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

Hi Dr. Bailey!

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, the exfoliation one gets with Retin A makes skin more sensitive to chapping from cold, dry, windy weather. With my patients I often find that if we just change the cleansing step of their skin care regimen we can control the chapping. 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.  My two favorite cleansers for Retin A treated skin are Toleriane Cleanser and Noble Zinc Soap.  Both 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 that is fairly similar to the Toleriane Cleanser.

Using the right moisturizer is also important for controlling chapped Retin A treated skin. My two Replenix Creams contain hyaluronic acid which binds a huge amount of water to the skin.  They are very effective at helping people tolerate Retin A, but Replenix Cream 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.  Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin is more hydrating than the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin and can be applied on top of Replenix Cream.  Neither of the Daily Moisturizing Face Creams are very expensive.  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.

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.

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4 Responses to “How To Treat Dry Skin Caused From Retin A Use In The Winter”

  1. Robin December 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks for the great article! Can you tell us how to use the Replenix Cream and Moisturizer with the Retin A ? In what order?

  2. Cynthia December 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Retin A goes on at night. I tell my patients to wash then towel dry their face. Immediately apply Replenix Cream then their moisturizer. Wait at least 15 minutes then apply their Retin A. The rational is that the Replenix and moisturizer work best when applied after moisture exposure and while there is still some dampness in the outer dead skin cell layer. Retin A, on the other hand, need to be applied on dry skin; people need to wait 15 minutes after water exposure to allow evaporation of any residual water before applying their Retin A.

  3. Robin December 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    Would the same apply if the retinoid of choice is Tazorac?

  4. Cynthia December 9, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Yes, but I prefer Retin A (tretinoin) over all the other retinoids because the studies on wrinkle and sun damage reversal are the most compelling with Retin A. I thus don’t have a lot of first hand experience working with Tazorac because I just never prescribe it.