Cetaphil's Gentle Foaming Cleanser Is in the Beauty Hall of Fame for a Reason

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Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Nicole Kliest/Design by Cristina Cianci

What We Like
  • Foaming texture that’s pleasant to apply

  • Rinses away easily

  • Hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic

  • Very affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Potentially drying for some skin types

This drugstore cleanser is effective at removing oil and makeup, and its foaming texture is easy to apply. Don’t expect any bells and whistles, though—it’s as straight-forward as they come.


Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Nicole Kliest/Design by Cristina Cianci

I’ve always been slightly averse to the idea of putting anything from a drugstore on my face. Not because I have a checking account that allows me to solely buy luxury products (I wish), but rather due to the obnoxiously sensitive nature of my skin. Sure, I’ll grab a body lotion or the occasional mascara from my local CVS, but when it comes to my complexion—hard pass. 

That’s why when I agreed to test out Cetaphil’s Gentle Foaming cleanser, I was a tad anxious. Would it break me out in weird and unexpected places? Would it turn my skin red? Would irreparable damage be inflicted? In a word, no.

Ahead, find out how this beloved drugstore mainstay affected my finicky skin, and if I plan to permanently incorporate it into my skincare routine.

Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Best for: Balanced-combination skin types

Uses: Removing dirt, oil, and makeup

Potential allergens: Cocamidopropyl betaine

Byrdie Clean?: Yes

Price: $8

About the brand: Cetaphil was founded in 1947 by a pharmacist in Texas. His first product was the gentle skin cleanser; the brand still uses the original formula today. It’s found in most drugstores and rings in at an affordable price point.

About My Skin: Sensitive, and prone to acne and mild rosacea 

As much as I cherish my daily skincare routine (so relaxing!), I still wish that I was one of those people who didn’t have to worry about their skin. A simple cleanse and moisturize situation, if you will. Nay, I am constantly warding off at least one pimple at any given point in time and my mild rosacea leaves my complexion a pinkish red hue more often than not. It could be much worse (I’m balanced-combination skin, after all)—but it is hard work. 

The Feel: Instant foaming

Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Nicole Kliest/Design by Cristina Cianci

The fragrance-free cleanser comes out of a pump in an easy-to-apply foaming texture. Even though I tend to opt for creamier textured cleansers, I’ve always been keen on a foam because it’s easy to see that you’ve applied it all over your face. Lately, I’ve been starting with an oil-based cleanser and following it up with Cetaphil’s Gentle Foaming cleanser (would recommend).

The Ingredients: Skin conditioners and a vitamin complex

There are twelve ingredients in Cetaphil’s Gentle Foaming cleanser, two of which are vitamin B5 (panthenol) and vitamin E acetate (tocopheryl acetate). The formula helps moisturize the skin, while the latter serves as an antioxidant (though it’s not as impactful as pure vitamin E). The cleanser also contains betaine, which is a sugar-beet-derived amino acid that has pretty solid moisturizing properties (as does the glycerin, a classic, that’s also on the ingredient list). 

What you won’t find on this list are any natural, feel-good ingredients. However, this simplistic approach is probably part of the reason dermatologists recommend it—it’s pared-down, effective, and the likelihood of negative interactions is low. Plus, the foaming version of Cetaphil’s Gentle cleanser portfolio is paraben-free. 

[The] simplistic approach is probably part of the reason dermatologists recommend it—it’s pared-down, effective, and the likelihood of negative interactions is low.

The Results: Clean skin with no dryness

It was pretty effortless to switch over to using Cetaphil’s Gentle Foaming cleanser. Because it’s dermatologist-tested and clinically proven to be gentle on sensitive skin, my face reacted in a neutral way—nothing bad happened, and nothing perceptibly good happened. I’d recommend it to anyone with balanced-combination skin who wants a cleanser that will gently remove oil, dirt, and makeup from the day. If you want exotic or buzzy ingredients, look elsewhere.

The Value: A steal

Less than $10 for a cleanser that will last you upward of three months is certainly worth it if you’re considering adding Cetaphil’s Foaming cleanser to your routine. 

Similar Product: More expensive options

There are plenty of foaming cleansers to choose from, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a drugstore version that’s garnered as much attention and praise from dermatologists as Cetaphil. If you want something else, you’ll be spending a bit more money.

Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser: Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser ($18) is a lightweight hydrating cleanser that uses an amino acid formula so your skin doesn’t dry out. It also includes hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf extra, and tea tree oil.

Final Verdict

This isn’t one of the most exciting cleansers I’ve tried in recent past... but maybe that’s the point. It’s not trying to be anything more than a gentle, effective cleanser that won’t fuss with your skin barrier and can play nicely with other products. I’ll be keeping it around.


  • Product Name Gentle Foaming Cleanser
  • Product Brand Cetaphil
  • Price $8
  • Full Ingredient List Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Coco-Glucoside, Betaine, Glycerin, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate 20, Polyquaternium-10, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid

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