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Can Gen Z Democratize Skin Care?

Drugstore favorite CeraVe is still riding high thanks to TikTok’s influence. Are the days of overly expensive lotions and cosmetics numbered?

Before TikTok, CeraVe — the 15-year-old drugstore-friendly brand of skin cream — was likely the sort of inexpensive moisturizing lotion you probably used to jerk off when you were in a pinch. But last March, thanks to TikTok beauty guru Hyram Yarbro recommending the CeraVe products to his 5 million followers, the skin-care line became, overnight, the brand of choice for young people. As the New York Times noted back in September, Yarbro is something of a kingmaker as it pertains to skin-care brands; his influence is so potent in the Gen-Z skin-care market that, according to the same report, after Yarbro came out against skin-care brand St. Ives, the company was forced to release a statement defending the quality of their products. 

But for CeraVe, the Yarbro mark of approval couldn’t have come at a better time: Per CNN, although cosmetic sales have declined since the pandemic began, sales of facial skin-care products have been going up — right as CereVe’s profile was raised to the stratosphere. (The trend is hardly surprising, when you consider that with fewer places to go, people are less interested in colorful beautification as they are in simply maintaining healthy skin.)

But of course, this all raises the question, is CeraVe actually any good? 

Even prior to its time under the blazing viral sun, CeraVe was a product with a reputation as the dermatologists’ choice, having been developed alongside several of them. With a main ingredient in ceramides — lipids that are found naturally in the upper layer of skin — CeraVe helps prevent the sort of hollowing out and facial water loss that comes with aging. The fact that it costs less than $20 for a 16-ounce bottle is also hugely significant, since it’s notably cheaper than many other daily moisturizers.

More importantly, CeraVe’s popularity serves a very specific demand in current skin-care trends: The desire for a product list with as few ingredients as possible. “CeraVe gives you your ceramides, fatty acids, lipids and hyaluronic acid delivering moisture as an instant hit and then a long-lasting effect through a clever delivery system,” aesthetician Amiee Vyas told Harper’s Bazaar

To that end, BuzzFeed writer Farrah Penn specifically cites the inclusion of hyaluronic acid — a substance that’s naturally produced by your body and which is also used to treat burns and cuts — as the key ingredient to CeraVe’s success. In fact, Penn notes that whenever she doesn’t use the daily lotion, “I can see a visible difference in my skin,” adding that her skin appears less firm and “a bit dull.” 

Most redditors agree with her assessment, though there does appear to be some reason to think that CeraVe’s drugstore nemesis Cetaphil — another affordable skin care line — is just as good, and a few dollars cheaper

Ultimately though, CeraVe’s recent emergence as the go-to skin-care product for young people is a good indication of where the industry may be headed. For years, the barrier to entry for those interested in skin care has been a steep one: Famed skin-care brands like La Mer charge $520 for a fraction of the amount of moisturizer offered by CeraVe. It’s nice, then, to see a young person with the sort of influence that Yarbro commands promoting a brand that’s affordable and accessible to everyone.