You should apply a pea-sized amount of tretinoin in between your cleanser and moisturizer at night.
Also known as retinoic acid, tretinoin is most effective when applied at night as it’s inactivated by the sun.
Instead, using tretinoin as part of your evening routine will allow it to work its magic overnight.
You can even use it in conjunction with serums, toners, essences, and more to treat acne and mature skin concerns like fine lines and wrinkles.
This article will explain everything you need to know about how to layer tretinoin in your skincare routine.
What is tretinoin cream?
Tretinoin is a vitamin A derived often prescribed to treat acne and aging issues like:
Fine lines and wrinkles
Uneven skin texture
Also known as retinoic acid, tretinoin binds to your retinoic acid receptors and “tells your body” to speed up the turnover of dead skin cells and increase collagen production.
How Tretinoin Works
Tretinoin works by speeding skin cell turnover and stimulating collagen and elastin production.
At the same time, it can cause side effects like dryness and irritated skin.
Therefore, it’s crucial to layer it properly along with other products that can help protect your skin barrier.
When to Apply Tretinoin in Skincare Routine
You should apply tretinoin as part of your evening skincare routine in the following order:
Cleanse your face
Wait for your skin to dry fully if you have sensitive skin
Apply a pea-sized amount of tretinoin to your face
Apply a hydrating serum
Apply a rich moisturizer
If you have particularly dry or sensitive skin, you can also finish off your routine with facial oil.
What Not to Layer with Tretinoin
You should generally avoid layering skincare products known to cause skin irritation with tretinoin, such as:
Vitamin C serum
Alpha hydroxy acids
This is especially true for people with dry skin.
That being said, tretinoin and salicylic acid together can be a winning combination for treating acne.
On the other hand, ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are great to layer with tretinoin as they can help provide hydration and fight dryness.
What ingredients can you combine tretinoin with?
Generally, it’s best to avoid layering tretinoin with other active ingredients as the combination can cause signs of irritation such as dryness and redness.
However, depending on your skin’s tolerance, you may be able to get away with it!
For example, combining tretinoin and azelaic acid can be effective for individuals with rosacea or acne.
That being said, you can always layer azelaic acid in the morning and tretinoin at night to avoid combining them directly.
Should you apply tretinoin before or after moisturizer?
To maximize results, you should apply tretinoin before your moisturizer.
If you apply moisturizer before tretinoin, you reduce the ability of tretinoin to penetrate your skin.
On the other hand, if you have a sensitive or dry skin type, a layer of moisturizer underneath your tretinoin can actually protect your skin’s natural barrier.
Should you apply your serum before or after tretinoin?
To maximize benefits, you should apply your serum after tretinoin.
That being said, finding the best way to layer your skincare products ultimately comes down to carefully listening to your skin’s needs.
Some dermatologists may argue that you should apply tretinoin first, while others may make the case that you should apply a layer of serum or moisturizer first to reduce your chances of developing irritation.
Either approach can be correct – it just depends on what works best for you.
How to Layer Tretinoin in Your Skincare Routine Safely
To build a skincare routine with tretinoin safely, follow these tips.
Keep it Simple
When first starting tretinoin, you may want to avoid layering it with any serums to protect your barrier until your skin builds up tolerance.
Slowly Introduce New Products
Instead of trying out three new products at once, take it slow!
Consider introducing serum into your skincare routine after several weeks.
Start with 1-2 days per week and gradually work up to daily use with tretinoin.
If using your serum and tretinoin together is too much, try alternating nights instead!
Alternate nights using your serum with tretinoin vs tretinoin alone.
This will allow you to monitor your skin for signs of irritation and minimize overload.
Focus on Barrier Repair
When starting tretinoin, it’s important to focus on gentle, hydrating serums.
You may want to avoid potent actives until your skin adjusts.
Then, try slowly incorporating more intense, targeted serums.
Be sure to moisturize after you use tretinoin.
This is the most important step to prevent excessive dryness or irritation.
The best moisturizers to use with tretinoin include skin-loving ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, and essential fatty acids.
How long should you wait to apply moisturizer after tretinoin?
Typically, you’ll want to wait to apply moisturizer after tretinoin for between 2-20 minutes to allow it to absorb completely.
Can you apply tretinoin and niacinamide together?
Yes, you can apply tretinoin and niacinamide together.
In fact, one study found that using niacinamide and tretinoin together led to improvements in skin tone and fine lines compared to just using tretinoin by itself.
Using the two ingredients together can make a powerful impact on your skin health!
Summary: Tretinoin Routine Order
To layer tretinoin in your skincare routine, you should first cleanse your face before applying a pea-sized amount.
Then, follow up with any serums or moisturizers.
Following this order layering tretinoin with other products will ensure that you get the maximum anti-aging and anti-acne benefits while still keeping your skin healthy.