7 Best Soothing Moisturizers to Use with Differin

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7 Best Soothing Moisturizers to Use with Differin
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE

ZELEN Life Moisturizer

The best moisturizers to use with Differin are those that allow the product to work effectively in your skin while restoring and maintaining a healthy skin barrier.

So you can fight acne while keeping your skin supple, healthy, and glowing, not dry and flaky.

In this article, we have identified our top 7 moisturizers that complement your Differin regimen by helping to soothe your skin after it is applied.

Keep reading to find a comprehensive review of each moisturizer, where we highlight their best features, strengths, and the things to look out for. We also share with you our selection process and answer the most frequently asked questions when using a moisturizer with Differin.

Let’s start things off with the key things to consider before purchasing your next moisturizer.

Quick summary

Before you buy: 5 Things to consider when choosing a moisturizer to use with Differin

Choosing the best moisturizer to use with Differin is of paramount importance, and can make or break how you perform, as well as how you do with the medication.

Differin is an over-the-counter topical medication that belongs to the retinoid class of medications and comes in different strengths – an over-the-counter 0.1% and a prescription 0.3%.(1)

If used without a moisturizer, it can simply become too harsh, drying, and irritating to the skin. You may even start to peel like a snake and develop a rash or contact dermatitis.(2) Such as experience often turns someone off from ever trying Differin again.

However, if used with a good, soothing emollient or moisturizer, it can leave your skin glowing, hydrated, and with a strong skin barrier, yet devoid of acne or pimples, which is what we all desire to look like.

1. What is your skin type?

Know your skin type and which moisturizer might work best with it. If you have oily skin, choose a lighter formula. Similarly, if you have drier skin, you will need a more occlusive intense hydration.

If you have acne-prone skin, look for key words such as “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic,” meaning it does not cause zits or pimples.

If you like to wear makeup underneath or on top of your skincare routine, you can also find products that can be used with makeup and do not smear or interfere with their effect or with your makeover.

2. Address pre-existing and unresolved skin conditions

It is important to address any pre-existing or unresolved skin problems such as acne, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, tinea, or psoriasis.

While skincare products are there to help boost your overall skincare goals, they are not medications and cannot be used to treat/fight a pestering skin condition that you haven’t been able to get under control.

Make sure you ask all of your dermatologic and medical questions to your dermatologist to maximize control over these issues so that your skin can look its best when combining it with your skincare routine.

3. Know the ingredients

It is especially important to know the ingredients within your skincare products. Are you trying to go all-organic and all-natural?

You can find many of these ingredients in many skincare products if you look carefully. If you are against animal testing, look for a sign that says “cruelty-free,” meaning the product is not tested on animals.

If you are allergic to commonly found substances in skincare products such as propylene glycol, lanolin, or parabens, it is also important to know to search for these items beforehand.

Becoming familiar with the list of ingredients in your products ensures that you know what you are putting on your skin, and if you have an allergy, you will know better what to avoid or what the possible culprit may be.

4. Define your goals on what you want your moisturizer to do

What are your skincare goals? If your goal is to stay looking young and supple, you may find skincare products with these same goals.

If you are looking for something to hydrate your skin during typical drying times, such as a trip to the desert, a flight, or during wintertime, look for a product that provides intense hydration or a soothing emollient.

Similarly, if you want sun protection when going outside, look for a product that states it provides sun protection factor or SPF.

If you are looking for tint in addition to a moisturizer, you may find this on the bottle as “tinted” – when testing the product. The substance will come out with a flesh-colored or nude tint instead of white or clear.

5. What other things can your moisturizer do apart from moisturizing?

In addition to moisturizing, what are your other criteria for choosing a moisturizer? What else would you like it to do?

If you would like to use it morning and evening to be combined with makeup, topical therapies such as Differin, or other additions, look for a versatile product that can be used twice daily. If you would like something to diminish your redness, search for a product that targets this specific problem.

If you don’t like appearing with a shiny complexion, there are also mattifying products that can camouflage shine.

The 7 best moisturizers to use with Differin

ZELEN Life Moisturizer (Best for clean skincare)

ZELEN Life Moisturizer


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Made with pure, organic ingredients
  • Blended by hand
  • Packaged in an airless pump bottle with matte-silver trimming

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Men and women of all skin types, who prefer natural skincare free of chemicals.

Notable ingredients:

Jojoba oil, clary sage, calendula.

Overview:

As a topical retinoid, Differin has shown itself to be highly effective as an anti-acne, and also anti-aging product. But let’s face it, adapalene is a chemical. Synthetic ingredients will always have their place in skincare, and they will always come with their pros and cons. The results you get from Differin (good or bad) will ultimately determine what you think of it.

