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What Moisturizer Should I Use With Retin A: Breaking It Down

What Moisturizer Should I Use With Retin A: Breaking It Down
November 3, 2019 Ellis James

You may find yourself asking, “What moisturizer should I use with Retin A?”. If you haven’t used any Retin-A products before, you might also wonder why people even bother with this “wonder product”. So, today we’ll be delving a bit into what this chemical is, before going into some tips for finding the best moisturizer to use with Retin A.

What Is Retin-A?

Retin-A or tretinoin has been on the skin care scene since forever.

It’s been hailed by dermatologists worldwide as the wonder cream. Its claims include diminishing wrinkles and fine lines, erasing dark spots, removing blackheads and whiteheads, and renewing the skin to give a healthy glow.

However, despite its many skin benefits, many are still getting intimidated by this miracle product.

That’s because when used incorrectly, it can turn your skin dry and flaky.

This is normal, though, as it should push your skin to regenerate; hence, the peeling.

That being said, don’t stop the treatment just because of the dryness and peeling because you can actually do something about it.

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Skin Care Tips While Using Retin-A

1. When using Retin-A, moisturizing is a must

You may not be the type who slathers facial moisturizer every day, but this is not the time to neglect skin hydration. It’s vital to see the importance of moisturizer for Retin A users early on.

Not applying moisturizer while under tretinoin treatment will make your skin drier than ever.

Also, you just can’t use any moisturizer you have on hand. You have to be careful which moisturizer to use because skin treated with Retin A needs serious attention.

2. Use a mild cleanser

To prevent further dryness and flakiness, treat your skin like a baby.

If you were using acne-fighting facial wash before, it’s now time to make a switch.

Look for the mildest facial cleansers you can get, such as those with hypoallergenic formulations and/or natural ingredients.

You may also try non-foaming, cream-based cleansers that are less drying compared to soap-based foaming cleansers. If you often go barefaced, you may also wash your face with water and skip using cleansing products.

3. Allow slow tolerance build-up

Wearing Retin A all day is usually too irritating for the skin, so you may want first to start wearing it for only half an hour in the first few days (yes, wash it off thirty minutes after application).

Slowly extend the hours until your skin gets used to it.

Don’t worry about not getting the benefits of tretinoin; your skin will still get a dose of it even for just a few minutes.

4. Slough off dead skin cells

Retin-A peeling may have an effect that is similar to exfoliation, but sloughing away flakiness is still advised. Just be careful and do not use harsh facial scrubs.

A very soft, washcloth damped with water and a dab of your gentle facial wash can help remove flaking skin.

Keep in mind not to scrub too hard, or the condition might worsen.

5. Buffer

The term buffering means mixing or diluting Retin-A with moisturizer, so the skin will have time to adjust especially during the early stages of tretinoin treatment.

This is a great way to avoid overdoing Retin-A and still get the benefits it offers.

What Moisturizer Should I Use With Retin A?

As mentioned, with the drying and peeling effects of Retin-A, you will need to apply moisturizer religiously to keep the unsightly flaking out. However, with all the moisturizers available in the market, it can be a bit confusing which one is advisable to use with tretinoin.

What’s the ideal moisturizer to use with tretinoin?

In general, when it comes to what moisturizer should you use with Retin A products, you will need an extra-hydrating moisturizer that can help lock in moisture. Make sure it is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and doesn’t have harsh ingredients that can aggravate the dryness.


Mild moisturizers without any harsh ingredients are ideal. Here are some of the top hydrating ingredients you should look for in a moisturizer:

  • Hyaluronic acid: A nature-identical ingredient, hyaluronic acid is known to keep the skin deeply hydrated and prevents it from losing moisture by creating a protective barrier.
  • Dimethicone: This is a famous moisturizing agent that can help prevent rough, scaly, dry and itchy skin. It can even soothe skin irritations caused by diaper rash, radiation therapy, and Retin-A treatment.
  • Glycerin: Like dimethicone, glycerin is also an effective agent that moisturizes and soothes irritated, dry, rough and scaly skin. It draws moisture and locks it in; thus keeping the skin hydrated.
  • Sun protection. Regardless of your skin type, using a moisturizer with added sun protection is always a plus, especially if your skin is left light-sensitive by tretinoin. Choose a moisturizer that has at least sun protection factor 30 to keep your skin protected from the harmful UV rays.

Other good ingredients you have to look out for are petrolatum, propylene glycol, and cholesterol among others. But because your facial skin is now a bit more sensitive than before, it is ideal to use a moisturizer that has 10 ingredients or less.


Always read the label and steer clear from any forms of lactic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, alcohols, and vitamin C, as these ingredients are known exfoliants or to have drying effects. While mineral oil, lanolin, and shea butter are good in moisturizing the skin of the body, they are not ideal ingredients when it comes to the face. These ingredients may clog pores and can worsen the problems that Retin-A are supposed to solve.

Furthermore, when using Retin-A, don’t use moisturizers that have antibacterial properties since they can be harsh on the skin as well. The moisturizers that you should use with Retin-A must have one sole job, and that is to moisturize.

So, with your question, “What moisturizer should I use with Retin A?”, you now have the basic answer.


When using Retin-A, expect extreme drying, severe flaking, some burning sensation, and irritation.

Stopping the treatment won’t allow you to reach your goal of clearer and youthful skin. Hence, you need to do an extra step in order to continue using it and at the same time alleviate the side effects that your skin might be experiencing.

We hope this article helped you decide what type of moisturizer you need to keep your skin from drying and flaking as you go on your journey to younger skin with the use of tretinoin.

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