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Are Cetaphil Ingredients Actually Good for Your Skin?

February 05, 2021 Charlotte Cho

Hi! I’m not sure where the first half of the year has gone, but it’s officially time for a recap. 

So the good news is that after I graduated skin school in May, the majority of summer I got to relax, unwind and decompress. HA, I WISH! In reality I had to prep for the two-part esthetician state board exam, which includes both a practical and a written exam.

When I passed both (yay!) I celebrated with a sheet mask and my new official license that I should probably put in safe place.


Of course, I documented this with a #sheetmaskselfie.

Somewhere in between all that madness, I turned 30.


My sister Michelle surprised me with all this for my 30th! 

And these treats! She pulled all the stops. Best sister ever.


Thanks, Michelle. <3

I always wondered how I would feel about turning 30, but I hardly batted an eye when it happened. With so much going on to keep me busy and surrounded by a huge support network (my family, friends, and you guys!), I think I’m exactly where I want to be (which is totally not what I had ever imagined). The most important thing to me now is to keep working at improving myself and always, always being up for the challenges that come my way.

So that’s pretty much my summer in a nutshell. But because I’m feeling particularly random today, I’ll end this post with a story about the epiphany I had while going to skin school and explains why I love being knowledgeable about skin care.

Out of the 100+ facials and treatments that I gave to clients while going to school, I always went through their skin care routine and products that they used during their consultation. A surprising number said they used Cetaphil to cleanse because they said it is gentle for their sensitive skin.


A little too gentle. [Image courtesy: Cetaphil]

I’m familiar with the brand because my sister used that product for years (she dealt with eczema) and that huge bottle was right up our alley in terms of budget.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the ingredients for Cetaphil and was pretty unimpressed. Shocked, even. It's now clear to me why this cleanser may be gentle for sensitive skin, and dirt cheap -- as well as why you should up your skin care routine ante and ditch this so-called "cleanser."

Cetaphil contains the following ingredients: Water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.

Um, what? Say that again? Water, is well, water. No harm, no foul here. It just doesn’t really do anything. Cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol are just thickening agents and emollients. It doesn’t do anything for the skin either. It’s in there because it thickens consistency so that it doesn’t feel like water (which it mostly is). Sodium lauryl sulfate is a foaming agent often used in cleansers. It’s responsible for that bubbly, sudsy feeling a lot of cleansers have (but it actually can be irritating to the skin if you’re sensitive). The only semi-useful ingredient is the propylene glycol, which is a humectant (meaning it hydrates your skin).

The last three ingredients are common skin care product preservatives. Nothing in this cleanser is actually really good for the skin, and it doesn’t even really do a good job of doing the one thing it claims to do: clean the skin! So that’s why it’s so “gentle” and affordable – it doesn’t do anything!

As you can imagine, the popularity of this cleanser is now very annoying to me and is just another reason why it’s important to be skin savvy. Really take the time to look at what’s in the bottle before you put it on your face. For all you skin care junkies, you know what I’m talking about, and for those of you just tuning in, keep doing so. :D

Any other popular products you’re curious about? Let me know in the comments below. 

xx charlotte

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About Charlotte

Soko Glam co-founder and chief curator. Licensed esthetician sharing the love of all things K-beauty.

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