EltaMD AM Therapy Review: My New Holy Grail | All You Need to Know

by | Last updated Apr 18, 2020 | 46 comments

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Alrightly folks….. It’s about time I do this update because CeraVe PM is no longer my holy grail moisturizer. Don’t get me wrong, I will always thank that little puppy for all its help and the tough times it got me through.

But for the past couple months I have been using the EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer, and for all intents and purposes I like it a lot more than CeraVe.

eltamd am therapy facial moisturizer

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I first heard about this moisturizer thanks to Freakmo — quick aside, damn that woman has GORGEOUS skin! But I came to the humbling conclusion that I like it better than CeraVe PM after running a 2 week long split face test on myself (more about this later). Let’s start out by breaking down the benefits and ingredients!

Ingredients and Benefits.

eltamd am therapy ingredients

Purified Water​,​ Cyclopentasiloxane​,​ Ethylhexyl Isononanoate​,​ Niacinamide​,​ Lauryl PEG-9 Polymethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone​,​ Dimethicone​,​ Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract​,​ Sodium Chloride​,​ Piptadenia Colubrina Peel Extract​,​ Sodium Hyaluronate​,​ Glycerin​,​ Allantoin​,​ Caffeine​,​ Ascorbyl Palmitate​,​ Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer​,​ Butylene Glycol​,​ Phenoxyethanol​,​ Capryloyl Glycine​,​ Undecylenoyl Glycine​,​ Disodium EDTA​,​ Sodium Hydroxide​.

Right off the bat there’s a couple of things that appeal to me here. Firstly, it doesn’t have any fatty alcohols! These tend to clog a lot of people’s pores, and is the most common complaint I’ve heard about the CeraVe moisturizers (i.e. all of them have fatty alcohols).

If you have been avoiding CeraVe products for this reason, I am happy to report that EltaMD AM Therapy is essentially an alternative without the fatty alcohols.

Secondly, it’s comedogenicity, irritant, and safety profile on COSDNA looks a lot more favorable than CeraVe.

There are only 3 potentially pore clogging ingredients (butylene glycol, dimethicone, and ascorbyl palmitate), all of which are pretty inconsequential.

Butylene glycol and dimethicone are found in almost every moisturizer, and score a teensy 1 out of 5 anyway. Ascorbyl palmitate scores a 2 out of 5, but is simply a stable form of vitamin C that doubles down as an antioxidant that’s good for environmental stress. (1)

And the third thing I like about the EltaMD AM Therapy is that it’s oil-free. I’ve had a couple people comment on my CeraVe PM post that capric/caprylic triglycerides (a.k.a. MCT oil) makes them break out. Well luckily for y’all that’s something you’ll have to worry about with the AM therapy. 🙂

Now let’s break down the awesome formula!

  • Cyclopentasiloxane​

What TheBeautyBrains call one of their “mostest favorite ingredients in the whole wide world!” :p

Cyclopentasiloxane is a water-thin silicone that helps disperse heavier emollients. Apart from giving EltaMD some sweet spreadability, it’s especially cool because it evaporates after a couples minutes which gives the moisturizer a cosmetically elegant finish.

Over the years I’ve learned that skin often falls into two categories:

  1. It either loves silicones and petroleum based products or….
  2. It loves fatty acids and oils.

Some lucky son of a guns can use both no problem. If that’s you — you’re an a**hole. Just kidding. I’m just jealous. :p

My skin personally loves silicones and petroleum-based products, but hates fatty acids and oils because of the fungal sensitivities I got (i.e. pityrosporum folliculitis and seborrheic dermatitis).

I mention this because the EltaMD AM is the former. It has no fatty acids/oils but includes a heavy dose of silicones in its formula, cyclopentasiloxane​ being one of them.

  • Niacinamide​

A.k.a vitamin B3 and one of the sexiest ingredients alive! This thing literally does everything.

It’s an antioxidant, brightens skin tone, fades hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanosome transfer, treats acne better than antibiotics, has anti-aging benefits akin to tretinoin, reduces the the irritation of retinoids, improves skin moisture and elasticity etc. (23456) Like I said, it does everything!

One of the biggest reasons everyone loves CeraVe PM (including myself), is because it comes with 4% niacinamide. Luckily for us so does EltaMD AM Therapy!

  • Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract​

A plant extract that’s been used for thousands of years because it’s an antipyretic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory. (7) It is very soothing on the skin.

Willow bark also contains salicin, which in the presence of enzymes gets converted into salicylic acid — a chemical exfoliant that’s good for the treatment of acne.

According to EltaMD, the concentration of willow bark in this moisturizer is equivalent to about 1% salicylic acid, meaning you can expect it to gently exfoliate and remove dead skin by increasing cell turnover. (8)

For those wondering how this is possible given that salicylic acid requires an acidic pH to work, there’s some evidence that salicylic acid is effective at pH 6.5 (about where this moisturizer sits). (9)

Of course, you can take all this info with a grain of salt. But I’m a pretty big fan of EltaMD, and unapologetically so…. so I’ll take their word for it. 😀

They’re a solid brand, and probably the most recommend company by dermatologists worldwide.

  • Piptadenia Colubrina Peel Extract​

A pretty cool ingredient here! Studies have shown that piptadenia stimulates aquaporin activity. (10) In other words, it doubles the moisture retention of skin cells. This helps hydrate the skin and prevent moisture loss at the same time, without the need of heavy occlusives or emollients, which is great for those that hate the feeling of products on the skin.

