I ditched my fancy skincare routine for these CeraVe products

From seven products down to just three CeraVe products

Beauty writer Ava Welsing-Kitcher
(Image credit: Credit: Ava Welsing-Kitcher)

When a skin disaster struck, it was time for Ava Welsing-Kitcher to go back to basics and give her skin just the essentials. Two years later, CeraVe products have replaced many a luxury beauty buy as a firm favourite. Find out why the cult brand has won over so many…

I’m a product fanatic. It’s the novelty of breaking open a new seal, dipping a pinky finger into the untouched creamy oasis of a perfectly brand new product, and waiting enraptured to see how it’ll transform some area of me. And my job as a beauty journalist has both boosted and lessened my obsession, to the point where I’m either in the depths of product fatigue or bursting with excitement at the unopened packages before me on my desk. Being able to try endless new products meant I quickly built up a very expensive luxury skincare routine, which I would eventually swap for mostly one brand: CeraVe.

Before discovering the cult American drugstore brand, my routine consisted of several lengthy steps. I was drawn in by weighty, flashy packaging and hard-to-pronounce ingredients, and kept using items even if they didn’t seem to really be doing anything - simply because I couldn’t bear to get rid of something so expensive. I did have a few products which my skin loved, that I continue to use to this day. But after a combination of work stress and lack of sleep, I developed eczema all over my face and neck, and was prescribed a back-to-basics routine by consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk. CeraVe was cited as one of her favourite brands to use for eczema, for its cocktail of ceramides that help rebuild the skin’s barrier after it’s been disrupted and hyaluronic acid.

Eager to cut my routine down - everything I applied had either burned or itched - and try to get my skin back to normal, I prioritized lots of sleep and a “skipcare” approach. The Korean skincare trend arose a couple of years ago as a sort of antidote to those 12-step sequences that put K-beauty on the map in the Western world. Instead of applying endless essences, sheet masks and serums, products that combine ingredients or steps are favoured - think cream-to-foam cleansers instead of double cleansing with two, or moisturizers packed with ingredients you’d usually find in a serum. My routine was shaved down from seven products to three, eliminating serums, masks, and toners in favour of just a cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. 

The CeraVe products that saved my skin

CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser

I picked CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser for my morning and night cleanse, and to this day (two years onwards) it remains as probably my most staple skincare product. The ceramide-rich formula helps to restore the building blocks of our skin and rebuild the barrier function, which gets broken down easily thanks to things like environmental aggressors, overuse of acids, and harsh cleansers. Whenever my skin has reacted to something, I know I can always rely on this cleanser to restore it back to normal. And unlike some other cleansers, it never leaves my skin feeling tight or dry - that’s largely thanks to hyaluronic acid, which pulls in water from the atmosphere into the skin and keeps it hydrated.

EMPTIES INSIDE ⭐️ I’m not so great at finishing products down to the last drop, my head gets turned way too easily! So if I’ve got empties, you know it’s something special. Here’s what I’ve polished off during isolation... • ⚡️@thisworks pillow spray - it works. Two spritzes is enough and it lasted me half the year, it doesn’t guarantee sleep ofc but when paired with a good CBD oil and selenite crystal? Knocks me out • ⚡️@hairgainnow - have lost count of how many boxes I’ve gone through. Took a break before lockdown and went back on, me and my mum’s hair has been growing so quickly! AVAWELSING20 for 20% off (I would never be an affiliate of something I didn’t love with all my heart) • ⚡️@avedauk Nutriplenish leave-in spray - I got the Deep one instead of Light. My hair soaks this up and feels happily fed and full of life after, smells divine (like all of their products) • ⚡️@maylindstromskin Jasmine Garden face spray - after you smell this, everything else will be ruined for you. It has witch hazel + colloidal silver but somehow smells like a floral garden with vanilla trees and a splash of chocolate rain, but somehow isn’t sickly. Lovely for skin but the true benefits are that 👏🏽 smell 👏🏽 it’s 👏🏽 amazing 👏🏽 • ⚡️@ceraveuki - love everything by them but am trying to experiment with other products before going back for more... • ⚡️@briogeo Don’t Despair mask - so great for damaged dry hair, not greasy and truly works on all hair textures. • ⚡️@herbivorebotanicals Amethyst body scrub - this has real crushed amethyst crystals in it! 🔮 drenched in jasmine sambac and coconut oils and Epsom salt. So decadent - I work it into dry skin and then hop into the bath to soak in the glory 👸🏽 • ⚡️@lelabo Lip Balm - around the same price as the Glossier one and I like it better. Doesn’t dry lips out, not sticky just quite glossy, vegan and unscented • ⚡️@holycurls conditioner - the best I’ve used in years. Citrusy and minty, not greasy but my hair feels quite supercharged afterwards, comb slips through like a slip n slide. #empties #productempties #makeupempties #beautyjournalist #beautyeditor #empties2020 AVA WELSING-KITCHER 🇬🇭

A photo posted by @avawelsingk on May 12, 2020 at 1:04pm PDT

CeraVe AM and PM Facial Moisturizing Lotions

For moisturizing, I had the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion for nighttime, and the SPF25 version for the day. Both mimic the formula found in the Hydrating Cleanser: packed with ceramides and hyaluronic acid, fragrance free and non-irritating. Because so many dermatologists advise using at least SPF50 day to day, I layered on a non-comedogenic sunscreen that wouldn’t make my brown skin look chalky, such as Heliocare’s Oil Free Gel or Murad’s pollution-beating City Skin Age Defense. I’ve now changed to Medik8’s White Balance Everyday Protect, which helps to reduce pigmentation and keeps future blemishes at bay with niacinamide. 

Ava Welsing-Kitcher

(Image credit: Ava Welsing-Kitcher)

While my skin repaired itself (largely due to increased sleep, but the new products kept further inflammation at bay), I began to love the benefits of having such a pared-back routine. I still kept my luxe skincare proudly displayed purely for the aesthetic, but nothing could beat the fact that I’d won back so much time with such a reduced routine. I’d initially taken the CeraVe samples home from the office with me, but when I ran out I rushed to order more. Even once the eczema disappeared, I would continue to make CeraVe a staple in my skincare routine and recommend them to everyone who asks me skincare questions. While I sometimes take a hiatus and do test lots of other things (some of which I end up loving too), I always return to my three staple products - and if I have a shoot or a special occasion coming up, I go back to basics to ensure my skin doesn’t freak out. 

Since my eczema outbreak, the brand has launched new products which have made it into my lineup: the SA Smoothing Cleanser that clears away my hormonal breakouts with salicylic acid and CeraVe's Hydrating Cream To Foam Cleanser. It’s almost the same as the original Hydrating formula, except the very gentle foaming action gives a deeper clean, especially when it comes to lifting off makeup. My skin does feel a tiny bit tight after using these two, so I save them for when I’m in need. Knowing that I always have something to fall back on is really comforting after such a skincare scare, and the fact that everyone I’ve recommended the brand to has fallen in love firmly cements its status as a holy grail. 

Ava Welsing-Kitcher

Ava Welsing-Kitcher is a freelance beauty journalist who's earned her stripes at InStyle, Stylist, and The Sunday Times STYLE. Though she can write about anything beauty and wellness, her main passion is hair - especially curly and afro textures. You can find her trawling through ingredients lists and product samples to really get to the bottom of what makes an excellent beauty buy.