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CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing vs Renewing Retinol Serum

CeraVe is a drugstore skincare brand known for its gentle yet effective formulations suitable for those with dry skin and those with a compromised skin barrier.

The brand offers a range of products, from cleansers to moisturizers, that are designed to hydrate and nourish the skin with CeraVe’s three essential ceramides.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum and CeraVe Renewing Retinol Serum boxes.

CeraVe offers two retinol serums formulated to address different skin concerns, so today, we’ll explore their formulas and uses in this CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing vs Renewing Retinol Serum post.

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CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing vs Renewing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum and CeraVe Renewing Retinol Serum.

When it comes to CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum and CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum, the bottles look alike (Resurfacing is blue/white and Skin Renewing is purple/white), and both are the same size at 1 oz.

So what is the difference between “Resurfacing” and “Renewing” since both contain retinol to improve cell turnover for smoother, brighter skin?

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum and CeraVe Renewing Retinol Serum bottles and sampled on back of hand.

Let’s take a look at the main differences between these two CeraVe serums:

Skin Concern

CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum targets acne scars, enlarged pores, and uneven skin texture, while Skin Renewing Retinol Serum targets the visible signs of aging, like wrinkles and fine lines.


Both serums contain retinol, ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and CeraVe’s MVE Technology, a time-release formula that ensures the moisturizing ingredients are slowly released over time for maximum efficacy.

Retinol Resurfacing Serum also contains licorice for extra brightening benefits.

Skin Renewing Retinol Serum contains additional nourishing ingredients like cholesterol and a small amount of shea butter.


Both serums have a lightweight gel-cream texture that sinks into the skin quickly without leaving your skin feeling greasy or oily.

Skin Renewing Retinol Serum has a light yellow shade, and Resurfacing Retinol serum is a cream shade.


Prices will vary depending on where you purchase the serum, but Retinol Resurfacing Serum tends to cost slightly less than Renewing Retinol Serum at most retailers.

Retinol Concentration

Neither brand discloses its retinol concentrations (see more details below).

CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum for post-acne marks and pores targets acne scars and uneven skin tone with encapsulated retinol.

Encapsulated retinol is a slow-release form of retinol that is gentler on the skin than retinol that isn’t encapsulated. It improves cell turnover and removes dull, dead skin cells for smoother skin texture.

It takes two conversions in your skin for retinol to be available in its active form. First, it has to be converted to retinaldehyde and then to retinoic acid.

Retinoic acid is the active form of retinol that can offer your skin benefits and is the ingredient in many prescription acne treatments like Retin-A (tretinoin).

CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum Key Ingredients

Retinol targets multiple skin concerns, from uneven skin tone, rough skin texture, and enlarged pores to dullness, acne, and wrinkles.

The serum also contains dipotassium glycyrrhizate, a brightening ingredient from the licorice plant that helps fade away dark spots. It’s also anti-inflammatory and helps balance oil (sebum) production in the skin, making it an excellent ingredient for oily skin.

CeraVe’s proprietary blend of three essential ceramides, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, and Ceramide EOP, work to restore the skin’s protective barrier and hydrate the skin.

Think of ceramides like the mortar that holds bricks (skin cells) together.

A healthy skin barrier is key to keeping moisture in and irritants and acne-causing bacteria out, so replenishing your skin barrier is important for keeping skin clear, hydrated, and healthy.

Another active ingredient, niacinamide, offers multiple skin benefits, as it brightens the skin, improves the look of wrinkles and fine lines, reduces inflammation and redness, and minimizes the appearance of pores.

Sodium hyaluronate is the salt form of hyaluronic acid, a moisture-binding ingredient that helps keep skin hydrated. It acts like a sponge and draws moisture to the skin.

CeraVe’s MVE Technology ensures that the nourishing ceramides are gradually released over time for optimal effectiveness and long-lasting moisture.

The serum is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores and cause acne or breakouts, which makes it ideal for acne-prone skin.

The fragrance-free serum has a light, gel-like texture that quickly absorbs into the skin without leaving any residue behind.

Cerave Resurfacing Retinol Serum Percentage

When it comes to Cerave retinol percentage, unfortunately, CeraVe does not disclose this information.

