CeraVe PM Review: My Holy Grail Moisturizer

by | Last updated Apr 18, 2020 | Reviews | 77 comments

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Ah, CeraVe PM. My absolute holy grail moisturizer. In all likelihood a product I’ll use for the rest of my life. This shit is my ride or die. The OG (original gangsta), the ceramide master, the niacinamide extraordinaire.

cerave pm

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I avoided this moisturizer for so long thinking it would break me out, only to find it was my long lost best friend all this time. It played a crucial role in clearing my skin by repairing and strengthening my moisture barrier. Lets get into why I love product so much.

Ingredients and Benefits of CeraVe PM.

Definitely the biggest wowing factor of this moisturizer for most people, including myself. Here’s the full ingredient list.

cerave pm ingredients

Purified Water, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Niacinamide, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, Phytosphingosine, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum

  • Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides

Also known as Medium-Chain Tiglyceride (MCT) oil, a super light weight non-comedogenic emollient that sinks in quickly. It’s essentially coconut oil with the lauric acid component removed.

Why is this a good thing? Apart from making it a liquid below room temperature, it’s completely compatible with those suffering from rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis etc.

The culprit behind all these skin conditions is a fungi called malassezia, which under poorly understood circumstances becomes pathogenic for susceptible individuals. (1) It’s also the main factor behind pityrosporum (malassezia) folliculitis, better known as “fungal acne.” One of the most common causes of adult acne. 

How do Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides work?

The malassezia yeast causing all these skin conditions feeds on fatty acids with carbon chain lengths 11-24, (2) which pretty much translates to ALL oils except MCT (a.k.a. capric/caprylic triglycerides). Like I mentioned earlier, MCT oil is just coconut oil without the lauric fatty acid in it.

Lauric acid has a carbon chain length of 12, meaning malassezia can metabolize it. Caprylic and Capric fatty acids have a chain length of 8 and 10 respectively, making them completely compatible for malassezia-induced skin conditions (that is, the yeast can’t metabolize it).

To this day, I have only found 3 moisturizers that don’t include oils or variants of problematic fatty acid chain lengths in their formulas: Cerave PM, CeraVe Cream, and Sebamed Gel.

UPDATE 5/16/17: I have written a massive article about how to treat malassezia conditions like fungal acne, seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, dandruff, tinea versicolor etc. and what products and ingredients are okay to use with it. Link here

Now back to our scheduled programming….

On a side note, petroleum jelly (vaseline) works too because its carbon chain lengths are above 25. More reason to be all about that slug life. What I look like when I put vaseline on my face…..

slug life

  • Niacinamide

Makes up 4% of this moisturizer and is one of my absolute favorite ingredients. It’s a B-complex vitamin that increases skin hydration, helps barrier function, brightens skin tone, and treats hyperpigmentation in addition to having anti-wrinkle effects comparable to prescription tretinoin. (234567)

Yeah, it does a little bit of everything! Did I mention it also increases collagen production and does comparatively better than antibiotics in treating acne? (8910)

This. Ingredient. Is. Awesome.

  • Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, and Cholesterol

The outer layer of skin is composed of approximately 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 15% free fatty acids. (111213) All these components play a crucial role in hydrating and maintaining a healthy skin barrier.

In this formula, ceramides and cholesterol work as skin-identical ingredients that the body metabolizes to repair barrier damage and prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL), that is, the water content that keeps the skin hydrated. (14)

  • Hyaluronic Acid

A humectant and natural part of skin that has powerful wound healing properties. (15161719) It’s capable of holding 1000 times its water weight, and hydrates the skin by drawing moisture from the environment and dermis giving a “plumping” effect that reduces the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and scarring. (2021)

  • Cholesterol

Another skin identical ingredient that helps repair barrier function and maintain healthy skin. (22)

  • Dimethicone

A silicon-based polymer that acts as an emollient and occlusive. It prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL), smooths the skin’s surface, and improves the moisture barrier. (232425) In other words, it’s a kick ass moisturizing agent with some healing action thrown in the mix. It’s a very common ingredient and well tolerated across many skin types including those that are acne prone. (26)

  • Glycerin

Another humectant that moisturizes skin by drawing water from the environment and dermis.