Just because you are using Differin does not mean that you do not believe in the benefits of natural skincare too. Perhaps you are a lover of clean, chemical-free products but the benefits that Differin brings were too good to turn down. The point is, you don’t have to pick a side. Whatever your thoughts are about plant-based or chemical-based skincare, it all comes down to finding out what works best for you.

I believe that both natural and synthetic products have their benefits, and a balanced approach is always the best approach.

The ZELEN Life Moisturizer provides that balance. It is an all-natural moisturizer packed with organic ingredients rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids.

Let’s quickly go through them:

Jojoba oil is a fantastic ingredient rich in vitamins A, D, and E that is known for its many skin benefits, which include: anti-aging, healing, balancing properties, and sebum (skin oil) regulation.(3) Jojoba has a very similar structure to sebum and absorbs easily when applied to the skin. This cleverly regulates the production of sebum, as the sebaceous glands receive a signal that the skin is well moisturized and it does not need to produce more oil. These oil-regulating properties reduce the chances of acne breakouts, as less sebum means less chance of clogged pores.

Calendula is a natural oil extracted from marigold plants that provide many benefits, including daily moisture, healing skin without inducing redness, and providing a natural antiseptic.(4) Clary sage is an herb native to the Mediterranean, which is often used in aromatherapy and has many beneficial advantages, including skin tightening to provide a youthful glow, antibacterial properties to prevent bacterial growth, and an anti-inflammatory effect to prevent irritation.(5)

Your goal for using a topical retinoid such as Differin is to either improve your acne or improve skin aging. The ZELEN Life Moisturizer has its own natural anti-acne and anti-aging properties that can support you in achieving that goal. Thus, it can be of great complement to your Differin treatment.

Perhaps you are trying Differin for the first time and are nervous about the side effects, or you are experiencing some already? A common side effect of using Differin is dryness and irritation, or even worse, burning and stinging sensations. Dry and irritated skin becomes more sensitive. So it is important to not irritate it further. This moisturizer is gentle and hypoallergenic, and the therapeutic organic formula is very soothing on the skin.

It has a lightweight and non-greasy texture and I like that it absorbs so quickly into the skin with the knowledge that it is not blocking my pores. Just a small amount of cream provides a large amount of hydration. However, if you have a very dry skin type (or if Differin is making it this way), you might be better off with a thicker cream such as ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer or L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream. Alternatively, if you are looking for a natural moisturizer but as a gel-based texture, then take a look at ELEMIS Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice on our list.

It should also be noted that this moisturizer does not contain sun protection. However, it does provide a nice matte finish ready to layer your SPF. If you don’t like to layer products and prefer a moisturizer with SPF all-in-one, you might find Mario Badescu’s Aloe Moisturizer SPF more suitable.

The good:

  • Hypoallergenic and has a soothing effect on irritated skin
  • Natural mattifying look
  • Does not contain harsher chemicals such as parabens, silicones,  sulfates, synthetic dyes, and fragrances, or petrochemicals.
  • Vegan and cruelty-free: the product is not tested on animals
  • Can be used in all skin types, genders, and ages

Things to think about:

  • It does not contain sunscreen or SPF, so if used in the daytime or sun exposure, you will need an additional sunscreen with the moisturizer

Bottom line:

If you are a Differin user and are looking to bring a balance to your skin with a natural moisturizer. The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is a great option. It can be used to hydrate any type of skin, whether it’s acne-prone, oily, dry, or combination skin. Its pure, organic formula avoids any unwanted irritation, which is particularly important during Differin usage when skin is more sensitive.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer (Best for dry skin)

ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Intense hydration
  • Contains natural salicylic acid
  • Thick cream dispensed from a premium pump bottle

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Those with sensitive, dry, parched, and weathered skin.

Notable ingredients:

It is uniquely formulated with willow, myrrh essential oil, lavender absolute, and Centella asiatica as its main active ingredients.

Overview:

Can you hear me? S.O.S.

In the first 2-4 weeks of using Differin, you may experience some dryness, irritation, and redness. These are common side effects as your skin adjusts to the treatment. If you feel like your skin is in a state of emergency, perhaps this intensive daily moisturizer by ELEMIS can be your savior. It is a generous, thick cream that soothes and hydrates troubled skin.

Let’s see how the formula does this:

White willow bark is rich in salicylic acid and is known for anti-inflammatory, skin calming, and soothing benefits.(10) Myrrh essential oil has softening, regenerative, and purifying properties and has been used for its helpful effects for centuries.(5)

Lavender is a commonly used essential oil with additional sedative properties. It has a sweet and balsamic fragrance, which helps to provide relaxation and calmness. It also helps to reduce pain, lessen the effects of injuries such as burns, and have anti-infectious properties.(9)

My thoughts:

Generally speaking, I am not a big lover of thick creams. However, I do make exceptions and this S.O.S Emergency Cream is one of them. Yes, it is a little heavy and yes, it can be a little greasy. But I can forgive this because it is extremely moisturizing. Whatsmore, it absorbs well into the skin. This is important for Differin users, particularly those who experience sensitivities, as it can quickly alleviate the uncomfortable side effects.

