Vanicream vs. CeraVe—Which Moisturizer is Best for Dry Skin?

We tested these popular moisturizers side by side and named a winner

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Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Picking a moisturizer can be tricky, especially because there are so many options to consider. A lot of it depends on your skin type and the type of cream you’re looking for. Two of the most popular daily moisturizers on the market are the Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer and the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. It’s no coincidence that they have a lot in common. Both are intended to be used both day and night by all skin types, including those with sensitive skin, and they’re also available at the drugstore at an affordable price. However, while both are often recommended by dermatologists, there are differences in their formulas and containers to consider.

The Bottom Line

Several members of our team, myself included, were unanimous in choosing the Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer over all other options, including the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. While the two are so similar, the Vanicream formula is less likely to irritate skin, cause breakouts, or trigger rashes.

Keep reading for my in-depth comparison of the Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer and the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer


What We Like
  • Comes in a tube

  • Ceramide-rich formula

  • Non-greasy

  • Won’t clog pores

What We Don't Like
  • Can temporarily burn after applying

Who It’s For: In the world of facial moisturizers, there are very few that don’t contain dyes, fragrances, lanolin, parabens, and all that other debated stuff. And even within that small pool of moisturizers, there are even fewer that are formulated without botanical extracts (aka oils derived from flowers, herbs, nuts, seeds, roots, leaves, barks and berries) that can clog pores for those with super sensitive skin like me. This formula from Vanicream contains nothing but hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalane to nourish the skin simply and effectively. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Ceramides, Squalane | Container Type: Squeeze tube | Size: 4 oz.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream


What We Like
  • Rich consistency

  • Large amount of product

  • Deeply hydrating

  • Can be used on face and body

What We Don't Like
  • Might clog pores

  • Tub container can become contaminated

Who It’s For: Looking for a moisturizer that can be used on both the face and body? CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream should be on your radar. The rich cream feels incredibly hydrating on all body parts—dry elbows and knees included—and never feels greasy. It’s a fan favorite among people of all skin types, especially those with very dry, sensitive skin. Plus, each tub comes with a ton of product, so one purchase lasts you a long time. 

Price at time of publish: $17

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Ceramides | Container Type: Tub | Size: 19 oz.

What We Considered

Ingredients: Moisture minus the sensitivity

Winner: Vanicream Daily Moisturizer

I was recently prescribed Tretinoin, a prescription-strength topical cream similar to retinol that rapidly sloughs away the top layer of skin to help treat acne. Though I was excited to see results, I wasn’t prepared for the skin shedding that would take place all over my face. To combat the flakey patches, I needed a moisturizer that would deliver intense hydration without clogging my pores or interacting poorly with the harsh acne cream. 

After obsessively reading ingredient labels, I discovered that the Vanicream Daily Moisturizer has gentle ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalane (aka ingredients that are the least likely to clog pores or cause a reaction). CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream is also loaded with ceramides and hyaluronic acid and is recommended for super dry skin. Since it’s a little thicker and has a few more ingredients, I wasn’t surprised when it made me break out. To figure out why, board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D. explained that although the ingredient profiles are almost the same, CeraVe’s formula has dimethicone, which can give it a smoother application, but might clog pores for some people. “In general, Vanicream is a dermatologist favorite for very sensitive skin given it has only the essentials without anything that can potentially be irritating,” he shares. 

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Container: A pump comes in handy

Winner: Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

Formulas are important, but so are the containers they’re housed in. If a product has a container that can be easily tampered with, the formula can become tainted and can actually do more harm than good. That’s why Vanicream is the winner here. Although it’s easier to stick your hand in Cerave’s large tub, the risk of polluting the formula with grubby fingers is much higher than using Vanicream’s squeeze tube. However, Cerave formula is available at some stores with a pump top or in the travel-size squeeze tube, just be sure to check before you buy.


Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Consistency: Your texture preference will make that call

Winner: It’s a tie!

Vanicream's consistency is like a milky lotion that spreads out nicely and evenly. On the other hand, Cerave’s Moisturizing Cream is thick and rich, taking a little more effort to smooth across the skin. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s simply up to personal preference. I, for one, have super oily skin and hate the feeling of a thick moisturizer on my face. Other members of our team disagree, and are really into thicker formulations. 

What Our Testers Say

“The cerave texture is thick and occlusive. It feels rich on the skin without being greasy and leaving behind a shine.” — Alyssa Kaplan, Commerce Writer

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Value: The price point is comparable

Winner: It’s a tie!

Though the Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer and the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream are available at a similar price point and are intended to serve the same purpose, they have different ingredients and can serve different people, making it hard to judge the value. While my experience with the Vanicream has been better than the CeraVe formula, the latter has worked better for others with different skin types. The main distinction between the two is that the Vanicream moisturizer is less comedogenic and can be better suited for oily, acne-prone skin, while the CeraVe moisturizer can be tolerated by those with drier skin. When it comes down to design, I prefer the Vanicream because of the squeeze tube, however, CeraVe has updated their packaging in some locations to include a pump top to avoid contamination of the big tub it comes in. Either option is great, but you may want to consider your skin type before you buy. 

What You Can Expect to Pay

When shopping for a moisturizer, you can expect to pay anywhere from about $5 to well over $400. When determining the right moisturizer for you, you should consider how often you’ll use it and which ingredients mean the most to you. As far as drugstore formulas are concerned, both the Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer and the Cerave Moisturizing Lotion are well priced, and honestly, quite a steal when considering their effectiveness. 

What is Byrdie Verified?

Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.

Why Trust Byrdie

Caitlyn Martyn is an experienced writer in the beauty industry and product tester specializing in cosmetics. She has tested dozens of blow dryers—including those on this list. Caitlyn has been a writer at Byrdie since 2022, where she covers all things beauty.

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