  • Sodium Hyaluronate​

A humectant that retains the skin’s moisture levels by binding water molecules to its surface, which it draws from the environment and epidermis (deeper layer of skin). Sodium hyaluronate can hold 1000 times its water weight.

  • Glycerin​

Like sodium hyaluronate, this is another humectant that works in similar fashion.

  • ​ Allantoin​

A skin soothing ingredient extracted from uric acid.

  • ​ Caffeine​

Speaking of caffeine, that daylight savings got me like….

In skincare, caffeine reduces redness, soothes skin, is an antioxidant, and protects against UVB light (i.e. sun damage) according to mice studies. (11, 12, 13)

The Split Face Test: CeraVe vs. EltaMD.

After using the EltaMD AM Therapy for about a month or so, I decided to go back to CeraVe PM. At the time I wasn’t really sure which I liked better, so I kept switching back and forth between the two to try and figure it out. And then a brilliant idea hit me: why don’t I split face test them? 

So that I did. For 2 weeks I applied CeraVe PM on the left side of my face, and EltaMD on my right. I also dropped ALL THE ACTIVES from my routine during this time period. Without these, I almost always get tiny little whiteheads on my chin from excess keratin buildup. I use chemical exfoliants like the COSRX BHA to prevent that.

Dropping the “treatment step” in my routine was a way of seeing which side would develop microcomedones first. After only 4 days it was pretty obvious that EltaMD was doing a way better job. Not only didn’t I see an increase in microcomedones, they even somewhat shrank! Meanwhile CeraVe PM congested my chin within a week.

By the two week mark, the CeraVe side just looked a lot more micro-congested so I dropped it from my routine and have been using the EltaMD ever since.

Why I Recommend EltaMD AM Therapy.

One of the reasons I love this moisturizer is because it takes a lot of the guess work out for MANY people.

For example, because it doesn’t contain any fatty acids or oils it is a great option for those with sensitivities to malassezia like in the cases of pityrosporum folliculitis, seborrheic dermatitis, pityriasis versicolor, atopic dermatitis etc. None of the ingredients in this formula will exacerbate the yeast on skin that makes these conditions flare.

Secondly, the lack of comedogenic ingredients and addition of willow bark extract makes it great for those that are acne-prone. Thirdly, it doesn’t have any fragrance which is excellent for eczema.

Fourthly, the niacinamide content makes this a fantastic companion for anti-aging routines that include retinol, or those who simply want to improve the appearance of wrinkles.

So on and so forth.

It’s just an all around FANTASTIC moisturizer for pretty much everyone… The only scenario I can imagine where it wouldn’t work, is if someone’s skin is sensitive to ascorbyl palmitate​. But even that is pretty far down the ingredient list, meaning there’s very little of it (plus it’s an antioxidant anyway).

In all likelihood, the EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer will remain a staple in my skincare routine for the rest of my life. I can’t see any reason why I would ever leave this new sexy babe! 😀

“But f.c. you said the same thing about CeraVe PM.”

:/ alright…. maybe I had commitment issues in the past. But I swear this time is different!

 Application and Feel.

Yet another reason I love the EltaMD AM Therapy. Compared to CeraVe PM, it’s not as heavy or greasy-looking.

Note: CeraVe PM isn’t actually greasy! It’s a fairly light-weight moisturizer. I simply found it too much for day use because it left me looking oily by night. The AM Therapy on the other hand looks great throughout the entire day. Here’s how it applies.

Like I mentioned earlier, the cyclopentasiloxane​ allows for easy spreading. A little going a long way, it sinks into the skin quickly, and dries leaving no detectible residue, but the skin feels instantly more hydrated and smooth afterward.

The best way to describe it is how your skin feels in humid climates (without the sweat of course :p). There’s just a marked improvement in hydration, as if there is more water content in the air.

As far as scent goes, this is fragrance-free but I kinda detect a hint of vanilla for whatever it’s worth. Haha

It comes in an air-tight cylindrical bottle with a pump. This is great for travel and preventing oxidation/bacterial overgrowth because there’s no need to dip your filthy little hands in it! The only con being that there’s no way of telling when you’re about to run out.

The first time this happened to me I didn’t have an additional tube on hand, so I had to wait a couple days for it to arrive in the mail. I suggest that if you notice the container starting to feel empty, that stock up on it just in case.


  • Ingredients: 5/5

Incredible blend of antioxidants, soothing extracts, silicones, and vitamins. Ingredients of note include niacinamide, cyclopentasiloxane​,​ dimethicone​,​ willow bark extract​,​ piptadenia colubrina peel extract​,​ sodium hyaluronate​,​ glycerin​,​ allantoin​,​ caffeine​,​ and ascorbyl palmitate​.

Has an excellent COSDNA profile with no fatty alcohols or oils.

  • Benefits: 5/5

Moisturizes the skin via aquaporin activity, fades discoloration/hyperpigmentation, brightens skin tone, and is mildly exfoliating.

  • Application: 5/5

Spreads easily, dries matte, looks great throughout the day, and leaves the skin feeling soft and silky. 🙂

  • Packaging: 5/5

Comes in air tight container with a pump to ensure you get every single last bit of moisturizer out of the bottle. Great for travel.

  • Value: 5/5

Well priced for the excellent formula. However, it’s a little more costly than CeraVe PM.

Overall: 5/5 (HOLY GRAIL STATUS — lesss go!)

eltamd am therapy facial moisturizer

Check on Amazon

Welp, I got nothing else to say. Just go try it! :p For all those that couldn’t use CeraVe PM because the fatty alcohols and oil, have fun reaping the benefits with this sexy alternative!



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