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8 Best Moisturizers to Pair With Your Tretinoin (Retin-A)

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Either you struggle with acne, sun-damaged skin, or want to improve the appearance of surface fine lines, your dermatologist might prescribe you a tretinoin/retinoic acid product. And if you’ve already tried it, you probably know how irritating it can be for your skin — especially if it’s the sensitive type. It may sound backward, but this is how tretinoin works: by irritating the skin. It basically speeds up your skin cells’ life cycle, making them divide and die faster so that fresh and healthy cells can replace them. Don’t get nervous, tretinoin is incredibly effective, even with its side effects. Which, if using one of these highly moisturizing creams, may not even arise at all. But what actually are the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin? We’ll see that in a bit later, so stay put!

What is tretinoin?

A retinoid and a derivative of vitamin A, tretinoin is a prescription-strength topical cream/gel used to treat sun-damaged skin, fine lines, and acne. It’s also found under the brand name Retin-A. According to Dr. Cynthia Bailey, there are a few things to consider when you start to incorporate tretinoin into your skincare routine. First, tretinoin must only be applied right before you hit the hay because it can easily be broken down by sunlight. And during the day, please apply sunscreen since your skin will become photosensitive while following a tretinoin treatment. Also, I’ve noticed from my own experience that there’s a period of sensitivity consisting of red, irritated skin that peels. So here’s another thing: it takes a few weeks for the skin to adjust to tretinoin — give it some time.

Even though tretinoin can be intimidating, there are numerous benefits it can offer, such as reducing wrinkles and building collagen.

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How to use tretinoin

To start, certain ingredients such as vitamin Csalicylic acid, alcohol, or benzoyl peroxide are a no, no to use while following a tretinoin treatment.

On the other hand, many ingredients can be used in parallel with your tretinoin cream to reduce the chances of irritation and dryness. Hyaluronic acid is one of them because it’s a humectant that attracts and brings moisture to the skin’s surface, helping it maintain elasticity and hydration. Niacinamide, known as vitamin B3, helps support a healthy barrier, has antioxidant effects working excellent with tretinoin. Actually, one research hints that when pre-treating your skin with niacinamide can provide additional barrier protection and decrease water loss.

Skincare ingredients that work well with tretinoin

Shortly, you need to pair your tretinoin treatment with a moisturizer enriched with highly humectant properties in order to prevent water loss, such as glycerin, lactic acid, urea, peptide, panthenol, squalane, aloe vera, shea butter, or honey.

Do I need a barrier repairing moisturizer for tretinoin?

Yes, and I will explain to you why! First, your skin’s protective layer acts as a barrier with the role of preventing water loss and protecting against irritants and pollutant external factors. This barrier is made up of skin cells held together by a mixture of lipids called the lipid matrix (made of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol). When tretinoin penetrates the skin’s outer layer, it rapidly produces new skin cells that lack the necessary adhesion and lipid production. That creates holes in your skin’s barrier. That’s why most people notice peeling, flaking, dryness, and irritation after retinoids. Barrier-repairing moisturizers are emollients containing lipids to fill in these holes and replenish the ones that occur within your skin. As a result of using barrier repairing products, you’ll notice an increase in skin hydration and reduced irritations and dryness. We know that’s exactly what you need!

So an ideal moisturizer to use with Retin-A has to have barrier-repairing proprieties (thus, should have ceramides, cholesterol, or fatty acids) and includes as many hydrating ingredients as possible. Now you know what you should be looking for! Shall we begin?

Top Hydrating & Barrier Repairing Moisturizers to Use With Tretinoin

Here are some hand-picked products that I’ll briefly touch-on so you can fast decide which of these hydrating moisturizers will help you get that soft skin back! These moisturizers work great with any tretinoin cream!

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La Roche-Posay Repair Face Moisturizer

1. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

Best For: Skin Barrier Recovery

Key Ingredients: Ceramides, Fatty Acids, Niacinamide, Glycerin

A prebiotic moisturizer that will restore your skin to achieve a healthy glow by repairing and protecting the skin’s barrier. La Roche-Posay formulated this cream with soothing ingredients like niacinamide which you already know that pairs well with tretinoin. Besides, it’s formulated with other beneficial ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, and La Roche-Posay Prebiotic Thermal Water — just great for your thirsty skin!


BABOR Lipid Intense Cream

2. BABOR Lipid Intense Cream

Best For: Skin Barrier Recovery & Evens Skin Tone

Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Lactic Acid

While you’re using tretinoin, your skin lacks moisture, looking dry and maybe flakey. Rest assured, Babor Lipid Intense cream contains all the ingredients — hyaluronic acid, pure oils, glycerin, niacinamide — necessary to rebalance your skin’s lipid and moisture levels while strengthens the protective barrier. You want your complexion to look velvety-soft and smooth? Look into it!


ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

3. ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

CEW UK Beauty Award Winner

Best For: Anti-Aging & Skin Hydration

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Shea butter, Ginkgo Biloba

Not only this gel-cream texture is perfect to pair with tretinoin due to its hydrating properties, but it’s also formulated to prevent wrinkles’ apparition. With powerful marine algae extract and plant actives such as shea butter, wheat oil, and ginkgo biloba extract, it takes care of your skin while boosting its hydration. The addition of glycerin just adds some more hydration, absolutely fabulous


Peter Thomas Roth Hydrating Moisturizer

4. Peter Thomas Roth Hydrating Cloud Cream

Best For: All Skin Types

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, Cholesterol

This moisturizer contains three molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid, making up 30% of the entire concentration — can you imagine how hydrating that is? With hydrolyzed silk, Pentavitin® (plant extract that’s bursting with hydrating properties), and lots of ceramides, you can bet your skin will stay silky, smooth, and soft even when following a tretinoin treatment.


Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel-Cream

5. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel-Cream

Best For: Intense dryness

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid

Having a gel-like formula and lightweight texture, Neutrogena’s hydrating moisturizer will quench your thirsty skin. With hyaluronic acid and glycerin as key ingredients, oil-free and non-comedogenic, it also makes the perfect primer for makeup. It’s definitely a cult-favorite drugstore option, the ideal alternative to pricey creams if you are on a budget.


EltaMD Sunscreen Moisturizer

6. EltaMD Sunscreen Moisturizer

Best For: UV Protection & All Skin Types

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Zinc oxide

A multipurpose product that everybody raves about! If there is one thing you need in your skincare routine besides tretinoin, it’s sunscreen since Retin-A can make your skin sensitive to the sun rays. This moisturizer offers 40 SPF sun protection with 9% zinc oxide, high hydration thanks to hyaluronic acid, and antioxidant protection due to the addition of vitamin E, which also helps diminish aging signs. It’s that SPF protection you need when you go out that you’d also want to be hydrating.


Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer

7. Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer

Best For: Tretinoin cream

Key Ingredients: Aloe vera, Zinc oxide, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins, Panthenol, Antioxidants

This mineral sunscreen will not only protect you from the sun with 20% zinc oxide and hydrate your skin with aloe vera juice, sea algae, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid, panthenol, buuut it’s also packed with antioxidants from organic grape and pomegranate. Yes, it’s a great addition to your tretinoin treatment if you’re into organic skincare.


Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream

8. Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream

Best For: Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Shea butter

The perfect moisturizer that will get the job done. It works excellent with Retin-A as it’s made with highly humectant ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, propanediol, and shea butter. What makes this cream different? It’s formulated with Vichy Volcanic Water that contains 15 minerals, strengthens the skin barrier, while protects it from external aggressors like UV rays and pollution.


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