The Best Moisturizers to Use After a Retinol

November 11, 2022
Sarah Ferguson
By: Sarah Ferguson | by L'Oréal
Bird’s eye view of cotton swabs, moisturizer bottle, and cotton balls on a marble counter
We don’t typically recommend trying any skincare product without doing your research first, and this is especially true with retinol. The powerful ingredient offers numerous skin benefits (it can help treat acne, prevent and minimize signs of aging and even out skin tone and texture), but when used incorrectly, it can also cause irritation and dryness. That’s why using a nourishing moisturizer after a retinol product is key. To find out what to look for in a post-retinol moisturizer, we asked Dr. Caren Campbell, a San Francisco-based board-certified dermatologist for her best tips. 

How to Use Retinol

To prevent and minimize adverse effects, it’s important to ease into retinol and choose a formula with a low percentage of the ingredient to start. This is a process called retinizing the skin. “I always encourage patients to go ‘low and slow’ with retinol,” says Dr. Campbell. “This means using a pea-sized amount one to two nights per week and then upping the frequency every two to four weeks as tolerated.” 

Why Applying a Moisturizer Is a Must Post-Retinol

Even if you go “low and slow,” retinol can be drying, especially as your skin gets used to it. “Moisturize on top of the retinol to help with the dryness, especially around the mouth, which is where many patients experience the most significant irritation and dryness,” says Dr. Campbell. 

What to Look for in a Post-Retinol Moisturizer

Dr. Campbell recommends looking for hydrating and skin-strengthening formulas with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, peptides and ceramides in your moisturizer. Hyaluronic acid is the ultimate hydrator, she says, while products with ceramides help restore the skin barrier and lock in moisture. 

She also suggests using a formula that’s fragrance-free (to prevent further irritation) and non-comedogenic (to avoid clogging pores).

Moisturizers to Use After Retinol

With Dr. Campbell’s recommendations in mind, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite moisturizing formulas to apply after retinol.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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