The Best Gentle Cleansers To Use With Tretinoin & Retinol

One of the most evidence-backed skincare ingredients, tretinoin – or retinoic acid – is often recommended for persistent acne and is considered the gold standard for preventing visible signs of ageing. However, the benefits of tretinoin are accompanied by some notable drawbacks; namely dry, irritated, red, peeling or flaking skin. Endearingly termed the ‘retinol uglies’, using tretinoin or another prescription retinoid often requires a few skincare tweaks. The best face washes and cleansers to use with tretinoin, Retin-A, or a powerful OTC retinol product are those that are gentle, non-active, and hydrating.

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When using tretinoin or prescription retinoids, avoid face cleansers with active ingredients like AHA and BHA and opt for oil, cream, balm, or lotion formulas over gel iterations. Fortunately, there are several gentle, non-irritating cleansers and face washes that fit the bill. Herewith, the best face washes and cleansers to use alongside retinol, tretinoin, and Retin-A.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

A budget-friendly favourite, the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is a fragrance-free formula with a light, creamy texture that works to cleanse the skin without stripping it of moisture.Made with hyaluronic acid and three types of ceramides, it strengthens the skin barrier and keeps the skin feeling nourished and hydrated. Dermatologically approved, it’s one of the best daily face cleansers to use alongside tretinoin or retinol.

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Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm

One of the most luxuriously textured cleansers, the Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm differs from conventional cleansing balms in that it works well on both wet and dry skin. Omega-rich plant oils jojoba and meadowfoam combine with coconut-derived fatty acids to create a soothing balm that nourishes the skin as it cleanses. Great as the first  step in a double  cleanse routine or even as a solo cleanser, this cleansing balm washes off clean without leaving any residue on the skin.

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La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser


A fragrance-free, milky formula, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser is a non-irritating face wash that cleanses the skin while the addition of humectant glycerin locks in moisture and prevents skin from feeling dry or tight.

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Avène Tolerance Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion

Designed with dry, hypersensitive skin in mind, the Avène Tolerance Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion uses minimal ingredients in a milky formula to gently but effectively cleanse the skin while reducing skin sensitivity and strengthening the skin barrier. Technically a no-rinse cleaner, it can be gently wiped off with a damp cotton pad or washcloth, followed by rinsing with plain water.

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Selfless by Hyram Centella & Green Tea Gel Cleanser

If you can’t get used to the idea of a creamy or milky cleanser, the Selfless by Hyram Centella & Green Tea Gel Cleanser is your best bet for a gel formula. A very light, soothing formula, it provides a deep clean while glycerin, centella, and green tea hydrate the skin and soothe the sensitivity and redness that comes with retinoid use.

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CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser

A new addition from dermatologist-approved brand CeraVe, the CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser combines the nourishing effects of an oil cleanser with the satisfying deep clean of a foaming formula. Gentle enough to be used on babies, it features CeraVe’s signature ceramides combined with squalane and triglyceride to nourish and protect the skin from moisture loss.

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Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser 


A creamy, foaming formula best suited for normal to combination skin types, the Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser uses a blend of soothing plant-derived soaps to draw out impurities from the skin without causing dryness. French green clay works to lift dirt, oil, and debris from pores, while the addition of rice oil soothes the skin and protects against dryness. Ideal for those using OTC retinol products.

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Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water

An alternative to traditional cleansers, the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water makes for the ideal first step in a double cleanse routine, working to remove dirt and  makeup without irritating the skin. Featuring a patented complex targeting skin sensitivity, it builds up the skin’s tolerance with continued use, making it ideal for use with retinoids.

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Alpha-H Balancing Cleanser

This ultra-gentle, non-foaming formula boasts a creamy consistency, working to balance and correct the skin’s acid mantle as it cleanses. Ideal for soothing the dryness and irritation that often accompanies retinol use, it includes vitamin E and aloe vera to nourish and calm the skin.

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Paula’s Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser

Working to cleanse the skin of makeup and impurities, the lotion-like Paula’s Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser supports the skin’s barrier with calming  ingredients such as green tea and chamomile.

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Fresh Soy Face Cleanser


Gentle yet efficacious, the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser is a pH-balanced formula designed to banish impurities while amino acid-rich soy proteins soften the skin. The gel consistency makes for a satisfying cleansing experience, with the addition of aloe vera and rosewater having a soothing and calming effect.

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Skinstitut Gentle Cleanser

Enriched with aloe vera and vitamin E, the Skinstitut Gentle Cleanser is a lightly foaming gel formula that cleanses the skin of makeup and impurities without stripping it  of its natural oils, making it ideal for use alongside retinol or tretinoin. The addition of antioxidants like green tea and goji berry aid in strengthening the skin with consistent use.

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