Wherein “Renewing” Means Something Different

Good Or Nah?

Okay so. AS YOU KNOW, the anti-acne battle continues over here. I’ve been on Retin-A Micro for about two months, and it’s making a big difference overall, woo!


Over the last few months, I’ve had the same troublesome tiny-yet-rampant breakouts, particularly around my cheeks and jawline. “Bah, why isn’t my azelaic helping this more.” Then, “Urgh, I guess it’s Retin-A purging again.”

Also over the last few months, I’ve been spending the night at my bf’s pad a couple times a week. And as all Cautious With The Skincare types know, this kind of occasional “overnight travel” involves observation and sometimes planning ahead — i.e. What Products Ya Got In Here. What there was, to my surprise and delight, was NOT a slab of some bullshit bar soap, but actual facial cleanser! Oft-recommended as gentle/inoffensive/fine for everyone CeraVe, even! And a variety with salicylic acid, which as we all know is super friendly to breakout-prone skin! Hooray!


Wow, this stuff — CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser — sure does kinda sting a little bit while I’m using it. That’s odd.

And then I’d wake up with a face full of tiny, shallow, yet dismayingly numerous and also irritated pimples. Wtf. Did I forget to apply my Retin-A or [pre-Retin-A] Skinoren? We’re using the same laundry detergent now so it’s not a reaction to that. Hm. HMMMM.

I am so, so ashamed that it took me MONTHS to make the connection from burning-tingling-face-wash to Morning Chagrin. You guys, the only thing this is “RENEWING” for me is my acne — this stuff apparently aggravates the fuck out of my face, and I am a moron who used it at least once a week for at least four months.



Ingredients : Purified Water, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Niacinamide, Gluconolactone, Sodium Methylcocoyl Taurate, PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Salicylic Acid, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Sodium Benzoate, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholecalciferol, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide

So, the Cocamidopropyl blah blah is an allegedly very mild coconut-derived surfactant (this seems to be pretty common and has a number of chemical-name synonyms and is non-comedogenic), glycerin is obvs fine/good, the Sarcosinate is something that’s also super common and that I’ve definitely encountered before with no problems, Niacinamide is GREAT and I use a serum of that stuff all the time. Gluconolactone is a humectant that may also provide some UV protection; next up is another allegedly mild coconut-derived surfactant, then we’ve got PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate — which, YES, is an ester of STEARIC ACID, which can be super problematic for acne-prone skin. Sigh. Salicylic acid yay, a trio of ceramides, hyaluronic, “cholesterol” which seems kinda vague, a preservative, CORN OIL which is fairly comedogenic, sodium lauroyl lactylate which should be fine, Cholecalciferol aka vitamin D3 which should also be fine, a naturally-occuring lipid, and a couple of texture/viscosity agents and Sodium Hydroxide aka LYE which sounds scary but is commonly used to saponify oils and fats.


It’s a clear liquidy gel with little to no fragrance, and very mild/moderate foaming or lathering action. However, it does seem to clean skin and remove makeup very well. But this stuff makes my face start stinging almost immediately, and it continues stinging a little even after I rinse it off thoroughly (which is quite easy to do).


Because so many GOOD things sting a little! Retin-A! Azelaic! Stronger lactic and mandelic acid peels! Pretty much any other good exfoliating acids! Lots of other shit! And I mean, granted, this is *not* promoting itself as a cleanser for acne-prone skin — it says “FOR NORMAL SKIN” right there on the front of the bottle. However, it also boasts extremely acne-friendly salicylic acid, AND ceramides, AND it says “non-comedogenic, non-drying, non-irritating.” To which my face says “lol nope.”

Obvs, I am not a cosmetic chemist, or a chemist of any variety at all. Nor am I a dermatologist! So pinpointing ingredients that’re a problem is mostly a guessing game — and in this case, I’m going to guess it’s the ester of stearic acid that’s making my skin freak out, since stearic-acid-containing face washes have definitely caused breakouts for me before. Is it also causing the stinging? I don’t know! The stinging and the breakouts could be completely unrelated and coming from different ingredients! (Causation vs correlation etc!) Despite the fact that they’re “omg, so good for your skin,” I have little experience with ceramides added to skincare products. But since these are naturally-occurring compounds (ceramides make up a good chunk of your skin’s outer stratum corneum) and since they’re necessary to a lot of cellular functions, I’m going to guess that they aren’t the problem. Is there an imbalance of lye-to-fats in the mix and that’s why it’s burning? Possible, but seems unlikely. Gluconolactone is unfamiliar to me (which doesn’t mean I haven’t used it in something before) so that’s also a “maybe.” So all I can do at this point is shrug, and keep this ingredient list on file to compare to anything else in the future that does something similarly horrifying to my stupid face.

THE VERDICT : SO, SO NAH. I’m seriously considering taking the empty bottle outside and setting it on fire.


This stuff has over 200 reviews on Amazon, and 85% of them are four- or five-star ratings. So clearly, I’m in the minority here. But I’m NOT ALONE, because there’re 18 one-star ratings, whose reviewers note “gave me a rash,” “dried my skin out,” “BURNED MY FACE,” “broke me out,” and similar. So I’d say if you have acneic skin, or rosacea, or skin that’s sensitive in general or frequently reacts poorly to new products? Avoid. But! If you have robustly normal skin that rarely or never loses its damn mind? This stuff is under ten bucks for 8oz on Amazon, and it does clean quite well and rinse away easily! Handy pump! No fragrance! But it’s nottttt for me.

Tried it? Brave enough to do so? Any love for CeraVe stuff in general? Share!