Tretinoin – a topical prescription medication – is one of the most highly effective skincare treatments available, thanks to its powerful multi-tasking abilities. It smoothes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, tackles acne, and improves sun damage and hyperpigmentation.
That said, tretinoin will only truly work its magic when used in tandem with a solid foundational skincare routine. In particular, pairing it with a suitable moisturizer is absolutely essential in order to get the best results. A well-formulated moisturizer that works well for your skin type will help support the skin while allowing the tretinoin to do its thing.
In this article, we’ll dive into the best moisturizers to use alongside tretinoin. These carefully selected products will help you maintain optimal skin health and minimize the risk of negative side effects associated with tretinoin.
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How I Reviewed Each Moisturizer
When picking out the moisturizers below, I first and foremost prioritized formulas that are free of ingredients that may interfere with the effectiveness of tretinoin. It’s typically best to avoid layering products with high concentrations of chemical exfoliants or other ingredients that have a risk of aggravating the skin, as tretinoin is already a potent treatment on its own. Moisturizers that are formulated with ingredients that play well with tretinoin will allow this powerful ingredient to do the best job possible while giving the skin the support that it needs.
As you may know, tretinoin may cause irritation, dryness, and/or redness, particularly as your skin is first adjusting to this potent treatment. With that in mind, it was also important to find formulas that contain ingredients that adequately improve the skin’s moisture levels while quelling any irritation.
All of the products recommended below have either been tested by me or a member of the GoodGlow Team. I’ve also looked into consumer reviews to ensure each product was highly regarded by a larger sample of users.
The Best Moisturizers to Use with Tretinoin
Jump to Review
|Clearstem Skincare HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer (Clear Stem)|
|On a Budget|
Jump to Review
|CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion (Amazon)|
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|Naturium Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream (Amazon)|
|For Dry Skin|
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|Avène Tolérance Extrême Cream (Amazon)|
|For Oily Skin|
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|La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer (Amazon)|
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|COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream (Amazon)|
Best Overall Moisturizer to Use with Tretinoin:
CLEARSTEM – HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer
With Bakuchiol (a natural alternative to retinol), plant stem cells, and olive squalane.
Effective Plant Stem Cells
Bakuchiol in your moisturizer is your secret weapon for collagen production as it trains your skin to look younger while you sleep.
No hormone disruptors, no toxins, cruelty free, gluten free, vegan, and silicon free
Zero pore-cloggers and zero toxins
The Clearstem Skincare HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer works perfectly alongside tretinoin. This luxurious moisturizer has a creamy yet lightweight formula that I’ve found absorbs quickly into the skin. This is a welcome surprise, since so many cream-based moisturizers can sit on the surface of the skin.
This Clearstem moisturizer counteracts any dryness caused by tretinoin, while also providing additional anti-aging benefits. A key ingredient is bakuchiol, which is often considered to be nature’s alternative to retinol. This natural ingredient encourages collagen production and helps achieve a more youthful complexion, and does so without causing irritation or drying out the skin.
The addition of stem cells (which are made of peptides and amino acids) are also incredibly beneficial for further fighting signs of aging. These stem cells improve tone and texture while smoothing fine lines and wrinkles.
Of course, the hydrating power is just as important as the anti-aging benefits, especially when used in tandem with tretinoin. Olive-derived squalane is the star hydrator of the formula. However, the formula contains a blend of additional ingredients that hydrate, soothe, and support the skin’s barrier, including hemp seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, aloe leaf extract, and hyaluronic acid.
The fact that this product is suitable for all skin types (including acneic skin) cements its status as the best overall moisturizer to layer with tretinoin.
Clearstem Skincare HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer Pros:
- Suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone skin.
- Effective yet natural and gentle anti-aging ingredients, including bakuchiol and stem cells.
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free formula.
Clearstem Skincare HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer Cons:
- On the pricier side.
Best On a Budget:
CeraVe – PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
This CeraVe moisturizer has been a drugstore staple for years, and a longtime favorite of many budget-conscious skincare enthusiasts. The lightweight oil-free formula delivers much-needed moisture while calming the complexion and supporting the skin’s barrier.
Contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid
To lock in moisture while supporting the skin’s barrier
Formulated with Niacinamide
Helps soothe and and retain skin’s moisture
Oil-free, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free formula.
Suitable for normal to oily skin.
The CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion has been one of my go-to drugstore moisturizers for as long as I can remember, and I’ve regularly used it alongside tretinoin with great results. This affordable product adequately moisturizes and soothes, and does so without feeling heavy or sticky. It’s also non-comedogenic and oil-free, and particularly well-suited for normal to oily skin types.
This formula contains three essential ceramides, which are excellent for defending the skin against the drying effects of tretinoin. Ceramides effectively lock in moisture while creating a protective barrier on the skin. Hyaluronic acid also helps attract and seal in moisture, while niacinamide provides soothing benefits. All of these ingredients are backed by science, and work incredibly well alongside tretinoin.
One thing to note is that this CeraVe product doesn’t offer anti-aging benefits like the Clearstem moisturizer. The CeraVe formula has a relatively simpler formula that is geared towards moisturizing, calming, and supporting the skin.
While this moisturizer is marketed as a nighttime product, the lightweight formula can be used both day and night. During the day, be sure to finish off your routine with sunscreen.
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Pros:
- Super lightweight texture that deeply moisturizes without feeling greasy.
- Simple formula with science-backed ingredients that moisturize and calm.
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Cons:
- Not the most suitable option for drier skin types.
Best Night Cream to Use with Tretinoin:
Naturium – Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream
Intense hydration and skin repair
plant-derived ceramides in this formula help strengthen the natural moisture barrier by replacing the naturally occurring ceramides that are depleted by external factors
Plant-derived ceramide formula
Naturally protected by a phospholipid layer, these help restore and support the natural moisture barrier to relieve dry skin
Clean formulation & non-toxic
Cruelty free, paraben free, vegan, gluten free, fragrance free & non-toxic
Suitable for normal to dry skin, including sensitive skin
The Naturium Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream uses the power of ceramides and other carefully selected ingredients to optimally fight dryness and support the barrier, making it an ideal formula to use alongside tretinoin. This deeply moisturizing formula is great for normal to dry skin, as well as sensitive skin.
Naturium’s vegan and cruelty-free cream has a rich texture, but doesn’t feel overly heavy on the skin. One Reddit user states the following after adding the cream to their routine:
“I’m extremely impressed as it doesn’t leave my face feeling greasy, but also makes my skin feel like there’s still something on there, like an occlusive barrier…and it makes my skin extremely soft.”r/SkincareAddiction
Plant-derived ceramides work to seal moisture into the skin, ensuring water isn’t lost while you sleep. Glycerin (which is a humectant) also works to draw moisture to the skin and lock it in. Anti-inflammatory shea butter softens and soothes the skin, while squalane adds additional hydrating benefits.
Similarly to the CeraVe moisturizer, the Naturium cream doesn’t provide any direct anti-aging benefits, but it does give the skin the support it needs while tretinoin gets to work.
Naturium Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream Pros:
- Rich texture that seals in moisture without feeling heavy.
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free formula.
Naturium Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream Cons:
- May not be suitable for acne-prone skin.
Best for Dry Skin:
Avene – Tolérance Extrême Cream
Thermal Spring Water, physiological humectant (helps retain moisture) and glycerol (essential to lock water in) to preserve skin’s barrier while maintaining proper hydration
Perfectly suited to our fine epidermis, they replenish our delicate skin barrier and leave skin feeling nourished
Made without fragrances, parabens, dyes, or preservatives
Suitable for dry and sensitive skin types
When my skin needs an extra hydration boost, I reach for this simple yet highly effective Avène moisturizer. The Avène Tolérance Extrême Cream was formulated specifically with dry and sensitive skin in mind. While it only contains seven ingredients, each ingredient plays a crucial role in the moisturizer’s performance.
Compared to other options on the list, the formula is rather basic. However, it’s expertly made to give dry and sensitive skin the support it needs without causing any disruptions. It’s also made with the skin’s microbiome in mind, ensuring it stays in balance.
