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This post will be reviewing the Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser.
Just like everyone else with acne-prone skin, I’ve used quite a number of Salicylic Acid products. Including Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid. I’m also currently using the Benton Aloe BHA Toner. One thing that is common among all three products is that they are all leave-on treatments. Check out a more extensive list of the best drugstore treatments for acne.
But then during the last couple of months, I decided to switch up my skincare routines a bit. Plus I also needed to try new products to use and review for my audience. Before now, I’ve only been using hydrating cleansers because of my dry dehydrated skin. So, I was looking forward to trying out a Salicylic Acid cleanser and how well it would integrate into my routines. Naturally, the first cleanser I had to try was the popular Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser, a UK/Europe version of the Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser.
- 1 First Impressions of the Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser
- 2 Review of the Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser
First Impressions of the Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser
According to Cerave:
This cleanser helps to alleviate rough and bumpy skin texture, leaving skin feeling smoother. The Salicylic Acid in the formula gently exfoliates the skin, without compromising the skin’s natural barrier. Developed by dermatologists, this daily foaming cleanser helps protect the skin’s natural barrier with three essential ceramides and hydrates the skin with Hyaluronic Acid.
- Suitable for rough and bumpy skin. Also suitable for skin prone to Keratosis Piliaris.
- Gently removes oil, dirt and makeup.
- Star ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid.
- Free of physical exfoliants.
- Fragrance-free, non-irritating, non-comedogenic.
- With 3 essential ceramides to protect the skin’s natural barrier.
- Recommended use in conjunction with CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream.
AQUA / WATER, SODIUM LAUROYL SARCOSINATE, COCAMIDOPROPYL HYDROXYSULTAINE, GLYCERIN, NIACINAMIDE, GLUCONOLACTONE, SODIUM METHYL COCOYL TAURATE, PEG-150 PENTAERYTHRITYL TETRASTEARATE, CERAMIDE NP, CERAMIDE AP, CERAMIDE EOP, CARBOMER, CALCIUM GLUCONATE, SALICYLIC ACID, SODIUM BENZOATE, SODIUM LAUROYL LACTYLATE, CHOLESTEROL, PHENOXYETHANOL, DISODIUM EDTA, TETRASODIUM EDTA, HYDROLYZED HYALURONIC ACID, PHYTOSPHINGOSINE, XANTHAN GUM, ETHYLHEXYLGLYCERIN
As you can see, the key ingredients are Salicylic Acid, Niacinamide, Ceramides, Cholesterol, Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid. The perfect combination for dry acne-prone skin. My only issue with this list is the percentage of Salicylic Acid.
Unfortunately, Cerave is not transparent about that. But based on the effectiveness of this product and the location of the ingredient on the list, I’m guessing it is between 0.5 – 1.5%. It is definitely not the industry standard of 2%.
Texture & Consistency
It has a transparent gel texture with a light consistency. Compared to the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, this one is a foaming cleanser that lathers pretty well. I was actually very impressed with how well it lathers up compared to my experience with the hydrating cleanser which basically felt like lotion on the face. But I still love it regardless. Again, my dry acne-prone skin loves this gel texture that reminds me of my holy grail cleanser; the Neutrogena Hydroboost Water Gel Cleanser.
Price & Packaging
Just like all Cerave cleansers, this one also comes in a pump bottle. I particularly love this one because the packaging is transparent. This way, you can see how much or how little product you have used. Asides from that, it is pretty affordable and accessible just about anywhere.
Review of the Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser
Fun fact: I actually bought this to use with my Cerave SA Smoothing Cream. But I realized it won’t be strong enough to use on my body so I used it for my face instead.
Background: 27F with Dry acne-prone skin
So, I’ve been using this cleanser for about two months now in the AM or PM routine. The first thing I do anytime I wake up is touching my face to determine the type of cleanser to use. If it is bumpy with old or new breakouts forming, I reach out for this cleanser. If my skin is pretty smooth from the night before, I just use a hydrating cleanser.
The first time I tried it, I used it using the #60SecondRule of cleansing. This is where I apply my cleanser and massage it in for sixty seconds giving it enough time for the product to work. It went well and after sixty seconds I rinsed out. I love how clean and hydrated my skin felt. Most importantly, I didn’t feel any irritation whatsoever from the Salicylic Acid.
The second time I tried it, I decided to use it as a mask. So I applied the product on my skin and left for about a minute or two before rinsing out. OMG! Never again! My skin was literally on fire. I felt my skin burning from all the irritation. This is when I decided not to underestimate this cleanser just because it has 0.5% Salicylic Acid. Since then, I use it just once on dry skin or as my second cleanser.
In terms of effectiveness, I wouldn’t say I got instant results from the product after all it is a cleanser and it doesn’t stay long on the skin. But I feel like it keeps my acne at bay such that within a few days, it goes away. Either the size of the pimple reduces or it disappears completely which is not so bad at all.
At the beginning of 2021, I decided that my new skincare philosophy will be to be gentle with my skin. So, instead of chasing after products with a very high percentage of active ingredients, I’m going after products with low percentages that are also buffered with hydrating ingredients. For instance, instead of using the Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid Exfoliant with 2% Salicylic Acid, I’m using the Benton Aloe BHA Toner which is 0.5% Salicylic Acid and is also very hydrating.
At the end of the day, it’s about choosing products that encourage you to be consistent. There is no point in using a product that continuously irritates your skin.
Will I repurchase this product? I probably will after I’ve gone through even more Salicylic Acid products in the market. It is hydrating and effective for my dry acne prone skin.
Note of Caution
Just because it is a mild cleanser doesn’t mean you should use it every day. It is also an exfoliant that can potentially irritate your skin if it is used too frequently. Between 2 – 3 times a week is appropriate depending on how often you break out.
Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser vs Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser
Based on the ingredient list, they are pretty much the same product. The only difference is some filler ingredients which are not identical. Other than that, they are the same product with different labels because they are sold in different markets. The former is sold in the UK/Europe while the latter is in the US.
Cerave SA Smoothing Cleanser Dupes & Alternatives
If your skin did not agree with this cleansing and broke you out instead or reacted negatively to it, here are some alternatives you can try:
- The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser
- Vichy Normaderm Deep Cleansing Purifying Gel
- Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser
- Burt’s Bees Anti-Blemish Purifying Daily Gel Cleanser
- Derma E Acne Deep Pore Cleansing Wash
- Honest Beauty Clearing Cleanser
- La Roche Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel
- Murad Clarifying Cleanser
- Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser
- Versed Keep The Peace Acne Calming Cream Cleanser
If you have acne-prone skin, a Salicylic Acid cleanser should be part of your skincare routine. It is non-negotiable except you react to it. Then you should try Benzoyl Peroxide or Sulfur.