How to Use Tretinoin Cream with Moisturizer – Follow These 5 Steps

  • Elle 
How to Use Tretinoin Cream with Moisturizer

Tretinoin is a retinoid that is commonly used to treat acne-prone skin and promote anti-aging effects. It is a highly effective treatment, with studies indicating that topical retinoid treatment improves acne with just mild to moderate adverse effects.

Using a moisturizer in conjunction with tretinoin is one of the most efficient ways to keep your skin hydrated. But how should you use tretinoin cream with moisturizer?

How to Use Tretinoin Cream with Moisturizer

1 – Wash your face with a mild cleanser.

2 – Apply a pea-sized amount of tretinoin to the affected area.

3 – Gently massage the cream into your skin in a circular motion.

4 – Wait 10-15 minutes for tretinoin cream to fully absorb.

5 – Finish by applying your moisturizer.

How Tretinoin Works – An Overview

Tretinoin is the blanket term for vitamin A-based medicine. This topical medication is available in both topical and oral forms. However, specialists will only recommend it topically.

Tretinoin aids in the management of acne, as it was initially licensed as a topical acne treatment. On the other hand, orally administered tretinoin is a treatment option for Promyelocytic leukemia that is severe.

This topical remedy is marketed under a variety of brand names, including Retin-A.

Along with treating acne, tretinoin promotes skin peeling, which can aid in unclogging pores.

Moreover, it was also formulated specifically for sensitive, irritated skin.

Is It Safe?

While the adverse effects may appear frightening, tretinoin cream is considered to be extremely secure for the skin. It has been used by dermatologists all over the world to improve patient’s skin health for decades, and it’s thought to be less invasive than other procedures.

Before making any decisions, it is advisable to consult with your dermatologist about the best course of therapy for you.

How Frequently Should Tretinoin Be Used?

For the best results, apply tretinoin to your skin only once daily. Creams carrying tretinoin are extremely concentrated. We recommend applying tretinoin during the night to avoid discomfort from the sunlight and daily activities.

While using this product, heat and light can make your skin more sensitive. As a result, we recommend that you purchase a high-quality moisturizer that also contains sunscreen.

While your skin adjusts to the medication, you can increase the frequency of application.

How to Use Tretinoin Cream with Moisturizer 

  1. Consult a doctor or dermatologist
  2. Wash your face prior to application
  3. Dry skin with a clean towel
  4. Apply a pea-sized amount of tretinoin – allow to dry
  5. Apply moisturizer after allowing tretinoin to be fully absorbed

Step 1: Start by Consulting a Dermatologist

The majority of tretinoin use requires a prescription unless you’re using Differin, which is accessible over the counter (in the US).  

But, if you wish to take tretinoin cream, you might want to consult a dermatologist first. Talk to them about the dangers, side effects, and benefits or any other queries that you might have.

If you notice any irritation to tretinoin cream, inform your doctor right away. This might be an allergic reaction. Additionally, let your dermatologist know if you are allergic to fish, as it may induce a reaction. Also, mention if you are pregnant.

Step 2: Wash Your Face Before Application

wash face

Use a mild soap or cleanser to wash your face. For better results, use a gentle cleanser or soap that is alcohol-free and has minimum to no exfoliating ingredients. Also, continue to avoid harsh soaps or products with synthetic fragrances.

While using tretinoin, you can also put additional acne treatments such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide cleansers and toners.

Step 3: Blot Skin Dry

Blot face dry

Use a clean towel to blot your face until dry.

Step 4: Apply a Small Portion

Pea sized amount of tretinoin

A pea-sized amount should be applied in a thin layer over your entire face. If you use a larger dose, then it will cause severe irritation to your skin. Spread the cream and gently massage it evenly throughout your entire face with your fingertips. 

Avoid getting cream in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or anywhere else that has been exposed to sun damage.

Step 5: Tretinoin First → Then Moistruizer

Apply moisturizer

There is conflict over whether to apply moisturizer prior to or following tretinoin cream application. Experiment with both and choose the one that feels the most comfortable.