I reached out to the company and received the response that I was expecting:

CeraVe said that the percentage of an ingredient is not a measure of an ingredient’s effectiveness and that their formulas are proprietary. Hence, no disclosure of retinol percentages.

Related Post: Olay Retinol 24 vs CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum is targeted at different skin concerns than Resurfacing Retinol Serum, such as wrinkles and fine lines, and other visible signs of aging.

The serum contains more active ingredients than Resurfacing Retinol Serum, mostly replenishing and nourishing ingredients.

But first, the retinol concentration. Like the Resurfacing Retinol Serum, this serum contains encapsulated retinol. How much? We don’t know:

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum Key Ingredients

Regardless of the concentration, retinol will work to smooth your skin by increasing cell turnover. Retinol also improves collagen production, making your skin appear plumper, firmer and more youthful-looking.

Like all CeraVe products, this CeraVe treatment contains  Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, CeraVe’s three essential ceramides that help restore the protective skin barrier.

Niacinamide visibly brightens and evens uneven skin tone, calming inflammation and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles.

Cholesterol may have a somewhat different connotation when it comes to your body, but this lipid is a key component of healthy skin and an excellent topical skincare ingredient.

Cholesterol helps to replenish the skin barrier and lock in moisture.

Tocopherol, otherwise known as vitamin E, is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from free radical damage and environmental stressors.

Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid is a low molecular weight hyaluronic acid that is able to penetrate deeper into the skin.

It attracts and retains water for long-lasting hydration, making it an excellent ingredient for dehydrated and dry skin.

Shea butter is a rich, creamy emollient rich in antioxidants that helps soothe and nourish the skin.

CeraVe MVE Technology (MultiVesicular Emulsion technology) delivers ceramides into the skin over time for long-lasting moisture.

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum Retinol Percentage

As previously mentioned, I messaged CeraVe asking about the retinol percentage in both serums, and they would not disclose the amount of retinol in each serum.

In both retinol serums, retinol falls in the middle of the ingredient lists (ingredient lists contain ingredients in order of concentration), but that doesn’t really tell us much.

My own anecdotal two cents are that both serums do not contain high concentrations of retinol since my somewhat sensitive skin tolerates both serums without irritation.

Related Posts on CeraVe skincare products:

How To Use CeraVe Retinol Serums

Use Cerave Resurfacing Retinol Serum OR Cerave Skin Renewing Retinol Serum once daily in the evening.

Start with clean, dry skin and apply a small amount of the serum on your face (and neck if tolerated), avoiding the delicate eye and lip area. Follow with a moisturizer to help lock in moisture.

Be sure to finish your AM skincare routine with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, as retinoids like retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

If you have never used a retinol product before, start by using it once a week for a week, twice a week for two weeks, every other night for three weeks, and gradually work up to every night as your skin tolerance increases.

The Benefits of Retinol

You might be wondering why you should try either of these retinol serums.

Retinol is a retinoid and form of vitamin A that increases cell turnover and removes dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. This can help to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.

It also helps to stimulate the production of collagen, resulting in firmer, younger-looking skin. Collagen is a protein that gives our skin its structure. (As we age, our bodies produce less and less of it.)

Retinoids can also help even out skin tone and improve discoloration by lightening dark spots left behind by sun damage and acne scars.

Speaking of acne, retinoids can even help treat acne by improving cell turnover and preventing clogged pores by normalizing keratinization, the process by which our skin cells shed.

Of course, if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to approach retinoids with caution, as they can cause irritation, redness, and flaky skin.

Luckily CeraVe retinol serums appear to contain lower amounts of retinol which make them better suited to beginners.

CeraVe Retinol Serums: Which Is Right For You?

As you can see from the key ingredients, both CeraVe serums contain nourishing ceramides and other ingredients to offset the potential irritation drying effects of retinol.

The main differences between the two serums are what they are used for.

If you have acne scarring, discoloration, and uneven skin texture, CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum could be a great choice for you since it contains an additional brightening ingredient.

CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum could be the better serum for your skin if you are concerned with wrinkles and fine lines.

Thanks for reading!

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