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.
Table of Contents
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 – HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer|
|On a Budget|
Jump to Review
|CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion (Amazon)|
Jump to Review
|Naturium Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream (Amazon)|
|For Dry Skin|
Jump to Review
|Avène Tolérance Extrême Cream (Amazon)|
|For Oily Skin|
Jump to Review
|La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer (Amazon)|
Jump to Review
|CLEARSTEM – Hydraberry Moisture Mask|
|For Peeling Skin|
Jump to Review
|REN Clean Skin – Clearcalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream (Amazon)|
Jump to Review
|COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream (Amazon)|
Best Overall Moisturizer to Use with Tretinoin:
CLEARSTEM – HYDRAGLOW Stem Cell Moisturizer
This Clearstem moisturizer is formulated with expertly chosen ingredients that deeply hydrate the skin while promoting a more youthful glow. It’s made without pore-clogging ingredients, so it’s even safe for acne-prone skin.
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
- Bakuchiol – Bakuchiol is a vegan skincare ingredient found in the leaves and seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia plant. It acts as a natural alternative to retinol. It has the same powerful anti-aging effects as retinol without the toxicity and skin dryness that typically comes along with retinol use.
- Squalane – Squalane is a derivative of squalene, which is a natural lipid found in many plants and animals. Squalane is much lighter, making it a much better option for acne-prone skin. It’s extremely hydrating and it also acts as a natural antioxidant for the skin, which is key for anti-aging.
- Stem cells – Stem cells are made of amino acids and peptides, which are powerhouse ingredients for skin rejuvenation. Stem cells work to repair the skin on a cellular level, which promotes cell turnover, diminishes fine lines & wrinkles, and improves skin texture & tone.
Water/Aqua, Squalane, Propanediol, Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Raphanus Sativux (Radish) Seed Extract, Bakuchiol, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Jojoba Esters, Boswellia Carteri (Frankincense) oil, Camellia Sinensis (Green Leaf) Extract, Amino Acids: (Lysine, Histidine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Threonine, Serine, Glutamic Acid, Proline, Glycine, Alanine, Valine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Tyrosine), Phenylalanine, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Sprout Stem Cell Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Blueberry Essential Oil, Lactobacillus Ferment, Diglucosyl Gallic Acid, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Lactic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin
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.
Purified Water, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Niacinamide, Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20 and Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, Phytosphingosine, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum.
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:
Naturium – Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream
Naturium’s rich moisturizing cream is thoughtfully formulated with nourishing and highly moisturizing ingredients that support the skin’s barrier. The fragrance-free formula effectively fights water loss to relieve dryness.
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
Water, Glycerin, Oleic/Linoleic/Linolenic Polyglycerides, Ethylhexyl Olivate, Behenyl Alcohol, C12-16 Alcohols, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydrogenated Olive Oil Decyl Esters, Isostearyl Alcohol, C13-15 Alkane, Butylene Glycol Cocoate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Palmitic Acid, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Squalane, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Citric Acid, Phospholipids, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylcellulose, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, Sphingolipids, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopherol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Phytate, Potassium Sorbate, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Sodium Citrate.
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
Those with dry and sensitive skin can greatly benefit from this simple cream from Avène. It’s formulated with carefully selected gentle ingredients that soothe irritation and deeply moisturize the skin.
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
Avene Thermal Spring Water (Avene Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Squalane, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetyl Esters, Aquaphilus Dolomiae Extract Filtrate, Arginine, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Citric Acid, Tromethamine, Water (Aqua), Xanthan Gum.
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
This oil-free moisturizer delivers ample hydration to the skin without making the face feel uncomfortably greasy. It’s made with additional ingredients that soothe and support the skin’s barrier.
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.
Water (La Roche-Posay Prebiotic Thermal Water), Glycerin, Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Niacinamide, Ammonium, Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Myristyl Myristate, Stearic Acid, Ceramide Np, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Isobutane, Glyceryl Stearate Se, Sodium Hydroxide, Myristic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Capryloyl Glycine, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, T-Butyl Alcohol, Acrylonitrile, Methyl Methacrylate, Vinylidene Chloride Copolymer, Tocopherol.
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 for Hydrating:
CLEARSTEM – Hydraberry Moisture Mask
This highly-effective moisture mask from Clearstem improves the skin’s barrier while deeply hydrating and calming the complexion. It has a thoughtfully created formula that is safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin and skin prone to breakouts.
Suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin.
Vegan and cruelty-free formula is made without toxic ingredients.
Squalane, hemp seed oil, and additional ingredients deeply hydrate without clogging the pores.
Anti-inflammatory aloe vera and arnica flower calm redness, irritation, and general discomfort.
Water/Aqua, Propanediol, Squalane (Olive), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Olivate, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Raphanus Sativux (Radish) Seed Extract, Isopentyldiol, Butylene Glycol, Arnica Montana (Arnica Flower) Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Tea Leaf) Extract, Argania Spinosa Sprout Cell Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract., Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil*, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Trifolium Pratense (Clover) Flower Extract, Alteromonas Ferment Extract, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract*, Sodium Hyaluronate, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract*, Jojoba Esters, Lactobacillus Ferment, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Fruit Extract, Cetyl Alcohol, Diglucosyl Gallic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Erythritol, Polylysine, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Extract, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, 1,2-Hexanediol
The Clearstem Skincare Hydraberry Moisture Mask is perfect for anyone who uses tretinoin in their routine, as it is packed with highly effective non-comedogenic hydrators that counteract the drying effects of the treatment. It also contains calming ingredients that can help minimize any irritation caused by tretinoin.
One of the key ingredients in this moisture mask is squalane, an excellent hydrator that supports the skin without clogging the pores. It’s joined by aloe vera and arnica flower, two potent anti-inflammatory ingredients that can soothe irritation, redness, and discomfort caused by current breakouts or more aggressive acne treatments. This leads to a more comfortable complexion, as well as skin that appears calmer.
What’s also great about this formula is that it can be used in a few different ways. Apply it as the very last step of your evening skincare routine, or use it as a quick mask when your skin is in need of extra support.
Clearstem Skincare Hydraberry Moisture Mask Pros:
- Hydrates and supports the barrier without clogging pores.
- Calms irritation and redness.
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and clean formula that is free of toxins, silicones, or gluten.
Clearstem Skincare Hydraberry Moisture Mask Cons:
- On the pricier side.
Best For Peeling Skin:
REN Clean Skincare – Clearcalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream
This REN moisturizer is crafted to dramatically boost moisture levels while calming irritated complexions. It’s specifically made to be safe for blemish-prone skin, and has a non-greasy texture.
Acne-Fighting and Skin-Balancing Gel-Cream
Formulated to leave blemish and breakout-prone skin comfortable and calm while helping to combat the appearance of blemishes and dark spots
Created for all skin types (yes, even sensitive) to give you visible results with pH balanced formulas
Lingonberry Seed Oil, Licorice Extract, and Ochroleuca Seaweed Extract to boost your skin appearance
Vegan and Cruelty Free
Does not contain any animal ingredients or animal by-products
Aqua (Water), Cetearyl Alcohol, Oleyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Lauryl Laurate, Myristyl Myristate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Alcohol Denat., Oryzanol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea (Lingonberry) Seed Oil, Carbomer, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Tocopherol, Lactic Acid, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil, Pueraria Lobata (Kudzu) Symbiosome Extract, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.
Peeling can unfortunately be a common side effect of using tretinoin, especially when overused or when first adding the treatment to your routine. I particularly like the REN Clean Skincare Clearcalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream for those dealing with peeling. It not only dramatically boosts moisture levels to counteract peeling and dryness, but it also is designed to soothe the skin. This makes it great for anyone dealing with irritation from the treatment, or anyone dealing with aggravated acne. Additionally, the formula is specifically made with acne-prone skin in mind, which means it can safely be used without clogging pores and triggering breakouts.
This moisturizer is made with lingonberry seed oil, a fatty acid-rich ingredient that moisturizes and strengthens the skin’s barrier. It also contains shea butter, an anti-inflammatory and fatty acid-packed ingredient that moisturizes and calms the skin.
These ingredients are joined by licorice extract, a soothing ingredient that is also known for its ability to lighten post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Seaweed extract further soothes any irritation caused by tretinoin or current breakouts, leaving it feeling calm and comfortable.
REN Clean Skincare Clearcalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream Pros:
- Lightweight gel cream formula that deeply moisturizes without clogging pores or feeling heavy on the skin.
- Made with soothing ingredients that calm irritation.
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and made without parabens, synthetic fragrances, or synthetic colors.
