Tretinoin should be applied in between a cleanser and moisturizer in your skincare routine.
The gold standard in anti-aging, tretinoin is known for boosting collagen production and treating sun damaged skin. Additionally, tretinoin products can also help treat acne.
For all the good things tretinoin does, it also has some uncomfortable side effects such as irritation and dryness. However, you can maximize the efficacy of tretinoin and reduce these side effects with a proper skincare routine.
This article will explain everything you need to know about how to use tretinoin in your skincare routine.
What is tretinoin?
Tretinoin is a vitamin A derivative used in skincare to treat acne and aging skin.
Also known as retinoic acid, tretinoin has great anti aging benefits. Unlike over the counter retinol, tretinoin is prescription-only in the United States.
Essentially, retinoic acid binds to certain receptors which tells your body to speed up turnover of dead skin cells and thicken your dermis.
Thanks to this process and speeding up skin cell turnover, using tretinoin can fight fine lines and wrinkles and reduce dark spots.
Side Effects of Tretinoin
Tretinoin irritation is characterized by side effects like:
While tretinoin creams can cause these side effects, it also possible to avoid them with a proper skincare routine even if you have sensitive skin.
Additionally, you can slowly increase the frequency with which you apply tretinoin over time as your skin adjusts which will reduce skin irritation.
Morning Tretinoin Skincare Routine
Your morning skincare routine with tretinoin should follow this order:
Rinse your face with water or wash with a gentle cleanser
Apply a rich moisturizer
Finish off with a broad spectrum sunscreen
Applying moisturizer when using tretinoin is essential to reduce irritation and peeling skin.
You can also consider applying a hydrating serum with humectants like hyaluronic acid in between your cleanser and moisturizer or SPF.
Evening Skincare Routine with Tretinoin
To avoid irritated skin and get the maximum skin benefits from using tretinoin, follow this order for your evening skincare routine:
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
Dot a pea sized amount of tretinoin all over your face
Gently rub in the tretinoin until absorbed
Apply your favorite moisturizer
Finish off with a facial oil (optional)
You will want to wait 1-2 minutes before applying moisturizer after using tretinoin.
How to use Tretinoin in Skincare Routine
To use tretinoin in your skincare routine, you’ll want to start with a clean canvas. Therefore, start off by washing your face with a gentle cleanser.
Then, apply a pea sized amount of tretinoin to your pointer finger. Use your pointer finger to dot this “pea” all over your face. You can actually use another pea-sized amount for your neck, upper chest, and the backs of your hands as well.
You want to apply tretinoin before moisturizer to maximize its anti-aging benefits.
Then, gentle rub in the tretinoin until it is absorbed.
Wait 1-2 minutes, then follow up with a rich moisturizer. You can also layer a facial oil on top of your moisturizer to further nourish your skin and lock in moisture.
What can you use with tretinoin?
Tretinoin can be harsh on skin, so it’s best to use soothing ingredients and hydrating products alongside it.
Hyaluronic acid is a popular hydrating ingredient used in skincare that helps to bind and retain moisture in your skin.
You can use it in conjunction with tretinoin to reduce dryness and maintain skin hydration.
You will commonly find hyaluronic acid in hydrating serums alongside other humectants such as glycerin and allantoin.
Niacinamide is another star ingredient in skincare.
Not only can niacinamide help reduce irritation, but it also helps regulate excess oil production and support your skin barrier function.
In fact, tretinoin and niacinamide together can be a powerful combination to fight dark spots and signs of premature aging!
Your natural skin barrier is supported by ceramides! They help retain moisture.
Therefore, by using moisturizers with ceramides, you can support your skin’s protective barrier and fight irritation.
Peptides are popular anti-aging ingredients in skincare, and they’re safe to use alongside tretinoin.
Just be sure to follow up with a moisturizer afterwards!
Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and protect your skin from environmental damage.
Some popular examples include vitamin E and green tea extract.
You can use antioxidant serums alongside tretinoin, although they’re best used in the morning to protect you from excess UV exposure.
What not to use with tretinoin?
First, you may want to avoid harsh foaming cleansers with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide when using topical tretinoin.
You may also want to avoid using exfoliating acids and vitamin C serum in the same skin routine as tretinoin. By combining these harsh active ingredients, you may cause further irritation and disrupt your skin barrier.
That being said, you can apply vitamin C or another effective acne treatment as part of your morning routine and keep topical retinoids for the evening.
Combining tretinoin with benzoyl peroxide may lead to excessive dryness and irritation. For best results, you may want to use them at different times in the day. Alternatively, you could consider using benzoyl peroxide on nights that you do not use tretinoin.
Similar to benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid can also put you at risk for skin dryness and irritation when layered with tretinoin.
That being said, tretinoin and salicylic acid together can be a winning combination for treating acne.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs, including glycolic acid and lactic acid, have a similar exfoliating effect as tretinoin.
Therefore, you may want to avoid layering them together to avoid causing irritation.
Vitamin C is generally safe to use with tretinoin, but both ingredients are quite drying and can cause skin conditions like barrier disruption and irritation.
You’ll want to keep vitamin C as part of your morning routine and tretinoin in your evening routine.
You should avoid using harsh physical exfoliants, such as scrubs or brushes, in combination with tretinoin.
Instead, gently wash your face with just your hands and apply your products carefully.
Serum before or after tretinoin?
Serums should generally be applied after tretinoin and before your moisturizer.
Because tretinoin is the most important step in your routine, you want to apply it before any serums or moisturizer to avoid reducing your skin’s ability to absorb it.
That being said, tretinoin can be too harsh for some people. In that case, you can apply a thin layer of your hydrating serum or moisturizer before applying tretinoin to reduce irritation.
You can also follow up with another layer of serum and moisturizer after you apply tretinoin. This is also known as “The Sandwhich Method” – get it, because you’re making a tretinoin sandwich?
Summary: Tretinoin Skin Care Routine
In conclusion, your skincare routine with tretinoin should look like this:
Wash your face with water or a gentle cleanser
Apply tretinoin (PM only)
Finish off with a good broad spectrum sunscreen
By following this skincare routine order, you can maximize the efficacy of your tretinoin.