Save or Splurge? CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion vs. CVS PM Moisturizing Lotion

If you are missing the old version of CeraVe PM, CVS's generic version might just be a decent substitute.

It’s been a while since CeraVe changed the formula for Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM. If you’ve tried the new formula and your skin still likes the old version better, you may frantically be searching for alternatives that mimic the good old days of CeraVe PM. One possible solution may be CVS PM Moisturizing Lotion, which appears to be quite similar to the ingredient list of the old version of CeraVe PM Moisturizing Lotion.

CeraVe PM by any other name…

Whenever a product is as beloved as CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, people are bound to get peeved if the formula suddenly changes. But one interesting side effect of such a scenario is that it gives generic, drug-store dupes of beauty products the rare opportunity to prove themselves and gain a cult following.

CVS PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion explicitly says “Compare to CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion” in its product description, and it also uses marketing copy that’s reminiscent of CeraVe’s messaging, like “maintain your skin’s moisture barrier.”

Let’s see if the CVS version might be able to serve as a worthy substitute for the old version of CeraVe PM.

CeraVe PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion vs. CVS PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion Review

CVS PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion Ingredients:
purified water, glycerin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, niacinamide, cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl glucoside, arachidyl alcohol, arachidyl glucoside, ceteareth-20, ceramide 3, ceramide 6-ii, ceramide 1, phytosphingosine, hyaluronic acid, cholesterol, lecithin, dimethicone, polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate, potassium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, sodium lauroyl lactylate, behenyl alcohol, disodium edta, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, propylparaben, carbomer, xanthan gum

CeraVe PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion (old formula) 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

Ingredient comparison: CeraVe PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion vs. CVS PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion

I ran the ingredients through a Python script that I wrote a while ago, which compares two products’ ingredient lists and provides a breakdown of similarities and differences.

Here was the output of the script:

ingredients in both:
purified water, sodium lauroyl lactylate, dimethicone, ceramide 6-ii, caprylic/capric triglycerides, cetearyl alcohol, disodium edta, ceramide 3, ceramide 1, polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate, dipotassium phosphate, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceteareth-20, phytosphingosine, xanthan gum, carbomer, potassium phosphate, cholesterol, niacinamide, propylparaben, methylparaben
ingredients in CeraVe but not in CVS:
behentrimonium methosulfate
ingredients in CVS formula that are missing in the CeraVe formula:
arachidyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, cetearyl glucoside, lecithin, arachidyl glucoside, phenoxyethanol
more in CVS formula (comes earlier in CVS ingredient list than CeraVe ingredient list):
cetearyl alcohol
more in CeraVe formula (comes earlier in CeraVe ingredient list than CVS ingredient list):
sodium lauroyl lactylate, dimethicone, ceramide 6-ii, disodium edta, ceramide 3, ceramide 1, polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate, dipotassium phosphate, hyaluronic acid, ceteareth-20, phytosphingosine, xanthan gum, carbomer, potassium phosphate, cholesterol, propylparaben, methylparaben same order:
purified water, caprylic/capric triglycerides, glycerin, niacinamide

Both products include the important ingredients—niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, ceramide 3, ceramide 6-ii, and ceramide 1—but it looks like four of these five ingredients appeared earlier in the ingredient list for the old CeraVe PM vs in the CVS version. Not a great sign. Niacinamide is listed as the fourth ingredient in each product (though that still doesn’t indicate that the concentration of niacinamide is necessarily equal across these two products).

My dad the chemist’s thoughts on CVS PM moisturizing lotion vs. Cerave PM moisturizing lotion

Dear Emily, based on the ingredient list, these two formulas should work very close to each other, the actual amount (weight %) for niacinamide, ceramide 3, ceramide 6-ll, ceramide 1, hyaluronic acid may result in the difference on the efficacy if any, all these ingredients are considered as expensive , cost wise.

Love,

Dad

My dad thinks that these two ingredient lists look quite similar, but what will truly distinguish one product from the other is the concentration of beneficial ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, and hylauronic acid. It’s possible that the CVS version contains a smaller concentration of these beneficial (and expensive) ingredients, which may offset any cost savings you get (if any) from buying the CVS version. However, since the old version of the CeraVe PM moisturizer is no longer available, the CVS version may be your best option even if you don’t factor in the cost at all.

Note, however, that the regular price of the CVS PM Moisturizing Lotion is actually more expensive than buying CeraVe PM, at the time this article was written. The CVS version is normally $11.99, but it can get as low as $8.39 when it goes on sale at CVS (and it just so happens to be on sale right now):

cerave pm vs cvs pm moisturizer review

Since the CVS dupe is about the same price as the brand-name CeraVe PM, perhaps it actually contains sufficient quantities of the expensive ingredients that we’d very much like to slather on our faces (niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid). However, that’s just a guess—I truly have no idea how good the CVS formula actually is, or how similar it may be to the old version of CeraVe PM.

If you’re going to give the CVS PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion a try, I recommend waiting for it to go on sale, or wait for CVS to offer 30% off sitewide regular prices (I’ve seen this promotion appear quite frequently, at least once a month).

Further reading

This post was inspired by a Reddit thread on /r/SkincareAddiction. Read the full thread here.

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