  • Polyglyceryl-3-Diisostearate and Cetearyl Alcohol

These two register as potentially pore-clogging ingredients on COSDNA. However, take comedogenicity ratings with a grain of salt. They’re inherently flawed because they rely on data collected from rabbits.Needless to say, bunny skin is not human skin. Just because a bunny gets acne from an ingredient, doesn’t mean you will.

There have been many instances of ingredients clogging poor bunny ears, that are perfectly suitable for human skin. However, if you suspect you have a sensitivity to fatty alcohols than these ingredients may cause problems so proceed with caution. The takeaway here is to patch test.

While this moisturizer may work for me and many others, there’s no real way of guaranteeing it will for you. Skincare is a very individual thing. YMMV, as they say. What works wonders for some, may not for others. So follow the golden rule and patch test all of the things!

Wanna read my horror story about not patch testing? Click here.

Application and Feel.

CeraVe PM almost has a gel-like consistency, but not quite. I’d say it’s a somewhat of cream-gel hybrid, but leaning more on the creamier side.

cerave pm applicationcerave pm spreadcerave pm dried

It spreads super easily, and has a calming effect on the skin. You can definitely feel a slithery thin barrier when applying it. It sinks in really nicely and leaves no oily residue. Once it’s dried the skin has a super soft and velvety-feeling.

It’s fragrance-free, but has a medicinal and clean scent. And although it is a “nighttime” moisturizer, it can be used during the day as well.

How to Use CeraVe PM.

Very simply use it as the last step in your routine before any occlusives like vaseline or aquaphor (if you use them). Because it includes Niacinamide (a pH dependent ingredient) it’s important to wait at least 20 to 30 minutes after chemical exfoliates or low pH serums to apply this moisturizer.

To give you an example of what that would look like, here’s a sample routine. You can ignore this if you don’t use low pH serums, chemical exfoliates, or other actives.

  1. Cleanse
  2. Low pH toner or serum (for example, Vitamin C). Wait at least 20 minutes.
  3. BHA or AHA (mandelic, lactic, glycolic) chemical exfoliates. Wait 20-30 minutes. Note: if you’re using both, BHA comes first.
  4. Spot treatments or actives like Differin and Benzoyl peroxide.
  5. Use CeraVe PM here.

The Takeaway.

  • Ingredients: 5/5

Great stuff in here including 4% niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, capric/caprylic triglyceride, dimethicone, and repairing skin identical ingredients like ceramides and cholesterol.

  • Benefits: 5/5

Highly moisturizing, fades discolorations, brightens skin tone, helps damaged skin, and repairs the moisture barrier. Very well tolerated across many skin types and conditions including acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, folliculitis etc.

  • Application: 5/5

Spreads easily, has no tacky feeling or oily residue, and leaves the skin soft, smooth, and supple. Has a clean medicinal scent.

  • Packaging: 5/5

The bottle has a pump dispenser that locks to prevent bacterial overgrowth and accidental spillage.

  • Value: 5/5

Very cheap, and one of the best moisturizers out there for the amount of benefits and repairing ingredients it comes with.

Overall: 5/5 (Holy Grail Status)

cerave pm

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I cannot recommend CeraVe PM enough. There’s good reason behind it being a very common holy grail. It’s well tolerated across many skin types including those with severe sensitivities like psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea, eczema, malassezia folliculitis etc. — and goes a long way in repairing damaged skin and strengthening the moisture barrier.

In all likelihood a moisturizer I will use the rest of my life, and has been a godsend in my darkest times. Hope you’ve enjoyed this review!



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