Does Cetaphil Cause Cancer? (Why It’s So Recommended & Info On Recent Formula Changes)

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For years, dermatologists have recommended Cetaphil because it is gentle on the skin and does not feel as harsh as other brands. But based on our research on each ingredient, we found out that they updated the formulation of their brands and opted for ingredients that are more compatible with sensitive skin. There is no existing study or proof that Cetaphil could really cause cancer, both with old and new formulations.

Let’s break down the chemicals that are in their products and see how our body reacts to them, according to science.

Why do dermatologists recommend Cetaphil?

Dr. Sapna Palep, MD, FAAD, of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, says it is a gentle yet thorough cleanse ideal for sensitive skin. It treats many patients with acne, rosacea, and eczema, all conditions that are highly irritable.

She also said that it keeps her patients’ skins balanced and that it is perfect for resetting overworked skin because it only has a few ingredients, and it doesn’t have all these excess extracts and oils that other brands have in their products.

Let’s dig deeper at these ingredients, how each chemical works, and how our skin reacts to them.

A dermatologist is with a patient in her office

According to their website, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, Daily Facial Cleanser, Moisturizing Cream, Moisturizing Lotion, and Advanced Relief Lotion – are now reformulated to provide consumers with the cleaner formulas for those with sensitive skin desire.

What are the main ingredients in Cetaphil?

  1. Niacinamide – is one of the three newly added ingredients in the brand. It is one of the two forms of vitamin B3. It is found as niacinamide in animal-based products, like meat and poultry. When applied topically or taken orally as a supplement, niacinamide has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. It has been used to treat skin conditions like acne and rosacea.
  2. Panthenol – is a chemical substance made from pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B-5. It can also be produced from both plant and animal sources. Product manufacturers use panthenol as a moisturizer, but it can also be a softening, soothing, and anti-irritant agent. It also helps your skin build up a barrier against irritation and water loss.
  3. Glycerin is another newly added ingredient by Cetaphil, a natural compound derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. It’s a clear, colorless, odorless, and syrupy liquid with a sweet taste. It is a type of moisturizing agent that pulls water into the outer layer of your skin from deeper levels of your skin.
  4. Tocopherol – is a class of fat-soluble compounds with vitamin E activity. Its main role is to act as an antioxidant. Tocopherols can be found in the diet as part of vegetable oil such as corn, soybean, sesame, and cottonseed.
  5. Shea butter – is fat that’s extracted from the nuts of the shea tree, but unlike most tree nut products, it’s very low in the proteins that can trigger allergies. It is mainly used for moisturizing but won’t make your skin look oily after application. It also has anti-inflammation properties, which may help minimize irritation caused by environmental factors.
  6. Hyaluronic acid – is naturally produced by our body. Its primary function is to retain water to keep your tissues well lubricated and moist. When applied to the skin’s surface, hyaluronic acid serums can reduce wrinkles, redness, and dermatitis.
  7. Ceramides – a class of fatty acids called lipids, it locks moisture into your skin, which helps prevent dryness and irritation, and protects your skin from environmental damage.
  8. Aloe vera – has been known to be one of nature’s most powerful wonders. It is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves. The gel found inside the innermost layer of the aloe leaf is made up of up to 99% water and around 75 potentially active ingredients including vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids.
  9. Urea – those used in skincare products are made synthetically in a lab, but it is also naturally found on your skin and is excreted in the urine. It aids in general skin dryness or medical conditions associated with dry or itchy skin. It can also help exfoliate dead skin buildup and may help target fungal infections.
  10. Bisabolol – is an active ingredient extracted from German chamomile. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-microbial qualities, which are very helpful in treating skin conditions.
  11. Avocado Oil – Avocado oil is considered a carrier oil that is pressed from the seeds, nuts, or other fatty parts of the fruit and is used to help dilute essential oils. It has antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents to help calm itchy skin, moisturize, and shield skin from ultraviolet radiation.
  12. Sweet Almond Oil – this essential oil has been used for centuries to help soothe and soften the skin and treat minor wounds and cuts. In our modern world, it is often used in cosmetic and beauty products. It is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and has the effect of helping reduce sun damage and even the appearance of scars.


A young woman is applying face cream on her face

What were Cetaphil’s old ingredients?

Prior to a change in formulation, Cetaphil cleanser ingredients were: 

– Water
– Cetyl alcohol
– Propylene glycol
– Sodium lauryl sulfate
– Stearyl alcohol
– Methylparaben
– Propylparaben
– Butylparaben

Cetaphil last changed its formula in 2021.


The main reason the effectiveness and safety of the brand Cetaphil were questioned was because of the 3 parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben) that were included in their original formulation, most of which haven’t changed since they were first brought to market.

As for someone who personally uses the brand, I am happy to know that they are open to changes and are committed to better meeting the needs of even the most sensitive skin consumers.

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Eunice Alexis Rae Barbosa
I write about the topics that matter most to me, mental and physical health. Learning along the way and constantly seeking new facets to improve and be better as a mom and as a woman, healing and reinventing myself as much as I see fit. You'll find me burrowed in books or journaling my heart out in between the storms and stillness of this beautiful thing called life.

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