Is Cetaphil Good for Acne?

Cetaphil has been around for years, though has recently sky-rocketed in popularity. However, is it good for acne? In this article, you’ll find all the information you need to figure out whether Cetaphil is a match for your skin.

Acne affects up to 50 million Americans annually, making it the most common skin condition in the U.S. 

It’s prevalent among young people and adolescents, and usually begins in puberty, though acne can occur at any age and some people experience it into their 30s and 40s. 

Regardless of your age, acne can be a huge knock to your confidence, and you’re not alone if you feel like you’ve tried every product on the market.

Cetaphil is a skincare brand that’s gained lots of attention recently, and, if you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it for acne-prone skin, we’re hoping we can give you the answer in this article. 

What is Cetaphil? 

You might be hearing about Cetaphil for the first time, but it’s actually been around since 1947 when a Texan pharmacist introduced “Cetaphil Cleansing Lotion” to the market – known today as “Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser”, which still uses the same formula.

Cetaphil is known for being gentle on sensitive skin. The brand works with medical experts to develop their strong understanding of various skin conditions and needs. 

Today, it’s today sold in more than 70 countries globally, offering everything from cleaners and moisturizers, to baby products, all of which have been designed for sensitive skin. 

Is Cetaphil good for acne? 

Cetaphil isn’t designed strictly for acne, but it is formulated to prevent acne from forming in the first place.

Acne is caused by excess sebum — the natural, oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin — and dead skin cells blocking hair follicles. Bacteria build-up triggers inflammation and infection which can result in more severe acne.

Cetaphil cleansers aim to remove excess oil, dirt, and other environmental impurities from the skin to prevent them from penetrating and clogging pores. 

While Cetaphil doesn’t contain acne-fighting properties, one of the benefits of the formula is that it’s gentle yet effective at cleaning sensitive skin. 

Dermatologists often recommend Cetaphil because it can be used for those with highly irritated skin and conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema. 

Cetaphil won’t aggravate your acne and will help keep your skin balanced and dirt-free, thus preventing any further flare-ups. 

It doesn’t usually react negatively or interfere with prescribed medications, so it’s a good option if you’re using an additional treatment for your acne. 

Best Cetaphil Cleansers: Our Top 5 Picks

There are quite a few Cetaphil cleansers to choose from, and these vary mainly in the skin types they’re designed for:

1. Best for Dry or Normal Skin: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

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  • Ideal for normal skin or dry skin 
  • pH-balanced, hypoallergenic formula is gentle on sensitive skin 
  • Non-foaming and soap-free formula won’t dry skin out 
  • Micellar technology to effectively remove dirt and impurities 
  • Rich, creamy formula to leave skin hydrated and soothed 

This is Cetaphil’s central product and is the cleanser of choice for the majority of Cetaphil users.

This pH-balanced, hypoallergenic cleanser can be used on the face and body daily and will gently clean, hydrate, and soothe sensitive skin. 

One of the great things about this Cetaphil cleanser is that it’s a non-foaming and soap-free formula so it will cleanse skin without stripping it of its essential protective barrier. 

It effectively yet gently removes impurities through Cetaphil’s ‘micellar technology.’ Like a magnet, micelles work to attract and capture dirt, oil, and makeup without requiring the need for harsh rubbing or drying of the skin. 

This makes it a perfect option for all skin types, including dry, sensitive skin.

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2. Best for Normal to Oily Skin: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

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  • Gentle enough for everyday use 
  • Gel-to-foam formula effectively cleanses oily skin without leaving it dried out 
  • Low-lather, gel-to-foam formula won’t irritate sensitive skin 
  • Leaves oily skin feeling balanced 

Cetaphil’s daily facial cleanser is gentle enough for everyday use and has a mild and non-irritating formula that has been designed for normal to oily skin and those prone to sensitivities. 

If you have oily or combination skin, it can be difficult to find a cleanser that thoroughly cleanses the skin of dirt without stripping it completely of its natural oils, but Cetaphil’s daily cleanser has a low-lather, gel-to-foam formula that leaves skin feeling refreshed and hydrated without dryness or tightness. 

Acne sufferers usually have oily skin due to excess sebum, so this Cetaphil cleanser is perfect for gently removing oils and dirt without aggravating the skin and causing redness, or leaving behind a residue that can clog pores. 

The end result is skin that feels balanced and hydrated, but not greasy. 

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3. Best for Combination Skin: Gentle Foaming Cleanser  

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  • Self-foaming pump for rich, airy lather 
  • Packed full of soothing conditions to hydrate skin 
  • Non-irritating and non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores
  • The fragrance-free formula is suitable for sensitive skin 

Combination skin can be difficult to cater to because it’s characterized by dry patches but an oily t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin).

