The Best Sunscreens To Use With Tretinoin

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Sunscreen should already be part of your morning routine, but if you've been prescribed tretinoin by your dermatologist, it's even more essential. "Tretinoin helps to chemically exfoliate the skin, driving cellular turnover and increasing collagen production [...] This can increase one's sensitivity for photodamage," dermatologist Lian Mack explains to Elite Daily. To keep your skin protected without exacerbating acne or irritation, Dr. Mack says that the best sunscreens to use with tretinoin are mineral-based formulas that offer broad-spectrum protection. "Mineral sunscreens are less likely than their chemical counterparts to cause irritation, and because of this, they pair nicely with tretinoin-treated skin," says Dr. Mack, who explains that mineral sunscreens use titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredients (or potentially iron oxide if it's a tinted formula). Dr. Mack says that, personally, she likes to use sunscreens that are free of parabens, phthalates, fragrance, and nanoparticles — but the most important thing is that you find a sunscreen that you like enough to wear every single day.

The Expert

Dr. Lian Mack, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist currently practicing with GlamDerm in Scarsdale, New York. She specializes in aesthetic enhancements and skin conditions, particularly as they pertain to skin of color. Dr. Mack has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She also volunteers as an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Other Helpful Advice When Using Tretinoin

In addition to ingredients that you may wish to avoid in your sunscreen, Dr. Mack shares a few key ingredients that can be helpful. "Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to pull moisture to the skin and reduce inflammation," she says. Because tretinoin can cause sensitivity (which may present as burning, peeling, and redness), niacinamide is particularly helpful, as it can help reduce redness and inflammation.

When you apply your tretinoin matters, too, and Dr. Mack advises that you save your tretinoin for your nighttime routine only. "I would recommend to individuals using tretinoin in the morning and the evening to stop the morning application," she says. "The molecule is deactivated by sunlight and reduces the efficacy of the drug," she explains. "Also, the enhanced turnover of morning and nighttime application may cause increased irritation and dryness."

Shop The Best Sunscreens To Use With Tretinoin

In a hurry? Here are the best sunscreens to use with tretinoin:

  1. Best Sunscreen With Niacinamide: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50
  2. Best Drugstore Sunscreen With Niacinamide: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
  3. Best Gel Sunscreen: Hero Cosmetics Force Shield Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30
  4. Best Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin: Vanicream Facial Moisturizer SPF 30
  5. Best Sunscreen Stick: MDSolarSciences Solar Stick SPF 40
  6. Best Sunscreen Powder: Supergoop (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35
  7. Best Tinted Sunscreen: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40

1. The Derm's Pick: Best Sunscreen With Niacinamide

Dr. Mack names Colorescience’s Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield as one of her top picks. Not only does it provide you with water-resistant, mineral sunscreen protection, but the brand's proprietary EnviroScreen Technology also shields skin from damage caused by exposure to pollution, blue light, and infrared radiation. Antioxidant-rich and soothing ingredients like niacinamide, bisabolol, and silver ear mushroom extract further help to protect and condition skin via a formula that's oil-free and noncomedogenic, so it won't contribute to clogged pores.

SPF: 50 Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Bisabolol, Allantoin, Tara Fruit Pod Extract, Silver Ear Mushroom Extract, Sunflower Sprout Extract Size: 1.8 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

2. Best Drugstore Sunscreen With Niacinamide

For a less expensive sunscreen that contains niacinamide, try CeraVe’s Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50. In addition to niacinamide, the fragrance-free and noncomedogenic sunscreen includes three ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help support your skin's barrier. While the sunscreen has more than 7,000 five-star ratings from Amazon reviewers, many of them note that it does leave behind a bit of a white cast (as is the case with most mineral sunscreens), so you may want to save this one for days when you plan on wearing foundation.

SPF: 50 Sunscreen Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Vitamin E Size: 2.5 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

3. Best Gel Sunscreen

If you hate traditional sunscreens because you feel like they're too heavy and greasy on skin, consider a lightweight gel-cream formula. The Hero Cosmetics Force Shield Superlight Sunscreen serves as a two-in-one sunscreen and primer that helps reduce visible signs of inflammation and redness with its subtle green tint. The noncomedogenic formula is made without fragrance and nanoparticles, but it is packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients like green tea leaf extract, red algae extract, and raspberry seed oil, which further help to protect skin from pollution and UV damage.

SPF: 30 Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Raspberry Seed Oil, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Red Algae Extract, Rice Hull Extract, Bisabolol, Vitamin E Size: 1.69 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

4. Best Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin

All of the sunscreens on this list are safe for sensitive skin types because they don't contain chemical sun filters or added fragrance. But for a tried-and-true formula that's extremely sensitive skin-friendly, there's this Vanicream face moisturizer with SPF 30, which is free from a long list of common irritants like lanolin, fragrance, parabens, gluten, and botanical extracts. To gently moisturize skin while keeping it protected from the sun, the dermatologist-tested sunscreen combines five ceramides with squalane and glycerin. One Amazon reviewer commented, “Seriously please never stop making this. It works on my tret face, this is 1000% my favorite thing ever. Never stings, lightweight yet super moisturizing when my face is dry. Works better than wayyyy more expensive moisturizers I've tried [...] Saved my skin.”

SPF: 30 Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Squalane, Glycerin, Ceramides Size: 2.5 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

5. Best Sunscreen Stick

It turns out there is a mess-free way to travel with your SPF or simply apply it on the go. MDSolarSciences Solar Stick is a dermatologist-developed stick sunscreen that offers up lightweight, mineral UV protection with 80 minutes of water resistance. Designed to be portable enough to carry in your handbag, the oil-free sunscreen stick is hypoallergenic and formulated with skin-conditioning ingredients like shea butter and vitamin E.

SPF: 40 Sunscreen Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Shea Butter, Vitamin C, Vitamin E Size: 0.6 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

6. Best Sunscreen Setting Powder

Technically, you should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours to keep your skin protected from the sun throughout the day, but admittedly, that's difficult to do once you've applied your makeup. Supergoop's (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder makes it much easier to top up your SPF protection (and refresh your makeup) with its sunscreen-infused mattifying setting powder. The non-nano SPF powder is shown here in a translucent shade that works on all skin tones, but it also comes in Light, Medium, and Deep shades if you're looking for a tinted option.

SPF: 35 Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Ceramide Size: 0.15 oz Cruelty-Free: Yes

7. Best Tinted Sunscreen

This ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint lets you shave a few steps off of your morning routine with its multitasking formula that combines the skin care benefits of a serum with the coverage of a light foundation (it's even available in 28 different shades). Non-nano zinc oxide gives you mineral UV protection, while ingredients like soothing niacinamide and hydrating hyaluronic acid improve your skin both immediately and over time. It's also noncomedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free.

SPF: 40 Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Key Ingredients: Squalane, Shea Butter, Niacinamide, Aloe Vera, Bisabolol, Hyaluronic Acid, Allantoin Available Shades: 28 Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes


Dr. Lian Mack, M.D., board-certified dermatologist currently practicing with GlamDerm in Scarsdale, New York.