The 5 Best Moisturizers To Use With Tretinoin Cream


Serious acne is no joke and, more often than not, clearing it requires a trip to the dermatologist. Unfortunately, things don’t end there. Topical prescription acne treatments like tretinoin, for example, won’t work if they aren’t used properly. With that said, the best moisturizers to use with tretinoin cream (also known by the brand name Retin A) won’t interfere with the medication and will prevent and relieve the common side effects — namely, drying, flaking, sensitivity, and inflammation.

Tretinoin is a topical form of vitamin A that works as both an anti-inflammatory and chemical exfoliant. By increasing skin cell turnover, it gets rid of stubborn acne and prevents further breakouts and clogged pores. Seems simple (and amazing), right? It is, but a lot of times, people make the mistake of simply adding tretinoin cream into their existing acne-fighting skin care routine. Doing this causes seriously dry skin and severe irritation that shows up as flaking, redness, and burning. Ouch! According to Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and CEO and founder of Curology, switching to a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer will be the least irritating when pairing with a tretinoin cream. He adds that, “Generally, you may find you need a more hydrating moisturizer with a cream or gel base to help combat flaking or dryness, especially in the winter months.” Another tip? “Avoid or use caution when moisturizers contain harsh alcohols, vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acids and lactic acids."

If you've recently obtained prescription tretinoin cream, want clear skin, and are afraid to make the drying effects worse than they need to be, the key to choosing a moisturizer is to err on the gentle side. Any one of the five options below will provide the hydration your skin needs so that you can be on your way to healthy, acne-free skin ASAP.

1. Best For Daily Use: An Ultra-Gentle Moisturizer That's Suitable For Even The Most Sensitive Skin Types

This rich but gentle face cream checks off all the necessary boxes when choosing a moisturizer to use with tretinoin. It's free of any harsh ingredients, like fragrance and alcohol; it's oil-free (if you're using tretinoin in the first place, you're probably dealing with oily skin and clogged pores, so this stuff won't cause any further congestion); and it was made with with sensitive, irritated skin in mind, which again, is important when dealing with the side effects of tretinoin. Made to combat dryness, itching, burning, flaking, and other types of irritation, it's produced and manufactured in a completely sterile environment, making it one of the highest-quality moisturizers around.

"I bought this because I started using a retinol and my face was shedding from the initial use," one reviewer writes. "This really helped out with the after effects. Another says, "Rosacea? Check. Eczema? Check. Allergic to everything? Check. Have reactions to lots of lotions and potions? Check. Still desperately need moisturizer to butter up that angry skin that flakes? Well this is for you!"

2. Best Night Cream: A Rich Balm That Soothes & Repairs Seriously Dry Skin

Your new secret weapon against dry skin and tretinoin irritation? La Roche-Posay's Cicaplast Baume B5 Multi-Purpose Balm. With its propriety blend of panthenol, shea butter, and glycerin, this rich cream expertly provides superior hydration while instantly soothing dry, rough skin. It's very thick, so it's best used as an overnight treatment, but don't worry, it's not oily or sticky.

3. Best Sunscreen: A Hyaluronic Acid-Infused Formula With SPF 40

The most important step in any skin care routine that includes tretinoin cream is sun protection. And when it comes to sunscreen, EltaMD's cult-favorite UV Daily Broad-Spectrum With SPF 40 is the best of the best. The derm-favorite formula not only offers serious UV protection that's sheer enough to be used under makeup, but it also contains hyaluronic acid to boost your skin's moisture content and hydrate dry skin all day, which is essential for counteracting the effects of tretinoin.

4. Best Organic Moisturizer: A Daily, Oil-Free Lotion With SPF 30

If you want to supplement your use of tretinoin cream with a more natural moisturizer, try Juice Beauty's SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer. It's a lightweight, certified organic moisturizer with SPF 30 (to protect your skin from UV rays and further irritation) that can be used day or night. It also contains grape and pomegranate extracts, aloe vera, antioxidants, and sea algae, all of which work to restore moisture and make your look skin smooth, soft, and radiant.

5. Best K-Beauty Option: A Refreshing Gel Moisturizer That Helps Strengthen Skin

K-beauty brand Mizon makes this ultra-hydrating Water Volume EX Cream, a cooling gel moisturizer that helps prevent dryness and damage by strengthening your skin's natural moisture barrier. The freshness of this cream provides instant relief from the symptoms associated with tretinoin, like tightness and flaking, while its lightweight texture makes it great for everyday or use as a makeup primer. Pro tip: store it in the fridge for an even more soothing, refreshing sensation.

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