Cetaphil vs Aveeno: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve ever bought a moisturizer from your local drugstore, you’ve probably come across Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion and Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Maybe you’ve even thought to yourself: what’s the difference?

As it turns out, both these moisturizers are lightweight, non-irritating, non-fragranced, and well-packaged. The key difference between the two comes by way of affordability (Aveeno is cheaper) and ingredients (Cetaphil is less irritating).

Read through the rest of the article to find out which moisturizer is right for you.

Texture + Application

Cetaphil lotion has a lightweight consistency that spreads easily on skin. It’s hydrating, non-irritating, and long-lasting. Not to mention, it makes my skin feel so soft and so smooth.

That being said, Cetaphil has a couple downsides.

First off, it takes an incredibly long time to sink into my skin. After I take a shower in the morning, I want to run out the door. But when I use Cetaphil as my after-shower moisturizer, I have to wait for it to absorb into my skin. What’s the wait time? About 15 minutes. Oof.

Second, it doesn’t work as a facial moisturizer—at least not for my oily skin. It makes me look greasy (like I rubbed oil all over my face). And it’s not a normal type of greasy—powders and blotting sheets don’t make things any better. Dry skin types might have more luck with this type of lotion.

Aveeno’s consistency is also lightweight, but it feels less rich than Cetaphil. It spreads easily on the skin—no excessive rubbing required. Unlike Cetaphil, it dries down almost instantly. When I apply it to my face, it doesn’t make me excessively greasy. Another point for Aveeno!

The one downside to Aveeno is that it doesn’t feel as moisturizing as Cetaphil. I often feel like I need to reapply it throughout the day to keep my skin from drying out.

Bottom line: Cetaphil is a more effective moisturizer, while Aveeno offers faster absorption.

Ingredients

Cetaphil lotion ingredients:

Water, Glycerin, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Dimethicone, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate,Caprylyl Glycol, Benzyl Alcohol, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Stearoxytrimethylsilane, Stearyl Alcohol, Citric Acid, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer

Aveeno lotion ingredients:

Active Ingredient: Dimethicone 1.25% Inactive Ingredients: Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Benzyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Isopropyl Palmitate, Petrolatum, Sodium Chloride, Water.

Ingredient-splaining: Cetaphil’s Ingredients Are Less Irritating

Ingredients found in both products:

Glycerin is a humectant. It attracts and holds onto water, which keeps your skin looking nice and plump.

Dimethicone, as a silicone oil, provides “slip” to any product it’s added in. But that’s not the only reason it’s added to an army of skincare, haircare, and personal-care products. In fact, it’s mostly used for its occlusive properties. That means, when you add it on top of your skin, it forms a protective layer that locks-in moisture.

Benzyl alcohol is usually added to skincare products for three reasons: (1) it smells good, (2) it has preservative properties, and (3) it decreases the thickness of a formulation (hello lightweight moisturizers). The trouble with benzyl alcohol is that it can be irritating. Research has shown that, although rare, it can cause contact allergies.

Fatty alcohols (cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol) are waxy solids that emulsify (aka keep products from separating) and thicken the products that they’re in. Most people are a-okay with fatty alcohols, while others find them to be comedogenic.

Key ingredients found in Cetaphil:

Hydrogenated Polyisobutene is an emollient–meaning it moisturizes + softens skin–and a thickening agent. It’s the kind of ingredient that gives products a rich and luxurious feel. And despite its long and scientific name, it’s a relatively safe ingredient. Even the EWG gave it a score of 1.

Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil is known for its fast absorption. Aside from that, it has moisturizing and antioxidant properties.

Key ingredients in Aveeno:

Avena sativa kernel flour is ground from the oat kernel. When used in cosmetics, it has the ability to hydrate, soothe, and soften skin. And according to this study, it’s safe and well-tolerated.

Petrolatum is a pretty powerful occlusive. It’s really good at locking-in moisture. And despite its petroleum origins, it’s completely safe to use (as long as you grab the ultra-refined, cosmetic-grade goods).

Isopropyl Palmitate is yet another emollient and thickening agent. According to CosDNA, it’s incredibly comedogenic. Sensitive skin types might stand to steer clear of products containing isopropyl palmitate altogether.  

Bottom line: Apply both of these moisturizers after taking shower to utilize their occlusive properties. On another note, if you have sensitive/oily/ acne-prone skin, skip Aveeno (because it contains isopropyl palmitate, a pore-clogging ingredient).

Packaging

Both moisturizers come in plastic bottles with pumps. And the packaging in both products is solid.

Sure, Cetaphil’s packaging is a bit stockier, and Aveeno’s a bit sleeker. But the differences between the two are negligible. You pump. The bottle squirts. The end.  

Price: Aveeno Is More Affordable

I dug through a bunch of drugstore websites (Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, and Target) to find out which moisturizer was cheaper.

By all accounts, Aveeno is the clear winner here. Depending on the store, Aveeno was about $1.50 – $3.50 cheaper than Cetaphil. Not only is it cheaper, but you also get more product for your money—typically, Aveeno bottles offer 18 ounces, while Cetaphil offers only 16 ounces.

Bottom line: If price is a major buying-point, go with Aveeno. It’s both cheaper and bigger (ounce-wise) than Cetaphil.

Smell: Both Are Fragrance-Free

Both are fragrance-free. But I wouldn’t say that they’re smell-free.

They have a very distinct, chemical-y, plastic-y scent. The good thing is that the scent doesn’t linger. It usually goes away after it absorbs into your skin.

Are Either Products Vegan/Cruelty-Free?

You might be surprised to find out that:

  • Aveeno is owned by Johnson & Johnson.
  • Cetaphil is owned by Galerma (which is owned in part by Nestle).

I reached out to both companies to see if either of them are (a) vegan and/or (b) cruelty-free.

I haven’t heard back from them yet. But judging by other online sources, neither of these products is cruelty-free. And I assume that they also aren’t vegan.

Bottom line: If brand ethics are important to you, buy something else. But if you absolutely have to choose between the two, I would choose Johnson & Johnson (Aveeno) over Nestle (Cetaphil).  

So, Which One Is Better?

Unlike some fancier moisturizing lotions, both Cetaphil and Aveeno are generally well-tolerated by sensitive skin types.

Nevertheless, they’re totally different products.

Cetaphil:

  • Has better ingredients
  • Feels more moisturizing

Aveeno:

  • Is cheaper
  • Absorbs into skin really fast
  • Doesn’t make my face look greasy

Even though Aveeno doesn’t hit the mark when it comes to the ingredients list, I prefer it over Cetaphil because it’s easier to use. I can just slather it on both my body and face without worrying about getting greasy and without waiting a long time for it to absorb. That’s a double win for me!

Check out Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion on Amazon by clicking this link.

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