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 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 without making any alterations. Doing this can cause seriously dry skin and severe irritation that shows up as flaking, redness, and burning. Ouch!
Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and founder and CEO of Curology, you'll want to pair your tretinoin cream with a deeply hydrating moisturizer that's, ideally, oil-free and noncomedogenic, to keep breakouts at bay while still providing enough hydration to counteract tretinoin's drying effects.
“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," Dr. Lortscher tells Bustle. Another tip? “Avoid or use caution when moisturizers contain harsh alcohols, vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic and lactic acids."
If you've recently obtained prescription tretinoin cream 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 clear, glowing skin ASAP. 1 Best Daily Moisturizer: Avene Eau Thermale Skin Recovery Cream
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 safest, highest-quality moisturizers around.
"I bought this because I started using a retinol and my face was shedding from the initial use," one reviewer wrote. "This really helped out with the after effects." Another commented, "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: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Multi-Purpose Balm
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 balm/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. If you're using it all over your face, just give your skin a nice, deep massage to allow it to sink in. Plus: you can also use Cicaplast as a rich lip balm, as an ointment for burns, or on very dry elbows, cuticles, heels, and more.
"After beginning tretinoin, I needed something healing for my irritated skin. This worked wonders," wrote one reviewer, while another suggested "[using it] at night as a barrier
prior to applying Tretinoin."
Another enthusiastic shopper commented, "[I] use it morning and night on all the trouble spots that are prone to drying and irritation from the tretinoin. Red spots are totally gone. Peeling is minimal and manageable. Perhaps best of all is it didn't do anything to aggravate my normally sensitive skin. No breakouts, bumps, or hives. If you have dry skin or are starting a drying prescription you NEED this in your arsenal!"
3 Best Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 Facial Sunscreen
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, but it also contains hyaluronic acid to boost your skin's moisture content and hydrate dry skin all day long. Plus, it's sheer enough to be worn under makeup, and absorbs beautifully (and quickly) into skin.
"This moisturizer, Elta MD UV Facial Broad-Spectrum Moisturizer with sunscreen, was recommended by my dermatologist to use along with my Tretinoin cream," commented one reviewer. They add, "I use it during the day as I need a combination of moisturizer and sunscreen while using the Tretinoin cream. I find it goes on very easily and absorbs nicely. It makes my skin feel soft and protected."
4 Best "Clean" Moisturizer: Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer
If you're all about "clean" beauty products, this
Juice Beauty's SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer is for you. It's a lightweight, certified-organic moisturizer and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 (to protect your skin from UV rays and further irritation), so it cuts down on the need for two products. It also contains aloe vera, sea algae, and antioxidant-rich grape and pomegranate extracts, all of which work to restore moisture and make your look skin smooth, soft, and radiant.
One Amazon shopper commented, "I am a Retin-A user, so I need a heavy sunscreen on my face during the day. This one works very well, w/o the greasiness I had w/ the other products I tried. Plus it's organic & cruelty free. HUGE selling points for me."
Another reviewer wrote, "I use retinol for light acne. It is amazing for acne but makes my skin sensitive to UV rays. This is a great sunscreen for oily, sensitive skin. It is the first sunscreen I've used that doesn't feel like it's burning my skin when I apply it, doesn't cause breakouts, and doesn't make my face look like an oil slick."
5 Best Korean Moisturizer: Mizon Water Volume EX Cream
Korean beauty brand Mizon makes this hydrating
Water Volume EX moisturizer, a cooling gel-cream formula 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 use and as a makeup primer. Pro tip: store it in the fridge for an even more soothing, refreshing sensation.
"This cream is amazing. It's more like a gel. I love how it completely absorbs into my skin and my skin is visibly more moisturized without a residue or stickiness [...] I use this in the morning and at night. It also has a pleasant smell. It can be used under makeup without making skin feel oily," summed up one fan of the moisturizer. Another reviewer wrote, "Great product for the price [...] Soothes my skin since I’m using Retin-A."
Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments. Studies referenced: Tretinoin: A Review Of Its Anti-inflammatory Properties in the Treatment Of Acne, Nicholas Schmidt-Eugene Gans - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225141/