The 5 Best Moisturizers To Use With Differin Gel, According To A Dermatologist

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Differin Gel and its active ingredient, adapalene, can work wonders on skin, from clearing acne to smoothing out texture. But that doesn't mean it doesn't also present some challenges. Dry skin, redness, and sensitivity are all common side effects. That’s why the best moisturizers to use with Differin Gel deeply moisturize and protect skin without irritating your skin.

Why Does Differin Gel Usually Require A Moisturizer?

"Retinoids, including Differin/adapalene, can be very drying to the skin," explains Dr. Arielle Nagler, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at NYU. "I usually ask patients to start using them every other day and increase to nightly as tolerated. They should also be used with emollients to mitigate some of the drying and irritating side effects. You can either mix them directly with moisturizers before applying them for enhanced moisturization, or you can apply the moisturizer after for better medication penetration."

The Best Ingredients For A Differin-Friendly Moisturizer

And when it comes to the best ingredients in your moisturizer? Dr. Nagler recommends looking for moisturizing glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. "Petrolatum is also a very powerful emollient, but can be too occlusive so I do not recommend it in acne-prone skin," she adds, so it might be a good idea to lay off the Vaseline and mineral oil to be safe, especially if you’re prone to breakouts.

Scroll on for the best nonirritating moisturizers to use with Differin that won't clog pores and will moisturize without leaving your face feeling greasy. They’ve all earned raves from real customers who’re also using retinoids. Best of all, you get any of these picks for less than $25.

Shop The Best Moisturizers To Use With Differin Gel

In a hurry? Here’s a quick rundown of the best moisturizers to use with Differin:

1. The All-Around Best Moisturizer For Differin Gel: CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream

2. The Best Moisturizer For Dry Skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream Face Moisturizer

3. The Best Moisturizer For Oily & Combo Skin: CosRx Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion With Birch Sap

4. A French Pharmacy Favorite For Sensitive Skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

5. A Soothing Cream For Irritated Skin: DearKlairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream


The All-Around Best Moisturizer For Differin Gel

With glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, this rich moisturizer has all the ingredients Dr. Nagler recommends, and none of the petroleum or fragrance you might want to avoid. It is a formula developed with dermatologists and noncomedogenic so it won't clog your pores, making it a great moisturizer to combat the drying effects of Differin or other retinoids. With a 4.6-star overall rating after more than 22,000 buyers have weighed in, it’s been customer tested and approved, too.

According to fans: "I use this at night with differin gel and it makes a huge difference in my skin. Prevents the retinol dryness and is very acne friendly, I'm on my third jar of this and my skin has been perfectly clear. I've used a lot of pricier moisturizers and I keep coming back to this. Price seems high for a drugstore brand but a little goes a long way so it lasts a loooong time.”


The Best Moisturizer For Dry Skin

Neutrogena's cult-favorite Hydro Boost line's formula for extra-dry skin is a glycerin-filled moisturizer packed with moisturizing hyaluronic acid that attracts water to the skin. Plus, it's noncomedogenic and free of oil and fragrance. The nonirritating formula has a gel texture so it moisturizes without feeling heavy, too.

According to fans: "This moisturizer is absolute heaven! It's worked wonders for me after about a week of using it. I feel like the more I use it, the better my skin feels and looks. I have combo dehydrated skin - dry while also oily and acne-prone because I am on spironolactone as well as using Differin (steroid) gel at night. [...] If you're like me and have a desert for a face but seem to break out when you quench its thirst with heavier products, look no further, for you have discovered the Holy Grail.”


The Best Moisturizer For Oily & Combo Skin

Birch sap is a popular Korean beauty ingredient for hydration, while also adding antioxidants and vitamins, and the CosRx oil-free moisturizing lotion has more than 70% of that hero ingredient. It also features moisturizing glycerin and hyaluronic acid to aid in healing after your dose of Differin. However, there is a light fragrance.

According to fans: "I never thought that I would find the right moisturizer for my skin. I have combination skin with large pores that get gunked up if I neglect them and I've struggled for some time to find a product that would provide sufficient moisture without breaking me out or turning my face into an oil-slick. This is truly a holy grail moisturizer for me and has a nice face feel and natural herbal scent. Will definitely repurchase!”


A French Pharmacy Favorite For Sensitive Skin

  • Also available on Ulta, $20

La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Double Repair moisturizer is a French pharmacy staple for its allergy- and dermatologist-tested noncomedogenic formula that has plenty of moisturizing glycerin and ceramides. It's also free of oil and fragrance making it a great choice for sensitive skin.

According to fans: "I love this stuff! It is super moisturizing, good for my sensitive skin and gentle! I have been using this with differin gel which has extremely dried out my skin and this product has saved me from it flaking off. Will definitely be repurchasing!”


A Soothing Cream For Irritated Skin

Mainly derived from fruits and vegetables, DearKlairs’ soothing cream contains types of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin, all of which work well alongside Differin. It also features centella asiatica extract, which is excellent for soothing irritated skin. Most importantly for sensitive skin, it skips the artificial colors and fragrances. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan. (This bottle is miniature, so you can test it out for just $10, but you can also get a 2.7-ounce bottle for $26.)

According to fans: "I've tried a lot of face products lately and this moisturizer is a lifesaver! [...] Sometimes if my retinol treatment stings or burns a bit applying this will soothe my skin fast, and the sting will stop and my skin will be comfortable again.”

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