How Effective Is Differin Gel For Acne Treatment?

Acne can be hard and frustrating to treat, as anyone who has had it knows. The Food and Drug Administration has approved Differin Gel for acne treatment as the first and only over-the-counter (OTC) retinoid acne treatment (FDA).
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everything you need to know about differin acne gel
Studies have found Differin is as effective as other retinoids, while causing less irritation.

This topical medicine has adapalene, which is a type of retinoid made from vitamin A. This type of topical acne retinoid has been shown to slow the growth of too much skin in the lining of pores and make the skin less sensitive to inflammation. This makes it a great way to treat acne.


  • You can buy Differin Gel for acne without a prescription because it is available over-the-counter (OTC). 
  • Retinoids that are less irritating than others: Similar kinds, like Retin-A, work a lot faster, but they can cause inflammation of the skin. 
  • May make fine lines and acne scars look better: Early research showed that the formula might help with more than just getting rid of acne. 
  • It’s easy to use: At night, you only need a pea-sized amount.


  • It requires consistent use. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, you might not see results. 
  • Studies have shown that sensitivity to sunlight is a common side effect that can make the skin itch. 
  • Some people who first used Differin Gel for acne claim that it made their acne worse.
  • It may also cause dry skin. Some people who use it often find that it makes their skin dry.

What is Differin Gel?

Differin Gel for acne is manufactured by Galderma Laboratories LP, the same company that manufactures Differin.The gel has 0.1% adapalene, which is a third-generation retinoid. This means that it is related to the first retinoid that was used as a topical medicine (sold as Retin-A).

The FDA hasn’t approved a new acne treatment in more than 30 years. Differin Gel is the first one. Acne has been treated with adapalene for more than twenty years.

Retinoid is a part of vitamin A that helps control how often cells die and grow back. This means that it helps the first layer of skin cells shed so that the body can make new, healthy skin.

This fat-soluble retinoid also gets into the skin cells and, according to research from 2019, prevents water loss and keeps collagen, a protein in your body that makes your skin more flexible, from breaking down.

The research says that “Vitamin A and its derivatives are some of the best things to slow down aging.”

Differin Gel for acne came out in 2017 and is sold widely in pharmacies, stores, and online in the U.S.

There are other products with adapalene on the market. For example, both Proactive and La Roche Posay sell adapalene gel, but you don’t need a prescription to buy either one. Both of these gels use a 0.1% suspension and cost about the same as Differin Gel.

If you have a prescription, you can also get 0.3%-strength Differin Gel.

How does Differin Gel work?

Acne vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory disease of the pilosebaceous unit, which is made up of the hair follicle and sebaceous gland. Differin Gel is used to treat acne vulgaris.

Acne can be caused by a number of things, such as:

  • Even if you have oily skin, that doesn’t mean you’ll get acne. But if old skin cells don’t shed fast enough, the oil can get stuck. This starts an inflammatory process that leads to acne. 
  • Changes in microbes Experts know that the microbiome’s delicate balance affects many different parts of the body. Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) and Staphylococcus epidermidis (S. epidermidis) can both lead to acne that is red and swollen.
  • Skin keratinization that is not normal. Keratin is a protein found in hair, skin, and nails. When too much keratin is shed inside the hair follicle, near the opening of the pore, clogging can happen. 
  • Inflammation This happens when a pore gets clogged, which sets off a chain reaction of cellular processes. Blackheads can happen when your pores get clogged. 

Differin Gel for acne works by speeding up the turnover of skin cells, which makes the skin flake off.

If you can’t get rid of blackheads on your nose, it’s probably because sebum is getting stuck. Differin Gel also works by making it easier for these oils to get out.

Because Differin Gel for acne works at the cellular level instead of treating existing pimples, there is often a time when acne gets worse, called a “purge.” This is because your body is getting used to a new routine. Cell turnover will eventually push the clogged pores to the surface.

If you use Differin Gel every day for 12 weeks, you’ll start to see results.

How to use Differin Gel

Before you put Differin on your skin, you should wash your face with a cleanser that won’t irritate it. After that, you can use a moisturizer and then a thin layer of Differin Gel on dry skin.

Differin Gel for acne shouldn’t be used more than once a day, but you can put it on in the morning or at night. If you decide to use it in the morning as part of your skin care routine, wait for it to dry before applying SPF. You should also try to use it every day at the same time.

How can I get Differin Gel?

Most stores, like Target, Walmart, and CVS Pharmacy, sell Differin Gel. It can also be bought at beauty stores like Ulta Beauty and on Amazon.

