top of page

The Difference between CeraVe Renewing vs Smoothing Cleanser

We may be confused as the Salicylic acid renewing cleanser and the smoothing cleanser seem to look and function the same but are named differently. So what is exactly the difference or are they the same?

CeraVe Renewing Cleanser vs Smoothing Cleanser

You may have noticed that these two cleansers are in the hype and quite known nowadays. Even though they have been around for quite some time, these CeraVe cleansers have been literally blown up. These have quickly become super popular products for many different skin types. They can be seen everywhere, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and based on the survey they have been the known brand since 2020. Though people are quite confused between the two - CeraVe smoothing cleanser and renewing cleanser since both products have almost the same benefits, effects, and ingredients.


Now, let us know what makes these two products differ from each other, but of course, let’s start with the similarities first.

The Similarities (Ingredients, Benefits)

If you are experiencing dry, bumpy, and uneven skin, CeraVe smoothing cleanser or SA renewing cleanser might be suitable for you. The benefits of these products are to smooth out the texture of your skin and brighten up your complexion. If you are experiencing post-pregnancy or stress acne bumps that are just lingering in your face, then you may try these cleansers.


The first ingredient that both these products have is Salicylic Acid. Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that has anti-inflammatory properties and it’s comedolytic which means that it can unclog the pores to remove whiteheads and blackheads. A couple of important things to know about salicylic acid is that it is oil soluble. This means that the salicylic acid easily dissolves in the outermost layers of our skin since it is oil soluble and it works through exfoliating the skin from the outside. It enters the sebaceous unit or oil gland which is an overdrive in acne and it’s here to break up this debris that is causing clogged pores and therefore clears out the bumps from the acne.


There is also niacinamide in both products which improves the appearance of dull skin with uneven texture. More importantly, niacinamide strengthens the skin barrier so this ingredient really just has a lot of great benefits for the skin. Another ingredient that is present in both cleansers is hyaluronic acid which is another popular skincare ingredient that world by hydrating the skin because it pulls water in and really holds it there.


Both CeraVe smoothing cleanser and renewing cleanser products contain ceramides. Ceramides are a really important part of our skin barrier, help keep moisture in our skin, and help it function properly.


Another ingredient that both products have is Pha or polyhydroxy acids. Pha exfoliates mostly the very top layers of the skin but they’re pretty good at doing that. Since they’re so large and don’t get into the skin to an appreciable amount, they have a very low irritation risk making them a great ingredient to consider for people with sensitive skin. They also function simultaneously as humectants in products, meaning they hold water onto the skin just like hyaluronic acid does.


Additional notable information for CeraVe smoothing cleanser and renewing cleanser, both of them alcohol-free, silicon-free, fragrance-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, oil-free, fungal-acne safe, reef-safe, EU-allergen-free, vegan, and cruelty-free which make these products even better.

When it comes to ingredients, SA renewing cleanser has vitamin D which is not present in SA smoothing cleanser. Vitamin D is a great antioxidant on the skin and it has anti-aging benefits.


There are another two ingredients that are present in SA renewing cleanser and not in SA smoothing cleanser - tea-lauroyl sarcosinate and Zea mays oil. So tea-lauroyl sarcosinate is for cleansing and foaming while Zea Mays Oil is for emulsifying, perfuming, masking, and skin conditioning. Both cleansers are almost the same when it comes to ingredients except these two and the vitamin D.


Now when it comes to using these cleansers, SA renewing cleanser can be used every day and you can let it stay in your skin for a minute or two and also you may apply it to your body parts that are prone to acne such as chest, shoulders, and back. The SA smoothing cleanser is a foaming cleanser that lathers well unlike the SA renewing cleanser. After applying SA renewing cleanser it is better to immediately apply spot treatment or moisturizer to your acne. Unlike SA smoothing cleanser, it is labeled as a mild cleanser but that doesn’t mean that it is okay to use it every day. This cleanser can have a greater effect since this is an exfoliant and can potentially irritate and burn your skin. Every other day or two to three times a week is better depending on your breakout or skin type. The SA renewing cleanser gently cleanses and exfoliates while softening and smoothing the skin. Yes, that is exactly what salicylic acid does, so the key here is gentle exfoliation.


The SA renewing cleanser is better to use if your goal is to have even skin texture and is also good for scar healing. So if you have had scars from your acne before this is a good choice. But as mentioned above, it still depends on your skin type, SA renewing cleanser may cause redness and more acne if this is not suitable for you. If your skin is sensitive and gets easily irritated then SA smoothing cleanser might be better for you to use. And if your skin is already used to these cleansers then you may use them twice a day.

