How To Treat Dry Skin Caused From Retin A Use In The Winter

treat retin a dry skin winter

Hi Dr. Bailey!

How can I treat dry skin in winter from Retin A use? I use and enjoy several of the products you recommend on your site. There may be others like me though that get particularly dry in the fall and winter months. I'm a Retin A user and find these times of the year to be more problematic. I'm using the Citrix Antioxidant Sunscreen and the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin. I like them both but don't find them moisturizing enough during the fall and winter months.

Do you have other suggestions? Also, due to the hard economic times that many of us are facing, some good drugstore options might be a great subject for one of your articles!

Thanks in advance,

Hello Robin,

This is a great question and one that many Retin A (tretinoin) users have in the winter.  I'm just back from visiting family in the warm Southern Hemisphere and your question is a great one to jump into now that the weather is definitely cold here at home in the Northern Hemisphere.

It's hard to know exactly why your particular skin is getting dry during the winter when you use Retin A, but in general, it's the exfoliation of Retin A that causes the problem.

dr cynthia bailey's tips for retin a useThe exfoliation one gets with Retin A makes skin more sensitive to chapping from cold, dry, windy weather. - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey

With my patients I often find that if we just change the cleansing step of their skin care regimen we can control the chapping.

Using a gentle pH balanced facial cleanser is the most important tip to avoiding dry skin from Retin A in winter.

This is because most cleansers are just too drying for Retin A treated skin.  I recommend to my Retin A patients that they avoid foaming cleansers, especially those with the sodium laurel sulfate family of ingredients.  I tell them that if an ingredient in their cleanser sounds like sodium laurel sulfate then they should avoid the product. 

Cleansers with sodium laurel sulfate or related foaming agents may be too drying for tretinoin users in the winter.

best facial cleanser for retin a users in winter

Pick sulfate free cleansers for facial cleansing. My two favorite cleansers for Retin A treated skin are my Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser and Calming Zinc Soap Calming Zinc soap is best for people suffering from facial redness due to seborrhea or rosacea. Both cleansers contain glycerin, which is very hydrating.  These are both very affordable and a little goes a long way so the products will last a long time. Neutrogena's Extra Gentle Cleanser is a drug store option.

Using the right products to control dryness and fight irritation are important to success with tretinoin in winter.

best face cream to fight dryness from tretinoin

My Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy contain hyaluronic acid which binds a huge amount of water to the skin.  They are very effective at helping people tolerate Retin A, but Green Tea Therapy is an investment.  The anti-inflammatory characteristics of these remarkable products also help to sooth slightly chapped skin and thus help with Retin A tolerance during the. 

Using a moisturizer that protects and heals any early skin dryness is important for Retin A use. 

best face cream to use with retin a tretinoin

Pick the cream that is right for your skin type. It can be applied on top of Green Tea Therapy.  In my practice, patients use one of my Daily Face Creams. I have a Daily Daily Moisturizing Face Cream.  

Drug store options include Cetephil Restoraderm, DML Forte Cream and Vanicream.  I really do prefer the Daily Moisturizing Face Creams over these other options though.

Get everything you need for successfully using tretinoin in my Complete Skin Care Kit!

best skin care routine to prevent retin a dry skin

I created this kit as a 'turn-key' solution for almost everyone's skin care routine. It's what I use in my practice for my tretinoin patients and these are the exact products that I use myself to support tretinoin use on my own sensitive complexion. My kit includes the perfect broad spectrum zinc oxide sunscreen. All of the products are ideal for sensitive skin - like yours and mine!

Learn everything you need to know in my guide about how to use and layer tretinoin with other skincare products.

It's important to understand that some winter climates are so harsh that using Retin A becomes too problematic.  Options include stopping the Retin A during the cold/dry winter or using it much less frequently.  This will allow the dead skin cells to build back up and protect the skin from severely irritating climactic conditions.  In a prior blog post I go over some more of my tips for successfully using Retin A.

I hope that helps,
Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist

Disclaimer: Please realize that availing yourself of the opportunity to submit and receive answers to your questions from Dr. Bailey does not confer a doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Bailey. The information provided by Dr. Bailey is general health information inspired by your question. It should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem (and is not an extension of the care Dr. Bailey has provided in her office for existing patients of her practice). Never ignore your own doctor’s advice because of something you read here; this information is for general informational purpose only.