What is the price of Differin Gel?

About $12 buys a.5-ounce tube of Differin Gel.

Insurance does not pay for Differin Gel. But you might be able to buy Differin Gel with money from your flexible spending account (FSA). An FSA is set up by your employer and lets you buy some things without paying tax on them.

When should Differin Gel be used?

If you have acne that keeps coming back, Differin Gel is a good way to get rid of it. Differin Gel’s 0.1% solution works best for mild to moderate breakouts.

If you have severe acne, a stronger suspension like 0.3% adapalene may help, but you’ll need a prescription for this higher concentration. 

If your acne has left scars and redness on your skin, Differin Gel for acne may help even out your skin tone and make your scars less noticeable. 

A study from 2006 found that Differin Gel is a good choice for people who have had acne and are looking for a product to help stop it from happening again. Even though this study looked at a stronger suspension of adapalene, the results showed that people who used this treatment for 4 months had less scarring. 

Talk to a doctor first if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Pregnant women shouldn’t use retinoids because they can cause harm. Also, no one under the age of 12 is allowed to use it. 

You shouldn’t use Differin Gel for acne with products that have alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or salicylic acids, because they may make irritation worse. 

If you use more than one acne treatment on your skin at the same time, you might feel irritated. You shouldn’t also use wax to get rid of unwanted hair in places where you’ve put the gel.

How does Differin Gel make you feel?

In the first 4 weeks, most people have mild redness and irritation. Doctors call this “retinization,” which is the process of your skin getting used to new amounts of vitamin A.

On the company’s website, some of the most common side effects are itchy, dry, red, burning, or stinging skin.

Most of the time, these symptoms get worse around 2 to 4 weeks. Soon after that, they should go away, but if they don’t, you should see a dermatologist or doctor. You can use a mild moisturizer to lessen some dryness.

Tretinoin Cream vs. Differin Gel

Tretinoin, a drug used to treat acne and sun damage, is often used instead of adapalene, which is the main ingredient in Differin. Like adapalene, tretinoin has been shown to make wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots less noticeable.

Tretinoin is a type of retinoic acid that is also called Retin-A. The prescription-strength cream works by making the skin irritated and speeding up the skin cells’ life cycle. It makes the cells divide and die faster, so more new, healthier cells can be made.

Tretinoin is made by making vitamin A in a lab. This means that it is stronger and that you will need a prescription to buy it. It’s also stronger than retinol, so sensitive skin doesn’t handle it as well.

You shouldn’t use tretinoin if you are:

  • Pregnant and/or breastfeeding women who are often out in the sun. 
  • If you take any other medicines, you should let your doctor know so he or she can make sure they won’t react badly with tretinoin.


A lot of people have written reviews about Differin Gel. Differin Gel for acne has more than 42,000 reviews on Amazon, and on average, those reviews give it 4.5 stars. Most of the reviews from customers are positive, and they talk about the results they’ve seen after using it regularly.

Other reviewers talk about how dry their skin gets when they use Differin Gel. Others say that putting it on right after washing your face could make it even drier.

Reviews that aren’t positive talk about burning, side effects, and redness.

The complaints to the Better Business Bureau show that there have been problems with getting reimbursed. Most of them seem to be fixed.

Frequently asked questions

How well does Differin Gel work?

Yes, is the short answer. Most dermatologists love Differin Gel and recommend it, and the many good reviews probably speak for themselves. A 2006 study also said that Differin Gel for acne is a good choice for people who have had acne in the past and are looking for a product that will help stop it from happening again.

Even though this study looked at a stronger suspension of adapalene, the results showed that people who used this treatment for 4 months had less scarring.

How long does Differin take to work?

During the first few weeks of using Differin Gel, your acne might look worse because the medicine is working on pimples that are forming under the skin. If you use Differin Gel for acne every day for 12 weeks, you should see results.

Does Differin Gel remove dark spots?

Differin has a product called Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum that can help with this. It makes scars from acne, hyperpigmentation, spots, age spots, and even freckles look less obvious.

In Conclusion

Acne is very common, but it’s hard to get rid of. In 2017, Differin Gel was given permission to be sold without a prescription.

Adapalene, the active ingredient that makes up 0.1% of the cream, has been shown to help treat acne. It can also help reduce scars and make the skin feel better.

For Differin Gel for acne to work, it needs to be used regularly and for a long time, usually three months. It has been shown that Differin Gel for acne is safe and effective, and it doesn’t hurt the skin like some other retinoids do.


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