On the other hand, I believe this thick cream is not suitable for oilier skin types. If that’s you, I think you’ll find it too heavy. You’d be better off with a moisturizer that has comparable soothing and fast-absorbing qualities, but with a lightweight texture. Such as the ZELEN Life Moisturizer.

Even though I see this as more of an ‘aftercare product’ that helps with the effects of using Differin, it has more to offer than that. If you are using Differin to help your acne, the inclusion of willow bark can support your goal by acting as an anti-inflammatory to active blemishes. It is not advisable to combine salicylic acid (AHA’s) with your retinoid. However, willow bark in its natural form (salicin) is more tolerable by the skin. Plus, the moisturizer’s intense hydration keeps things soothed. User reviews also support that this product can help acne. One of them said it halved the healing time of their breakouts.

This is also a great product to look at. The bottle’s white body and shiny chrome silver top complement each other perfectly. However, I would say the bottle looks more premium than it feels. When you hold it, the plastic is not of the highest quality.

With all the good things this moisturizer has going for it, it may feel like a ‘no brainer’ to go and buy it. However, you should note its high price tag. In fact, it’s the most expensive product on our list. If you are looking for a more affordable moisturizer then this one is not for you. We do have a budget option by Mario Badescu on our list, however, its formula and packaging are not as premium.

Overall I think this moisturizer represents good value for money but you’ll have to dig deep into your pocket.

The good:

  • Intensive formula to soothe sensitive, dry and blemish-prone skin
  • Anti-inflammatory thanks to willow bark content
  • Replenishes the hydration balance of the skin
  • Protect the skin from environmental stressors

Things to think about:

  • Since it is an intensive moisturizer, it works very well for dry skin. However, it may feel too heavy for oily skin
  • May not be suitable for those with very sensitive skin

Bottom line:

ELEMIS’s S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer is a premium daily moisturizer designed to soothe dry and blemish-prone skin. It can bring comfort to Differin users due to its excellent moisturizing abilities.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Murad Hydration Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture (Best for anti-aging)

Murad Hydration Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Advanced hyaluronic acid
  • Anti-aging focus
  • Comes in a jar

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Those looking to restore youthfulness and plumpness. It can be used with several skin types such as normal, dry, combination, or sensitive skin.

Notable ingredients:

Hyaluronic acid.

Overview:

Differin is a brand name for a cream or gel that consists of the active substance, adapalene. This is a retinoid that is used to treat acne. It works by exfoliating the skin and unblocking its pores of excess sebum (skin oil) that can build up and cause blemishes. As topical retinoids increase the turnover of skin cells, products like Differin have also started to become a popular anti-aging treatment.

Are you using Differin for your fine lines and wrinkles? If that’s you, then consider Murad’s Hydration Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture as your follow-up moisturizer.

Why?

Because this product is geared to supporting aging skin. Key to its formula is Hyaluronic acid, which in my view, is a skincare dream ingredient. This is thanks to its remarkable hydrating properties. As a humectant, it draws water to the skin’s surface and enhances its ability to keep hold of this moisture, for longer. This is why studies have described hyaluronic acid as a key molecule in skin aging.(26)(11)

Youthful skin, well, looks youthful due to its high content of water. As we get older, our skin loses its ability to maintain moisture and dryness leads to skin aging. Hyaluronic acid helps to reduce the onset of fine lines and wrinkles by creating a plumping effect. When the skin isn’t focused on fighting for moisture, increased skin cell production can happen, which leads to smoother, plumper skin cells.

But, does this moisturizer back up the science?

Murad describes this particular skincare line as ‘hydration heroes’ and ‘powered by innovation’. Having tested out this product, I can say it is certainly hydrating and long-lasting. Even during an active, outdoorsy day, my skin felt well-moisturized throughout.

Apparently, it is meant to provide 24-hour hydration but I think by evening, you’re skin will require another boost before you sleep. Although, I would actually not hesitate to use this as a night cream. It is unscented which I think is a positive of this moisturizer. For me, it’s all about the feel and the hydration benefits.

Is it luxurious? Yes, I’d say so.

However, more often than not, the downsize of anything luxurious is it will cost you more. The same goes for this moisturizer. It is a comparable price range to ELEMIS’s S.O.S Emergency Cream but I think the packaging is not as good.

I like the lightweight, non-greasy texture and it was easy to combine with an SPF. If however, you are looking for a moisturizer with sun protection included in the formula, then consider Mario Badescu’s Aloe Moisturizer SPF 15 on our list. Or, if you are looking for a cream with a thicker texture, perhaps  L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream is more suitable for you.

