Hello Dr. Bailey, Layering skin care products with dimethicone is something I am wondering about. My moisturizer contains dimethicone and I am just wondering if that would prevent the tretinoin (Retin A) that I use from penetrating my skin? Should I apply tretinoin first then my moisturizer? Does it really matter if I apply it before or after the tretinoin? Thank you very much for your time. Sincerely, Rui
This is an excellent question. The skin care products that you apply, and their ingredients, do affect each other in a number of ways. Absorption is one of them. We layer products because some ingredients can't be placed together in the same bottle, tube or jar.
The layering order of skin care products is important to product results, but it's also difficult to be absolutely certain that we know what's actually going on at the skin level. That's because it's not possible to study all the product or ingredient combinations. At some point, we have to think things through with general scientific principles as best we can.
As a general rule I recommend water-based skin care products first and thicker/oil-based products last.
Individual ingredient combinations need to be considered one at a time.
4 benefits of dimethicone in skin care?
- Dimethicone is added to skin care products because it helps them to glide nicely over your skin.
- A little dimethicone on your skin also gives it a wonderful silky feel and softens the appearance of fine wrinkles.
- It improves your skin's ability to retain moisture and helps to protect it from irritation.
- Dimethicone may even slightly improve the thickness of the top living layer of your skin called the epidermis.
Because it acts as a barrier however, dimethicone can affect Retin A penetration into the skin. It depends on how much dimethicone is in the product though. Products with a large amount of dimethicone could well block tretinoin if they are applied first. Products with a very small amount of dimethicone, like in most moisturizers including the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream Oily/Normal or Dry/Normal. I have built thousands of skin care routines with these creams and have never found them to have any practical effect on Retin A penetration.
If you have any doubts about your products, you can always test them because Retin A will irritate your skin every now and then if it's penetrating. When I help my patients figure out this product combination, I tell them that if they're on the strongest level of Retin A cream and they never get irritated then either they have really tough skin or something they are doing before application of the Retin A may be affecting it's penetration.
For example, I personally use the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin, which has a little dimethicone in it. The order that I use to layer my evening skin care products is Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin, I wait 15 minutes or more then I apply my tretinoin (RetinA). I can and do get very chapped from Retin A from time to time and so I know that the Retin A is getting through the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream.
Apply moisturizer before tretinoin not after tretinoin
There is no point in applying your moisturizer after Retin A because moisturizers need to be applied immediately after toweling your skin dry in order for them to work. Retin A on the other hand is to be applied after waiting 15 or more minutes after toweling dry and applying other products (including your moisturizer). This is why I apply my moisturizer, wait 15 minutes or more and then apply my Retin A last.
Another alternative is to use a retinol product because it is less irritating that tretinoin but has all the same retinoid benefits for fighting skin aging. Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream comes in two strengths and the higher one has the highest allowed concentration of retinol allowed. (Always start on the lower strength first.) It also has the same green tea antioxidants as my Green Tea Cream. I alternate it with tretinoin (or use it more often than tretinoin since it is easier) and apply it right after cleansing my face, neck and chest at night. I then layer my Daily Face Cream on top. As of this update in 2020 I admit I have switched to the Daily Face Cream Dry to Normal and boost it with my Omega Face Booster Oil now that I am 61! That's 34 years of using a nightly retinoid cream and my skin looks younger than my joints feel!
This was a great question that shows you understand quite a lot about skin care ingredients. I hope my answer helped.
Cynthia Bailey MD, Dermatologist
If you have questions about skin care or skin health please send them to me using the Contact Dr. Bailey button at the top of the page. 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.