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9 Best Serums To Use With Tretinoin Based On Your Skin Condition

Source: Biossance
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What serum to use with tretinoin? This is one of the most common concerns tretinoin users have, so let’s get straight to the point. We’ve made a list of the best serums to use with tretinoin. We’ve selected serums that kill two birds with one stone: they contain soothing ingredients to alleviate the side effects of tretinoin and address various skin conditions so you get the best results. But first, let’s sort out some facts about tretinoin creams.

What is tretinoin cream and how to use one

Tretinoin is a retinoid (a derivative of vitamin A) that accelerates cell renewal—the skin’s natural cycle of shedding dead cells. What does that mean? Well, think that the renewed skin feels much smoother, firmer, and softer, and also shows fewer fine lines and acne breakouts.

But there is one concern with tretinoin: It is concentrated and can sometimes be too harsh on the skin. That’s because it reveals newer skin layers that are more vulnerable to irritation and redness. This sensitivity sticks around until your skin becomes acclimated to the tretinoin, a process that might stretch over a few weeks. During this time, it is essential to use soothing products that work to recover your skin. 

Stick to the basics while you’re on a tretinoin treatment: a sulfate-free cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Tretinoin puts your skin through a lot, so piling on more active ingredients can lead to irritation. Also, use tretinoin cream at night and avoid spending too much time in the sun the next day, as it can make your skin more sensitive to UV damage

Is it OK to use a serum with tretinoin cream?

When it comes to serums, it’s a bit hit or miss. If you choose it right, it can provide additional benefits and help relieve the irritation and dryness caused by tretinoin. But the wrong one? It can worsen the side effects and prevent your skin from healing. You can’t pick a random serum and expect it to work well with tretinoin. This leads us to the next section:

Which serum works best with tretinoin cream?

If your skin is sensitive or you never had a tretinoin treatment before, it’s best to use a gentle serum to soothe your skin and ease irritation and redness. Look for serums that contain anti-inflammatory and hydrating ingredients. Think of ceramides, amino acids, niacinamide, and Centella asiatica. But if your skin is not on the sensitive side, you can pick a serum that addresses your specific skin issues. For instance, if your goal is to smooth out fine lines, try a serum with peptides for an extra anti-aging boost. And if you’re dealing with acne or large pores, a serum with zinc and niacinamide can control excess sebum and reduce inflammation.

Which serums should you avoid?

While following tretinoin treatment, steer clear of products that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfates, fragrances, alcohol, and other retinoids. Also, avoid silicone-based products before layering tretinoin because it can reduce its effectiveness. 

Serum before or after tretinoin?

You can use the serum either before or after tretinoin. If you find the tretinoin too harsh and need to buffer it first, use the serum and moisturizer first and then finish with the tretinoin cream.

For a more intense and effective treatment, however, start with tretinoin, wait 10 minutes, then follow with serum and then moisturizer. Whichever application method you choose, make sure your skin is cleansed (use a sulfate-free cleanser) before applying tretinoin cream. 

The best serums to use with tretinoin

Assuming you already have a moisturizer to use with tretinoin, now it’s time to choose your serum. We’ve selected a range of serums for different budgets and skin conditions that work well with tretinoin cream.

Best to reduce tretinoin side effects

Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum

Redness and “tretinoin burns” are common side effects of tretinoin, and Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum proves to have the perfect blend of ingredients to address these irritations head-on. The serum is made of five ceramides, which are natural emollients that fill the cracks in the skin and provide an instant sense of comfort. There’s also avocado butter, which is rich in fatty acids that deliver similar effects as ceramides, and allantoin and rice milk that soothe sensitivities and reduce redness. Moreover, this nourishing serum has a milky lightweight texture that absorbs instantly and doesn’t leave sticky residues. All in all, it’s one of the best serums to use with tretinoin, whether you’re dealing with all-too-familiar “tretinoin burns” or just want something to comfort your skin.

Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum

Best for acne and oily skin

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is one of the best serums to use with tretinoin to tackle acne and control oily skin. This serum has two main stars: niacinamide and zinc. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that does a little bit of everything. It calms skin, shrinks pores, and makes skin smoother. It also makes the skin’s outer layer stronger, which is good when you’re using tretinoin. Zinc, on the other hand, reduces redness and controls oil, which means fewer acne breakouts and healthier skin that heals faster after tretinoin.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Best for dry skin

StriVectin Hyaluronic Dual-Response Serum

Does tretinoin leave your skin dry and tight? StriVectin Hyaluronic Dual-Response Serum is one of the best choices to reduce these tretinoin side effects and recover skin hydration. It has three forms of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and lots of other ingredients that draw in moisture. Still, the best feature of this serum is NIA-114 (myristyl nicotinate). This is a form of vitamin B3 similar to niacinamide that you’ll only find in StriVectin productsStudies have shown that NIA-114 can reduce skin damage and enhance the tolerability of tretinoin, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

StriVectin Hyaluronic Dual-Response Serum

Best for aging signs

The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum

The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum is great to add to your tretinoin routine, especially if you’re fighting signs of aging. It makes your skin heal quicker and boosts the anti-aging effects of tretinoin, all while giving you a moisture boost to tackle tretinoin dryness. This serum works its magic with peptides and amino acids. These ingredients help your skin make more collagen and elastin. That’s a big plus for tretinoin users, as these proteins help your skin repair and stay supple.

The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum

Best for sensitive skin

Aveeno Calm + Restore Triple Oat Serum

All Redditors recommend this serum for use with tretinoin, and we’re in the same boat. The serum has three kinds of oat kernels rich in ceramides, which are fats that help the skin hold moisture and repair itself. This makes it one of the best choices to use with tretinoin. The serum is light, perfect for sensitive skin, and has no fragrances or alcohol. It quickly soothes and heals the skin after tretinoin.

Aveeno Calm + Restore™ Triple Oat Serum

Best for large pores

Allies of Skin Prebiotics and Niacinamide Pore Refining Booster

This serum is made with 10% niacinamide, Centella asiatica and goji berry, which work in tandem with tretinoin to promote smoother, clearer skin. The high concentration of niacinamide is key to reducing pore size, while Centella asiatica soothes irritation and goji berry provides antioxidant protection. In addition, the serum is made with a probiotic complex that maintains a healthy skin barrier and microbiome, which are essential for reducing the harsh effects of tretinoin.

Allies Of Skin Prebiotics & Niacinamide Pore Refining Booster

Best unscented

Purito Centella Unscented Serum

This serum is perfect for tretinoin users because it has a blend of 49% Centella asiatica extract, ceramide, and peptides. These three help heal skin, lessen swelling, and fight off dryness. It also has niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, asiaticoside, and madecassic acid to keep your skin moist, which is super important when using tretinoin. What’s more, this serum is free from fragrances, alcohol, parabens, and any harsh stuff that could upset your skin.

Purito Centella Unscented Serum

Best natural

Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Serum

This serum is built around squalane and copper peptides, which are some of the best ingredients to pair with tretinoin. Squalane is like your skin’s natural oil, making your complexion soft and moist. Copper peptides help your skin make more collagen and elastin, which are like building blocks for strong skin. This serum also has lots of plant extracts to add moisture, refresh, and soothe your skin. Plus, its jelly texture soaks in fast without feeling sticky or tacky.

Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum

Best affordable

Cos De Baha Galactomyces 94% Skin Repair Serum

You might not have heard of it, but galactomyces, which makes up 94% of this serum, is amazing for your skin. It helps keep your skin moist and boosts the production of hyaluronic acid, which speeds up healing. The serum also has 2% niacinamide, which calms your skin and helps with any dryness or irritation that can come from using tretinoin. Plus, both galactomyces and niacinamide can make your skin brighter, so this serum could be great if you want to improve your skin tone.

Cos De Baha Galactomyces 94% Treatment Essence Serum

Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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