The good:

  • Light and non-greasy
  • Clinically proven to lock optimal moisture levels
  • Long-lasting hydration and comfort
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
  • Restores suppleness
  • Made without chemicals

Things to think about:

  • It does not include sunscreen or sun protection, so its application will need to be followed by a sunscreen. While it is a hydrating moisturizer with anti-aging properties, it is not intended for use around the eyes.

Bottom line:

If you are using Differin to help with your anti-aging goals, you should be mindful that it is not drying out your skin. Otherwise, you are trapped in a counterproductive process. If this is something you are experiencing, then Murad’s Hydration Hydro-Dynamic moisturizer rich in hyaluronic acid could be a great product to use in tandem.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Mario Badescu Aloe Moisturizer SPF 15 (Best for sun protection)

Mario Badescu Aloe Moisturizer SPF 15


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Aloe-vera inspired
  • Oil-free
  • SPF included
  • Budget-friendly

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Those looking for moderate sun protection.

Notable ingredients:

Aloe vera, water, glycerin, stearic acid.

Overview:

Quite simply, retinoids such as Differin increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. So we just had to include a moisturizer that contains sun protection.

We opted for this aloe-based moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF 15 by Mario Badescu. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a little basic, and in some ways it is. But do not be fooled by this moisturizer’s modest attributes. It still has plenty to offer when combined with Differin.

This is a lightweight and oil-free moisturizer with an aloe-infused formula. I am sure you are aware of the many benefits that aloe vera has on the skin, but here’s a quick reminder:

Aloe is a natural hydration booster and pH balancer. Perhaps it is most known for its powerful skin healing properties. It accelerates the repair process of wounds and also helps to reduce scarring. For those who suffer from acne, aloe vera can speed up the healing of breakouts and reduce the prominence of leftover dark spots.(26) The inclusion of glycerin and stearic acid with aloe vera replenishes the skin while avoiding a heavy feel.(12)

Being lightweight and oil-free, the non-greasy nature of this moisturizer makes it a good choice for those with oily skin. It doesn’t clog the pores, nor does it leave a residue. It is not as mattifying as the ZELEN Life Moisturizer, but it does have a matte effect that primes the skin, which could come in handy for makeup users. Conversely, if you have very dry skin or your Differing usage is causing irritation, you’ll find a thicker moisturizer, such as ELEMIS S.O.S Cream or L’Occitane’s Comforting Cream more suitable.

Another plus point is the smell (or lack of it). It doesn’t have a strong scent that you may expect with something containing sun protection. Even though it offers sun protection, I must say that SPF 15 is moderate. If you are going into the sun or staying outdoors for an extended period of time, you should consider a greater SPF and a wide-brimmed hat for greater protection.

Compared to the likes of ELEMIS’s and Murad’s moisturizers on our list, the price point is noticeably lower. It is not the cheapest moisturizer I have seen on the market. But, taking everything into account, I give it top marks on value for money. You also get more ‘bang for your buck’ as its size is 2 fl oz / 59 ml compared to the average 1.7 fl oz / 50 ml that you see with most moisturizers.

The bottle is nothing special to look at but it’s what you should expect with a no-nonsense product.

The good:

  • Daily sun protection
  • Sensitive skin formulation
  • Non-clogging hydration
  • Can be used under makeup
  • Good size for the money

Things to think about:

  • It offers moderate sun protection at SPF 15, so stronger or additional forms of sun protection may be needed
  • Simple packaging
  • Avoid the eyes when applying this product

Bottom line:

Mario Badescu’s Aloe Moisturizer SPF 15 helps to hydrate and heal oily, troubled skin while providing moderate sun protection. It is oil-free and does not clog pores, which is welcome news for Differin users. It can also be used on a daily basis as a stand-alone product or with makeup.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

ELEMIS Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice (Best pre-biotic)

ELEMIS Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Superfood formula
  • Hydrating juice/gel
  • Prebiotic properties

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Those looking for prebiotic formulas.

Notable ingredients:

Aloe vera, bergamot, kiwi, cucumber, biotransformed Cica (Centenella asiatica).

Overview:

When thinking about a ‘superfood hydration juice‘, you’d be forgiven for thinking of sipping on a nice, fresh drink of aloe vera.

Well, our next choice: ELEMIS’s Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice is not drinkable. Seriously, don’t try to drink it! But this interesting gel-based moisturizer may be the next best thing.

Let’s unravel this product:

Aloe vera is a popular botanical (used over centuries) known for its hydrating, wound healing, and cooling properties. This makes it an excellent ingredient to help dry and acne-prone skin, as well as for the soothing of burns.(13) Similarly, cucumber soothes and calms the skin. It consists of 96% water, making it a good skin hydrator.(27) It also treats acne and pigmented scarring caused by blemishes thanks to its repairing and brightening qualities.(15)

Biotransformed Cica (Centenella asiatica) is also known as “tiger grass,” is a natural plant that tigers rub up against to heal wounds and eat to gain strength. It helps moisturize the skin and calm inflammation. Noticing the trend here?

