and non-irritating. [Emollient + Viscosity Controlling + Emulsifying + Surfactant/Cleansing + Emulsion Stabilising]

Methylparaben Propylparaben + Butylparaben: Parabens are preservatives. Apart from the general controversy surrounding them (more about that here), there is a 2006 in-vitro (made in the lab, not on real people) research about methylparaben (MP) showing that when exposed to sunlight, MP treated skin cells suffered more harm than non-MP treated skin cells. But the cells were exposed to MP for 24 hours, literally bathing in an MP-containing medium, so unless you're planning on swimming around in a Methylparaben pool, you're fine. [Preservative] I personally don't mind parabens in wash-off products since there is no time for them to disrupt your skin or interact with your system by getting absorbed into cells and entering the bloodstream or anything like that. And they are present in too low concentrations for people to claim that they are harmful. Using parabens is a personal choice. If you want more information, I recommend checking out these two resources: What's the deal with Parabens in Cosmetics? + Should you be avoiding Parabens? The science, both written by Michelle Wong, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.


[REVIEW] Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (Before and After)

Directions for use without water: Apply a liberal amount of cleanser to the skin and rub gently. Remove excess with a soft cloth, leaving a thin film on the skin.

Directions for use with water: Apply cleanser to the skin and rub gently. Rinse.


  1. A mild, soap-free face and body cleanser that hydrates and soothes skin as it cleans, leaving it soft and smooth: Mild? Definitely. This cleanser won’t get rid of the majority of makeup, and if you’re wearing any, the maximum it can do is smudge it around. I personally found it too mild when it came to removing physical sunscreens, but for chemical sunscreens, sweat, and oil build-up, it did the job. As for hydration and moisture: it left me with comfortable skin. The majority of cleansers leave you with the need to grab the nearest toner as they usually more or less dry up your skin. This is no the case with the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. I can comfortably go about my day without using any other product - I did that a couple of days to review it to see if the feeling would last, and it did. Still, it’s obviously better to follow up with at least one hydrating product or a moisturizer. For the soothing part: the cleanser itself is not soothing. To state that a product will soothe your skin means that it will leave it better than how it was before its application, much like how the Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream calms down irritation, redness, and inflammation. The cleanser doesn’t achieve this for the simple fact that it doesn’t have any soothing ingredients; what it does achieve is not to further irritate your skin. Cleansing is the harshest part of any skincare routine, and a harsh cleanser can make or break your skin barrier. This one is so gentle that it has low chances of doing anything unpleasant, which is why it’s excellent for sensitive and irritated skin. Finally, when it comes to leaving your face soft and smooth: for skin texture to change, you need chemical or physical exfoliants, which this product doesn’t have. The only way your skin texture would change after using it for a week or two would be if the old products you were using had caused bad texture due to irritation; switching them out with this one would then yield a smoother skin. Otherwise, this statement is not true.

  2. Ideal for dry, sensitive skin. Suitable for all skin types: This product won’t strip your face of hydration and has really low chances of irritating your face since all of its ingredients are known to be non-comedogenic and non-irritating to the skin. If you want to understand why cleansing your skin can be damaging, I recommend checking out this post: All About Cleansing & How To Choose a Gentle Cleanser, by Michelle Wong, a chemistry Ph.D. graduate. Now, obviously, if a product works with dry and sensitive skin, it won’t harm normal, combination, oily, or acneic skin. But ‘not harming’ doesn’t translate to ‘suitable for all skin types.’ I’ll write more about what cleansers I recommend for other skin types below, but basically, this one is great for sensitive, dry, or a compromised skin barrier. But there are better products for the other skin types. 

  3. Clinically tested hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, so it won't irritate skin or clog pores: Although some of the ingredients used have some controversy and misinformation surrounding them, the way the overall formulation works yields low chances of irritating or pore-clogging.