REN Clean Skincare Clearcalm 3 Replenishing Gel Cream Cons:
- Contains fragrant essential oils, which may irritate those with sensitivities to fragrances.
Best Korean Beauty Moisturizer to Use with Tretinoin:
COSRX – Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream
This COSRX’s moisturizer is ideal for anyone looking to calm sensitized skin while strengthening the skin’s barrier. The cream deeply moisturizes and soothes, leaving the skin feeling comfortable and supple.
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.
Ingredients Centella Asiatica Leaf Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus(Sunflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Betaine, 1,2- Hexanediol, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Ceramide NP, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sucrose Distearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Dipropylene Glycol, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Kernel Oil, BeesWax, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone/VinylDimethicone Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Asiaticoside, Asiatic acid, Madecassic acid, Cassia Obtusifolia Seed Extract, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil
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.
When Does it Make Sense to Use Tretinoin Cream?
Since it can be used for acne, a dermatologist can prescribe tretinoin to patients as young as in their teens looking to treat and prevent breakouts. Many people in their 20s and 30s may also consider adding it to their routine to establish an effective anti-aging regime (and to manage adult acne, if they are prone to breakouts). Ultimately, if you’re an adult, there’s no bad time to add tretinoin to your routine if you have concerns around signs of aging, acne, and/or discoloration (and if your dermatologist decides it is suitable for your specific needs).
Does Tretinoin Cream Cause Side Effects?
Tretinoin is known to cause irritation and dryness, especially when the skin is first adapting to the ingredient. This can also happen when it is overused. When first starting out, you’ll want to apply tretinoin one to two times per week (or at the frequency that your dermatologist advises), and then build up your usage from there as your skin adapts. This will help reduce your risk of experiencing side effects.
Can I Use Moisturizers or Cleansers with Active Ingredients When Using Tretinoin?
As a general rule of thumb, you should only use a gentler cleanser before applying tretinoin, and to use a moisturizer without any strong actives on top of the treatment. Since tretinoin can cause irritation and dryness, you won’t want to use it with other active ingredients that also come with a risk of aggravating the skin, as this will only increase your likelihood of experiencing negative side effects. Avoid using cleansers or moisturizers with chemical exfoliants (like salicylic and glycolic acids), benzoyl peroxide, or vitamin C. Likewise, you shouldn’t use a moisturizer that contains retinol on top of your tretinoin treatment.
There are some gentler active ingredients that are safe to use alongside tretinoin. Hyaluronic acid (which is commonly used in moisturizers) can be great for counteracting dryness caused by the treatment. Niacinamide is also excellent at soothing the skin and supporting the barrier.
How Often Should I Moisturize When Using Tretinoin?
You will want to follow up with a moisturizer every time you apply tretinoin. Allow the tretinoin to absorb into the skin for at least 10 minutes before applying your moisturizer of choice. Even when you aren’t using tretinoin, you should moisturize on a daily basis twice a day, morning and night. This will ensure your skin’s barrier is supported and that it’s getting adequate moisture for optimal skin health. Maintaining healthy, moisturized skin will also reduce your risk of experiencing negative side effects from tretinoin.
What is the Best Way to Keep Skin Hydrated When Using Tretinoin?
A high-quality moisturizer will be key for keeping your skin hydrated when using tretinoin. It will also help support your skin barrier and minimize your risk of experiencing irritation. You can also add a gentle hydrating serum and/or a facial oil to your routine to help seal moisture in and counteract the effects of tretinoin.
If you have drier skin and are worried about your skin drying out even further, you can also consider taking the “retinol sandwich” approach. This involves applying a moisturizer or hydrating serum before your tretinoin to create a buffer that minimizes your risk of experiencing negative side effects. You’ll apply another layer of moisturizer after you apply the tretinoin.
With all of this said, if you notice that your skin is getting unbearably dry, consider reducing your usage of tretinoin. Everyone’s skin reacts differently to the ingredient, so it’s important to find a balance that works best for you.
How Often Should I Wash My Face When Using Tretinoin Cream?
You should wash your face one to two times a day when using tretinoin. Those with drier and/or sensitive skin may choose to only wash their face once a day in the evening, whereas those with oily skin often prefer cleansing twice a day. It ultimately comes down to your lifestyle and what works best for your skin.
