This has happened to me personally on several occasions (which is pretty normal, considering the amount of trial and error I’ve gone through as part of my skincare passion).
When it comes to experiencing burning sensations, one of the brands that are commonly associated with such is CeraVe. Although popular with its straightforward formulations that are widely recommended by derms, the brand’s products do disagree with some users.
In this article, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about why CeraVe burns your skin – it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is bad.
I’ll also recommend some tips on how to stop the burning and see your skin go back to normal as quickly as possible.
What is CeraVe popular for?
Definitely not for burning your skin, that’s for certain.
CeraVe is a pretty big brand in the skincare and cosmetics industry.
It’s a budget skincare brand that offers a ton of products that all share one thing in common – simplicity.
Mostly popular for its facial cleansers (plenty of foaming, creamy, and clarifying products to choose from), the majority of CeraVe products are designed to strengthen the skin barrier, offering protection and preventing dehydration and irritation.
When it comes to ingredients, one group certainly stands out in CeraVe products – ceramides.
Ceramides are lipids or fats located in the top skin layer. They are powerful moisturizing agents as they stop transdermal water loss. And, as I mentioned before, they also help CeraVe protect the skin’s natural barrier and shield the skin from threats like bacteria, pollution, and others.
All of this sounds great, and it truly is, believe me. But if you’ve read any reviews or forum discussions on CeraVe, you may have noticed one worrying feedback – the burning sensation that some users get.
Let’s uncover the mystery around CeraVe burning skin.
Are CeraVe products meant to burn?
If you’ve read negative reviews or you’ve tested CeraVe only to discover that you too suffer from similar effects, you may end up asking yourself – is CeraVe supposed to burn?
In a nutshell, CeraVe products are certainly not meant to burn or sting the face. In fact, they’re designed to revive and strengthen the skin’s natural barrier, meaning the burning should fade away after using the product.
Despite these claims, however, some people still experience side effects after using CeraVe. These side effects include burning, stinging, agitation, redness, eye-stinging, and more.
And I’ve noticed there are complaints just about any product out there – the CeraVe makeup wipes that burn, the CeraVe moisturizing cream that irritates the skin, the CeraVe cleanser burns even though it’s on your face for minutes, and even the CeraVe PM cream that is supposed to be this pampering experience is reported to sting some people.
One of the most logical explanations is that these effects could be a result of the ceramides found in CeraVe products.
Although ceramides have positive effects on the skin like maintaining the skin barrier, boosting hydration, revitalizing aging skin, and protecting against UV damage, they also come with a few potential side effects, and burning and stinging could be some of them.
Can you be allergic to CeraVe?
Because of the common burning side effect of CeraVe, a lot of people are probably wondering whether you can have an actual allergic reaction to CeraVe.
Sadly, I can’t give you a yes or no answer. But what I can do is look at both options in more detail.
CeraVe products are designed to moisturize the skin, heal the skin barrier, and restore the skin’s balance. With that said, nothing in the ingredient lists is supposed to trigger an allergic reaction.
Even if the products do cause a level of burning and stinging, this is much different from an allergic reaction.
However, some users have shared that they’ve developed either allergic eczema or contact dermatitis as a result of using the brand. And the interesting thing is that according to the feedback, it didn’t happen overnight. Instead, people who used the brand’s products for years admitted that all of a sudden their skin’s reactions to the products changed.
This could be because of a formula change – the addition or subtraction of a certain ingredient in the product.
This is why it’s best to stay updated with your skincare brands’ developments.
If you spot that there are any changes, treat the product as a brand new addition to your skincare routine and give it the standard patch test period.
Sensitive skin vs sensitized skin
If you’re having certain reactions to CeraVe, it may all come down to the fact that your skin is either sensitive or sensitized.
You may be wondering what the difference between the two is. Don’t worry, most people aren’t sure what differentiates one from the other. But there is a difference.
Basically, sensitive skin is often a result of a genetic preposition. In other words, it’s just the way your skin is. It could easily be irritated by certain products, and it could often suffer from redness and other effects. People with sensitive skin are also pre-exposed to eczema, rosacea, and other conditions. And although you can take measures to control the sensitivity, it won’t go away.
On the other hand, sensitized skin is a condition that develops as a result of something. There’s something in your skincare routine, in your food habits, or your lifestyle that is triggering sensitized skin.
The good news is that sensitized skin heals with time (and proper care). In most cases, this requires discovering the factor triggering the reaction.
Let’s look at some of the most popular factors that increase skin sensitivity, making your skin sensitized.
Factors that can influence skin sensitivity
Some environmental factors, conditions, and products have the power to influence your skin sensitivity:
- Temperature change – oftentimes, cold weather, low humidity, or dry indoor heat can all influence the skin, making it more sensitive than it normally is.
- Medication usage – a range of medications can also influence skin sensitivity, including pain relievers like naproxen or diclofenac, diuretics for blood pressure, promethazine, antiarrhythmic medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and more.
- Hormone changes – changes in hormone levels can also impact how sensitive your skin is. This is especially common during the menstrual cycle and menopause in women.
