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We're positive you've seen Cetaphil and Neutrogena on the shelves at your local drugstore before. But which one should you choose?

Previously, we took a look at Lancome vs Clinique; today, we will be comparing Cetaphil vs Neutrogena and their long raved about best-sellers to help you figure out which dermatologist recommended skincare brand better suits you!

Skip to "Cleansers" section

Skip to "Moisturizers" section

Skip to "Sunscreens" section

Skip to "Conclusion" section

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Cetaphil vs Neutrogena Cleanser

With both brands being critically acclaimed for their gentle skin-loving formulations, it’s no surprise that their cleansers are some of the most popular skincare products in the world. But which is better? Well, we’re here to play devil’s advocate on this one, and our conclusion might not be what you’d expect.

Best overall cleanser

Truth be told, they’re not quite as gentle as they’re made out to be. Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser contains several parabens that have been known to sensitise the skin, and in severe instances, cause contact dermatitis. Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser doesn’t contain quite such egregious offenders, but it’s not entirely in the clear, as it contains fragrances which have also been known to sensitise the skin.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though! Both cleansers do of course have special qualities about them that potentially outweigh the downsides - how do you think they got so popular, otherwise?

Cetaphil’s cleanser is particularly popular for people struggling with folliculitis (also known as mallesezia, or fungal acne). This is because those very same parabens we raised concerns about also happen to be excellent anti-fungal agents. Furthermore, since it is completely oil-free, non-comedogenic, and astringent without being over-drying (due to the inclusion of cetyl and stearyl alcohol), it is also excellent for those struggling with plain old regular acne, too.

Neutrogena’s cleanser is incredibly popular for a completely different reason: hydration. It’s intensely hydrating formula containing Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, and Vitamin E, combined with its fresh water-like gel texture makes it the ideal face wash for those dealing with dry skin.

So, even though both of their primary qualities are meant to be their gentleness, in actual fact, they are excellent cleansers for completely different reasons and purposes. So, to reiterate, if you’re struggling with acne or fungal acne, you’ll love Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser, whereas if you’re trying to resolve dryness, Neutrogena’s Hydra Boost Gel Cleanser is the one for you.

Gentle Skin Cleanser by Cetaphil, award-winning cleanser for sensitive or dry skin that moisturises as it gently cleanses.

Gentle Skin Cleanser by Cetaphil

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Award-winning cleanser for sensitive or dry skin that moisturises as it gently cleanses.

What makes it special? Cetaphil is a seriously gentle therapeutic skincare range, specially formulated for all skin types (including dry and sensitive) to provide effective, gentle skincare to help your skin look and feel its best. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser cleanses, moisturises and gently removes what your skin doesn’t need, without stripping away the skin’s natural protective oils, and without disturbing the skin’s natural pH balance.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

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Hydro Boost Gel Face Cleanser by Neutrogena, a hydrating gel cleanser.

Hydro Boost Gel Face Cleanser by Neutrogena

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A hydrating gel cleanser.

What makes it special? This is an innovative cleanser that activates with water to remove impurities whilst providing skin with an essential boost of hydration. By combining Neutrogena cleansing technology, hydrating agents and hyaluronic acid the formula protects the skin barrier, boosts hydration and helps to lock it in. The skin is refreshingly clean and touchably supple every time you cleanse.

Which skin types? All skin types, even sensitive skin.

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Cetaphil vs Neutrogena Moisturizer

Pitting two of their most popular moisturizers against each other leads us to the Neutrogena Oil-Free Face & Neck Moisturizer vs Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion. Tens of thousands of rave reviews between them vouch for their effectiveness, but there are a couple of considerations to take note of before making a purchase.

Best overall moisturizer

The most glaring similarity between the two is their keen focus on the moisture barrier. While there’s plenty of great moisturisers out there that quickly and effectively bind moisture to the skin, surprisingly few address the actual root cause of dryness, dullness, and dehydration: a weakened or damaged moisture barrier. Both Neutrogena’s and Cetaphil’s moisturisers contain dermatologist-recommended ingredients (such as glycerin and glyceryl stearate) that actively work to strengthen your skin’s natural protective barrier so as to enhance your skin’s ability to retain hydration, consequently yielding that coveted radiant glow.

The second obvious similarity is that they are both oil-free. This makes them particularly great for those with problematic, combination or oily skin, and also ensures that they are non-comedogenic. One unfortunate similarity, though, is that both products contain silicones. This is certainly worth pause for thought, as silicones have been known to cause skin irritation - much like a mild allergy - for a small subset of people. Further to this point, Neutrogena’s is also not free from parabens, which have also been known to cause similar issues. This is why it is important to patch test any and all new skincare products, regardless of popular opinion, before slathering your face with them!

