Tretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, is a powerful ingredient that has been proven effective in treating acne, fine lines, and wrinkles. However, its strength can also cause skin irritation and dryness, making it crucial to pair it with a moisturizer. The question remains, should you apply moisturizer before or after tretinoin?

In this blog, we will explore the benefits of moisturizing with tretinoin, the different methods of moisturizing with tretinoin, the right order of layering skincare products, and the importance of choosing the right moisturizer. By the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of how to properly moisturize during your tretinoin skincare routine and achieve the best results for your skin.

Why Moisturizers are a Must with Tretinoin

Tretinoin works by increasing cell turnover and stimulating collagen production, which helps to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and acne. However, this process can also lead to skin dryness, flakiness, and irritation. That’s why using a moisturizer is essential when using tretinoin.

Moisturizers help to restore the skin’s natural barrier and prevent water loss, keeping the skin hydrated and reducing the risk of irritation. In addition to hydrating the skin, moisturizers can also improve the skin’s texture, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. By using a moisturizer with tretinoin, you can achieve the best results while minimizing the side effects.

The Right Order: Tretinoin Before or After Moisturizer?

Generally, it’s best to apply tretinoin before moisturizing. This is because these products are designed to penetrate deep into the skin, and applying moisturizer first can create a barrier that can prevent the tretinoin from being absorbed properly.

However, if you have sensitive skin or are new to using it, you may want to use the moisturizer sandwich method described below in this article to minimize any side effects. It’s also important to note that you should always wear tretinoin-safe sunscreen during the day when using tretinoin, as these ingredients can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

By using tretinoin before moisturizing and protecting your skin with sunscreen, you can maximize the benefits of these powerful skincare ingredients. Follow the steps below to use your tretinoin before or after moisturizer.

1. How to do the Tretinoin “Sandwich Method”

If you are new to tretinoin, your skin may need time to adjust to the treatment. One way to minimize the side effects of tretinoin is to use the moisturizer “sandwich method.” This method involves applying moisturizer before and after tretinoin to create a protective barrier on the skin and prevent dryness and irritation.

To use the moisturizer sandwich method, first, wash your face with a gentle cleanser and pat it dry. Next, apply a moisturizer to your face, focusing on any areas that are prone to dryness or irritation. Wait a few minutes for the moisturizer to absorb into the skin, then apply a small amount of tretinoin to your face, avoiding the eye area and any sensitive areas.

Lastly, wait a few more minutes for the tretinoin to absorb, then apply another layer of moisturizer. By using this method, you can ease your skin into the tretinoin treatment and minimize any side effects.

2. Apply Moisturizer After Tretinoin You are a Seasoned Tretinoin User

Once your skin has acclimated to tretinoin, you may not need to use the moisturizer sandwich method anymore. Instead, you can apply moisturizer after tretinoin to help lock in moisture and protect your skin.

To apply moisturizer after tretinoin, wait at least 20-30 minutes after applying tretinoin to allow it to fully absorb into the skin. Then, apply a pea-sized amount of moisturizer to your face, focusing on any areas that are prone to dryness or irritation.

Use a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer that won’t clog your pores or cause further irritation. It’s essential to use a moisturizer every day, whether you are using tretinoin or not, to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.

Using The Right Moisturizer For Tretinoin

When using tretinoin, it’s important to choose the right moisturizer for it. Not all moisturizers are created equal, and some may be too heavy, too greasy, or contain ingredients that can clog pores and cause further irritation. Look for a moisturizer that is oil-free, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free.

A lightweight, gel-based moisturizer may be a good option for those with oily or acne-prone skin, while a thicker, cream-based moisturizer may be better for those with dry or sensitive skin. Some moisturizers also contain ingredients that can complement the benefits of tretinoin, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide.

These ingredients can help to hydrate the skin, improve the skin’s texture, and reduce inflammation. Always patch-test a new moisturizer before applying it to your face, and if you experience any irritation or allergic reactions, discontinue use immediately. By choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type and needs, you can enhance the benefits of tretinoin and achieve healthy, glowing skin.


Using tretinoin and other vitamin A derivatives like retinoids and retinol can greatly improve the appearance and health of your skin. However, it’s crucial to use these products correctly to minimize any potential side effects and maximize their benefits.

Applying moisturizer after tretinoin, using the moisturizer sandwich method, and using the right order of retinol or retinoid before or after moisturizer are all important factors to consider when incorporating these powerful ingredients into your skincare routine.

Additionally, it’s crucial to wear sunscreen during the day when using these products to protect your skin from sun damage. By following these tips and being patient with your skin’s adjustment period, you can achieve smoother, more youthful-looking skin.

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