- The pH of the product – the lower the pH level of a product, the more acidic it is. Highly acidic products can cause higher skin sensitivity.
- Age-related changes in the skin barrier – as the skin loses its natural skin barrier the older we get, its protection slowly fades away, meaning it’s exposed to more harmful threats from the surroundings. Aging skin tends to lose more water, which can also be a game changer. As a result, it becomes more sensitive than before.
- Windburn, sunburn, and other skin damage – it’s fairly normal for our skin to become overly sensitive if it has suffered some damage to external factors.
- The use of other actives in your skincare – similarly, if you’ve done any harsher skin treatments such as chemical peels, or even if your skin has received more than the usual amount of actives, it’s only normal to notice it becomes more sensitive. If you use CeraVe after Tretinoin, you can also experience some burning and stinging.
- Active acne, open wounds – any disruption to the structure and function of your stratum corneum can definitely lead to more sensitized skin. Inflammation is high in these areas and is triggered by just about anything you put on top of your skin.
Why does CeraVe burn my skin?
Now that you know about skin sensitivity in more detail, let’s go back to where we started – CeraVe.
If you’ve come across Reddit threads like “CeraVe ruined my skin”, it’s worth digging into the story before you make your own conclusions.
When I first tested CeraVe creams, I also experienced a slight irritation and stinging, accompanied by skin redness.
So the first question I had was “why does CeraVe make my face red?”. As I researched the topic, I came to three potential explanations.
You have overly-sensitive skin
One of the explanations of why CeraVe burns the face could be found in your skin’s sensitivity. If you’ve exposed your skin to some of the factors I mentioned above, it could be that it is currently highly sensitive and will probably respond negatively to pretty much any product that you apply.
Before you try CeraVe products for the first time or if you’ve already had a go and you’ve noticed reactions, think about the condition of your skin at the moment. What’s the temperature like in your surroundings? Have you recently started using new medications? Could it be that some of your other skincare products are highly acidic?
You have a compromised skin barrier
Speaking of highly acidic skincare products like exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHAs), in some cases they may lead to a damaged skin barrier. And they do sensitize your skin, at least temporarily.
For example, vitamin C is a highly acidic ingredient and it can definitely harm the skin barrier if not used strategically. Some exfoliants can also strip away the skin barrier, leaving the skin unprotected and vulnerable.
Once the skin barrier is damaged, external irritants can easily penetrate the skin, while water can easily leave the skin. As a result, the skin becomes irritated, flaky, and dehydrated. It can also be characterized by redness and oiliness.
Here’s a summed-up list of all of the factors that can compromise the skin barrier:
- Washing too often and too much;
- External factors like pollution and poor air quality;
- Unhealthy habits and stress;
You’re using CeraVe after tretinoin
Another reason for any signs of burning on your skin after using CeraVe products is that you may have used tretinoin before CeraVe.
If you’re not familiar with tretinoin, it’s a prescription retinoid that helps with the treatment of acne, tackles signs of aging, reduces hyperpigmentation, and can treat sun damage.
As good as it sounds (and it’s truly helpful in certain situations), it can also cause severe dryness and irritation.
When used with some CeraVe products, tretinoin can cause serious burning.
For instance, it’s not recommended to use a salicylic acid cleanser with tretinoin. CeraVe has salicylic acid cleansers in its catalog. Using this product after applying tretinoin to the skin is highly likely to trigger discomfort, burning, and tingling.
And this applies not only to tretinoin but to any of the more potent ingredients in skin care, as well as cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser resurfacing, and more.
What to do if you’re sensitive to CeraVe products?
So what if you’ve only landed on this article because you’ve already used CeraVe products to find out that CeraVe burns your skin?
Well, in that case, let me share with you some of the methods I tried or came across when I was trying to solve this problem for myself.
Stop using the product that irritates your skin
For most things that either hurt, sting, or burn in life, we have one sure way of ending the problem – simply stop doing whatever is causing the issue.
With skincare, it’s pretty much the same. If you’ve tried CeraVe products and you know that you suffer from burning or tingling, just stop using them.
You can find alternative brands that don’t use ceramides (if they’re the cause of the burning) or have a different combo of ingredients that won’t affect your skin.
You can also try minimizing the use of CeraVe to see how your skin will react or try to discontinue the use of other products that sensitize your skin.
Temporarily minimize your skincare routine
To avoid further irritating your skin and not knowing what causes the reactions, it’s important to minimize the use of skincare (and even your makeup, if possible).
During your healing phase, turn only to essentials: face cleanser, a moisturizer, and SPF for the mornings (I’ll include my personal product recommendations in a bit). Mineral sunscreens can irritate sensitized skin further and chemical formulas in the US are subpar. For when your skin is sensitized, I recommend opting for European and Asian sunscreens.
Make sure the products you use are basic and have the healing blocks that your skin needs most at this time, while not containing any potential irritants such as fragrance, alcohol, essential oils, linalool, limonele, and other potentially irritating compounds.
Once your skin barrier has restored its health, you may begin to gradually introduce your old skincare routine back.