This Avène cream is the perfect match for tretinoin, because it powerfully fights dryness and soothes irritation while allowing the tretinoin to perform at its best. This formula features the humectant glycerin, which draws moisture to the skin. Fatty acid-rich shea butter also works to calm, soften, and deeply moisturize the skin, while thermal spring water provides additional soothing benefits.
Since this cream is made for sensitive skin, it’s formulated without ingredients that may cause irritation, including parabens, fragrances, and dyes. It also doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.
Avène Tolérance Extrême Cream Pros:
- Super gentle on the skin.
- Deeply moisturizing formula powered by shea butter and glycerin.
- Made without fragrances, parabens, dyes, or animal-derived ingredients.
Avène Tolérance Extrême Cream Cons:
- On the pricier side.
Best for Oily Skin:
La Roche-Posay – Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Retains moisture and sooths
Formulated with a high concentration of Prebiotic Thermal Water, Ceramide-3, Niacinamide & Glycerin to lock in moisture while strengthening the skin’s barrier
Part of routine
Apply moisturizer to the face and neck morning and evening. Its soft, oil-free texture is easily absorbed.
Non-comedogenic, and made without oil, fragrances, or parabens.
Suitable for normal to oily skin, including sensitive skin types.
For those with oily skin, finding a moisturizer that adequately counteracts the drying effects of tretinoin without making the face feel greasy can be a major challenge. Thankfully, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer is perfectly formulated to give oilier skin the support that it needs. It’s also made to be gentle enough for sensitive skin.
I’ve found that this lightweight formula is great for both daytime and nighttime use. It has a gel-like cream consistency, and deeply hydrates without making the face appear shiny. Texture-wise, it’s quite similar to the CeraVe moisturizer mentioned above, although it’s the slightest bit creamier.
This La Roche-Posay moisturizer is made without oil, fragrances, or parabens, and is also non-comedogenic, which makes it a great choice for acneic skin. It’s formulated with ceramide-3, which helps the skin retain its moisture. Glycerin works alongside the ceramide-3, drawing moisture to the skin and locking it in. Both of these ingredients strike the perfect balance of giving skin the moisture it needs without contributing to oiliness.
The formula also features niacinamide and prebiotic thermal water, both of which soothe the skin. Niacinamide also plays a role in evening skin discoloration, which makes this formula particularly well-suited for those with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer Pros:
- Lightweight formula that is deeply hydrating.
- Made without oil, fragrances, or parabens.
- Suitable for sensitive skin.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer Cons:
- Not cruelty-free.
Best Korean Beauty Moisturizer to Use with Tretinoin:
COSRX – Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream
Soothing and Hydrating
Deeply soothing formula uses the power of centella asiatica to quell irritation and redness
Skin friendly and effective Ceramide 3 to lock in moisture with 50% Centella Asiatica Leaf Water to Soothe
Hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested, animal testing-free, parabens-free, sulfates-free, and phthalates-free
Suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin.
The COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream is loaded with ingredients that quell irritation and redness associated with tretinoin use. It is suitable for all skin types (including acne-prone skin), and is specifically made with sensitive skin in mind.
The formula has a creamy balm-like texture, but it’s still lightweight and leaves behind a matte finish. As one Reddit user notes, “I love this cream so much. It’s definitely more of a matte balm texture after it dries down so it never leaves my face super shiny. It feels so calming on my skin and deeply moisturizing.”
Like many of the other options on this list, this cream moisturizer contains ceramide, a highly effective ingredient that seals in moisture while supporting skin barrier health. However, what really sets this formula apart from the rest is the addition of centella asiatica leaf water.
Centella asiatica has anti-inflammatory properties, and is excellent for soothing sensitized skin. It also improves skin hydration, and helps with anti-aging by boosting elasticity.
The centella asiatica and ceramide are supported by a variety of additional ingredients that soothe and moisturize. This includes sunflower seed oil, glycerin, panthenol, and sodium hyaluronate (which is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid).
COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream Pros:
- Balm texture deeply moisturizes and leaves behind a non-greasy matte finish.
- Cruelty-free and paraben-free formula.
- Suitable for all skin types, and especially ideal for sensitive skin.
COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream Cons:
- Those with oily skin may find the texture to be too rich for daytime use.