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Vanicream vs Cetaphil 2024 (The Definitive Guide)

Vanicream and Cetaphil are two brands you’re very likely to see in the beauty section of your local supermarket or drugstore. They are best known for their consideration for sensitive and easily-irritated skin types, but which brand is better?

We’ll be comparing them for their moisturizing lotions and creams, as well as their gentle facial cleansers so you can see which would suit you and your skin the best. Enjoy!

2024 update: Since originally publishing in 2022, Cetaphil has released new versions of their range of products. The changes are mostly superficial (i.e., changes to packaging), but we've highlighted notable reformulations where applicable.

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Vanicream vs Cetaphil Cleanser

Cleansing your skin is the most crucial step in your skincare routine. In the morning, it removes all the debris and dead skin cells that your body replenished. And by night, it serves to remove your makeup and whatever else your face picked up from the day. Let’s take a look at Vanicream and Cetaphil’s gloriously gentle options for facial cleansers.

Both the Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser are super popular in beauty stores across the country. They are also both designed for a gentle yet effective cleanse, and promise to help remove makeup and excess oils without leaving skin with that tight and dry feeling. Sounds like we’re off to a good start, but we'll be verifying those claims in just a moment.

With Vanicream's Gentle Facial Cleanser, it’s important to note that the formula is a soap-free creation. The brand claims that even the most delicate and sensitive skin types can use it since it has no harsh cleansing agents and is pH balanced. And that’s a big one, the pH balancing, as that’s what keeps your skin’s barrier layer harmonious and happy for that healthy-looking glow. To further reinforce how gentle this cleanser really is, it also has the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.

Truth be told, Cetaphil's Gentle Skin Cleanser is *not* quite as gentle as it is made out to be since it contains several parabens that have been known to sensitize the skin. It's not all doom and gloom, though, as those very same parabens that aren't so great for those with sensitive skin are actually fantastic for people struggling with folliculitis (also known as mallesezia, or fungal acne).*

*2024 update: Cetaphil's Gentle Skin Cleanser no longer contains parabens. Hurrah!

Cetaphil’s cleanser is particularly popular for people struggling with problematic skin. This is because it contains Niacinamide and Panthenol, two ingredients that boast antioxidant, moisturizing, and soothing properties. Sensitivity, begone! 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 with oilier skin types and those struggling with plain old regular acne, too.

On paper, they're meant to be incredibly similar, but in reality these two facial cleansers best serve completely different skin types:

Looking for a gentle cleanser for sensitive skin?
Try the Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

Looking for a daily cleanser for oily/acne-prone skin?
Try the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Gentle Facial Cleanser by Vanicream, a dermatologist-tested, soapless cleanser.

Gentle Facial Cleanser by Vanicream

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A dermatologist-tested, soapless cleanser.

What makes it special? Vanicream's mildest cleanser specifically formulated for daily facial use helps remove makeup and excess skin oils without drying your skin, leaving your skin feeling clean and soft.

Which skin types? Ideal for dry skin.

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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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Vanicream vs Cetaphil Lotion

An amazing lotion is one that leaves your skin feeling soft, hydrated, and soothed. If you have sensitive skin or skin that becomes irritated with ease, the Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion and the Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion are among the best in these arenas. However, there are some differences between them that may make you reach for one lotion over the other.

The Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion is primarily for helping to soothe red, irritated, cracking, or itchy skin. It's star ingredient is Petrolatum (otherwise known as petroleum jelly) which is a fantastic skin protectant, and also doubles up as an occlusive for helping to restore and maintain a normal moisture level. Its formula also includes humectants such as Propylene Glycol and Sorbitol which pull water in from the air to further improve moisture levels and treat dry skin.

This minimal, dermatologist-tested formula—which is completely free from nasties such as parabens and lanolin—makes the Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion the ideal moisturizer for dry skin associated with atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, ichthyosis, and winter itch. It is practically more akin to a treatment than a regular moisturizer.

The Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion, on the other hand, much more closely resembles a typical moisturizer. Formulated for combination, sensitive skin, it features an intensely nourishing and hydrating combo of Urea, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, and Sodium PCA which help to boost the skin's moisture reserves and protect skin from dryness.