Finally, bergamot is a good antibacterial, and kiwi is a potent antioxidant that boosts collagen and reduces skin aging.

So, what is a pre-biotic moisturizer?

Pre-biotics are special plant fibers found in fruits and vegetables that are non-digestible by humans. They serve as fertilizers (food for probiotics) that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. This helps your digestive system function at its best.

Studies have found that gut health and good dietary choices are important factors in preventing inflammatory skin diseases. Moreover, it has been found that the gut microbiome (microorganisms such as bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans) interacts with the skin microbiome, which can lead to the development of acne.(28)

Therefore, it is beneficial to ensure the skin delicate microbiome is healthy, protected, and functioning optimally. The prebiotic formula of this hydration juice helps to do exactly that.

Does it work?

Well, it’s hard to give a firm yes or no. There is no doubt that superfoods are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that can feed the skin and boost its microflora. But this is not something you can visually check in the mirror. You can only be guided by how healthy and radiant your skin’s complexion is looking. For me, I did see a noticeable difference after using this product.

What I liked the most was its soothing influence. It felt very cooling, which would be beneficial to Differin users who are prone to experiencing burning sensations. This hydrating gel can certainly calm inflammation and discomfort quickly. Another bonus is it’s non-sticky and has a subtle smell. The lightweight gel texture also layers well under makeup.

Also, a big plus for the gel lovers out there. As Differin is usually gel-based, and with this also being a gel, it’s a nice transition from care to aftercare. The texture of this gel is very lightweight, and it absorbs easily, so you could even double up with a thicker moisturizer for extra benefits.

Fall downs:

I am struggling to be critical of this moisturizer because it has a lot going for it. It’s very bespoke so it is difficult to draw comparisons with the other products on our list. Its uniqueness can be a positive or a negative, but it’s fair to say that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. If you prefer a more mainstream cream-based moisturizer then there are plenty to choose from in this review.

If you are attracted to this product’s superfood formula but don’t like a gel, ELEMIS’s also offer a Superfood Day Cream. The key ingredients are different but it has the same “pre-biotic” benefits as the juice.

The decision is yours.

Pro tip:

For best results, apply using upward strokes.

The good:

  • Prebiotic formula
  • Leaves complexion cooler and calmer
  • Anti-oxidant-rich
  • Vegan-friendly, silicone-free and paraben-free

Things to think about:

  • The vehicle is a gel, which leads to a calm, cool, and refreshed feeling. Some individuals may prefer other vehicles that may feel different on the skin, such as emollients, lotions, or foams

Bottom line:

ELEMIS’s Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice can cool and calm angry skin caused by the side effects of using Differin. Its pre-biotic formula feeds the skin with the benefits of superfoods, resulting in a more healthy and hydrated appearance.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Jack Black Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream (Best for men)

Jack Black Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Made with men in mind
  • Calming facial cream
  • Can be used as a night ‘treatment’

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Those wanting to reduce redness.

Notable ingredients:

Aloe vera leaf juice, rice bran extract, jojoba oil, tea tree fruit seeds, sweet almond oil, ginger root blend.

Overview:

If you come across the words ‘dry erase’ and ‘ultra calming’ when looking for a moisturizer to use with Differin, then you know you’re on the right track.

Jack Black is one of those moisturizers, which should be of particular interest to the men out there. But this isn’t your average manly skincare product–it’s the real deal.

Here’s why:

Jojoba oil helps to deliver superior hydration to deeply moisturize dry skin.(3) Rice bran extract is rich in moisturizing proteins, nourishing vitamins, and protective antioxidants.(21) Ginger root blend helps to soothe the face and diminish redness.(22) Sweet almond oil and tea tree fruit seeds help provide immediate and sustained hydration to the skin.(23-24) Aloe vera leaf juice is rich in vitamins C and E and delivers antioxidant protection while soothing the skin.(13)

I am a little surprised by how good this formula actually is. It has everything I would expect to see in a high-quality calming cream. As the packaging is pretty standard, I was expecting the same from its formula. The saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” springs to mind.

As this product is geared towards men, it is difficult for me to give an in-depth opinion on the packaging. But if I was male, I think I would approve. It is uncomplicated but the design does have a hint of class about it.

I cannot say the same about the plastic tube as it’s very basic compared to the likes of ZELEN Life’s and ELEMIS’s bottle. However, it is simple to dispense the moisturizer out. Just be careful you don’t squeeze too hard and use more product than you need. The cream itself has a lightweight, non-greasy texture and it absorbs into the skin nice and quickly. Where this moisturizer particularly excels is its ability to reduce the redness that may be caused by Differin. This again goes back to the formula which the manufacturer states is organic-based and clinically tested.

