This Gentle Cleanser Is Better and Cheaper Than TikTok's Favorite

This Gentle Cleanser Puts the Drugstore's Top-Sellers to Shame

And it’s even less expensive.
By Rachel Nussbaum
Jan 31, 2021 @ 8:00 am
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If the emergence of TikTok as a king-making skincare platform has proven one thing, it's that people of all skin types love CeraVe. Youths and less-youths on the platform flock to the brand for its gentle, non-stripping products, and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a fan. So, it might be controversial, but I'll say it: There's a better cleanser amongst the drugstore beauty shelves, and it's even more affordable. 

I first met Vanicream's Gentle Facial Cleanser under less-than-ideal circumstances. Over the summer I used a skincare ingredient that didn't agree with me, and boom, woke up to hives on my face. C'est la vie - that's beauty-testing - so I begged my dermatologist to fit me in for a virtual appointment. Her recommendation? Take away everything but Vanicream's soothing cleanser, its ultra-mild moisturizer, and a temporary prescription to kick the hives.  

I can't say I was thrilled, since testing new products is my livelihood. My face, on the other hand, rejoiced. Not only did the cleanser easily wipe away my makeup, but it left my inflamed skin super soft and clean. After a few days of this routine, my skin was back to normal. More than 8,000 Amazon shoppers give the cleanser a five-star rating, too; some write that nothing has been better for keeping their face incredibly moisturized, and even those with "the most sensitive skin on the planet" say they were saved by the formula. 

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser with Pump Dispenser
Credit: Courtesy

Shop now: $9; amazon.com

The Vanicream cleanser looks a lot like everyone's favorite drugstore standbys, with pared-down branding that may as well say "I'm so dermatologist recommended, I don't need marketing." Vanicream, CeraVe, and Cetaphil cleansers all do a great job at babying skin, but ever since I started researching the risks of hormone-disrupting ingredients in personal care products and cosmetics, I've become a heat-seeking ingredient list-reader. 

At the top of my "nope" list are formaldehyde-releasers, talc, and hormone-disruptors like parabens, the chemical sunscreens oxybenzone and octinoxate, and cyclopentasiloxane (which is a real b-word to avoid). The issue isn't that they're harsh, but that things like parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells, as the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics told Scientific American in 2014, and more study confirmed in 2017. Vanicream's cleanser is blissfully free of them, as are some of CeraVe best-selling cleansers, to be fair. 

Kim Harley, PhD, a reproductive epidemiologist who serves on the faculty of the Maternal and Child Health Program at U.C. Berkeley, tells InStyle, "we can definitely see that these chemicals are getting into [subjects'] bodies from their cosmetics" - and girls who had higher levels of parabens in their bodies at age 9 entered puberty about six months earlier than those with low levels, which increases their risk for reproductive cancers like breast cancer or ovarian cancer. 

In my view, it's not worth the risk, especially when Vanicream does the exact same thing for less money. If you're in the same camp, you can get it for $9 bucks on Amazon