Much like Vanicream's lotion, the full ingredient list is minimal—making it ideal for delicate skin—but the key difference is that Cetaphil's Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion is more of an emollient than an occlusive product, rendering it a more suitable daily moisturizer (as opposed to for treating severely compromised skin).

All in all, choosing between the two comes down to your personal skin concerns. If you are actively dealing with skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis, then Vanicream's Moisturizing Lotion is for you. If, however, you are just looking for a regular moisturizer that helps to ward off dry skin, look no further than the Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion.

Moisturizing Lotion by Vanicream, a lighter version of Vanicream Moisturizing Cream.

Moisturizing Lotion by Vanicream

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A lighter version of Vanicream Moisturizing Cream.

What makes it special? Because skin types are not all the same, Vanicream formulated a lighter version of Vanicream Moisturizing Cream. It is non-greasy, easy to spread, and quickly absorbed. Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores). No botanical extracts or essential oils. Gluten-free. Dermatologist tested. Kid-Friendly. Awarded the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association.

Which skin types? All skin types.

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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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Vanicream vs Cetaphil Cream

If your skin is dehydrated or damaged, you need something richer that will replenish your skin’s moisture and help seal it in. Both brands offer rich, restorative creams that provide extra moisture to parched skin. We will be comparing the Vanicream Moisturizing Cream vs Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream.

With Vanicream, the brand puts a focus on its Moisturizing Cream to help soothe away redness, irritation, cracking, or itchy skin with its highly emollient formula. While it does have a focus on dry skin, it targets those with atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and ichthyosis as well as those with dry winter skin.

Vanicream also points out that it doesn’t use botanical extracts or essential oils, it is free of dyes, fragrances, lanolin, parabens, and gluten too. Cetaphil also seems to be devoid of common irritants, though the formula does contain several plant extracts such as Sunflower Seed Oil and Sweet Almond Oil which might be a concern for those with extremely allergy-prone skin.

Cetaphil's Moisturizing Cream is focussed on improving the skin barrier function (the most common cause of dry/sensitive skin and related concerns are due to a compromised moisture barrier). A dermatologist-backed blend of Niacinamide, Panthenol, and Glycerin help to significantly improve the resilience of sensitive skin within just 3 days, with complete restoration in just 1 week.

Both brands can be used from head to toe for moisturizing dry and sensitive skin that is prone to irritations. With Vanicream though, it is specifically labeled as a kid-friendly product. So if the sensitive skin runs in your family, it’s good to know you can all slather it on safely.

Incidentally, both brands promote a non-greasy texture that absorbs with ease. So if that’s your biggest concern, either one will work great for you. Each brand is big on not clogging pores either. That’s ideal for keeping any acne concerns at bay.

While both creams really do help to restore compromised skin to its normal, healthy state, their differing formulations make a big difference regarding how they can be used. The Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is suitable for use on both the face and body, whereas the Vanicream Moisturizing Cream is far too thick for use on the face, and works best as a body cream.

Moisturizing Cream by Vanicream, a thick, smooth moisturizing cream.

Moisturizing Cream by Vanicream

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A thick, smooth moisturizing cream.

What makes it special? Helps restore and maintain a normal moisture level. Soothes red, irritated, cracking or itchy skin. Ideal moisturizing formula for dry skin associated with atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, ichthyosis, and winter itch.

Which skin types? For dry to very dry skin types.

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Moisturizing Cream by Cetaphil, intensively moisturises & rehydrates dry skin.

Moisturizing Cream by Cetaphil

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Intensively moisturises & rehydrates dry skin.

What makes it special? A nourishing blend of moisturisers including Glycerin, Sunflower seed oil, Sweet almond oil and Vitamin E help to replenish & support the skin's natural protective barrier. Leaves skin feeling soft & smooth. Proven, long-lasting moisturisation (up to 24hours with each applications).

Which skin types? All skin types.

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This article was originally published on May 17th 2022, but it has been reviewed and updated with the latest available information on February 6th 2024 by Sara Mckay, MA.

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