These Are The 4 Best Moisturizers To Use With Retinol Cream, According To A Dermatologist

Dermatologists love them.

Originally Published: 
best moisturizers to use with retinol cream

Because of its ability to treat acne, reduce fine lines, and fade hyperpigmentation, retinol is considered to be, by many, the holy grail of skin care ingredients. But, like most things in life, that miracle-working can come at a price. "[Retinol creams] can definitely be drying and irritating," says Dr. Hadley King, a dermatologist in NYC. "So you are likely to need to use moisturizers, particularly during the winter or in other low-humidity environments." Luckily, the best moisturizers to use with retinol cream are fairly easy to spot — if you know what to look for.

According to Dr. King, you want to look for what she calls "bland moisturizers." That means a moisturizer that only hydrates — and not much else, because, as she explains, "the retinoid will already be doing the work." Humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are key ingredients to look out for because they actually pull moisture from the air and hold it against your skin. "But you definitely need an emollient to lock in the moisture, or the humectant can make your skin even drier if it attracts water from your skin and then evaporates," Dr. King says. Emollients to keep an eye out for are shea butter, coconut oil, bee's wax, and ceramides.

As far as ingredients to avoid? Stay away from alpha or beta hydroxy acids for a couple of reasons. "They'll probably be too irritating if you're already using retinoids," Dr. King says. What's worse? They may actually de-activate the retinoid, which defeats the purpose of using one. So keep your moisturizers simple, and you'll be in good shape.

One important note: if you're not going to buy a moisturizer with SPF in it, be sure to apply sunscreen each morning, as retinol can make your skin extremely sensitive to the sun.

Ahead, find four of the best moisturizers to use with a retinol cream.


The Best Cream Moisturizer To Use With Retinol Cream

According to Dr. King, the best moisturizer to pair with a retinol is CeraVe's Moisturizing Cream. Why? "It's non-comedogenic but very moisturizing," she says. So even if you've got the oiliest skin on the planet, this rich cream won't clog your pores. It's also chock-full of ceramides, one of the emollients that Dr. King suggests to keep the moisturizer locked in your skin. The fragrance-free formula also contains hyaluronic acid, an all-star ingredient known for its ability to hold 1000 its weight in water. It's oil-free and hypoallergenic, too, so basically, no matter what your skin type is, you can't go wrong with this stuff.


The Best Gel Moisturizer To Use With Retinol Cream

Moisturizer doesn't have to break the bank. Case-in-point: Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Water Gel. Its main hydrator is hyaluronic acid, which Dr. King counts as one of the best moisturizers for use with retinol. It's non-comedogenic, oil-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free, so it's about as basic a moisturizer as you can get. And it's a lightweight gel, so it's great if you've got oily skin. If you're looking for a cooling sensation, you can pop this jar in the fridge to keep the gel nice and crisp.


The Best French Pharmacy Moisturizer To Use With Retinol Cream

Another product Dr. King recommends is Vichy's Aqualia Thermal Rich cream because of its ability to soothe your skin. That's thanks to the mineral-rich thermal water in the formula, which comes from Auvergne, France. Not only does it help calm skin that might be irritated from the retinol, but it also keeps your skin moisturized for up to 48 (!!!) hours. It's oil-free, silicone-free, and paraben-free, which makes it suitable for folks with sensitive skin, too — and who doesn't love a good French pharmacy product?


The Best Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen To Use With Retinol Cream

It's super important to use sunscreen with a retinol cream, because it can make you more photo-sensitive. If you love a good two-in-one moisturizer/sunscreen combo, it doesn't get any better than the cult-favorite EltaMD UV Daily Sunscreen. Not only does it have a nice, high SPF of 40, but it's also intensely moisturizing, thanks in large part to the hyaluronic acid in the formula. This is one of the most highly recommended facial sunscreens from dermatologists, and it has a near-perfect rating with over 1,000 reviews.

TZR may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from The Zoe Report's editorial and sales departments.

This article was originally published on