The trade-off for Neutrogena’s ingredient-related sins is the inclusion of tocopherol (also known as Vitamin E), which is a wonder ingredient known to have powerful antioxidant benefits as well as further moisture barrier-supporting qualities. Whether this makes up for the inclusion of silicones and parabens is ultimately up to you, as some people even like how these ingredients make their skin feel. As for us, though, we prefer Cetaphil’s Daily Hydrating Lotion.

Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion by Cetaphil, provides instant hydration to skin and locks in moisture to protect skin from dryness.

Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion by Cetaphil

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Provides instant hydration to skin and locks in moisture to protect skin from dryness.

What makes it special? This ultra-light, oil-free moisturizer with hyaluronic acid instantly hydrates and locks in moisture for 24 hours to leave skin feeling balanced. It defends against 5 signs of skin sensitivity including dryness, irritation, roughness, tightness and a weakened skin barrier.

Which skin types? For combination, sensitive skin.

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Oil-Free Face & Neck Moisturizer by Neutrogena, a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer.

Oil-Free Face & Neck Moisturizer by Neutrogena

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A lightweight, oil-free moisturizer.

What makes it special? This lightweight, dual-action formula moisturizes dry areas while it controls oily shine, leaving you with softer, smoother skin and a natural matte finish that lasts all day. Here's how it works: First, this oil-free, dermatologist-tested formula moisturizes where skin is dry, without leaving it oily or shiny. Then, a special oil-absorbing system controls oil and shine in the T-Zone—or wherever else skin is oily.

Which skin types? Primarily for combination skin, although they also offer a whole range of similar moisturizers for other skin types.

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Cetaphil vs Neutrogena Sunscreen

As covered in our best French sunscreen post, sun exposure is responsible for 90% of the visible signs of ageing, so it is absolutely critical to have a high quality sunscreen as part of your daily skincare routine. Two of the most popular to choose from include Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion and Cetaphil's Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50+.

Best overall sunscreen

Now, this one is a *MUCH* easier decision for us. Unfortunately, Neutrogena’s contains an ingredient called Oxybenzone. A quick Google search of this nasty little ingredient yields a slew of unsavoury results, and we think allgoodproducts.com hits the nail on the head with their summary:

“Oxybenzone is a cornucopia of nasty side effects. It’s considered a hazardous eye irritant and, as an allergen, is also known to cause skin allergies… It also causes hormone disruption in humans, affecting estrogen production in women and testosterone production in men”.

It is precisely for this reason why Cetaphil’s marketing for the Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50+ emphasises that it is completely Oxybenzone free, and the same reason why we at FEMMENORDIC thoroughly recommend it over Neutrogena’s. Neutrogena have since released a version of theirs that is also oxybenzone-free (keep scrolling for a more in-depth description of that), although we're still personally erring on the side of Cetaphil on this one, especially since Cetaphil's doubles up as a day cream with fantastic moisturizing & antioxidant benefits.

Daily Facial Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 50+ by Cetaphil, light-weight moisturiser with SPF50+ to help protect against the daily effects of sunlight.

Daily Facial Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 50+ by Cetaphil

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Light-weight moisturiser with SPF50+ to help protect against the daily effects of sunlight.

What makes it special? A light-weight, easily absorbed day cream. It hydrates skin and provides very high, broad-spectrum UVA/B photoprotection to help defend skin against the effects of daily exposure to sunlight and help skin maintain its natural protective barrier.

Which skin types? Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

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Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion by Neutrogena, a lightweight, oxybenzone-free sun lotion (SPF 70).

Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion by Neutrogena

SHOP Check price on amazon.com

Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A lightweight, oxybenzone-free sun lotion (SPF 70).

What makes it special? Neutrogena's best-selling Ultra Sheer line provides powerful sun protection you will love to wear. It goes on easily and absorbs quickly for an invisible, light-weight feel on your skin. Formulated with Helioplex Technology, it offers superior broad spectrum protection from aging UVA rays and burning UVB rays.

Which skin types? Normal skin types.

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Cetaphil vs Neutrogena Conclusion

The consensus with regards to the two brands as a whole follows neatly from the inferences we drew from the moisturizer comparison. To reiterate, despite a myriad of gentleness claims, both unfortunately fall ever so slightly short due to the consistent inclusion of potentially irritating ingredients such as silicones and parabens in their formulas. However, if you're willing to patch test (and happen to be fortunate enough to have skin that is unaffected by such ingredients), you will enjoy a multitude of benefits from their products, especially thanks to their keen focus on supporting your skin's natural moisture barrier.

So as not to ramble on forever, this article comprised comparisons of the most popular, best-selling products from the two brands. To round off our review, though, here are our recommendations for the alternative skincare products and ranges that Cetaphil and Neutrogena offer.

Best Cetaphil Products

For the body:
Try Moisturizing Cream


For makeup removal:
Try Gentle Makeup Wipes


For body washing:
Try Ultra Gentle Body Wash

Best Neutrogena Products

For ageing skin:
Try Rapid Wrinkle Repair


For hands:
Try Norwegian Formula


For extra glow:
Try Bright Boost

Work in progress

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