If you have sensitive and acne-prone skin, a salicylic acid cleanser just like these two should be part of your skincare routine. These two products - CeraVe SA smoothing cleanser and SA renewing cleanser have Bha, Pha, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide. Also, both of these products do not contain any common allergens, harsh alcohols, parabens, or silicon. They’re both likely good for anti-aging, good for fighting acne, oily skin, brightening skin, and reducing pores. These products have a total of 20 common ingredients, the only difference are some filler ingredients which SA smoothing cleanser doesn’t have. Aside from that, they are both the same products with different labels since they are sold in various markets. SA smoothing cleanser is sold in the United Kingdom/Europe while SA renewing cleanser is sold in the United States.

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser USA.jpg

This product helps to gently exfoliates your skin without over-cleansing or stripping your skin of its moisture. 

All You Need to Know about CeraVe SA Cleansers

SA (Salicylic Acid) Explained


Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (Bha) and what makes it different from other types of acid is that it’s oil soluble. It actually penetrates your pores and unclogs them and exfoliates at the same time. Salicylic acid is really one of those ingredients that get overused a lot by teenagers and people in their 20s. Most of those are experiencing more acne hormonal issues and oily skin. People often think that doing too much to our skin or the harsher we are with our skin the better it looks, but that’s not necessarily true.


Salicylic acid is great for people with acne and that’s because it helps to stop sebum secretion and that’s why it can also feel like it’s very drying on your skin. Our skin starts to feel really tight because we’re not producing enough oil. The way salicylic acid works is really great if you have clogged pores because it really goes into your pores and dissolves the keratin plug and gets it out from your skin.


A couple of notes about salicylic acid is if you’re pregnant, you cannot use it and also if you’re taking blood thinners. The reason is it’s an ingredient in aspirin when you’re taking it orally. It’s been shown in studies that it causes birth defects and complications so you just want to be careful.

How to use SA Cleansers and Their Effects

The Differences (Ingredients and Benefits)
Final Verdict
All You Need to Know about CeraVe SA Cleansers

These SA cleansers are suitable for many different skin types. Oily skin, dry skin, acne-prone skin, and rough skin, this SA cleanser is just suitable for you.


You will notice that both cleansers are clear formulations, when you gently massage this into the skin it just barely foams up especially CeraVe SA renewing cleanser. It doesn’t burn or sting while using it. It is common with salicylic acid products. These products are gentle and just enjoyable to use. However, just because they’re gentle and enjoyable to use does not mean that they lack efficacy. Do remember that exfoliation doesn’t have to be really painful to be effective.  You can use an SA cleanser once a day in your routine but you can use it twice a day depending on your goals and skin type. Also, when washing your face using whichever of these cleansers, remember that they should not stay long in your face, 30 to 45 seconds is enough. Then after that, you’re just going to rinse it off, pat it until dry, and you can already feel a nice smooth surface to the skin after.


When using one of these products, these cleansers will remove dry skin and really peel away that outer layer of dullness. They will create a clean skin surface where other treatment products that you are putting on after will really penetrate more effectively. These products are non-comedogenic, non-drying, and non-irritating. Non-comedogenic means that they will not clog the pores, which is why these are also great acne treatment products. Non-drying means that they have no drying denatured alcohols or harsh detergents in them like you will find in some other cleansers.


Others might experience breakout while using CeraVe SA cleanser and others not, but do remember that your skin is different from others. It might just be a result since you just used this product for the first time. You have to use it a bit longer before trying something new to see the effect. Your skin needs to become accustomed to using the CeraVe SA cleanser. Give it at least two months to see the result, but after two months of trying and the breakout continues or there no effect at all then that is the time to switch to something new. Please keep in mind, if you noticed any burning, stinging, or pain in your skin because you’re using CeraVe SA cleanser, please do not continue anymore. That’s a good sign that your skin is either irritated or allergic to at least one of the ingredients.


What you should avoid pairing with one of these is more chemical acids because those combined together can really just cause too much irritation. That may not be true for everyone of course, but when you first incorporate this into your routine be careful about layering on any other irritating products directly after these cleansers. So, if you’re treating acne don’t layer on a salicylic acid level cream for example or a Levon benzoyl peroxide, that might just all be too much.


Now you might also want to make sure that you pair these with sunscreen. Yes, salicylic acid products peel away that outer layer of skin so it makes you more prone to sun damage and sunburns so always finish your skincare routine with sunscreen

How to use SA Cleansers and Their Effects



To summarize, there are six notable benefits from both cleansers. First is they’re good for oily skin, they help fight acne, and they help brighten the skin since they contain niacinamide and salicylic acid. Next, both reduce redness because of niacinamide and ceramide. Also, they are both good for anti-aging since both have ceramide, they can also reduce large pores because of salicylic acid content.


There are just some effects that you might experience depending on your skin type so you have to observe your skin while using one of these cleansers. Since both cleansers contain salicylic acid and sodium lauryl sulfate, they may worsen the dryness of your skin. Also, they may cause irritation and if you are experiencing eczema then they may worsen it

bottom of page