Product recommendations for when your skin is irritated:
Naturium Multi-Calm Cream Cleanser [from Naturium]
I use this only in the evenings and don’t use any product when washing my face in the morning. I’m oily-prone but when my skin is super sensitive I do make the sacrifice of not using a face wash and instead double down on blotting paper during the day 😀
Skin barrier supporting serum
Aveeno Calm + Restore Triple Oat Serum [from Amazon]
This is an optional step and I like to do it in the evening because I like my morning routine on the simple side due to the sunscreen use. I find that this helps me shorten the time to full recovery. If you don’t want or need a serum, feel free to skip this step, it’s not mandatory whatsoever.
Naturium Marshmallow Root Barrier Balm [from Naturium]
I like Naturium as their products are fairly inexpensive yet are packed with skin-loving ingredients while maintaining elegant formulas. This moisturizer in particular is chock full of soothing ingredients: colloidal oatmeal, Centella Asiatica extract, allantoin, bisabolol, chamomile flower extract, panthenol, and calendula extract, just to name a few.
DML Forte Moisturizer with Panthenol [from Amazon]
More appropriate for dry, peeling skin, doesn’t clog the pores, I recommend it for the evening only, if you’re prone to oiliness.
Purito Dermide Relief Barrier [from Amazon]
This is perfect for both day and night. I pack it thickly on my skin in the evenings and use a small amount in the mornings. This is another favorite of mine for when my skin reacts to everything.
Purito Daily Soft Touch Sunscreen [from YesStyle, Stylevana]
This one is a chemical sunscreen, super lightweight and moisturizing for the skin – suitable for all skin types and doesn’t leave a cast. It has Centella Asiatica and panthenol to soothe the skin and prevent and reduce any irritation. It’s one of my favorites and a definite go-to for when my skin feels damaged and is overly reactive.
Naturium Dew-Glow Moisturizer SPF 50 [from Naturium]
This is another great sunscreen for when your skin is reactive and can’t handle much product. It has niacinamide which helps restore the health of your skin barrier, and soothing bisabolol. It also has glycerin higher in its ingredients list to moisturize your skin.
Restore your skin barrier
One of the main reasons why you may be experiencing certain side effects from CeraVe is a damaged skin barrier, so, you can also try to restore it.
The mission is not as hard as it may sound. There are a few methods you could try to get your skin barrier up and running again (just like a firewall solution on your PC).
First, you can try to discover the factor that negatively influences your skin barrier.
Some of the first places to look are in your exfoliation routines, the air quality around you, and the acidic levels of the products you use.
Did you know that water-based skincare can further irritate the damaged skin barrier?
If you’ve noticed that your skincare products are water-based and you have inflamed skin, try to change your products to more oil-based ones temporarily, until your skin heals. See how it goes and react accordingly.
You could also try to reduce the number of times you wash your face to allow your skin to restore its natural moisturizing capabilities. If your skin type can allow it, scrap the morning face wash with product entirely and just wash with lukewarm water.
Also, try to dry your face completely before you proceed to apply any other products. When your skin is damp, the penetration of skincare is increased, which can irritate you additionally. So if you apply things on a dry face, you may experience less stinging and burning overall.
Another way to solve the problem is to simply stop exfoliating for a certain time. No exfoliation for a while means that your skin can regenerate its barrier naturally, with no additional push from you.
Furthermore, to strengthen and revive your skin barrier, you have to make sure that your skin is well moisturized. Some of the ingredients in moisturizers that are amazing for supporting the skin barrier include niacinamide, panthenol, fatty acids, glycerin, and ceramides.
Usually, the skin barrier takes between two weeks and a month to restore itself.
Give your skin the time it needs and be patient.
Check out the ingredients in the product
My final piece of advice for you if you’re experiencing burning or stinging after using CeraVe products is to always check the ingredient list in the product before going all in.
It could be that the specific product you’ve chosen contains ingredients that your skin doesn’t respond well to. Every skin is different and if you’re aware of some of the things that make your skin trigger, it’s best to stay away from them.
Regardless of whether you’ve spotted risky ingredients or not, always start with a patch test if you’re adding a new product to your skincare routine. This can save you a lot of drama and headaches down the road.
CeraVe is, without a doubt, a brand that has a lot to offer.
However, you should be aware that you may experience slight burning or stinging, in the beginning.
I hope this article will help you understand the nuts and bolts of why these side effects occur and how to tackle them if they do. If you have any personal experience with CeraVe or you’ve heard your friends talk about the brand, I’d love to hear your comments. Did you experience any burning?
You can share your feedback and thoughts in the comments section below.
If you have sensitive or easily sensitized skin, chances are you get irritated by alcohol in skincare. So, a face moisturizer without alcohol is a must for you. Luckily, these days brands don’t put denatured alcohol a lot into face creams, so the range of products...
A popular myth is that teens shouldn’t use a face cream because their skin is too oily and acne-prone anyway, so why add anything else to aggravate it? Untrue. Teenage skin, just like any other skin, requires sufficient moisturization in order to stay healthy and...
So, you’ve tested several Naturium products and fell in love so hard, you now want to build a complete skincare routine? I can relate. I first tried their salicylic acid body spray when I had blackheads on my chest area and got hooked so hard, I now have at least two...