Often men’s skincare products can have a very strong scent, however not with this moisturizer. It has hardly any smell at all. The price tag is on the high side but you should take into account that the size is 2.5 fl oz / 73 ml.

Last but not least, this moisturizer is also suitable as an anti-aging cream. It can also serve as a night treatment to use after exposure to environmental elements or to use after masks or peels.

The good:

  • Diminishes appearance of redness and soothes irritation
  • Reduces redness
  • Ideal night treatment
  • Good to use after masks, peels, and elements
  • Good size

Things to think about:

  • The cream is best used at night but can be used twice a day – morning and evening – for a more intense hydrating effect

Bottom line:

There is a lot of good stuff packed under the hood of this car. Jack Black Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream delivers hydration and can soothe the redness associated with Differin usage.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream (Best for deep hydration)

L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Jar packaging
  • Super enriched, thick cream
  • Contains 25% Shea butter

The best moisturizer to use with Differin for:

Those with very dry skin.

Notable ingredients:

Shea butter, sunflower, chestnut

Overview:

If Differin is having a drying effect on your skin and it requires some deep hydration, then look no further than L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream. As the name indicates, it aims to restore “comfort”, which is sound news to anyone going through a hard time with their treatment.

Let’s take a closer look:

It contains a high concentration of shea butter (25%). Shea butter is produced by hand in Burkina Faso. It has been used for centuries in sub-Saharan Africa for beauty purposes, such as protecting and nourishing the skin and hair. Organic shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids.(25) It has been found to leave the skin very soft while also containing omega 6 and karitene, which are molecules containing beneficial properties to provide nourishment and extra protection.  Shea butter is a popular emollient, which is known for trapping moisture into the skin.

With a high concentration of shea butter at the forefront of the formula, it is no surprise that this moisturizer has a very thick texture. Perhaps a bit too thick for some. However, I can see this being a very good option for use in winter or dry climates when the skin is more susceptible to not retaining its moisture. It’s also useful if you live in environments with external aggressors, such as polluted air. This moisturizer can adequately produce a protective seal.

When you have dry skin, you will also experience tight skin. Tight skin can leave an uncomfortable feeling, and this moisturizer attempts to alleviate that. It is very nourishing indeed.

On the flip side, it has a thicker texture which may feel a little heavy for some. If you are using Differin for your acne, and you are concerned about the greasiness and the risk of blocking your pores, then this is understandable. Shea butter in small quantities up to 25% is actually non-comedogenic.

However, if you prefer a more lightweight non-comedogenic cream that brings comparable comfort to your skin, then the ZELEN Life Moisturizer might be more suitable for you. But, this comes in a pump. If you only like to use a jar-based moisturizer then Murad’s Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture might be a better choice.

Alternatively, if you like this product by L’Occitane but prefer a lower shea butter content, then consider their Shea Light Comforting Face Cream, which contains just 5% shea butter.

The cream is nice on the skin, and the jar that houses it is nice on the eye. I personally prefer a pump bottle for my moisturizer but this jar does look very elegant which is fitting of L’Occitane’s style. The price is on the high side, though.

Pro tip:

As this is a jar. Remember to close the lid tightly after use. Avoid contaminating the product with dirty hands or water as this can cause the growth of bacteria in the product.

The good:

  • Soothes dry to very dry skin
  • Rich in vitamin E, omega 6
  • Melting texture, very rich

Things to think about:

  • Contains shea butter, which is ideal for dry to very dry skin, but may feel too strong or occlusive for oily skin

Bottom line:

L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream helps to soothe very dry to dry skin by locking in moisture. It contains 25% shea butter, omega 6, and vitamin E, which help protect and nourish the skin in need of intensive hydration.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

How we chose these products

Since Differin (or adapalene) is a commonly used topical retinoid that can serve different purposes from acne to anti-aging, it is essential that others know how to use them appropriately while keeping their skin looking healthy and intact.(1) Differin can create a lot of irritation and peeling if not used properly with an effective moisturizer.(2)

The moisturizers used need to provide effective skin hydration and fulfill the role of a moisturizer. If they are not strong enough to hydrate the skin, they will not be good enough to battle the irritation that may be due to topical retinoids.  The moisturizers recommended need to also be useful and suitable for acne-prone skin, which is typically distinguished as “non-comedogenic.”

A comedone is the primary skin lesion in acne, and thus a moisturizer ideally should not lead to pimples or comedones, which are the primary skin lesions behind breakouts. The ideal moisturizer should actually compliment Differin by helping to control acne while also soothing, potentially irritated, and dry skin. Extensive research was carried out, taking into account experience, reviews, advantages, disadvantages, and ingredients to select the top 7 choices.