Cetaphil’s gentle foaming cleanser has a self-foaming pump that produces a rich, airy lather that’s infused with skin conditioners and vitamins. The foam helps target oiliness, while the hydrating formula softens and moisturizes the skin.

It contains soothing skin conditioners like hydrating glycerin, vitamin E, and vitamin B5 to help restore the skin’s natural barrier, to strike a balance between moisture and dryness. 

This foam cleanser effortlessly removes dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping away the skin’s natural barrier or leaving skin feeling dry or tight. It helps balance skin and is fragrance-free, non-irritating, and non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores or irritate sensitive skin.

This formula is gentle enough for all skin types, though foam cleansers are usually best suited to oily or combination skin. 

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4. Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Cetaphil Pro Oil Removing Foam Wash

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  • Specifically designed for acne-prone skin 
  • Lightweight foam formula removes oil and dirt
  • Licorice root extract and zinc technology to soothe irritated skin
  • Hypoallergenic and paraben-free formula 

Cetaphil’s derma control range is specifically designed for acne-prone skin. This Oil Removing Foam Wash has a self-foaming pump that produces a light, airy lather to gently remove excess oil, impurities, and traces of makeup. 

By targeting oil-build up, this cleanser helps control oil and reduce shine for more balanced skin and less acne. This pH-balanced foaming wash features soothing zinc technology to help eliminate pore-clogging oils and leave oily or combination skin comfortably cleansed and balanced. 

The formula is hypoallergenic and paraben-free, so it won’t irritate sensitive skin but will still effectively cleanse it of impurities. It also contains licorice root extract and zinc technology to soothe irritated skin. 

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5. Best for Redness: Cetaphil Redness Control Daily Foaming Face Wash

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  • Targets redness without leaving skin feeling dry 
  • Licorice extract, allantoin, and caffeine, which soothes redness and irritation
  • The lightweight foam cleans skin without stripping away moisture 
  • Non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, so it won’t clog pores

Red skin is usually sensitive and can easily flare up with certain products. This extra-gentle cleanser from Cetaphil has been specifically designed to target redness without over-drying the skin. 

This gentle foaming wash has been specially formulated with licorice extract, allantoin, and caffeine, which soothes redness and irritation while retaining the skin’s essential moisture barrier. The end result is skin that feels soft, soothed, and balanced

The rich yet lightweight foam is non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, so it won’t clog pores and is gentle even on sensitive, redness-prone skin while still cleansing away dirt and impurities. 

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Cetaphil Cleansers for Acne: Buyer’s Guide 

What causes acne? 

Acne is a very common skin issue, but it can make you self-conscious and embarrassed.

Acne is caused by clogged hair follicles. These become clogged with oil and dead skin cells which can result in whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. 

Follicles connect our glands to our skin’s pores. The glands produce an oily liquid called sebum, which hydrates our skin and hair. 

Sebum also carries dead skin cells through the follicles to reach the surface of the skin, but if the follicles get blocked, oil builds up under the skin and pimples can form. 

Skin cells, sebum, and hair can clump together into a ‘plug,’ and if this plug gets infected with bacteria, swelling can occur. When the plug breaks down, a pimple crops up.

The bacteria that live on the skin and lead to pimple infections is known as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), though it’s worth bearing in mind that the type and severity of acne depend on the strain of bacteria. Some strains are good and keep your skin pimple-free.

Hormonal factors 

You can get acne at any age, but it’s most prevalent in teenagers and is commonly triggered by hormonal factors, such as a rise in androgen levels.

Androgen is a type of hormone that increases when an adolescent begins puberty. In women, androgen is converted into estrogen.

When androgen levels rise, the oil glands under the skin swell in size, and they produce more sebum. This excessive sebum can cause cellular walls in the pores to break down, causing bacteria to thrive and pimples to appear. 

There may also be genetic factors that cause – or increase the risk – of acne. 

The skin condition can also be caused by: 

  • Medications that contain androgen and lithium
  • Greasy cosmetics that contain oils 
  • Hormonal changes
  • Emotional stress and anxiety 
  • Menstruation

Using Cetaphil with acne 

Finding products gentle enough for acne-prone skin can be difficult. Sometimes those with harsh, acne-fighting chemicals can do more harm than good, especially if your skin is highly sensitive and prone to redness. 

While Cetaphil isn’t a direct treatment for acne, it is useful in the sense that it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin, so it won’t further aggravate acne, and shouldn’t cause it to worsen. 

Cetaphil is also great for preventing acne from forming, as it removes the dirt, impurities, and excess oil that cause pimples to form in the first place. 

