Skincare Stacy

Skincare Stacy
Should you apply tretinoin before or after moisturizer?

Should you apply tretinoin before or after moisturizer?

For maximizing benefits, you should apply tretinoin before moisturizer in your nightly skincare routine.

Topical tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, is a popular prescription acne and anti-aging treatment.

However, using tretinoin can also cause side effects like skin irritation and dryness.

By using a good moisturizer along with tretinoin, you can protect your natural moisture barrier and keep your skin healthy.

This article will explain everything you need to know about applying tretinoin with moisturizer.

Benefits of Applying Tretinoin Before Moisturizer

Sunday Riley ICE Ceramide Moisturizing Cream

Tretinoin is an effective topical acne treatment.

However, it can also cause irritation, particularly for people with sensitive skin or dry skin.

Factors to Consider When Applying Tretinoin

Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream

There are a number of factors to consider when using tretinoin, such as:

  • Your skin type

  • Frequency

  • Other ingredients in your skincare routine

  • How to avoid the side effects of tretinoin

Skin Types

Topical retinoids are the strongest skincare treatment that most people will use in their lifetimes.

Because they are so strong, they can be particularly hard to tolerate for people with dry or sensitive skin.

If this sounds like you, be careful to avoid using too much tretinoin or using it too frequently to start.


Depending on your skin type and individual sensitivities, you should start by using tretinoin 2-3 nights per week to give your skin time to adapt.

After a few weeks, you can steadily increase the frequency until you reach about 5-6 nights per week.

Consistent usage of tretinoin is essential for treating acne and aging, so be sure to take your time and do it right.

Other Ingredients in Your Skincare Routine

You should avoid layering certain ingredients with tretinoin such as:

  • Salicylic acid

  • Benzoyl peroxide

  • Alpha hydroxy acids

  • Vitamin C

Because these ingredients can cause excessive dryness, it’s best to avoid using tretinoin with them so you don’t develop any negative side effects.

Avoiding the Side Effects

While tretinoin is a popular ingredient used to treat acne and fine wrinkles, it can also cause peeling skin, dryness, and potential irritation.

Therefore, your tretinoin skincare routine should include a hydrating serum and gentle moisturizer.

Benefits of Tretinoin

Tretinoin .05%

When you apply tretinoin cream, you essentially tell your body “make me newer, younger skin”.

This process has benefits like:

  • Turning over dead skin cells

  • Fighting dark spots and uneven skin tone

  • Reducing fine lines and wrinkles

In fact, tretinoin users will frequently tell you that tretinoin is one of the best anti-acne and anti-aging treatments out there.

How to Choose a Moisturizer to Use with Tretinoin

Medik8 Advanced Ceramide Night Cream

The best moisturizers to use with tretinoin are formulated with skin-loving ingredients like:

  • Hyaluronic acid

  • Ceramides

  • Niacinamide

  • Shea butter

These ingredients help support your skin barrier and fight the dryness typically associated with using tretinoin.

How to Layer Tretinoin in Your Skincare Routine

FaceTheory Relaxing Night Cream M10 PRO

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 while layering your tretinoin treatment with other products will ensure that you get the maximum anti-aging and anti-acne benefits while still keeping your skin healthy.

How long should you wait to apply moisturizer after tretinoin cream?

Naturium Marshmallow Root Barrier Balm

You should wait to apply moisturizer after tretinoin for between 2 and 20 minutes.

This time will allow the tretinoin to fully absorb into your skin.

Then, applying moisturizer will add essential fatty acids and hydration back into your skin to prevent excessive dryness.

How to Apply Tretinoin

To apply tretinoin correctly, start by washing your face with a gentle cleanser.

Then, dispense a pea-sized amount of tretinoin onto your pointer finger, and dot it all over your face.

Gently rub in the tretinoin until absorbed.

Finish off by applying a layer of your favorite moisturizer.

If you have particularly dry skin, you can also consider layering some facial oil on top as well.

Summary: do you apply tretinoin before or after moisturizer?

Naturium Intense Overnight Sleeping Cream

To maximize results, you should apply tretinoin before your moisturizer.

However, there is no definitive right or wrong method as there are pros and cons to both.

In fact, the best practice with skincare is to pay attention to your body’s response.

For example, if applying tretinoin cream first causes irritation for you, try buffering it with moisturizer beforehand.

Or, you can alternate between the two methods to analyze what works best for your skin.

Overall, the goal is to maximize the benefits of tretinoin while still keeping your skin healthy.

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