Using Tretinoin

I have been using Tretinoin for a couple of months.  I apply it to a cleansed and dry skin, having been told that the skin must be dry.  I also apply it just before turning the bedroom lights out, as again, I have been told that light effects this product.

However, information on a couple of sites indicates that Tretinoin can be layered with other creams/serums.  Some advise putting the cream on first and the Tretinoin after, others advise putting the Tretinoin on first followed by the cream/serum.

Can you please inform me whether other products can be layered with Tretinoin, and if so, in what sequence and is there any particular way this should be done?

If products can be used, could you advise which would be the best?

Thank you,



  • My understanding is that if you are sensitive to tretinoin (i.e., if it irritates your skin or causes inflammation), you can "buffer" by using a moisturizer before you apply the product.  I use retinol in this way when I am adjusting to it.  It may limit the amount of absorption though, but that is kind of the idea if you are sensitive to it and want to allow your skin to adjust.
  • Thank you, sarahf, for this information.  A great help.

    Currently, I have no skin reaction to tretinoin so don't need a buffer.

    I was wondering if a serum/cream could be layered on top.  My thinking being that  tretinoin may leave the skin more receptive to other anti-aging ingredients.

  • I have been using Tretinion for about 6 months now and have always moisturized immediately after washing my face with a basic moisturizer, waited about half an hour, then layered the Tretinion cream on top. There may be some buffering effect caused by putting on lotion 1st and Tretinion 2nd but the product is definitely still working, as I did have some flaky skin throughout the very first month and then again when I upped the concentration from 0.025% to 0.05%. To me, this order is a lot more comfortable than waiting half an hour after washing my face (as recommended) to apply, as my skin always feels dry after cleansing, especially in the winter. As long as the product is still working (evident by the side-effects), I am happy. I guess it is just personal preference, really. If you are having absolutely no irritation or dryness and are using the Tretinion every day, maybe you can go up in concentration... the higher concentration you can handle, the better the effects.

    I have been doing a lot of research lately about layering other serums/creams with Tretinion, as I would like to incorporate a vitamin C serum and an AHA into my routine. I haven't found any substantial evidence that either of these would cause a negative interaction. The general advice I keep coming across is that it is trial and error with how many anti-aging products your skin can handle without negative effects. If you are able to comfortably apply your products in layers, there doesn't seem to be any reason to not do this.

    Paula's Choise is an awesome resource if there is an ingredient you want to incorporate but aren't sure if it will go poorly when combined with your existing routine. I usually just go to her website (, find a product that she sells which has the same ingredient (retinol, vitamin C, an AHA/BHA, etc.) and go to the "how to use" tab on the product page. She always specifies where in the routine each of her products would fall, since she sells skincare systems that are designed to be combined. If a products shouldn't be combined with something else, that is also something that she mentioned (ex. when using a weekly BHA resurfacing treatment, you are going to want to skip your daily BHA lotion that day). Her articles are also great resources on their own as well.

    I hope this helps!
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