  4. pH balanced for effective and gentle cleansing:

Here’s an excerpt from ‘‘ALL ABOUT CLEANSING & HOW TO CHOOSE A GENTLE CLEANSER’’ by Michelle from Lab Muffin blog: ‘‘Skin is acidic, meaning it has a low pH (around 4 or 5). This is important because a lot of the biochemical reactions that occur in the Skin only work within a narrow pH range. Surfactant-containing cleansers are particularly good at changing skin pH for long amounts of time, meaning that if your cleanser has a particularly high pH, then it’s going to hinder your Skin from repairing itself. High pH also makes Skin swell and reduces its flexibility.’’ So, the bottom line is, pH is important. That being said, most tap water pH lies around the 6.5 or 9.5 margin depending on where you live, so even if you apply a pH appropriate cleanser to your face, you might end up washing it off with non-appropriate pH water. I guess for products to truly take all of this into consideration, they should formulate a product whose pH, when mixed with water, would be around 5.

I don’t personally care much about pH, we’ve been washing our skin with water since the dawn of times, and it hasn’t fallen off. But if you care about these things because you have very sensitive skin and you think pH might be an issue. The Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is balanced around a 6.3-6.8 pH, so something more suitable to your needs would be the COSRX Low Ph Good Morning Gel Cleanser’s at 5.5 instead. 

  As you can see from the pictures, this only smudges your makeup around. You will need to go in with a makeup remover first or use the double cleansing method if you wear physical sunscreen and opt to go with this cleanser. If you have dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin, opt for a product like the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution.

After using face oils and working out, I tried this product and found that it cleaned my skin more or less well. I would have preferred a more powerful cleanse around my oily T-zone area, but that’s just me. As I said above, this cleanser has very few ingredients. Hence it has less chance of irritating your skin. It also doesn’t have colorants or any fragrant compounds known to increase irritation chances. The main constituents are emollients, as the alcohols used are fatty alcohols. Overall, this makes for a very suitable cleanser for sensitive, dry, and skin types whose barrier has been compromised (think redness, inflammation, dehydration, itchiness, flakiness, or acne flare-ups). So I would recommend it if your skin type fits in these mentioned categories. There aren’t many cleansers that are this gentle and appropriate for these conditions, the Cetaphil Gentle Skin one is, and it’s also very affordable. 

For all other skin types, including acneic ones, it’s another story: you could use this one, but there are betters ones more suited for your particular skin type. 

    If you have normal skin, you can probably use any cleanser. Still, since most of them are formulated with colorants and a high concentration of fragrances, they could damage your skin in the long run. This is why I would recommend going for cleansers that are more powerful than this one but that don’t incorporate damaging compounds in their formulation. My recommendation would be the Sioris Day By Day Cleansing Gel

[REVIEW] Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (Before and After)

 If you have oily skin, first consider that oily skin is usually a cause of dehydration. So don't strip your skin of it, and please incorporate a hydrating toner ( like the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner) or serum (like the Skinfood Royal Honey Propolis Enrich Essence). That being said, cleansers are for cleaning (obviously), and at the end of the day, after dirt and oily accumulation, you won't be satisfied with a mild cleansing product. This is why I don't recommend this one to you; go for something like the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel For Oily Skin or the Shiseido Senka Perfect Whip Cleansing Foam instead. Finally, if you have acne-prone skin, the Cetaphil one is a good choice. Still, if your skin currently has breakouts, I would personally choose to rotate between this one and something that actively fights acne. Check out this blog post for more information: [10] Anti-Acne products that actually work + A Skincare routine.

  A final note on the direction: I tried using this 'without water' as they mentioned, and my skin got a bit irritated, so I wouldn't recommend this method. Moreover, there are many good options out there for hydrating or moisturizing products; you don't need to use a cleanser this way. The 'hydrating' part of this product is its emollients; they don't actually make your skin better; they make it look good while the product is sitting on your face. When you wash it off, your skin is back to how it was.

[REVIEW] Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (Before and After)


  1. Non-comedogenic, non-irritating ingredient list

  2. Very mild and gentle cleanser if that’s what you’re looking for

  3. No fragrance or colorants!

  4. Very good price/quality ratio


  1. Not suitable for all skin types as they claim.

  2. Doesn’t bubble up if you’re into that

Score: 4.0/5 ——— A great back to basics cleanser with very low chances of irritating or sensitizing your skin. I would use this if my skin had poorly reacted with a product, and I wanted to calm it down.


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