When checking ratings and reviews, what people said about the product mattered. The number of reviews, as well as the comments, helped to provide us with a reliable indication of which products people like based on their effectiveness.

There is great variability in mind when selecting which options are best for which type of person, including different price points to meet different budgets, variety and range of ingredients, differences in textures such as lotion, gels, creams, emollients, occlusives, and humectants; sun protection factor (SPF) for daytime hydration and UV protection; gender differences taking into account female vs. male preferences; and different options which may suit different skin types.

The products that were chosen essentially needed a high concentration of key quality ingredients such as antioxidants, vitamins, natural or organic ingredients, and also be of benefit to the skin, including in cases of sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, dry skin, and skin irritation.

Thus, through extensive research and investigation, taking into account many of these factors, the top 7 choices were selected, which would most likely be suitable for your skin and boost your self-confidence.

Frequently asked questions

What if my skin continues to breakout with the moisturizer while using Differin?

If your skin continues to breakout while using Differin and a moisturizer, it is best to re-evaluate your skincare routine and acne regimen with your dermatologist.

We all go through phases with our skin, and acne is definitely a skin condition with many ups and downs. It is essential to periodically re-evaluate your skincare regimen to make sure it is what suits you and works best for your skin at that moment in time.

Acne can also change dramatically depending on age, stressors, food, pregnancy status, and past medical and family history, as well as medications and other external influences.

When should I use a moisturizer with SPF?

You should always wear sunscreen and SPF 30 or above whenever you plan on going outdoors. I personally apply mine after waking up in the morning and before leaving the house to avoid unwanted sun exposure.

In the evening, SPF is not necessary as there is no sunlight. A good moisturizer without SPF will do for soothing the skin right before bedtime.

What kinds of moisturizers should I look for with acne-prone skin?

Just because you have acne-prone skin does not mean you do not need a moisturizer. I have oily skin and use a moisturizer daily, morning and evening. What to look for when choosing a moisturizer for acne-prone or oily skin is one that is preferably oil-free and also non-comedogenic, which means it won’t leave an oily residue or clog pores.

How should I apply a moisturizer?

A moisturizer is best applied after washing the face and right before bedtime. After washing your face, your skin is damp – this is when the skin best locks in moisture.

Your skin and the rest of your body tend to regenerate and heal at bedtime while resting. If you are experiencing any irritation, sensitivity, or rashes from Differin or any other treatments or skin conditions, it is essential to apply skin hydrating products right before bedtime to allow the skin to heal and improve.

Conclusion

Although Differin is a commonly used product ranging from adolescents to adults, which can be used for a variety of conditions – most notably acne, hyperpigmentation, and anti-aging, it can still be irritating and drying, causing peeling in the skin, which may make someone never choose to use it again.

Using a moisturizer in conjunction with using Differin is not only recommended but almost essential to fare well with treatment. Which moisturizer to use is also up to your goals, budget, skin type, and personal experience.

If you are building a skincare regimen to use with Differin for yourself, begin by using a moisturizer that doesn’t just prevent irritation, flaking, and dryness, but also leaves your skin packed with good ingredients and antioxidants to leave it looking healthy, supple, glowing and intact.

What is your favorite moisturizer to use that is both oil-free and non-comedogenic?

And on that note, which moisturizer do you find best works when using Differin to prevent breakouts while still soothing your skin?

We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.

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References

1. Tolaymat L, Zito PM. Adapalene. [Updated 2020 May 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482509/

2. Piskin S, Uzunali E. A review of the use of adapalene for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2007;3(4):621-624.

3. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Ghassemi MR, Kazerouni A, Rafeie E, Jamshydian N. Jojoba in dermatology: a succinct review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013;148(6):687-691.

4. Dawid-Pać R. Medicinal plants used in treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(3):170-177. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.35620

5. Orchard A, van Vuuren S. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4517971. doi:10.1155/2017/4517971

6. Soleymani S, Iranpanah A, Najafi F, et al. Implications of grape extract and its nanoformulated bioactive agent resveratrol against skin disorders. Arch Dermatol Res. 2019;311(8):577-588. doi:10.1007/s00403-019-01930-z

7. Menni S, Piccinno R. La vitamina A e la vitamina E in dermatologia [Vitamin A and vitamin E in dermatology]. Acta Vitaminol Enzymol. 1985;7 Suppl:55-60.