But, it is mostly recommended to apply the tretinoin cream initially, then moisturizer afterward.

Try to wait around 10-15 minutes before applying your moisturizer. You want to ensure that your tretinoin treatment is completely absorbed into your skin. And then, use any other moisturizing cream to ensure that it does its job effectively.

Due to the fact that this skin care routine is quite drying, the more moisturized your skin is, the better your outcomes will be. So, select a moisturizer made specifically for sensitive skin that contains soothing ingredients.

Positive and Negative Side Effects of Using Tretinoin Cream with Moisturizer

No matter how good something is, it will still not be good for everyone.

Maintaining proper skin hydration while on tretinoin is critical for optimal outcomes.

Remember, while side effects may be inconvenient, they are not always harmful, which is why we’ve also included both the positive and negative effects of applying tretinoin with other skincare products.


With regular use, skincare ingredients in tretinoin may help clear existing acne and reduce the number and severity of acne outbreaks and dead skin cells. But obviously, it depends on the skin type. Other advantages include –

  • Minimizes the appearance of fine wrinkles
  • Enhances the health of sun-damaged skin 
  • Dark spots are diminished in appearance
  • Stimulates collagen production, treating acne
  • Removes dead cells
  • Has hyaluronic acid, which helps to retain moisture in the skin


85% of individuals suffer irritation side effects at the start of their treatment (after 1-2 weeks of tretinoin usage). However, the suffering can be minimized by the daily application of gentle moisturizer. Keep in mind to wear sunscreen as well.

Negative side effects may include –

  • Blistering and rash on the skin
  • Swelling and skin flaking
  • Temporary alteration of the skin’s pigmentation
  • Lips that be chapped or dry
  • Heat and light sensitivity

Risks Involved 

While moisturizers may provide relief, using them with tretinoin may cause additional skin irritation or injury. Tretinoin-treated skin should avoid the following:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Resorcinol
  • Vitamin C

Additionally, sun protection is the most critical component in any skin care routine that incorporates tretinoin. If tretinoin users get sunburn, they should wait at least 24 hours before reusing the medication. And if not, it will feel as though you are tossing another log onto a fire; it will burn.

Additionally, Retin A may cause an adverse reaction when combined with other topical drugs, particularly those containing sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid. Because topical Retin-A is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, breastfeeding is generally considered safe.

But, while tretinoin does have some unwanted effects, the advantages tend to outweigh the detriments.

To avoid harmful interactions, inform your healthcare professional about all medications you use, whether topical or over-the-counter.

What Happens If You Stop Using Tretinoin?

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I put tretinoin on before or after moisturizer?

When starting treatment, apply moisturizer immediately following the liquid form of tretinoin application to minimize any irritation. Once your skin has adjusted, you can keep tretinoin on for around 20 minutes before using a moisturizer.

Can I use tretinoin every night?

While it is acceptable to use tretinoin every night, you may not want to do so at first because of the potential for severe adverse effects or further irritation. To avoid severe skin irritation and dry skin, it is critical to use tretinoin exactly as advised.

How do I know tretinoin is working?

After 4-6 weeks, your skin will develop a tolerance for tretinoin and will appear substantially smoother and more even. Much of the initial sensitivity will subside, and your skin will undergo complete retinization.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it, everything you need to know about using tretinoin cream with a moisturizer. We are certain that if you’ve made it this far, you now have a firm grasp on how to combine these skincare products for optimal outcomes.

Whether you are using tretinoin to treat acne or to improve the appearance of your skin, you must not forget to moisturize. Keeping your skin hydrated following the mentioned treatment will assist in alleviating irritation and ensuring optimal results.

However, you’ve learned that there are certain adverse effects associated with tretinoin use, but the benefits appear to exceed the drawbacks.

So, before making any decisions, we recommend speaking with your specialist and discussing the optimal treatment alternatives.

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