Which cleanser to choose 

Depending on your skin type, there are a range of cleansers out there under the Cetaphil brand. 

If your skin is oily, a foaming wash is ideal as these are lightweight and leave behind minimal residue while also effectively cleansing the skin. 

Normal or dry skin should instead opt for the original Cetaphil cleanser which is rich and creamy, providing your skin with hydration and retaining its natural moisture barrier.

How to use Cetaphil cleansers

As we said, Cetaphil is very gentle, so it’s suitable for the majority of people, even those with sensitive skin.

You can use Cetaphil cleansers once or twice a day, though most people use them twice daily. 

People with oily skin should cleanse skin twice a day, while those with sensitive skin may need to use Cetaphil once a day before building up to two applications a day. 

Regardless of your skin type, it’s important that you always wash your face to remove makeup, sunscreen, and sweat. These easily build up on the surface of your skin and will make your acne worse if you leave them on for longer than intended. 

To use Cetaphil, wet your face with lukewarm water and gently massage a small amount of cleanser into your skin. 

After massaging the cleanser into your skin, rinse with lukewarm water to remove any residue and gently pat the skin dry with a clean towel. 

It’s important not to aggressively scrub or dry the skin as this can cause further irritation. No need for sponges or washcloths either – your hands are enough. 

After cleansing your skin, you should follow with a moisturizer. If your skin is naturally oily, opt for a lightweight moisturizer like Cetaphil’s Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer. 

Benefits of Cetaphil for acne 

  • Gentle, soap-free formula is kind to sensitive skin and won’t further inflame or irritate the skin 
  • It’s suitable for a range of skin types; from dry to sensitive skin 
  • Cetaphil effectively removes dirt and impurities from the skin without stripping away moisture 
  • It’s non-comedogenic so it won’t block your pores 
  • Cetaphil offers foam or cream formulas depending on whether your skin is oily or dry
  • It is dermatologist recommended, so is suitable for various skin conditions
  • It’s affordable and can be bought from most drugstores and supermarkets 

Drawbacks of Cetaphil for acne 

  • It’s a preventative product and won’t eliminate any current acne scars 
  • Those with particularly sensitive, oily, or dry skin may need to build up their use gradually at first until the skin becomes used to Cetaphil 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is Cetaphil good for acne? 

Cetaphil is a soap-free, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cleanser.

It’s free of ingredients that can strip the skin of its natural moisture barrier, and it won’t irritate sensitive skin or clog your pores, so it’s generally considered a good option for acne-prone skin. 

Do Dermatologists recommend Cetaphil?

Cetaphil is generally recommended by dermatologists because of its gentle formula that isn’t harsh on sensitive skin. Cetaphil cleansers are non-alkaline (pH 6.3-6.8), lipid-free, and non-comedogenic, so they effectively cleanse away impurities without causing irritation. 

Is Cetaphil good for oily skin? 

Cetaphil is great for oily skin, and some of their formulas are specially designed for oily skin – in particular their gentle foaming daily cleanser for oily and combination skin. 

Oily skin is one of the causes of acne, so opting for a cleanser with a non-irritating formula such as Cetaphil is a great way to target oil, impurities, and dirt, without leaving sensitive skin feeling dry and tight. 

If you have particularly oily or sensitive skin, use Cetaphil with caution when you first start using it. To begin with, use it once a day, and then work your way up to more frequent uses once your skin is used to it. 

Can you use Cetaphil for acne scars?

Cetaphil isn’t designed to target existing acne scars, and you will need to research different alternatives for this specific issue.

However, Cetaphil is an excellent preventive measure when it comes to acne. By stopping acne in its tracks,  Cetaphil prevents new pimples from forming and limits the build-up of dirt and impurities, thus preventing the formation of new scars

Cetaphil also has some products designed specifically for acne-prone skin. 


The key thing to know about Cetaphil is that it’s not designed specifically for acne. It doesn’t claim to get rid of pimples or eliminate old acne scars. 

However, Cetaphil is a great preventative measure for treating acne or acne-prone skin. It will remove oil and dirt which can lead to acne or pimples, so it’s great for keeping acne at bay. 

The other reason why Cetaphil is effective is that it has a gentle, soap-free formula that won’t irritate sensitive skin. Acne can be sore, red, and inflamed, and you don’t want to aggravate it further with harsh fragrances and chemicals. 

Cetaphil is pH-balanced and retains your skin’s natural moisture barrier without leaving it excessively oily or tight and dry. It leaves skin feeling clean, soothed, and balanced. In combination with other treatments recommended by your health care professional or dermatologist, Cetaphil is a great option for acne-prone skin.

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