8. Huang ZR, Lin YK, Fang JY. Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology. Molecules. 2009;14(1):540-554. Published 2009 Jan 23. doi:10.3390/molecules14010540

9. Białoń M, Krzyśko-Łupicka T, Nowakowska-Bogdan E, Wieczorek PP. Chemical Composition of Two Different Lavender Essential Oils and Their Effect on Facial Skin Microbiota. Molecules. 2019;24(18):3270. Published 2019 Sep 8. doi:10.3390/molecules24183270

10. Gopaul R, Knaggs HE, Lephart JF, Holley KC, Gibson EM. An evaluation of the effect of a topical product containing salicin on the visible signs of human skin aging. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010;9(3):196-201. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00512.x

11. Bukhari SNA, Roswandi NL, Waqas M, et al. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018;120(Pt B):1682-1695. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.09.188

12. Milani M, Sparavigna A. The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:311-315. Published 2017 Aug 11. doi:10.2147/CCID.S144180

13. Feily A, Namazi MR. Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2009;144(1):85-91.

14. Perna S, Spadaccini D, Botteri L, et al. Efficacy of bergamot: From anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(2):369-384. Published 2019 Jan 25. doi:10.1002/fsn3.903

15. Kapoor S, Saraf S. Assessment of viscoelasticity and hydration effect of herbal moisturizers using bioengineering techniques. Pharmacogn Mag. 2010;6(24):298-304. doi:10.4103/0973-1296.71797

16. Dawid-Pać R. Medicinal plants used in treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013;30(3):170-177. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.35620

17. Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, et al. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013;30(1):42-50. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x

18. Kim S, Jang JE, Kim J, et al. Enhanced barrier functions and anti-inflammatory effect of cultured coconut extract on human skin. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017;106(Pt A):367-375. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2017.05.060

19. Grant P, Ramasamy S. An update on plant derived anti-androgens. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2012;10(2):497-502. doi:10.5812/ijem.3644

20. Bylka W, Znajdek-Awiżeń P, Studzińska-Sroka E, Dańczak-Pazdrowska A, Brzezińska M. Centella asiatica in dermatology: an overview. Phytother Res. 2014;28(8):1117-1124. doi:10.1002/ptr.5110

21. Su Jeong Ha, Joon Park, Jangho Lee, Kyung-Mo Song, Min Young Um, Suengmok Cho & Sung Keun Jung (2018) Rice bran supplement prevents UVB-induced skin photoaging in vivo, Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 82:2, 320-328, DOI: 10.1080/09168451.2017.1417021

22. Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, eds. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.

23. Ahmad Z. The uses and properties of almond oil. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010;16(1):10-12. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.06.015

24. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Bagherani N, Kazerouni A. A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. Int J Dermatol. 2013;52(7):784-790. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2012.05654.x

25. Hon KL, Tsang YC, Pong NH, et al. Patient acceptability, efficacy, and skin biophysiology of a cream and cleanser containing lipid complex with shea butter extract versus a ceramide product for eczema. Hong Kong Med J. 2015;21(5):417-25. doi: 10.12809/hkmj144472.

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ZELEN Life Moisturizer
BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE
ZELEN Life Moisturizer
  • Organic, non-comedogenic formula boosts hydration
  • Absorbs fast and soothing, ideal for Differin users
  • Packed with vitamins, essential fatty acids and antioxidants
All skin types
All skin types
Check It Out
Our score:
ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer
BEST FOR DRY SKIN
ELEMIS S.O.S Emergency Cream Intensive Moisturizer
  • Soothes blemish prone skin
  • Hydrates with intense action
  • Anti-inflammatory
Dry skin
Dry skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
Murad Hydration Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture
BEST FOR ANTI-AGING
Murad Hydration Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture
  • Superior hydration
  • Anti-aging benefits
  • Locks in moisture, non-greasy
Mature skin
Mature skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
Mario Badescu Aloe Moisturizer SPF 15
BEST FOR SUN PROTECTION
Mario Badescu Aloe Moisturizer SPF 15
  • Oil free with sun protection
  • Aloe-based formula
  • Good budget pick
Oily skin
Oily skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
ELEMIS Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice
BEST PRE-BIOTIC
ELEMIS Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice
  • Gel-based prebiotic formula
  • Hydrates and soothes skin
  • Contains biotransformed Cica, skin calming
All skin types
All skin types
Check on Amazon
Our score:
Jack Black Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream
BEST FOR MEN
Jack Black Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream
  • Moisturizes and calms dry skin
  • Contains botanical extracts
  • Reduces redness, can be used overnight
Dry skin
Dry skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream
BEST FOR DEEP HYDRATION
L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream
  • Strong occlusive properties lock moisture
  • Loaded with vitamin E
  • 25% Shea butter, extra nourishing
Dry skin
Dry skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:

About The Author

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Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dermatology (University of Southern California)

United States

Dr. Anna Chacon is a board-certified dermatologist from Miami, based in South Florida. She graduated from Brown University’s highly selective Program in Liberal Medical Education. She completed her dermatology residency at the University of Southern California, where she learned firsthand about skin disorders that others only read about. She loves to write, see patients, and practice all aspects of dermatology.

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