Either you struggle with acne, sun-damaged skin, or want to improve the look of fine lines, your dermatologist might prescribe you a tretinoin cream. 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 speeds up your skin cells’ life cycle, making them divide and die faster so that fresh and healthy cells can replace them. Tretinoin is incredibly effective, even with its side effects. And if you decided to pick a repairing moisturizer to pair with your tretinoin, you’re one step closer to smooth skin, without irritations. But which are the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin? You’re about to find out, so stay put!
What is tretinoin?
Tretinoin (brand names Retin-A, Renova, Avita) is a synthetic retinoid derived from vitamin A, a prescription-strength topical medication used to treat sun-damaged skin, fine lines, and acne. Tretinoin works by increasing skin cell turnover, meaning it replaces older skin cells with newer and fresher ones. This helps keep skin pores clear, reduce breakouts, and evens skin tone. Unfortunately, is common for tretinoin to damage the skin’s barrier and cause dryness and irritations. Because of this, you need a proper moisturizer to keep up with tretinoin’s side effects.
Should I use tretinoin before or after moisturizer?
Using a moisturizer with tretinoin is mandatory to reduce irritation risks. There are two ways you could layer your moisturizer when following a tretinoin treatment. To avoid risking irritating your skin, start by using a moisturizer before you layer tretinoin and after it. Sandwiching your tretinoin will most likely keep damage at bay.
You can follow this method until your skin builds tolerance to tretinoin. When your skin becomes used to tretinoin, you can only use a moisturizer underneath — that’s a must. For the best outcome, wait for 15 minutes before you apply moisturizer on top of tretinoin.
What ingredients pair well with tretinoin?
Tretinoin works best when used with reparative ingredients 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. Squalane, peptide, and ceramides also pair just perfectly with tretinoin due to their reparative and hydrating properties.
What type of moisturizer is best to use with tretinoin?
The best moisturizer to pair with tretinoin is one that aims to repair the skin barrier and has hydrating properties. Here is why: your skin’s protective barrier has the role of preventing water loss and shields against external damaging 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 tiny 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 those that occur within your skin. As a result of using barrier repairing products, you’ll notice an increase in skin hydration, reduced irritations, and dryness.
Best moisturizers to use with tretinoin cream
These are the best moisturizers that will help minimize the irritations caused by tretinoin. P.S: We’ve hand-picked every product!
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Best for: Skin Barrier Recovery
Key ingredients: Ceramides, Fatty Acids, Niacinamide, Glycerin
First place is well worth by La Roche-Posay 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 moisturizer with soothing ingredients such as glycerin, niacinamide, and ceramide, which you already know pairs well with tretinoin. It is just great for your thirsty skin and is one of the best moisturizers to use with Retin-A cream.
SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore Moisturizer
Best for: Sooth Tretinoin Irritations
Key ingredients: Ceramides, Cholesterol, Fatty acids, Natural oils
Triple Lipid Restore moisturizer is widely recommended by derms to people who want to repair their skin barrier, and it’s definitely one of the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin. This is because it’s made with all three lipids required to restore the protective skin barrier. More specifically, it’s formulated with 2% pure ceramides, natural cholesterol that boosts the skin’s barrier repairing process, fatty acids, and a mix of natural oils, all working to bring your skin to its best condition. So if tretinoin cream still causes you irritations, this moisturizer will help you counteract its effects.
BABOR Lipid Intense Moisturizer
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 moisturizer 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. Do you want your complexion to look velvety-soft and smooth even after you use tretinoin? Then you should check it!
ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Marine Moisturizer
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 moisture. The addition of glycerin adds some more hydration.
Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer
Best for: Lock-in Moisture
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Peptides, Natural oils
To organic skincare lovers, I suggest this moisturizer with ingredients derived from natural sources. Its lightweight texture goes deep into the skin, where it delivers a high dose of hydration thanks to the hyaluronic acid, orange peptide, and pomegranate spheres. On top of that, it’s filled with a blend of natural oils to lock in moisture and nourish your skin a bit more. It’s the perfect addition if you want a clean moisturizer to use with tretinoin.
Peter Thomas Roth Hydrating Moisturizer
Best for: All Skin Types
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, Cholesterol
Peter Thomas Roth Hydrating 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.
Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture
Best for: All Skin Types, Skin Hydration
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Coconut extract, Shea butter
Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture provides 24-hour hydration, soothes the skin, and prevents tretinoin from irritating with the help of hyaluronic acid, coconut extract, and shea butter. This moisturizer also uses avocado, sunflower, and olive oils to boost the skin’s ability to retain water, helping to reduce the dryness caused by tretinoin. As a science-backed brand, Murad products never disappoint, and this moisturizer is definitely one of the best to use with Retin-A cream, thanks to its super-hydrating proprieties.
PCA Skin ReBalance Face Cream
Best for: All Skin Types
Key ingredients: Niacinamide, Vitamin E
The nourishing and light cream by PCA Skin is one of the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin because it hydrates, calms, and soothes sensitive skin almost instantly. Besides keeping your skin hydrated all day long, this moisturizer will also boost the protective barrier with niacinamide, while vitamin E helps nourish and protect the skin from further damage. Whether you have sensitive, dry, oily, or mature skin, PCA Skin ReBalance Face Cream is best for you.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel-Cream
Best for: Intense dryness
Key ingredients: Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid
Neutrogena’s hydrating moisturizer will quench your thirsty skin in no time with a gel-like formula and lightweight texture. It also makes the perfect primer for makeup with hyaluronic acid and glycerin as key ingredients, oil-free and non-comedogenic. It’s a cult-favorite drugstore option, the ideal alternative to pricey creams if you are on a budget.
EltaMD Sunscreen Moisturizer
Best for: UV Protection & All Skin Types
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Zinc oxide
EltaMD moisturizer is 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 photosensitive. EltaMD’s product is one of the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin cream because it 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.
Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer
Best for: Tretinoin cream
Key ingredients: Aloe vera, Zinc oxide, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins, Panthenol, Antioxidants
Juice Beauty moisturizer is made with squalane, vitamins B5, C, and E, hyaluronic acid, and a mix of fruits and plant extracts to soothe the skin and keep tretinoin irritations away. On top of that, the antioxidants in the formula will protect your skin against free radicals. This moisturizer is a great addition to your tretinoin treatment if you fancy organic skincare.
Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream
Best for: Sensitive Skin
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Shea butter
Vichy Aqualia Cream is another moisturizer that will get the job done when it’s about minimizing the adverse effects of tretinoin. It works excellent with Retin-A as it’s made with highly humectant ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, propanediol, and shea butter. Besides, it’s formulated with Vichy volcanic water that contains 15 minerals, known to strengthen the skin barrier and protect against external aggressors damage.
How to use tretinoin?
There are a few things to consider when you start to incorporate tretinoin into your skincare routine. First, tretinoin must only be applied at night 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.
What moisturizer should I use with tretinoin?
This mostly depends on how your skin reacts to tretinoin. If tretinoin only causes dryness to pick a super-hydrating moisturizer. On the other hand, if your skin is sensitive or tretinoin causes irritations, choose a moisturizer that will repair your protective skin barrier.
Here’s a list of the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin cream:
- La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
- SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore Moisturizer
- BABOR Lipid Intense Moisturizer
- ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Marine Moisturizer
- Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer
- Peter Thomas Roth Hydrating Moisturizer
- Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisturer
- PCA Skin ReBalance Face Cream
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Moisturizer
- EltaMD Sunscreen Moisturizer
- Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer
- Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream