How to Moisturize When Using Tretinoin – What to Do & Use

How to Moisturize When Using Tretinoin – What to Do & Use
How to Moisturize When Using Tretinoin – What to Do & Use

Tretinoin is usually prescribed for the treatment of acne and acne scars, hyperpigmentation (usually from age spots or melasma), and fine wrinkles.

However, one of the major side effects is dryness, which is why you need to moisturize completely. That’s why in this article we are going to cover:

  • When & How to Moisturize when using tretinoin
  • The best type of moisturizer to use with Tretinoin
  • Recommended moisturizers to use
  • What to avoid using with Tretinoin

How To Moisturize When Using Tretinoin

Moisturizer can be applied both before and/or after applying tretinoin. 

Most dermatologists recommend that you always use a moisturizer when using tretinoin, especially if you already have dry skin. Depending on how dry your skin is and how it reacts to the treatment, the amount of moisturizer you need and how often you will need to apply it will vary. 

Applying moisturizer helps the skin to better absorb the treatment while hydrating it enough to prevent it from becoming too dry and irritated. 

Related Articles –

Tretinoin for Hyperpigmentation: How To Use & Is it Good

Tretinoin for Stretch Marks: Does it Really Work & Risks

When To Apply Your Moisturizer

Before Tretinoin

If you are applying moisturizer before tretinoin, do this after you have cleansed your skin. Let the moisturizer completely absorb and dry down before you apply your tretinoin treatment. 

After Tretinoin

If you are applying moisturizer after tretinoin, you should wait until the tretinoin has been completely absorbed. Let your skin be completely dry to the touch again before applying your moisturizer. This can take a few minutes. 

TIP: You can apply your moisturizer before and after applying tretinoin. Just make sure each of your products is fully absorbed into your skin (the surface is dry to the touch) before layering the next.

Tretinoin Sandwich Method

Many people use the “sandwich” method. This means that, after cleansing your face, you apply a hydrating serum, then your tretinoin, and finally your moisturizer, in that order. 

Video: Skincare Routine using Tretinoin

How Often To Apply Moisturizer when Using Tretinoin

I recommend that you apply moisturizer at least twice daily when using tretinoin, but it can be applied as often as needed. 

Depending on how dry your skin is or how dry it becomes after the treatment, you may need to apply moisturizer constantly. Other people may only need it once or twice a day. 

A suitable moisturizer will aid your skin’s healing and regeneration process rather than hinder the treatment process. 

Remember that you should not be using tretinoin during the day, especially if you are going out. Tretinoin is best used at night. However, your moisturizer routine will be 24/7!

Related Article – Tretinoin After Microneedling – When & How to Use

Choosing Moisturizers That Work Best When Using Tretinoin

I recommend choosing a simple, gentle, unscented moisturizer when using tretinoin. 

TIP: A great ingredient that hydrates and moisturizes the skin excellently is hyaluronic acid. A simple hyaluronic acid serum, or a moisturizer with this as its main ingredient is an easy and effective choice. 

Best Recommended Moisturizers To Apply When Using Tretinoin

1- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Moisturizer

This water gel is formulated with hyaluronic acid. It is fragrance-free, oil-free, and does not block your pores. Many dermatologists recommend this for people with dry skin or who develop very dry skin when using tretinoin.

This moisturizer also comes in a regular formula and an SPF-fortified formula. So, you can use it during the day and the night. 

Click here to get the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel on Amazon. 

Or you can Click here to see the Neutrogena Hydro Boost with Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen on Amazon. 

2- CeraVe AM/PM Facial Moisturizing Lotions

The moisturizers are formulated with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides which help to soothe, hydrate and heal your skin, without irritating it.

They are fragrance-free and will not block your pores. The AM lotion also contains broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen to protect your skin during the day from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Click here to see the price for the CeraVe AM/PM Facial Moisturizing Lotions on Amazon.

3- La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

This moisturizer is formulated with prebiotic thermal water, ceramide-3, niacinamide, and glycerin which all help to provide your skin with 48-hour hydration.

It is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, will not block your pores, and has been dermatologist-tested. A good sunscreen can also be effectively layered over this moisturizer if you need to go out after applying it.

You can click here to check out the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Face Moisturizer on Amazon. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do you need to use a moisturizer when using tretinoin?

Tretinoin may cause your skin to become irritated, too dry, and even crack and peel. Using a good moisturizer will help to prevent this. 

Remember that you should not use tretinoin on your own. Consult a dermatologist about using tretinoin so that they can advise you on the correct way to use it and how best to moisturize and treat your skin during the process. 

Related Article – Tretinoin for Dark Underarms: How to Use Safely & Benefits

How long should you wait to apply moisturizer after tretinoin?

You should wait until the tretinoin has completely absorbed into your skin before applying your moisturizer. 

How long should you wait to apply tretinoin after you have moisturized?

If you are moisturizing before applying tretinoin, wait until the moisturizer has completely absorbed and your skin feels dry to the touch. 

Related Article – Tretinoin For Under Eye Circles & Wrinkles: What to Know

Will moisturizers affect how well tretinoin works?

A suitable moisturizer will not affect how well tretinoin will work. It might even enhance it. 

Moisturizing will help your skin to find a balance between results and side effects. It will help your skin to heal while preventing the side effects that can cause more damage, giving the skin a chance to make use of the positive effects of tretinoin. 

Related Article – Tretinoin for Oily Skin – How to Use, Benefits & Risks

Using Oil To Moisturize When Using Tretinoin

You can also use a few oils to safely moisturize your skin when using tretinoin. 

With this kind of regimen, the aim is to slow down and reduce the absorption of tretinoin into your skin and avoid or reduce the side effects while still achieving the benefits.

Oils also really help to manage the flaking and peeling of the skin. 

Click here to read about the 5 Best Oils to Use with Tretinoin & How to Use Correctly.

What To Avoid When Choosing A Moisturizer To Use With Tretinoin

Here are a few ingredients to look for and avoid when choosing a moisturizer:


Ethanol and isopropyl alcohol can be commonly found in many moisturizers. However, they are associated with skin irritation and dryness.

Therefore, it’s vital to read the ingredients list before using any moisturizer and to stay away from products that include alcohol. Tretinoin can already leave your skin dry and flaky on its own. 

Benzoyl Peroxide

Cleansers and skin creams that can aid in the treatment of acne outbreaks frequently include benzoyl peroxide. Even while it could seem like a positive thing, dry skin is a major side effect of this treatment.

The recommended course of action while using retinoids, such as tretinoin cream, gel, or solution, is to avoid other acne-fighting substances that can exacerbate skin dryness.

This is especially true when initially starting a retinoid. Remind yourself that you shouldn’t use tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide simultaneously since the former will render the latter ineffective.

Artificial Fragrances

The ingredients that give moisturizers their pleasant scents are commonly responsible for causing skin irritation in many persons. Opt to use fragrance-free products when using tretinoin to avoid irritating your skin.

Exfoliating Ingredients

These include ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, skin peels, etc. Although these ingredients are good for your skin when used correctly, they may result in severe skin flaking and peeling when combined with tretinoin.


Targeted Topical Delivery of Retinoids in the Management of Acne Vulgaris: Current Formulations and Novel Delivery Systems – PMC 

Can people use moisturizers with tretinoin? 

Everything You Need To Know About Tretinoin | Apostrophe 

Can You Use Tretinoin With Moisturizer? | Apostrophe 

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