CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum Review: Healing or Not?

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum Review: Healing or Not?

| |
| |

CeraVe is one of the most popular and affordable skincare brands. One of the brand’s most popular products is called Resurfacing Retinol Serum, and it's used to “help resurface skin” that’s damaged due to “acne marks and uneven skin tone.”

But does CeraVe’s serum contain ingredients shown to heal skin or are these just marketing claims? Does it contain any unhealthy additives? How do real users rate and describe its effects? And which retailer sells this product for the best price?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum based on clinical studies to give our take on whether or not the product is likely to be effective.

We'll feature unsponsored customer reviews, a dermatologist's review, and provide a cost comparison to show which retailer sells this product for the best price.

Ingredient Analysis

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum ingredients

The ingredients in CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum are shown above.

Retinol is one of the key active ingredients, and is a form of vitamin A that’s one of the most well-studied skincare ingredients.

A medical review published in the Advances in Dermatology and Allergology journal found that topical retinol causes new collagen formation and improves skin elasticity, both effects that should help resurface skin damaged by acne scars or uneven skin tone.

Niacinamide was shown to restore skin barrier function in a 2004 medical review.

Ceramide NP and ceramide AP are ceramides (from which CeraVe gets its brand name), and are shown in medical studies to improve skin hydration and skin barrier function.

Dimethicone is a safe and non-toxic skin moisturizer.

Clearly, this serum contains a number of effective ingredients. It also contains two ingredients we recommend avoiding.

Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative found to be toxic to human cells in a test tube trial, as we documented in our Introstem reviews article.

Ethylhexylglycerin "enhances the toxic effect" of phenoxyethanol, according to a clinical trial published in the PLOS One journal.

Overall, we consider CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum to be a highly effective formulation and likely to help repair skin.

We don’t currently recommend the product due to the inclusion of two synthetic preservatives discussed above.

Real People Try Resurfacing Retinol Serum

A YouTube creator named Amanda Nicholle tried CeraVe's serum for one month to test if it reduced her acne. The video has over 100,000 views and includes before-and-after images:

A YouTube creator named Lan Monique used the serum for a full year and shares her experience, as well as before-and-after images:

Where to Get the Best Price 

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum is sold at a large number of online retailers. Here’s a price breakdown for a one-time purchase at the time of updating this article:

CVS: $23.99 (plus shipping, link)

Walgreens: $19.99 (plus shipping, link)

Amazon: $18.68 (free shipping, link to official Amazon listing)

Walmart: $11.93 (free shipping, third-party seller, link)

This serum is currently more than 50% cheaper at Walmart than CVS when factoring in shipping fees.

While Walmart has the best price, the listing is from a third-party seller which may increase the risk of counterfeit product. For consumers who can afford it, purchasing from one of the other retailers may be a safer option.

Dermatologist Reviews Resurfacing Retinol Serum

A popular YouTube skincare blogger and board-certified dermatologist named "Dr Dray" has a review of CeraVe's serum that includes a live product demo:

Our Clean Skincare Picks

There are skincare products containing ingredients shown in clinical trials to be effective for reducing wrinkles and improving skin quality.

Annie Mak Vitamin C Serum is our top anti-aging serum.

It contains hyaluronic acid which was described as a "skin-rejuvenating biomedicine" in a medical review due to its ability to reduce wrinkles and signs of facial aging.

Momentous Collagen Powder is our top skin supplement.

Collagen supplementation was shown in a medical review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology to reduce visible signs of skin aging as well as improve skin elasticity and skin hydration.

HYDRAGLOW by CLEARSTEM is our top moisturizer pick.

It features bakuchiol as an active ingredient which was described in a 2014 clinical trial as "clinically proven to have anti-aging effects." 

All of the products recommended in this section are entirely free of ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.

Real Customers Review Resurfacing Retinol Serum

Amazon is a better resource for unbiased customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum has been reviewed over 40,000 times on Amazon, with an average review rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars at the time of updating this article.

The top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named “CPL” who gives the product a 5/5 star rating, and claims it significantly improved skin smoothness:

“Im very prone to acne, breaking out, forehead bumps, etc. but this product has made my skin noticeabley better within a day. I havent had it for too long but it has stopped me from breaking out and decreased redness in my face. It made my forehead bumps go away too almost completely and i havent even used it for that long.”

The top negative review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named “L D.” who gives the product a 1/5 star rating, and claims claims it had no effect:

“Remember the funny TV sitcom, 'Seinfeld' and the show about nothing? Well, the expensive, tiny, little bottle of CeraVe, for me, has been the lotion about nothing, with the joke on me.”

CeraVe currently has an average review rating of 4 out of 5 stars on Facebook.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum currently has an average review rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Google.

Pros and Cons of Resurfacing Retinol Serum

Here are the pros and cons of CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum in our opinion:


  • Supports new collagen formation
  • Supports skin barrier repair
  • Many research-backed active ingredients
  • Affordable
  • Highly positive online customer reviews
  • Reputable brand


  • Doesn't appear to be clinically tested
  • Contains phenoxyethanol
  • Contains ethylhexylglycerin
Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum is one of the most effective skincare products we’ve reviewed to date on Illuminate Health for repairing skin.

This serum contains many research backed ingredients and is highly affordable.

We do not currently recommend this product due to the inclusion of two synthetic preservatives, but we do consider it to be a better-than-average formulation.

CeraVe’s retinol serum has highly positive online reviews both from customers and medical experts.

Walmart has the best price on CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum at the time of updating this article, but the listing is from a third-party seller so it may be safer to purchase from an official distributor.

In this article we featured videos from two users who provided before-and-after images, which may be extremely useful for consumers considering this product.