You should always apply tretinoin to clean, dry skin. With this in mind, everyone (regardless of skin type) will want to wash their face in the evening right before application.
Gentle cleansers made with hydrating and calming ingredients are great for supporting the skin and preparing it for tretinoin application. Look for cleansers made with ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, green tea, and centella asiatica extract.
What Other Skincare Products Should I Use With Tretinoin?
In addition to moisturizer, here are the skincare products you’ll want to use alongside tretinoin:
- Face Wash: Tretinoin needs to be applied to clean, dry skin in order to do its best work. As mentioned, a gentle cleanser is best. It will help effectively clear away debris to prep the complexion for the treatment, but won’t aggravate the skin.
- Makeup Remover: If you wear makeup, you’ll want to make sure you use a makeup remover before washing your face. This will ensure all traces of makeup that can clog pores and contribute to breakouts gets cleansed away. It will also create a blank canvas that allows the tretinoin to do its best work.
- Face Mask: While it’s not an essential, using a face mask once or twice a week is a great way to support overall skin health and target your skin goals. Calming and/or hydrating masks can help boost skin comfort, while acne-fighting masks can bolster your routine’s breakout-busting abilities. If you use a more aggressive mask – such as one made with exfoliants – it’s best not to use that right before applying tretinoin, as the combination may be too harsh on the skin.
Skincare Product Ingredients to Avoid When Using Tretinoin
As noted, there are some skincare ingredients that you shouldn’t layer with tretinoin, as they can increase your risk of negative side effects. Keep in mind that you can still safely use products with these ingredients at times when you aren’t using tretinoin, if desired. For example, you might apply a vitamin C serum in the morning, and then apply tretinoin in the evening.
Here are some of the top ingredients to avoid:
- Benzoyl Peroxide
- Beta Hydroxy Acids (Salicylic Acid)
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid)
- Vitamin C
Best Skincare Ingredients to Use With Tretinoin
These are some of the skincare ingredients that play well when layered with tretinoin. They are gentler on the skin, and many can help support barrier health and boost moisture levels to counteract the negative side effects of tretinoin:
- Hyaluronic Acid/Sodium Hyaluronate
- Azelaic Acid
- Plant Oils (such as jojoba, argan, and marula oils)
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, using a hydrating, non-comedogenic moisturizer with tretinoin will keep your skin hydrated and prevent itchy, dry skin.
You should avoid all skincare products with active ingredients, including benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, etc. If you are unsure if you should use a particular product with tretinoin, ask your dermatologist before you begin use.
Always apply a moisturizer after using tretinoin, and consider adding a hydrating serum and/or facial oil to further prevent dryness. As mentioned above, you can also play with the “retinol sandwich” method of application.
When first adding tretinoin to your routine, only use it one to two times per week, and then increase your usage as you see fit. Taking a more gradual approach will allow your skin to adjust, and will minimize your risk of dryness.
If overused or otherwise used incorrectly, tretinoin can disrupt the skin barrier. In order to maintain skin barrier health, it’s important to only use a pea-sized amount of tretinoin to cover your face and neck. You also shouldn’t layer tretinoin with any other aggressive active ingredients, as doing so can weaken the barrier.
You should also always apply tretinoin to dry skin. Damp skin can increase the absorption of tretinoin, which leads to a higher risk of irritation. This means you should wait a few minutes after cleansing your face to ensure the skin is truly completely dry before applying tretinoin.
Lastly, always be sure to follow up with a moisturizer.
You should not layer other retinoids with tretinoin. Doing so is unnecessary, since you’ll already be getting maximum benefits from the tretinoin. Additionally, you’ll greatly raise your risk of aggravating the skin and harming the barrier if you use two different retinoid products.
Retin-A is a brand name for tretinoin. The two terms are often used interchangeably, as they’re essentially the same thing. When picking up the treatment, your pharmacist might give you Retin-A or generic tretinoin (the latter of which will generally be cheaper). Both options contain tretinoin as the active ingredient, and will work in the same way.
Yes, tretinoin increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. It also degrades when exposed to sunlight, which makes it less effective. With this in mind, you should only apply tretinoin in the evening. You also should use sunscreen on a daily basis (and reapply every two hours) to properly protect your skin against the sun.
Yes, tretinoin increases skin cell turnover. That is in part how it helps soften signs of aging, fade the appearance of discoloration, and clear pores to treat and prevent acne.