Difference Between Retinol Before and After Moisturizer

The skin needs to be completely dry before the application of retinol. Moreover, one must wait for the product to be completely absorbed before applying the moisturizer.

Retinol after moisturizer entails the application of a layer of moisturizer on the face, followed by the application of retinol after an interim period of at least 20 minutes. This allows the moisturizer to be absorbed by the skin and also prevents retinol burns from occurring on excessively sensitive skin types.

Retinol Before vs After Moisturizer

The difference between retinol before and after moisturizer is their respective techniques of application. Retinol before moisturizer entails the application of a pea-sized dollop of retinol on clean skin, followed by the application of a well-suited moisturizer.

Retinol before vs After moisturizer

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonRetinol Before MoisturizerRetinol After Moisturizer
Technique of ApplicationA pea-sized portion of retinol must be applied to a clean face, followed by a suitable moisturizer.A pea-sized drop of retinol must be applied 20 minutes after the application of a moisturizer.
User SuitabilityRetinol before moisturizer is more suited for experienced users.Retinol after moisturizer is more suited for novice users.
Skin typeSuitable for all skin types, but maybe potentially harmful to sensitive skin.Most suitable for sensitive skin.
Retinol PotencyThe potency of retinol is retained as the skin is completely dry and the product is not diluted.The potency of retinol may be diluted due to the prior application of a moisturizer.
Retinol BurnsRetinol burns- causing redness, flaky skin and irritation- may be produced on excessively sensitive skin.Retinol burns can be effectively avoided by this method of application.

What is Retinol Before Moisturizer?

Retinol is a wonder drug used to rejuvenate one’s skin. As a derivative of vitamin A, retinol belongs to the group of retinoids.

Renowned for its effective anti-aging and skin revitalization qualities, retinol is widely used as a core ingredient in a number of anti-aging creams and serums.

However, there is an everlasting debate about the proper method of using retinol. People are often confused by the issue of determining the right chronological inclusion of retinol in their skincare regimes.

The key question being -should it be applied before or after moisturizing your skin?

Some beauty blogs suggest the correct incorporation of retinol in your skincare routine is before the application of a moisturizer. Begin your skincare routine by washing your face with a suitable face wash or cleanser.

Pat it dry – it is essential that your face retain no dampness at all, for the retinol to effectively work. Take a pea-sized portion of retinol in your palm and massage it onto your face.

If you are a novice user it is always advisable to use retinol in sparing quantities giving your skin time to adjust to the product. Also, one must remember to dry the area before application completely, because if any moisture is left behind, it can enhance skin-irritability after the retinol application.

This risk can also be effectively reduced by the application of a well-suited moisturizer. The moisturizer application after retinol will ensure that your skin remains hydrated.

This is the preferred method of application when your skin has adjusted fully to the new product.

What is Retinol After Moisturizer?

Retinol after moisturizing your skin is equally favorable. Dermatologists have stated that the application of retinol after moisturizing your skin minimally compromises the absorption and efficacy of the product.

This method is often preferred by dermatologists for patients with excessively sensitive skin.

The routine entails washing your face with a well-suited face wash. Apply a skin-type appropriate moisturizer.

The catch here is to let the moisturizer set in and get absorbed into the skin. Do not apply the retinol directly after the moisturization regime.

After an interval of 20 minutes, apply a pea-sized portion of retinol. This will reduce the concentration of the product and prevent possible skin irritation.

Retinol burn can cause severe irritation, redness and flaky skin. The key to preventing such a painful and adverse reaction to the new, strong retinol regime, is to moisturize the skin before the application of the product.

If retinol burns occur among those with sensitive skin, treat them with cleansers and moisturizers. Stop the application of the product until the burns have healed completely.

Main Differences Between Retinol Before and After Moisturizer

  1. The main difference between the application of retinol before and after moisturizer is in terms of the technique of application. While applying retinol prior to moisturizing your face would entail taking a pea-sized amount of the product and applying it on a clean, dry face, followed by a layer of moisturizer, the latter includes the application of retinol at least 20 minutes after the moisturizer has been absorbed into the skin.
  2. Retinol before moisturizer may be better suited for experienced users as the possibility of adverse reactions to the strong retinol formula is avoided due to prolonged usage. Retinol after moisturizer may be better suited for novice users as the skin may take some time to adjust to the product.
  3. For sensitive skin variants, the latter approach may be better suited as it reduces the possibility of skin irritation. For normal skin types, the former may be implemented successfully.
  4. The former approach does not reduce the potency of retinol as the product is not diluted by the moisturizer applied later on. The latter approach may dilute the efficacy of retinol as the moisturizer applied before retinol diluted the product.
  5. Retinol burns can range from skin irritations to redness and flakiness. These may be commonly experienced by people with sensitive skin while using the former method. The latter method reduces the possibilities of retinol burns.
Difference Between Retinol Before and After Moisturizer


  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/412795
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=C3-5DwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT423&dq=Retinol+before+moisturizer&ots=WQzrE6t1Zc&sig=Rh8bJDFug6Xcw_hk09ivxAoA7jE
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